(P. Picasso – Odalisque/1951)
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Robert Anton Wilson – The Widow’s Son/An Excerpt
Poetry: The Erotic Spirit
Art: Interpretations of the Odalisque
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(From My Friend Diana…)
The Widow’s Son – Volume Two of the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles
Robert Anton Wilson
Moon was whistling as he sat up above in the driver’s chair, guiding the horse. Sir John thought of the coachman with compassion. He had undoubtedly come to England because of legal troubles in Ireland. The ruin of his right hand — the three missing fingernails — told a story Sir John could read without doubt, having been raised in Dublin himself, when his father was a judge there.
There was something wrong with Moon’s right eye, too. It would not quite focus.
Sir John had voted for every bill Burke had proposed to relieve the Irish, to remove the hateful Penal Laws. They had been defeated by overwhelming majorities every time. I am appeasing my conscience, Sir John thought, by hiring an Irishman with a very probable rebel background.
Well, Moon was a good worker. It was not charity to keep him; he earned his wages.
Sir John remembered the first interview. “James Moon,” he had said. “That was probably Seamus Muadhen back in Meath, wasn’t it?” Moon, or Muadhen, claimed to come from Meath — which probably meant he came from Cork or Wexford or any place but Meath.
The look of astonishment on the lad’s face was pathetic, Sir John thought. He had obviously never met and never conceived of an Englishman who cared enough about Ireland to learn Gaelic.
He was still whistling as he galloped the horses. Sir John recognized the tune:
‘Twas early, early all in the spring
The birds did whistle and sweetly sing
Changing their notes from tree to tree
And the song they sang was of Ireland free
A rebel song. Sir John smiled. The boy was concentrating on the horses and did not realize what he was whistling, how incriminating it was.
We all give our away our secrets sooner or later, Sir John thought, and the fear came back as he applied that idea to himself.
The concept of God as a Machiavellian could only occur to a man who was himself Machiavellian.
Do I not always work for the humanitarian cause? Am I not trying to be a good husband? What is past is past. I have “put away all childish things.”
You are living a lie, another voice within him said. You know what you feel at the sight of certain special boys, boys with that brutal beauty that still attracts you.
It was at this point in his thoughts that Sir John Babcock saw what seemed to him at first one of God’s more Machiavellian tricks.
The object came down with a thunderous roar, it glowed like a ghost in a legend — or one of the faeries of Ireland — and it landed with an earsplitting crash only a short distance from the road.
An object that did not exist, according to the Royal Scientific Society. A myth that only peasants believed.
And it was still glowing.
“Moon!” Sir John shouted, banging on the roof of the coach with his walking stick in excitement. “Stop! Stop at once!”
The two men stood beside the coach, looking at the glowing rock. “You saw it come down?” Sir John asked, feeling like a character in a Walpole novel of demons.
“Aye, I saw it, sir.” Moon did not seem frightened at all. Of course, Sir John thought; he had detected evidence of some education in the lad previously.
“You are not afraid?”
“Afraid of a rock? Sure, it’s those human sons of bitches that scare me, when I am scared. Sir.”
Sir John had already gotten past thinking it was something God had thrown in his direction to teach him something about how inscrutable a Machiavellian deity could be. This was a natural phenomenon of some sort, and its connection with his own thoughts was only coincidental.
“I wish to dig it out of the earth,” Sir John said carefully, controlling his excitement. “It may have great scientific value. Let us see if it is still too hot to be touched.”
The two men walked across the field, and Sir John became increasingly aware that James Moon was not an ignorant peasant. He seemed to understand Sir John’s intellectual curiosity, and he showed no anxiety that faeries might leap out of the rock and transport them a hundred years backward or forward in time.
When they stood looking at the “thunderstone,” which had faded from bright yellow to mild grey already, Sir John felt exactly as he had during his four degrees of initiation into Freemasonry. The Royal Scientific Society was wrong about these objects; the peasants were right; everything was thereby thrown into doubt. This kind of awe and wonder had never come to him in any church, and yet he felt a sense of infinite mystery that was supposed to be what the Churches were all about.
Who was it who had said “There are no rocks in the sky; therefore rocks do not fall out of the sky”?
Well, there were rocks in the sky, and Sir John had seen one of them fall. What else is up there that we do not know? he wondered uneasily. The City of Heaven? That was superstition, but then, where did this Damned Thing fall from?
“Find a large branch,” he said intently. “Something to pry it loose from the earth.”
Sir John had devoted his life to an ideal of justice, which had been increasingly exacerbated by knowledge of how infuriatingly difficult it was to achieve, or even approximate, justice in this world. Now he felt a new passion; a commitment to pure truth such as the dedicated natural philosopher must feel. The Royal Scientific Society — indeed, all educated opinion — was wrong about thunderstones. Sir John had seen one fall with his own eyes; it was not some peasant’s tale. It was his duty to inform the scientific community. He had, at that moment, only a dim premonition that this might be an upopular undertaking. That did not matter of course; he had been vilified considerably for some of his positions in Parliament — his defense of the American colonists, his opposition to slavery, his efforts to remove the Penal Laws and restore religious liberty. He was not afraid of public opinion. Besides, he had his rock, and he was sure nobody could argue away the existence of so tangible an object.
Sir John heard Moon move behind him.
Seamus Muadhen was hesitating, as he had been hesitating for months. It was only partly that Babcock was not the villain Seamus had imagined in the interrogation room in Dun Laoghaire; mostly he had delayed because he lacked the stomach for this job. He had told himself, many times, that he was being clever and crafty; waiting for the right time, the time when he could do it and escape without suspicion. That had all been lies; he had had many opportunities. Opportunities lost, gone, keened only by the wild wicked wind.
