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Of Flowers, Smoke and Repose...

[Image: N.C.Wyeth, 'The Opium Eater', 1913]

Georges-Albert Puyou de Pouvourville (Comte de Pouvourville, 1862 - 1939) was a Frenchman living in French Indochina (Cochinchina) in the city of Tonkin (among other places). Having lived in the Far East for decades, he became quite integrated into oriental aesthetics and Taoist philosophy. As his transformation from 'Westerner' to 'Far Easterner' was such an extensive and all encompassing evolution, he wrote under his pseudonym MATGIOI ("eye of the day"), rather than his 'western name'. Part of his daily regimen was to smoke his dose of opium, which he continued to do daily until his death in his 70s. His was a much more sedate relationship with Papaver Somniferum than the far more volatile Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen (more of him in a previous post entitled 'Beside the Little (Opium) Lamp'). Here, now, is a paean to the seductive, yet merciless sphynx who hides behind her deceptively pliant petals; just waiting to ensnare her next all-too-willing victim...


Doux regret du matin, doux sourire du soir,
Indifférent du los et mépriseur des blâmes,
Opium doré, muet conseiller, amorçoir
De tous le raffinés plaisirs que nous aimâmes,

Directeur du savoir, du pouvoir, du vouloir,
Créature de concepts, générateur de flammes,
Frère ainé du sommeil, père du nonchaloir,
Règle des sens, poison des cœurs, soutien des âmes,

Réconfort du songeur, espoir du continent,

Endormeur des soucis, bouche d’or des légendes,
Excitateur des doigts, titillateur des glandes,
Invisible empereur du rêve hallucinant,

Vin du cerveau contrit, pain de l’âme affamée,
Noir compagnon, baiser secret, maître immanent,
Viens, mon ami ; viens, ma maîtresse ; viens, fumée.

MATGIOI (Albert de Pouvourville) 'Rimes Chinoises', 1904.



Mild regret of the morning, sweet smile of the evening,
Indifferent to praise and scorner of blame,
Gilded opium, silent counselor, nurturer
Of all of the refined pleasures that we each loved,

Director of knowledge, power, will,
Creature of concepts, fire-starter,
Older brother of sleep, father of nonchalance,
Ruler of sense, poison of hearts, sustainer of souls,

Comfort of the dreamer, hope of the continent,

Luller of cares, golden mouth of legends,
Stimulator of the fingers, titillator of glands,
Invisible emperor of hallucinatory dream,

Wine of the contrite brain and bread of the starved soul,
Black companion, secret kiss, immanent master
Come, my friend, come, my mistress, come, smoke.

MATGIOI (Albert de Pouvourville), 'Chinese Rhymes', 1904.
[Traduction Anglaise: R.E.André III / Sardonique Schadenfreude Rictus, 2011.]

Of Winter, Desolation and Laughter...

[Image : Nicolai Kalmakoff (1873 - 1955), ‘The Apparition’ (undated)]

Winter is the great destroyer. Even Autumn cannot equal her in sheer withering power. For the following Spring to be born, the previous summer must be utterly annihilated; mercilessly. In her, Nature is at her most unsentimental. But even Winter has her seductive charms. Her cold mouth kisses every single branch and stone. Her lascivious and cold saliva hangs pendulously in every icicle. She can give only the coldest of embraces, yet in her frigid glance lay many a wanton mystery...

Sonnet d’Hiver

Le ciel est envahi d’une tristesse grise
Où frissonne un reflet mourant de soleil froid ;
La bise au fond des parcs gémit, la peur s’accroît,
Le marbre triomphal blanc de givre se brise.

Le rêve est désolé de brume toujours grise,
Le souvenir y laisse à peine un rayon froid ;
En les âmes d’hiver, dont la neige s’accroît,
L’orgueil d’un cher empire évanoui se brise.

Pleuré longtemps par les rameaux crispés de froid
Dans les bosquets voilés d’une dentelle grise
Un funèbre tapis de pourpre et d’or s’accroît.

Au glas du vent, la fleur d’illusion se brise,
Et, comme elle se meurt, dans l’atmosphère grise
Des yeux mystérieux luisent d’un rire froid.

Édouard Dubus, « Les Violons sont Partis », 1892.

