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The Legend of Pygmalion Part 6

03/06/2019 | GM6 | No Comments

VI. The Melody of Grief

A pale dawn hovered. With the first gleams the sea awoke, stretching its golden scales. Across the heavens as purple as martyred flesh flew black arrows of birds. And a beam came to encircle like a collar the neck of Galatea.

Pygmalion, wearied after that night, lay sleeping. Awakening, he rubbed his eyes that were freighted with visions, for this had doubtless been a nightmare. The statue was not his, his Galatea Victrix. The lips had lost their curve of a taut bow. With the human precision of pupils these eyes told the grief of living.

A maternal milk films and conquers these breasts; the hips have lost their softness; the fragile frame is bent toward Mother Earth. Instead of the statue of potent Beauty, all night long he has been sculpturing the very face of grief. His hands, formerly as exact as pupils, have deceived him, and now his eyes, too, must be deceiving him. No pain is comparable to that of the creator before whose piercing sight is unfolded the sterile perspective of an uninspired future.

Death is preferable, when consoling vanity does not come to suggest victorious to-morrows. He who has known the anguish of the perishable is no longer capable of eternal masterpieces. He was punished in his divinity for having adored the imperfect creatures of this world.

And he was like a man weeping over a ruin.

The Legend of Pygmalion Part 5

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V. Fever

And because on one dazzling morning the light revealed her de-formation, Pygmalion foresaw her inevitable fate. Without wakening her, when night came he took his chisel and struck her bosom a blow. There came the roar of the sea, unfailing and intermittent, liljp Fate herself. And in the gloom that is so favorable to the dreams of the poets, Pygmalion said: “Why art thou so cruel, O Beauty? It were better that I should be blind. Why does human ugliness so much offend me, and why dream if every dead dream becomes a corpse?”

His hands felt the cold body. He trembled as he divined the new miracle: Galatea was returning to the original marble. Her body was acquiring the firmness and the inert smoothness of the pure divine mat-ter. Her tresses grew fixed in salient lines like hard veins. And even a tear on her cheek had turned to stone.

Oh, wonder of the creative soul, emotion of death or of miracle! To remedy the imperfections of this ruined flesh his ancient frenzy returned. He groped in the dark for his chisel and hammer. All that night he chiseled. In the wondrous silence the blows of his hammer seemed like the throbs of a vast bosom. To this human matter conquered by grief—this shroud with which we come into the world—succeeded a flesh resistant to the centuries, indomitably firm, incorruptible and pure.

In this gloom and silence so favorable to perennial creation, Pygmalion felt his hands agitated by a quivering of wings. At moments they rose caressingly to form a shield upon each breast; he was yet too close to the image of the ardent woman for the statue not to appear still docile to the slavery of life and love. But after this loving interlude there resounded anew, as vehement as cries of victory, as wild as shouts of jubilation, thunderous and rhythmical, the blows of the hammer that were to resuscitate this marble life.

The Legend of Pygmalion Part 4

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IV. Weariness

Thought Pygmalion, not daring to say it in words: “O godly form, despite your divine origin, you shall die. Worm and rot, instead of the eternity that I have dreamed. To reveal to myself my godly powers, I subjected you to the law of death. But I’ll not be able to bear that you should die. Let me die instead, and let my flesh rot; but you must remain unchangeable, immune to time. Ah, why did I teach you love!”

With a nameless anguish he espied in his perfect companion each hollow and wrinkle. Then began sad days of terrible memory when love, having reached the summit, descends the hill with wings folded across her soft shoulders. But no, as in earthly passion, blindness prolonged his affection, save that in Pygmalion’s eyes, unfortunately, was the clairvoyance of the artist accustomed to notice in the skin of the marble as in the flesh, the coarse grain and the future crack. In the hue of dawn his artist’s nerves at times tingled to exasperation. He would surprise in the face of the sleeping woman that fatigue which changes all beauty. The delicate charm of her abandon still provoked kisses, even as does a sleeping child; but the breasts were losing their supple firmness, no longer pointing as before their desires to the skies.

In the corners of his studio Pygmalion meditated, weeping: “You have given me everything, and yet… You have revealed to me felicities the mere memory of which makes me swoon. But happiness, like grief, can weary us. Because I did not know that dreams, translated to earth, are corrupted, I wished to endow you with an inferior reality, that of life.

Ah, beautiful creations should remain eternal! And behold ine now, sad and loving, vacillating between an unholy crime, that I may not witness the misery of a perfection destined to-morrow to be sullied, and the most human, the deepest desire to let you live, though my dream be shattered, that I may not lose—O cowardice!—this daily commerce of happiness.”

Pygmalion joined his hands and wept. From the sea came those raucous accents that to great hearts are as cooings. His impatient hands trembled anew with the fever for new forms.

