There’s a tangible truth in Proust’s quote, the sort whose veracity  each of us can test in relation with our most intimate perception of paradise and the first experience of loss, which somehow comes right down from John Milton’s famed poem but also, somehow, doesn’t. To explain it would mean the beginning of a baffling, perplexing row of philosophical reasoning I’ll refrain unleashing here although, at the same time, it needs mentioning.

Subliminally, congenially, we’re all subjected to nostalgia over a period of life (that often seems to be our enchanting and enchanted childhood), whether consciously or less, to which we associate divine proportions and images distorted positively. In this regard, our judgement is no greater than a child’s, affected by the tendency to aggrandize. Interesting to remember the above statement belongs to one who lived amongst the patented masters of megalomania, the haughty, highly dramatic Parisians, in a century itself grandiose. I don’t think it changes anything substantially, though.

Don’t you find we’re as prone to do it now, modern as we are,  this exaggeration of the past/paradise time’s elapsing made us lose?

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Quote of the Week

November 18, 2012

 

This sort of judgement has always invariably struck me as being the most illustrative product of a priest’s values ever since I first heard it: straight forward and cruelly sincere, both amusing and tragic (mark the oxymoron), Arnaud’s words debunk unintentionally the mechanism of a whole mentality, with its blatant hypocrisy shining through.

Context considered, the quote above is beyond a mere history lesson. Understand its ideological roots and there you’ll have Christianity’s whole perspective of God.

“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.” When you laugh your heart out at its bitter irony do keep in mind thousands of innocent people whose only grave sin was their not obeying Pope’s invectives have been sentenced to death by this very line. You’ll obtain a highly intricate cocktail of contrasts I’d much appreciate if you could share here.

 

The majority of people have this exceedingly stiff, gloomy, prefabricated perception of the otherwise sole invariable in our pretty hazardous lives: I’m referring to the frightening, constantly lurking death I rather regard as a perfectly personal epilogue for the one who’s canny enough to work it out, to make it a paragon.

Surely, with the dwindling courage of the human race, this subject is far from being easy to discuss objectively since it underlines the prospect of our own demise none usually desires to confront, but I’m attempting to change the perspective a bit. Death’s sometimes preferable, seldom (yet still) recommended  and can, on various occasions, invest our very lives with a purpose we’ve previously lacked. Death is faithful and least as interesting as its antagonist, not that I’m adulating either. Through the prism of my (frequently) phlegmatic temper, the quietus  in question is even charged with a dose of undeniable aesthetic value; not for nothing I’ve a habit to judge a person starting from the manner in which (s)he passed away. There’s a lot to understand about a man’s personality analyzing their final moments.

Hence I put together the following list of the 5 most peculiar deaths I ever came upon during my nocturnal readings, containing more or less obscure historical characters with comments attached.

year 1531: Louise of Savoy, mother of bawdy  King Francis I  (of France) kicked the bucket while watching a comet on a chilly September evening. Tout ensemble, quite an idyllic ending for the active figure she was but nonetheless fit if you ask me.

year 1771: King Adolf Frederick of Sweden, deemed a weak, useless monarch, died after having consumed a full meal consisting of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, kippers and champagne galore, in God knows what humongous quantities, which was topped off with 14 servings of his favorite dessert: semla (the thing he’s thinking about in the above picture) served in a bowl of hot milk. He is thus remembered by Swedish school children as “the king who ate himself to death.” Justifiably.

year 1556: Pietro Aretino, the Italian responsible for the invention of erotic literature,  chum with the reputed painter Titian (who made the displayed portrait)  is said to have died of suffocation from “laughing too much.” A strange conclusion, giving his curriculum vitae… Playwright, poet, satirist , pensioned by both Francis I and  Charles V, twice knighted by two Popes… I definitely didn’t see that coming, which makes it all the more interesting, don’t you agree?