Winter Sonnet

The sky is invaded by a gray sadness
Where shivers the dying reflection of a cold sun;
The North Wind at the bottom of the parks moans, the fear increases,
The white triumphal marble of frost shatters.

The dream is desolate with an ever gray mist,
There, memory hardly let's through a single cold ray;
In the souls of winter, whose snow increases,
The pride of a beloved empire breaks itself apart.

Wept for a long time by the branches clenched with cold
In the groves veiled with a gray lace
A funereal carpet of purple and gold grows.

At the knell of wind, the flower of illusion breaks,
And, as it kills itself, in the gray atmosphere,
Some mysterious eyes gleam with a cold laughter.

Édouard Dubus, ‘Les Violons sont Partis’ ('The Violins have Gone'), 1892.
[Traduction Anglaise : Raymond E. André III, 2011]

Of Waterlilies, Seduction and Oblivion...

[Image : Nymphaea caerulea, also known as the Blue Egyptian Water Lily, was painted by Peter Henderson for Dr. Robert John Thornton's The Temple of Flora (1798-1807). Joseph Constantin Stadler was the engraver: aquatint, mezzotint, and stipple engravings finished by hand.

An interesting aspect of this picture is its background, which represents "a distant view of Aboukir [Egypt] and the waters of the Nile". When Thornton had the image made, Nelson's triumph over Napoleon at Aboukir Bay was a recent event. The seemingly placid waters of the Nile contrast greatly with how viewers of the time would have perceived a picture of Aboukir. Indeed, Thornton's accompanying text seems to reflect more on the battle than on the plant.]

The language of flowers is a long and vast lexicon that has accompanied mankind prior to language itself. The colors, attitudes, and forms of each instruct the human observer to either embrace or avoid a given plant or flower. The knowledge of plants and their uses is a wisdom that has been dearly paid for by countless and nameless souls, who have, at times, chosen unwisely, even in their boundless curiosity, and whose lives terminated prematurely while seeking among the mysteries of the plant kingdom.

An instructive, though highly satirical, series of images was published by J. J. Grandville (pseudonym of Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard, 1803 - 1847) in ‘Les Fleurs Animés’ (published: 1846 ) regarding the character of individual flowers and their ‘personalities’ (albeit in highly anthropomorphic forms). View the entire suite of images at the link below:


As regards the water lily and its sister, the lotus, who languidly, yet brazenly, spread their charms upon the water’s surface beneath the full, fair and indifferent sky, it has been observed in the Far East (allegedly):

“Out of the foul mire springs the pure lotus flower”

…but is the blossom a sublimation of the suffocating mud below, or is it merely a seductive gateway to the mire itself ?

Le Nénuphar

Sur les bords endormis du lac, auprès des berges,
Dans l’eau, qu’argente un grand reflet d’acier poli,
La plante pousse ses tiges d’un vert pâli,
Molles comme des joncs, nettes comme des verges ;

Nénuphar, dont la robe est sans tache et sans pli,
Dont la blancheur fait honte à la blancheur des cierges,
Fleur de la paix, fleur de la mort, fleur de l’oubli,
Fleur des amants déçus, fleur des dieux, fleur des vierges !

Humant l’âpre parfum de tes pistils glacés,

Des flamants roses, sur tes grandes feuilles plates,
Reposent au soleil leurs ailes écarlates.
Et la nuit, le ciel mort, et les oiseaux passés,

Ta corolle, aux poisons mystérieux et fastes,
Endort profondément, parmi des rêves chastes,
Les cœurs endoloris et les esprits lassés.

MATGIOI (Albert de Pouvourville), Rimes Chinoises, 1904.


On the verge of the lulling lakeshore, by the banks,
In the water, which silvers a great reflection of polished steel,
The plant pushes forth its stems of ever pale green,
Soft as rushes, clean as birch trees ;

Waterlily, whose dress is without stain and without fold,
Whose whiteness shames even the whiteness of candles,
Flower of peace, flower of death, flower of oblivion,
Flower of lovers deceived, flower of gods, flower of virgins!

Inhaling the biting perfume of your frozen pistils,

Pink flamingos, on your broad leaves,
Rest their scarlet wings in the sun.
And the night, the dead sky, and birds now flown,

Your corolla, to these mysterious poisons and pomps,
Lulls deeply, among chaste dreams,
Hearts that ache and minds that swoon.