But for a few days the aridity of an unbounded fatigue followed upon this plenitude. Art seemed to him a new lie invented to satisfy the need of adoration. It was as servility and a superstition worthy of slaves.

If Galatea cried, his pity returned convulsively. And though she did not understand his words, he said to her in that low voice in which dreams are told or children are spoken to: “O my Galatea, do not weep. My reason for living is these creatures of marble. You, at least, have felt the possibility of eternal being.

But I, an earthly creature with divine promptings, do not resign myself to death. Though my cherished dreams float off on the wind, my finest enthusiasms shall have been for a fleeting moment part of eternity. At least let not the evidences of my madness die. A little of our wretched nature remains living in our eternal labors. My friend, my wife, tell me that you understand my grief.”

But the sweetly unknowing one could only weep. In a brief space her eyes had lost their clearness of rare and luminous stones; her breasts were no longer clusters tipped with the pink grape; wasted was the line of the hips.

She was journeying to her ruin, pale and austere as the statue of Fate. Through need of sharpening her agony, she recalled the olden shining hours of vows and kisses, as if a wasted face could rouse in her beloved the selfsame worship that her inviolate beauty had won. Daily, between one who aspired to self-perfection and his conquered, abandoned companion, the separation increased.

Pygmalion would not deceive her with creatures of flesh, but with new dreams.

Galatea compared herself with those pure sisters of the atelier, envying the immutable virtue of the stone that knows neither grief nor age. After these human lusts she began to feel the selfsame yearning of the gods: self-annihilation.

But, wretched creature that she was, she could not die at her wish.

The Legend of Pygmalion Part 3

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III. The Initiation

Pygmalion became her master and her guide. This manner of teaching filled him with a confused intoxication, like to that of one who models the cherished image in wax. And, as the features of human beauty are adumbrated in the hazy sketch, so in this ingenuous child appeared—with a more than terrestrial charm—the first restlessness of womanhood.

No longer did she wander among the slabs of the atelier; nor did she lie upon the marble blocks, so crude and full of possibilities, into which her body seemed ready to merge and thus suddenly return to its primal element. Perhaps some dim memory induced in her a preference for the nearness of this pure material. Standing, she assumed always the attitude of a goddess. And when she reclined in meditation, she became the supple form that advances in the procession of the Panathenaea.

Aureoled thus in pure, resplendent white, at every hour before the astonished artist she repeated the miracle of a dream come true. From the depths of his soul there rose to Pygmalion’s lips thanks with no definite goal, fervor for that blind Fate which had been so kindly.

Art, his sculpture, did not appear to him, as in past hours of ennui, the sterile labors of a solitary fanatic, but the glorious replacement of the unknown God, for he, like God, could create in living flesh. What mattered mortal sleeplessness while waiting for the inspiration tha t never came, the untranscribable madness of night and the cold disillusionment of the morrow, which daily dies, the grievous solitude of him who dreams because every aspiring ecstasy is a punishment! To create, to feel one’s hands strong as claws for molding all the clay in the world, to be for a moment God after having so many times been wretched and powerless!

The urgency of tears wrinkled his features. In his veins began the prostration of one about to pray. On his knees now, he twined his arms around her strong legs,” which were almost virile like those of the hermaphrodite. Intoxicating as the perfumes of the nocturnal woods, as those wines that madden thirst, there breathed from her youth a feline aroma. It was the odor that sent the centaurs galloping with their voracious nostrils opened wide.

Thought Pygmalion: “Why is a kiss not enough? Why, from our double nature of horse and man rises the harshness of possession? Lust, thou art blended even with the highest purity!”

And on one voluptuous evening, Galatea, with her clear pupils dilated, learned the wonder and the terror of being a woman. For that avid lover, woman, or all womankind incarnate in a single insuperable body, there were madnesses of possession, cries, sighs, languorous tendernesses until dawn, fatigue resembling death, divine deaths from which one does not wish to rise. Before the changing spectacle of that sea were repeated the childish stammerings, the interrupted vows that lovers in all times have invented to lull and deceive the brevity of love.

The waves, with their unceasing restlessness, gave them an image of life’s inconstancy. But they did not understand its lesson.

The Legend of Pygmalion Part 2

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II. The Miracle

Evening descended upon these virginal forms. But the white mass resisted the shadows, and when the walls were draped in mourning, these bodies still shed light. The very gloom lent them grace and the illusion of nakedness. At this hour Pygmalion could feel them throb with a life that was different from the changeless existence of marble. Twilight tinged their limbs with its ruddy flame and on their breasts the setting sun traced a lingering hand.