It was easy to commit murder in imagination, Seamus had learned. There was the man you hated, the man who deserved to die; and there you were, alone with him. You shot, or you stabbed, or you clubbed him, and the work was done. But now, in the real world, it was more complicated; the man had a wife for instance, and you could not stop yourself from thinking of the look in her eyes when she heard the news; and she was pregnant, and you thought of the unborn child; and you learned, the way servants learn things, that she, Lady Babcock, had a brother who was half-mad because of a wound from a duel, and you wondered what more violence coming into her life might do to her mind….
The plain fact is, Seamus thought in the dar, coming up behind Sir John, the great conquerors and empire builders like the English are people who have learned not to think that way. Here is a man who must die, they think: and they kill him: and there is an end. And the revolutionaries who succeed can only think one step at a time: here is a man who must die, so we kill him. Those of us who think of the next step, and the step beyond, Seamus realized, are not the ones who make history. We are its passive victims. Just because we have too much fooken imagination. If a prime minister anywhere in Europe had the kind of mind I have, Seamus thought miserably, he would never sign a mobilization order for an army: and there would be no history.
History is made by men who do not think of the ultimate effects of what they are doing.
Poetry: The Erotic Spirit
(J.A.D. Ingres – The Grand Odalisque)
Passion and Love
A MAIDEN wept and, as a comforter,
Came one who cried, “I love thee,” and he seized
Her in his arms and kissed her with hot breath,
That dried the tears upon her flaming cheeks.
While evermore his boldly blazing eye
Burned into hers; but she uncomforted
Shrank from his arms and only wept the more.
Then one came and gazed mutely in her face
With wide and wistful eye; but still aloof
He held himself; as with a reverent fear,
As one who knows some sacred presence nigh.
And as she wept he mingled tear with tear,
That cheered her soul like dew a dusty flower,–
Until she smiled, approached, and touched his hand.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
All as before: against the dining-room windows
Beats the scattered windswept snow,
And I have not changed either,
But a man came to me.
I asked: “What do you want?”
He replied: “To be with you in Hell.”
I laughed: “Oh, you’ll foredoom
Us both to disaster.”
But lifting his dry hand
He lightly touched the flowers:
“Tell me how men kiss you,
Tell me how you kiss men.”
And his lusterless eyes
Did not move from my ring.
Not a single muscle quivered
On his radiantly evil face.
Oh, I know: his delight
Is the tense and passionate knowledge
That he needs nothing,
That I can refuse him nothing.
The Unfaithful Wife
So I took her to the river
thinking she was virgin,
but it seems she had a husband.
It was the night of Saint Iago,
and it almost was a duty.
The lamps went out,
the crickets lit up.
By the last street corners
I touched her sleeping breasts,
and they suddenly had opened
like the hyacinth petals.
of her slip crackled
in my ears like silk fragments
ripped apart by ten daggers.
The tree crowns
free of silver light are larger,
and a horizon, of dogs, howls
far away from the river.
Past the hawthorns,
the reeds, and the brambles,
below her dome of hair
I made a hollow in the sand.
I took off my tie.
She took of a garment.
I my belt with my revolver.
She four bodices.
or shells are not as smooth as
her skin was, or, in the moonlight,
crystals shining brilliantly.
Her thighs slipped from me
like fish that are startled,
one half full of fire,
one half full of coldness.
That night I galloped
on the best of roadways,
on a mare of nacre,
without stirrups, without bridle.
As a man I cannot tell you
the things she said to me.
The light of understanding
has made me most discreet.
Smeared with sand and kisses,
I took her from the river.
The blades of the lilies
were fighting with the air.
I behaved as what I am,
as a true gypsy.
I gave her a sewing basket,
big, with straw-coloured satin.
I did not want to love her,
for though she had a husband,
she said she was a virgin
when I took her to the river.
Body of a Woman
Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
you look like a world, lying in surrender.
My rough peasant’s body digs in you
and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth.
I was lone like a tunnel. The birds fled from me,
and nigh swamped me with its crushing invasion.
To survive myself I forged you like a weapon,
like an arrow in my bow, a stone in my sling.
But the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of eager and firm milk.
Oh the goblets of the breast! Oh the eyes of absence!
Oh the roses of the pubis! Oh your voice, slow and sad!
Body of my woman, I will persist in your grace.
My thirst, my boudnless desire, my shifting road!
Dark river-beds where the eternal thirst flows
and weariness follows, and the infinite ache.
By Pablo Neruda
Madonna of the Evening Flowers
All day long I have been working,
Now I am tired
I call: “Where are you?”
But there is only the oak-tree rustling in the wind.
The house is very quiet,
The sun shines in on your books,
On your scissors and thimble just put down,
But you are not there.
Suddenly I am lonely:
Where are you? I go about searching.
Then I see you,
Standing under a spire of pale blue larkspur,
With a basket of roses on your arm.
You are cool, like silver,
And you smile.
I think the Canterbury bells are playing little tunes.
You tell me that the peonies need spraying,
That the columbines have overrun all bounds,
That the pyrus japonica should be cut back and rounded.
You tell me all these things.
But I look at you, heart of silver,
White heart-flame of polished silver,
Burning beneath the blue steeples of the larkspur,
And I long to kneel instantly at your feet,
While all about us peal the loud, sweet, Te Deums of the Canterbury bells.
Hymn To Eros
O Eros, silently smiling one, hear me.
Let the shadow of thy wings
Let thy presence
enfold me, as if darkness
Let me see that darkness
lamp in hand,
this country become
the other country
sacred to desire.
slow the wheels of my thought
so that I listen only
to the snowfall hush of
Close my beloved with me
in the smoke ring of thy power,
that we way be, each to the other,
figures of flame,
figures of smoke,
figures of flesh
newly seen in the dusk.
(Mariano Fortuny – L Odalisque)