MATGIOI (Albert de Pouvourville), Chinese Rhymes, 1904.
[Traduction Anglaise: Raymond E. André III, 2011].

[Image: Circe, Franz von Stuck, circa 1913.]

‘Of Flowers, Poisons and Sorceresses…’

Of all the goddesses, sorceresses, enchantresses, it seems that Circe (Κίρκη) had the easiest job of all: she need only turn men into swine. Why, her job was practically completed before she’d begun ! Thirsty, marooned sailors would wash upon the shore of her island, and she would offer them the beguiling elixir that would eventually transform them into pigs (which they certainly deserved, having been most gluttonous at her table, when she was trying to be the consummate hostess; her generosity being grievously offended). Only the sailor’s leader, the brave Odysseus, evaded her trap and later secured his men safely back in their original forms, but only after having sought forgiveness and clemency from the powerful Circe for their unfortunate behavior.

The use of poisons, herbs, elixirs, etc., have been the province of womankind since prehistoric times. Under the tutelage of the flowers of field and forest have women charmed the secret natures of flower and herb into an arsenal of powerful tools; have come to know the ways in which Eros or Thanatos are to be invoked therefrom. Whether Lilith or Circe or Hecate, one must bestow upon these powerful sorceresses a tribute of flowers, even when these very flowers might mean one’s own end. But, make no mistake, these goddesses are the firm and confident masters of these substances, and are immune to their fatal powers…

[English translation is preceded by the original French version]


‘Les Poisons Inutiles’

J’avais pris en dégoût les fadeurs de la rose,
Héliotropes, lis, violettes, œillets.
C’étaient les sombres fleurs que de pleurs on arrose.
C’étaient les fleurs de deuil qu’en ce temps je cueillais.

Absinthe blanchissante aux feuilles découpées,
Ombelles de ciguë à l’ombre des vieux murs,
Langues de jusquiame ayant des fils d’épées,
Pommes de mandragore, astres des lieux obscurs,

Ellébore de nuit qui rosis les collines,
Aconits d’or, ors verts, ors jaunes, ors vermeils,
Datura, dont le fruit armé de javelines
Berce en son orbe creux un nid de lourdes sommeils,

Pétale blanc piqué de points noirs, belladone,
Fleurs de deuil, fleurs de mort, embaumant les poisons,
Vous formiez le bouquet dont j’ornais ma Madone,
Vous qui soulez les cœurs et tuez les raisons.

J’espérais la dompter quand elle serait morte,
Et je comptais ainsi n’en être plus jaloux.
Mais plus que vos poisons la Madone était forte.
Elle riait, montrant ses dents comme les loups ;

Elle noyait sa face au fond de vos calices,
Buvait à pleins poumons la mort qui débordait.
Et sa bouche si rose, avec d’âpres délices
Était plus rose encore quand elle vous mordait.

Jean Richepin, Les Caresses, 1882.


‘Useless Poisons’

I had sampled in disgust the vapidities of roses,
Heliotropes, lilies, violets, poppies.
These were the dark flowers that one waters with tears.
These were the flowers of mourning that I’d gathered back then.

Slashed leaves of whitening Absinthe,
Umbels of Hemlock in the shadows of old walls,
Tongues of Henbane with sword-shaped filaments,
Apples of mandrake, stars of the dark places,

Night Hellebore that reddens the hills,
Aconites of gold, green golds, yellow golds, vermilion golds,
Datura, its fruit armed with javelins
Cradling in its hollow orb a nest of heavy slumbers,

White petals tipped with black points, Belladonna,
Flowers of mourning, flowers of death, embalming poisons,
You formed the bouquet with which I garlanded my Madonna,
You that satiate the heart and murder reason.

I had hoped to subjugate her when she seemed to be dying,
Thus had I hoped that she not be yet more jealous of you.
But the Madonna was stronger than even your poisons.
She laughed, showing her teeth as wolves would do;

She drowned her face at the bottom of your calices,
Drank in deep breaths your overflowing death,
And her mouth so pink, with biting delights,
Was pinker still when she bit into you.

Jean Richepin, Caresses, 1882.

[Traduction Anglaise: Raymond E. André III, 2010]
[This English translation dedicated to Mlle. Mel Nerell]

Of Dreams, Statues and Shadows...