That evening the zephyrs pulsed with voluptuousness. From the near-by sea where Venus ruled in her naked chastity, came an enervating languor. First Pygmalion kissed her naked feet, nestling his feverish head against her nubile thighs. Then, with a brusque movement, he arose on the pedestal and sealed her speechless lips with the human compact of a kiss. It was the first kiss of love. He lowered his eyes in shame. Suddenly, however, they grew wide with amazement and thrilling terror before the miracle: the statue had come to life and was stirring. A blush of blood rose to its cheeks. A tremor of life rippled down from its neck to its rosy feet. Slowly, slowly, with rhythmic pauses, the breasts began to rise. And the terrified lashes fluttered before the light.

Now he no longer doubted. His hands became as tender as a gardener’s. At their touch, the marble lost all weight and hardness. The tresses became as black as if the night had been kneaded into them, but the eyes acquired the luminosity of the sea.

She did not speak; she smiled with an expression of astonishment upon her radiant face. Like a child in a cradle she stretched out a hand to touch Pygmalion’s hair. As she parted the dark locks, she laughed. It was a clear laughter. He spoke a few words, and for the first time her smooth forehead wrinkled in an effort to understand.

She was lulled in a tender stupor, for doubtless life is more fatiguing than motionless eternity. Delirious, as if after infinite labors he were about to lose his greatest work, Pygmalion watched for signs of life. In her repose, Galatea, with her arms crossed over her bosom, her lips supine and on her face such a sleeping abandon, evoked not the proud image of a marble goddess but that of sad flesh seeking the shelter of love. By divine consent she had been fashioned, not of common clay, but of pure marble. And, as in the hours of creation, so he too felt divine.

All that night he kept vigil over this tender life. At the first glimmer of daybreak his amazement was repeated. All trace of marmorean life had disappeared in Galatea. Perhaps in her flesh there remained the polished softness where caresses glide. But in her lips and in her arms, in the hair that cascaded over her shoulders, there were an earthly grace and frailty. Only in her eyes without pupils there floated the vagueness of an Olympian remembrance.

She did not speak because she had been eternal. Doubtless, with the light there entered into her mind a confused perception of earthly things. Her soul was like those Hindu blocks of ivory whereon one may sculpture alike the goatish visage of the satyr and the face of Pallas Athena.

The Legend of Pygmalion Part 1

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Peru

Ventura Garcia-Calderon (1890—1956)

Ventura Garcia-Calderon, born at Lima of an old Peruvian family, was one of the most distinguished critics and literary historians of South America. He was also a fastidious writer of verse. His short stories are clearly the work of a poet, and are characterized by an extreme deli-cacy of style and treatment.

The legend of Pygmalion is translated by Isaac Goldberg especially for this collection and included by his permission. It has never before appeared in English.

The Legend of Pygmalion

I. The Artist

When Pygmalion had finished that statue, he smiled. The enchanted smile of children discovering the world! Truly it was perfect, unsurpassable. Just as the ancient sculptors of idols venerated the deity created by themselves, so would he gladly have fallen to his knees in adoration. About him, on rough pedestals or on the ground, close by, farther off, on shelves or on the window seats, a marble populace rigid in attitudes of grace and abandon. All the dreams of a now declining youth lay there as in a living quarry. This was why, out of a maternal modesty, he forbade access to his atelier…What could others be seeking in this abode? Only curiosity or the desire to carp could bring them. And here he had bared his soul.

There were blocks as vague as chrysalides of thought; in others, only the hinted outlines of a hip. There the chisel had traced coarse furrows; as if Pygmalion, in the grip of the creative demon, had cracked the marble with heavy blows, in his eagerness to impart to this inert matter the living gesture. And successive sketches of a work, from the confused embryo to the perfect image, revealed sadly the painful task of conception.

But amid all these sister images, amid this white populace united by the kinship of a selfsame fever and a selfsame pain, none could equal in victorious rapture the virgin Galatea, bending her light head over the mirror of her hand, the better to admire its graceful negligence. Pygmalion had informed her with the evanescent and legendary delicacy of Psyche.

The imagination added short wings to the lightness of the feet; the softness of the stomach recalled the vases of the school of Athens; the arms formed such a glorious chain that, joining to embrace a favorite, they could hold him fast till death.

Pygmalion gazed at his palms, still white with dust, doubting that he had completed this marvel with hands that were destined to die. It was possible, then, for the human artificer to wrest from the gods the secret of beauty. Without self-deception, with that clairvoyance of the hours of loftiest judgment, he knew that this time, by a miracle, he had fashioned the eternal masterpiece. Ah, how he remembered his failures before the uncompleted marbles, when his idea lingered and, face to face with the truncated form, he felt his hands so clumsy and his mind so dull! This was an agony that no death relieved. Bitter tears, towering rages, almost an iconoclastic fury, at the disproportion between his petty accomplishment and the cherished ideal.