year 1667: A handsome lad called James Betts died from asphyxiation after being sealed in a cupboard by Elizabeth Spencer, at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in an attempt to hide from her father, John Spencer. Apparently, the two were passionate lovers with bright future perspectives… until  impure thoughts drove them to experience some unfortunate premarital intercourse and almost got caught in flagrante delicto … To further dramatize the story, after her beloved’s demise and probably inspired by the tragic romance of Romeo & Juliet, unbearable grief made Elizabeth commit suicide. Surely, I’ll never again look at “Quickly! Hide in the wardrobe!” sort of commercials with the same ignorant eyes: there’s a true danger over there.

year 620 BC: Draco, not the pathetic Harry Potter character but rather the Athenian law-maker who, known for his severity, is presently as synonymous with maleficence as Machiavelli, was smothered to death by gifts of cloaks showered upon him by appreciative citizens at a theatre on Aegina. Whether a smartly masked murder or pure coincidence, I find his way of snuffing it the most peculiarly amusing of them all. Something about the lethal value of a present tickles my fancy…

But which of these 5 tickles yours?

I have never regarded history as being a sterile chronicle of things past and therefore peremptorily obsolete. We’re history too, after all, and how pathetic would be considering oneself a living, breathing fossil with no purpose except making some future successors yawn? Exceedingly, I assure you.

That’s partially why I though of sharing, every gloomy Monday from now on, a quotation which contributed to my feeling the old days thoroughly, vividly animate. It should be amusing and witty or utterly, bitterly ironical and bring a sense of modernity in the historical context from where it was extracted, although you’ll be the ultimate judge of its value.

So I’m expecting comments on this week’s choice:

A mocking Love Recipe

November 4, 2012

For today, just some brief comments on the art of deceitful courtship in the late Georgian England, all through sarcastic verses.

I have never made a secret from my numerous peculiarities, not ever refrained sharing them if the opportunity emerged, hence I trust the subject in which  I’m about to decree, today, right here, I have utterly reveled, should not rise any doubts about  my mental health for I’m neither a satanist nor an apostle of the Marquis de Sade, just so you know. And hopefully, since this matter is now settled, you’ll also better understand the reason behind my depicting how quite perfectly impressed I was by the horrid acts a certain Gilles de Rais man became (in)famous for a mere 600 years ago. Hopefully.

Because this post, “concocted” 15 minutes before my realizing it’s vital to walk out the door if I plan on attending school, is quite short of arguments to sustain why a gruesome child murder transfixed me thus. Extensive explanation are going to come from Huysman’s exquisitely written “Là-Bas” in electic quotes that, during one white night, wildly incited the more macabre parts of my imagination.

So here it goes:

“Gilles de Rais was born about 1404, in the château de Mâchecoul. We know nothing of his childhood. His father died about the end of October, 1415, and his mother almost immediately married a Sieur d’Estouville, abandoning her two sons, Gilles and René. They became the wards of their grandfather, Jean de Craon, ‘a man old and ancient and of exceeding great age,’ as the texts say. He seems to have allowed his two charges to run wild, and then to have got rid of Gilles by marrying him to Catherine de Thouars.

Gilles is known to have been at the court of the Dauphin five years later. His contemporaries represent him as a robust, active man, of striking beauty and rare elegance. We have no explicit statement as to the rôle he played in this court, but one can easily imagine what sort of treatment the richest baron in France received at the hands of an impoverished king.”

He fought alongside Jeanne d’Arc and was named Marshal of France, at the age of twenty-five.

“What is certain is that Gilles’s soul became saturated with mystical ideas. His whole history proves it.

He saw the Maid fulfil all her promises. She raised the siege of Orléans, had the king consecrated at Rheims, and then declared that her mission was accomplished and asked as a boon that she be permitted to return home.

At any rate, after losing track of him completely, we find that he has shut himself in at his castle of Tiffauges.

He is no longer the rough soldier, the uncouth fighting-man. At the time when the misdeeds are about to begin, the artist and man of letters develop in Gilles and, taking complete possession of him, incite him, under the impulsion of a perverted mysticism, to the most sophisticated of cruelties, the most delicate of crimes.