Of Sunlight, Irony and Pranks...

Of Clowns, Betrayal and Wine...


[Image: Le Mime Debureau : 'Pierrot Voleur', par Nadar, 1854]


The character of Pierrot comes to us from antiquity. Some sources trace his existence back 4000 years to present day Turkey in Asia Minor. He is, perhaps, most well-known as a stock character from the Italian Commedia dell’arte. He is the ‘son of the moon’; a white-faced, sad clown, eternally hopeful, but doomed by Love and Fate. Among the various characters of the Commedia dell’arte, he is the only monochrome character, while all the others have all of the full and radiant colors of Life, he remains garbed only in black and white. Night has no use for colors. Night’s goddess, the Moon, is a jealous empress, and will admit no other colors, save her own silvery white beams.



Read more...Collapse )

Of Serpents, Mirrors and Blades...


[Image: ‘Tête de Méduse’, 1618: Peter-Paul Rubens]

Of Salacious Sanguine Solutions...


[Image: ‘A Visit to the Slaughterhouse’, circa 1880: artist unknown.]


It has been said that the only difference between a parasite and a predator is its scale. The objective of either organism is the same: each must profit from consuming the host/prey; whole, or in part. In this way, the leech and the vampire are essentially ‘siblings’ (hats off to Isidore Lucien Ducasse, of course, for pointing the way in this matter in multiple instances); each creature is prodigious in its own way. But parasitism and vampirism are both banal and purely functional at a certain level. Each organism is merely snacking upon, where available, its favorite treat. To reduce the matter even further, away from over-romanticized images of  Nosferatu (who certainly evokes both parasite and vampire, visually) and Béla Lugosi, we come now to the realm of homeopathic medicine and diet, as conducted in Victorian times, by a happy junket to the nearest slaughterhouse, where the drinking of blood from freshly killed cows and steers was offered for its ‘obvious health benefits’; fresh, hot and served by the glassful to the public at large. The fad lasted some years. Truly, the ‘smoothie’ of more recent times with its ‘protein boost’ is but a pale imitation of the ‘genuine article’ as described below. So… sidle up to the nearest meat-hook and pick your ‘poison’, Slim…



Original French and English translation of this Jean Lorrain classic.Collapse )


Of cut roses and broken hearts...

[Image: ‘Dying Rose Bouquet’ by Memphis Saltos, 2007]


John Barlas (1860 – 1914) who wrote under the pseudonym of Evelyn Douglas was a man of tragic and majestic proportions. Like a modern day Don Quixote, he tilted hard at the windmills of his day. Having been befriended by Oscar Wilde while attending Oxford, he later became associated with William Morris, and was even sponsored into the Rhymers’ Club by Ernest Dowson, no less. However, his emotions could be both intense and erratic, leading to a very unfortunate misadventure in 1891 in which he fired 3 shots from a revolver at the House of Commons from Westminster bridge, apparently to demonstrate his contempt for Parliament. Oscar Wilde bailed him out of jail, but Barlas proceeded on the same sort of downward spiral, as Dowson, Swinburne (whose work influenced Barlas greatly) and so many other young men of his generation had done. He spent most of his post jail life in Gartnavel asylum in Glasgow, where he died, it is speculated, from the complications of syphilis.


I find his poems to be an amalgam of the mournful, lovelorn work of John Dowland, mixed with the very best of the English Décadents. He is tasteful and always has an eye toward harmonious aesthetics within his poems, which makes them all the more devastating, considering their fatal tone.




XXXVI. "A cut rose set in water, poor sick wraith"


A cut rose set in water, poor sick wraith,

Survives a little while in hectic bloom,

A ghostly body in a living tomb:

E'en as a love-sick maid it lingereth

Feeding its passion with protracted death;

While through the very wound that wrought its doom

It draws unnatural nourishment: the room

Is long time fragrant with its dying breath.

How slow life droops away cut off from thee,

But cannot wither, though inch by inch it dies!

Torn cruelly from love's mutilated tree,

Through my heart's wound I drink what grief supplies

Of waterish sustenance, salt as the sea;

And all the night is heavy with my sighs.


John Barlas, (pseud. Evelyn Douglas), Love Sonnets, 1889.


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