The Eclipse part 1

31/05/2019 | GM6 | No Comments

Selma Lagerlof (1858-1940)

Selma Lagerlof came of a family of landowners, from that part of rural Sweden which she described in many of her most delightful books, particularly in Gosta Berling’s Saga. In her youth she taught for a little, making time to write occasionally, until public recognition and material success enabled her to devote all her energy to literary work. Her books, which include novels, travel sketches, plays, and stories, reveal a personality deeply conscious of its environment. In 1909 Selma Lagerlof received the Nobel Prize for literature.

The Eclipse is translated by Velma Swanston Howard. It originally appeared in the American-Scandinavian Review, December, 1922. For permission to reprint, thanks are due to the editor and the translator.

The Eclipse

There were Stina of Ridgecote and Lina of Birdsong and Kajsa of Littlemarsh and Maja of Skypeak and Beda of Finn-darkness and Elin, the new wife on the old soldier’s place, and two or three other peasant women besides—all of them lived at the far end of the parish, below Storhojden, in a region so wild and rocky none of the big farm owners had bothered to lay hands on it.

One had her cabin set up on a shelf of rock, another had hers put up at the edge of a bog, while a third had one that stood at the crest of a hill so steep it was a toilsome climb getting to it. If by chance any of the others had a cottage built on more favorable ground, you may be sure it lay so close to the mountain as to shut out the sun from autumn fair time clear up to Annunciation Day.

They each cultivated a little potato patch close by the cabin, though under serious difficulties. To be sure, there were many kinds of soil there at the foot of the mountain, but it was hard work to make the patches of land yield anything.

In some places they had to clear away so much stone from their fields, it would have built a cow-house on a manorial estate; in some they had dug ditches as deep as graves, and in others they had brought their earth in sacks and spread it on the bare rocks. Where the soil was not so poor, they were forever fighting the tough thistle and pigweed which sprang up in such profusion you would have thought the whole potato land had been prepared for their benefit.

Nessebar

30/05/2019 | GM6 | No Comments

The ‘Pearl of the Black Sea’ is impatient to see you enjoying your Bulgaria vacation

Bulgaria vacation in Nessebar– the scent of the sea and of journey through times long since passed

Often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Black Sea’ and ‘Bulgaria’s Dubrovnik’, Nessebar is more like a magical and timeless feeling than a resort. Windmills, ancient fortresses and sea depths that keep ancient secrets… This is not a fairytale for times long since passed but the decor of a modern and contemporary town – Nessebar, perfect for a great Bulgaria vacation and private tour Bulgaria.

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Nessebar is a town with ancient and rich history. İt is in the central part of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, about 30 km away from Burgas. The ancient part of the town is situated on a peninsula connected to the mainland by a narrow man-made isthmus. Variety of different civilizations, that occupied the place, left their marks. As a result, in 1983 UNESCO included Nessebar in its list of World Heritage Sites. This is due to the abundance of historic buildings in the town. Thus it made the town a desired place for a memorable holiday in Bulgaria.

Enjoy the ‘multi-coloured’ Bulgaria tourism in Nessebar

The hard task is for the tourists now – how to capture all the beauty of Nessebar!? With a camera, through knowledge or experience, or simply by touching an ancient stone… Or why not use all of these and plunge into the adventure of living Nessebar.

This article is copied from www.enmarbg.com. For more information, you can click on Bulgaria vacation.

Private Balkan trip

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Wake your senses up with private Balkan trip

A private Balkan trip in the Balkan countries means a good possibility to sink into the history of the region and put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together.

What is a better way to tease and wake your senses up than travelling? They say that travelling is the key to happiness. Do you believe it? I do. Join us and let’s find out together.

The countries on the Balkan Peninsula are all different and at the same time they share this ‘similar difference’. (Balkan tours 2019 ) For example, ‘The coffee we had tastes like the Turkish coffee but they call it Greek. Or, ‘ Isn’t that dish the same as the one we had in the place, etc.’ These kinds of conversations probably look familiar to you. I am sure most of you experienced them and enjoyed them really much.

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Our private Balkan trip travels around the Balkan countries and enjoys their most interesting, attractive and ‘have-great-stories-to-tell’ places.

The whole text can be seen on link private Balkan trip.

Galgano part 4

12/04/2019 | GM6 | No Comments

No longer venturing to refuse, he sent a grateful answer back that he would very willingly attend. And having heard tidings of Messer Stricca’s departure for Perugia, he set out at a favorable hour in the evening, and speedily arrived at the the house of the lady to whom he had been so long and so vainly attached.