For he was almost alone in his time, this baron de Rais. In an age when his peers were simple brutes, he sought the delicate delirium of art, dreamed of a literature soul-searching and profound; he even composed a treatise on the art of evoking demons; he gloried in the music of the Church, and would have nothing about his that was not rare and difficult to obtain.

He was an erudite Latinist, a brilliant conversationalist, a sure and generous friend. He possessed a library extraordinary for an epoch when nothing was read but theology and lives of saints.”

And now brace yourselves.

“There was no transition between the two phases of his being. The moment Jeanne d’Arc was dead he fell into the hands of sorcerers who were the most learned of scoundrels and the most unscrupulous of scholars. These men who frequented the château de Tiffauges were fervent Latinists, marvellous conversationalists, possessors of forgotten arcana, guardians of world-old secrets.

To sum up: natural mysticism on one hand, and, on the other, daily association with savants obsessed by Satanism. The sword of Damocles hanging over his head, to be conjured away by the will of the Devil, perhaps. An ardent, a mad curiosity concerning the forbidden sciences. All this explains why, little by little, as the bonds uniting him to the world of alchemists and sorcerers grow stronger, he throws himself into the occult and is swept on by it into the most unthinkable crimes.

Then as to being a ‘ripper’ of children—and he didn’t immediately become one, no, Gilles did not violate and trucidate little boys until after he became convinced of the vanity of alchemy—why, he does not differ greatly from the other barons of his times.

He exceeds them in the magnitude of his debauches, in opulence of murders, and that’s all. It’s a fact.

And assuredly, the Marquis de Sade is only a timid bourgeois, a mediocre fantasist, beside him!”

To give an illustrative example:

“Vampirism satisfies him for months. He pollutes dead children, appeasing the fever of his desires in the blood smeared chill of the tomb. He even goes so far—one day when his supply of children is exhausted—as to disembowel a pregnant woman and sport with the fœtus. After these excesses he falls into horrible states of coma, similar to those heavy lethargies which overpowered Sergeant Bertrand after his violations of the grave. But if that leaden sleep is one of the known phases of ordinary vampirism, if Gilles de Rais was merely a sexual pervert, we must admit that he distinguished himself from the most delirious sadists, the most exquisite virtuosi in pain and murder, by a detail which seems extrahuman, it is so horrible.

As these terrifying atrocities, these monstrous outrages, no longer suffice him, he corrodes them with the essence of a rare sin. It is no longer the resolute, sagacious cruelty of the wild beast playing with the body of a victim. His ferocity does not remain merely carnal; it becomes spiritual. He wishes to make the child suffer both in body and soul. By a thoroughly Satanic cheat he deceives gratitude, dupes affection, and desecrates love. At a leap he passes the bounds of human infamy and lands plump in the darkest depth of Evil.

He contrives this: One of the unfortunate children is brought into his chamber, and hanged, by Bricqueville, Prelati, and de Sillé, to a hook fixed into the wall. Just at the moment when the child is suffocating, Gilles orders him to be taken down and the rope untied. With some precaution, he takes the child on his knees, revives him, caresses him, rocks him, dries his tears, and pointing to the accomplices, says, ‘These men are bad, but you see they obey me. Do not be afraid. I will save your life and take you back to your mother,’ and while the little one, wild with joy, kisses him and at that moment loves him, Gilles gently makes an incision in the back of the neck, rendering the child ‘languishing,’ to follow Gilles’s own expression, and when the head, not quite detached, bows, Gilles kneads the body, turns it about, and violates it, bellowing.”

He was eventually discovered and sentenced to death, not unexpectedly and certainly not undeserved. But, passing over the horrid slaughter he had conducted, don’t you find him starkly intriguing? He was the average good fellow and the next thing history records, Gilles decimates innocent children! What do you think of this leas crazy situation?

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