“Checking his steed in full career, he threw himself off, and the next moment found himself in her presence, falling at her feet and saluting her with the most respectful and graceful carriage. She took him joyously by the hand, bidding him a thousand tender welcomes, and setting before him the choicest fruits and refreshments of the season.

Then inviting him to be seated, he was served with the greatest variety and splendor; and more delicious than all, the bright lady herself presided there, no longer frowning and turning away when he began to breathe the story of his love and sufferings into her ear. Delighted .and surprised beyond his proudest hopes, Galgano was profuse in his expressions of gratitude and regard, though he could not quite conceal his wonder at this happy and unexpected change; entreating, at length, as a particular favor, that she would deign to acquaint him with its blessed cause. ‘That willl do soon,’ replied the glowing beauty;

‘I will tell you every word, and wherefore did I send for you’; and she looked into his face with a serene and pure yet somewhat mournful countenance. ‘Indeed,’ returned her lover, a little perplexed, ‘words can never tell half of what I felt, dear lady, when I heard you had this morning sent for me, after having desired and followed you for so long a time in vain.’ ‘Listen to me, and I will tell you, Galgano; but first sit a little nearer to me, for, alas!

My husband replied

I love you. A few days ago, you know, you passed near our house when hawking, and my husband told me that he saw you, and invited you in to supper, but you would not come. At that moment your hawk sprang and pursued its prey, when seeing the noble bird make such a gallant fight, I inquired to whom it belonged, and my husband replied, “To whom should it belong but to the most excellent young man in Siena”; and that it did well to resemble you, as he had never met a more pleasing and accomplished gentleman.

‘Did he—did he say that?’ interrupted her lover. ‘He did indeed, and much more, praising you to me over and over; until hearing it, and knowing the tenderness you have long borne me, I could not resist the temptation of sending for you hither’; and, half blushes, half tears, she confessed that she was no longer indifferent to him, and that such was the occasion of it. ‘Can the whole of this be true?’ exclaimed Galgano. ‘Alas! too true,’ she replied. ‘I know not how it is, but I wish he had not praised you so.’ After struggling with himself a few moments, the unhappy lover withdrew his hand from hers, saying, ‘Now God forbid that I should do the least wrong to one who has so nobly expressed himself, and who has ever shown so much kindness and courtesy to me.’

Then suddenly rising, as with an effort, from his seat, he took a gentle farewell of the lady, not without some tears shed on both sides; both loving, yet respecting each other. Never afterwards did this noble youth allude to the affair in the slightest way, but always treated Messer Stricca with the utmost regard and reverence during his acquaintance with the family.”

Galgano part 3

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The moment the latter had turned his back, our poor lover began to upbraid himself bitterly for not availing himself of the invitation, exclaiming, ‘What a wretch am I not to accept such an offer as this! I should at least have seen her—her whom from my soul I cannot help loving beyond all else in the world.’

“As he thus went, meditating upon the same subject along his solitary way, it chanced that he sprung a large jay, on which he instantly gave his hawk the wing, which pursuing its quarry into Messer Stricca’s gardens and there striking true, the ensuing struggle took place. Hearing the hawk’s cry, both he and his lady ran towards the garden balcony, in time to see, and were surprised at the skill and boldness of the bird in seizing and bringing down its game. Not in the least aware of the truth, the lady inquired of her husband to whom the bird belonged.

Messer Stricca

‘Mark the hawk,’ replied Messer Stricca; ‘it does its work well; it resembles its master, who is one of the handsomest and most accomplished young men in Siena, and a very excellent young fellow, too; —yes, it does well.’ ‘And who may that be?’ said his wife, with a careless- air. ‘Who,’ returned he, ‘but the noble Galgano—the same, love, who just now passed by. I wish he had come in to sup with us, but he would not. He is certainly one of the finest and best-tempered men I ever saw.’ And so saying, he rose from the window, and they went to supper. Galgano, in the meanwhile, having given his hawk the call, quietly pursued his way; but the praises lavished upon him by her husband made an impression upon the lady’s mind such as the whole of his previous solicitations had failed to produce.

However strange, she dwelt upon them long and tenderly. It happened that about this very time, Messer Stricca was chosen ambassador from the Sienese to the people of Perugia, and setting out in all haste, he was compelled to take a sudden leave of his lady. I am sorry to have to observe that the moment the cavalcade was gone by, recalling the idea of her noble lover, the lady likewise’ despatched an embassy to our young friend, entreating him, after the example of her husband, to favor her with his company in the evening.

Galgano part 2

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A prey to the excessive cruelty and indifference of one dearer to him than his own life, who neither noticed nor listened to him, he still followed her like her shadow, contriving to be near her at every party, whether a bridal or a christening, a funeral or a play. Long and vainly, with love-messages after love-messages, and presents after presents, did he sue; but never would the noble lady deign to receive or listen to them for a moment, ever bearing herself more reserved and harshly as he more earnestly pressed the ardor of his suit.

Unhappily dwelling

“It was thus his fate to remain subject to this very irksome and over-whelming passion until, wearied out, at length he would break into words of grief and bitterness against his ‘bosom’s lord’. ‘Alas! dread master of my destiny,’ he would say, ‘O Love! can you behold me thus wasting my very soul away, ever loving but never beloved again? See to it, dread lord, that you are not, in so doing, offending against your own laws!’ And so, unhappily dwelling upon the lady’s cruelty, he seemed fast verging upon despair; then again humbly resigning himself to the yoke he bore, he resolved to await some interval of grace, watching, however vainly, for some occasion of rendering himself more pleasing to the object he adored.

“Now it happened that Messer Stricca and his consort went to pass some days at their country seat near Siena; and it was not long before the lovesick Galgano was observed to cross their route, to hang upon their skirts, and to pass along the same way, always with the hawk upon his hand, as if violently set upon bird-hunting.

Often, indeed, he passed so close to the villa where the lady dwelt, that one day being seen by Messer Stricca, who recognized him, he was very familiarly entreated to afford them the pleasure of his company; ‘and I hope’, added Messer Stricca, ‘that you will stay the evening with us.’ Thanking his friend very kindly for the invitation, Galgano, strange to say, at the same time begged to be held excused, pleading another appointment, which he believed—he was sorry—he was obliged to keep. ‘Then,’ added Messer Stricca, ‘at least step in and take some little refreshment’: to which the only reply returned was, ‘A thousand thanks, and farewell, Messer Stricca, for I am in haste.’

Galgano part 1

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Ser Giovanni (Flourished about 1380)

This writer was called simply Ser Giovanni II Fiorentino, the Florentine. Very little is known about him, except that he was a notary who lived in Florence and began his collection of tales called II Pecorone, or The Dunce, in 1378. He was influenced by his great contemporary Boccaccio. Like The Decameron, the Pecorone is set within a fictitious framework: a young man falls in love with a nun, becomes a chaplain and during the hours he is able to see her, the two exchange stories.

Like most of the brilliant writers of novele, Giovanni excels in the quality of raciness. Many of his tales are based upon history, with a plentiful admixture of anecdotes, true and untrue. Galgano is somewhat exceptional among the stories of the time, in that it reveals a delicacy and reticence that seem to have appealed but rarely to the full- blooded Italians of the early Renaissance.

The present version is translated by Thomas Roscoe and reprinted from his Italian Novelists, London, no date. The story has no title in the original.

Galgano

Having agreed upon the manner in which they were to meet each other in the convent parlor, as we have already stated, the two lovers were true to the appointed hour. With mutual pleasure and congratulations, they seated themselves at each other’s side, when Friar Auretto, in the following words, began: “It is now my intention, my own Saturnina, to treat you with a little love-tale, founded on some incidents which really occurred, not very long ago, in Siena.

There resided there a noble youth of the name of Galgano, who, besides his birth and riches, was extremely clever, valiant, and affable, qualities which won him the regard of all ranks of people in the place. But I am very sorry to add that, attracted by the beauty of a Sienese lady, no other, you must know, than the fair Minoccia, wedded to our noble cavalier, Messer Stricca (though I beg this may go no further), our young friend unfortunately, and too late, fell passionately in love with her.

“So violently enamored did he shortly become, that he purloined her glove, which he wore with her favorite colors wherever he went at tilts and tourneys, at rich feasts and festivals, all of which he was proud to hold in honor of his love: yet all these failed to render him agreeable to the lady, a circumstance that caused our poor friend Galgano no little pain and perplexity.

Our Lady’s Juggler part 4

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At times he represented Her as a graceful child, and Her image seemed to say, “Lord, Thou art My Lord!”

There were also in the Monastery poets who composed prose writ­ings in Latin and hymns in honor of the Most Gracious Virgin Mary; there was, indeed, one among them—a Picard—who translated the Miracles of Our Lady into rimed verses in the vulgar tongue.

Perceiving so great a competition in praise and so fine a harvest of good works, Barnabas fell to lamenting his ignorance and simplicity.

“Alas!” he sighed as he walked by himself one day in the little garden shaded by the Monastery wall, “I am so unhappy because I cannot, like my brothers, give worthy praise to the Holy Mother of God to whom I have consecrated all the love in my heart.

Alas, I am a stupid fellow, without art, and for your service, Madame, I have no edifying sermons, no fine treatises nicely prepared according to the rules, no beautiful paintings, no cunningly carved statues, and no verses coun­ted off by feet and marching in measure! Alas, I have nothing!”
Thus did he lament and abandon himself to his misery.

One evening when the monks were talking together by way of diversion, he heard one of them tell of a monk who could not recite anything but the Ave Maria. He was scorned for his ignorance, but after he died there sprang from his mouth five roses, in honor of the five letters in the name Maria. Thus was his holiness made manifest.

In listening to this story, Barnabas was conscious once more of the Virgin’s beneficence, but he was not consoled by the example of the happy miracle, for his heart was full of zeal and he wanted to celebrate the glory of His Lady in Heaven.

He sought for a way in which to do this, but in vain, and each day brought him greater sorrow, until one morning he sprang joyously from his cot and ran to the chapel, where he remained alone for more than an hour. He returned thither again after dinner, and from that day onward he would go into the chapel every day the moment it was de­serted, passing the greater part of the time which the other monks dedicated to the pursuit of the liberal arts and the sciences.

He was no longer sad and he sighed no more. But such singular conduct aroused the curiosity of the other monks, and they asked themselves why Brother Barnabas retired alone so often, and the Prior, whose business it was to know everything that his monks were doing, determined to observe Barnabas. One day, therefore, when Barnabas was alone in the chapel, the Prior entered in company with two of the oldest brothers, in order to watch, through the bars of the door, what was going on within.

They saw Barnabas before the image of the Holy Virgin, his head on the floor and his feet in the air, juggling with six copper balls and twelve knives. In honor of the Holy Virgin he was performing the tricks which had in former days brought him the greatest fame.

Such sacrilege

Not understanding that he was thus putting his best talents at the service of the Holy Virgin, the aged brothers cried out against such sacrilege. The Prior knew that Barnabas had a simple soul, but he believed that the man had lost his wits. All three set about to remove Barnabas from the chapel, when they saw the Virgin slowly descend from the altar and, with a fold of her blue mantle, wipe the sweat that streamed over the juggler’s forehead.

Then the Prior, bowing his head down to the marble floor, repeated these words:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

“Amen,” echoed the brothers, bowing down to the floor.

Our Lady’s Juggler part 3

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The monk was touched by the simplicity of the juggler, and as he was not lacking in discernment, he recognized in Barnabas one of those well-disposed men of whom Our Lord has said, “Let peace be with them on earth.” And he made answer therefore:

“Friend Barnabas, come with me and I will see that you enter the monastery of which I am the Prior. He who led Mary the Egyptian through the desert put me across your path in order that I might lead you to salvation.”

Thus did Barnabas become a monk. In the monastery which he entered, the monks celebrated most magnificently the cult of the Holy Virgin, each of them bringing to her service all the knowledge and skill which God had given him.

The Prior, for his part, wrote books, setting forth, according to the rules of scholasticism, all the virtues of the Mother of God. Brother Maurice copied these treatises with a cunning hand on pages of parch­ment, while Brother Alexandre decorated them with delicate minia­tures representing the Queen of Heaven seated on the throne of Solo­mon, with four lions on guard at the foot of it.

Around her head, which was encircled by a halo, flew seven doves, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: fear, piety, knowledge, power, judgment, intelligence, and wisdom. With her were six golden-haired virgins: Humility, Prudence, Retirement, Respect, Virginity, and Obedience. At her feet two little figures, shining white and quite naked, stood in suppliant attitudes. They were souls imploring, not in vain, Her all-powerful intercession for their salvation.

On another page Brother Alexandre depicted Eve in the presence of Mary, that one might see at the same time sin and its redemption, woman humiliated, and the Virgin exalted. Among the other much-prized pictures in his book were the Well of Living Waters, the Fountain, the Lily, the Moon, the Sun, and the Closed Garden, of which much is said in the Canticle; the Gate of Heaven and the City of God. These were all images of the Virgin.

Children of Mary

Brother Marbode, too, was one of the cherished children of Mary. He was ever busy cutting images of stone, so that his beard, his eye­brows and his hair were white with the dust, and his eyes perpetually swollen and full of tears. But he was a hardy and a happy man in his old age, and there was no doubt that the Queen of Paradise watched over the declining days of Her child. Marbode represented Her seated in a pulpit, Her forehead encircled by a halo, with an orb of pearls. He was at great pains to make the folds of Her robe cover the feet of Her of whom the prophet has said, “My beloved is like a closed garden.”

Our Lady’s Juggler part 2

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He had never thought much about the origin of wealth nor about the inequality of human conditions. He firmly believed that if this world was evil the next could not but be good, and this faith upheld him. He was not like the clever fellows who sell their souls to the devil; he never took the name of God in vain; he lived the life of an honest man, and though he had no wife of his own, he did not covet his neighbor s, for woman is the enemy of strong men, as we learn by the story of Samson which is written in the Scriptures.

Verily, his mind was not turned in the direction of carnal desire, and it caused him far greater pain to renounce drinking than to forego the pleasure of women. For, though he was not a drunkard, he enjoyed drinking when the weather was warm. He was a good man, fearing God, and devout in his adoration of the Holy Virgin. When he went into a church he never failed to kneel before the image of the Mother of God and to address her with this prayer:

“My Lady, watch over my life until it shall please God that I die, and when I am dead, see that I have the joys of Paradise.”

One evening, after a day of rain, as he walked sad and bent with his juggling balls under his arm and his knives wrapped up in his old carpet seeking some barn where he might go supperless to bed, he saw a monk going in his direction, and respectfully saluted him. As they were both walking at the same pace, they fell into conversation.

“Friend,” said the monk, “how does it happen that you are dressed all in green? Are you perchance going to play the part of the fool in some mystery?”

My name is Barnabas

“No, indeed, father,” said Barnabas. “My name is Barnabas, and my business is that of juggler. It would be the finest calling in the world if I could eat every day.”

“Friend Barnabas,” answered the monk, “be careful what you say. There is no finer calling than the monastic. The priest celebrates the praise of God, the Virgin, and the saints; the life of a monk is a per­petual hymn to the Lord.”

And Barnabas replied: “Father, I confess I spoke like an ignorant man. My estate cannot be compared to yours, and though there may be some merit in dancing and balancing a stick with a denier on top of it on the end of your nose, it is in no wise comparable to your merit. Father, I wish I might, like you, sing the Office every day, especially the Office of the Very Holy Virgin, to whom I am specially and piously devoted. I would willingly give up the art by which I am known from Soissons to Beauvais, in more than six hundred cities and villages, in order to enter the monastic life.”

Our Lady’s Juggler part 1

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Anatole France (Anatole Thibault) (1844-1924)

Anatole France was born at Paris in 1844 and lived there most of his life. He was par excellence a man of letters. For over forty years he has written about Paris, the ancient world and the Middle Ages, en­dowing each novel or story with the philosophy of enlightened scep­ticism which is his contribution to modern thought.

Among the several volumes of stories he has written, L’Etui de nacre includes some of his very best. From this is taken Our Lady’s Juggler, which is a retelling of one of the most beautiful of the French mediaeval tales.

The present’ version is translated for this collection by Barrett H. Clark, by permission of Anatole France’s English publishers, John Lane, Ltd., the Bodley Head.

Our Lady’s Juggler

In the days of King Louis there lived a poor juggler by the name of Barnabas, a native of Compiegne, who wandered from city to city performing tricks of skill and prowess.

On fair days he would lay down in the public square a worn and aged carpet, and after having attracted a group of children and idlers by certain amusing remarks which he had learned from an old juggler, and which he invariably repeated in the same fashion without altering a word, he would assume the strangest postures, and balance a pewter plate on the tip of his nose.

At first the crowd regarded him with indifference, but when, with his hands and head on the ground he threw into the air and caught with his feet six copper balls that glit­tered in the sunlight, or when, throwing himself back until his neck touched his heels, he assumed the form of a perfect wheel and in that position juggled with twelve knives, he elicited a murmur of admi­ration from his audience, and small coins rained on his carpet.

Still, Barnabas of Compiegne, like most of those who exist by their accomplishments, had a hard time making a living. Earning his bread by the sweat of his brow, he bore rather more than his share of those miseries we are all heir to through the fault of our Father Adam.

Besides, he was unable to work as much as he would have liked, for in order to exhibit his wonderful talents, he required—like the trees— the warmth of the sun and the heat of the day. In winter time he was no more than a tree stripped of its leaves, in fact, half-dead. The frozen earth was too hard for the juggler. Like the cicada mentioned by Marie de France, he suffered during the bad season from hunger and cold. But, since he had a simple heart, he suffered in silence.

The Raising of Lazarus

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The Raising of Lazarus (From the New Testament, John XI)

Though this story is part of the larger narrative of the Gospel of St. John, it is a perfect example of the short story. The details that lead up to the dramatic climax are at first sight not entirely relevant. It is only after the story has been read in its entirety that we perceive the consummate art of the preparatory sentences. Balzac was, many centuries later, to apply this method to the writing of his novels.

The text is taken from the King James version. There is no title to the story in the original.

The Raising of Lazarus

Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore, his sister sent unto him saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 1 hen Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe: never-theless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem about fifteen furlongs off: and many of the Jews came unto Martha, and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him, but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again me resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord; I believe that thou art the Christ, the son of God, which should come into the world. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came unto him.

Martha met him

Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her saying, She goes unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave.

It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Tesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

And he that was dead, came forth, bound hand and foot with grave- clothes. And his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.