The Hearts of Kings D

The Duke grabbed the heavy angular frame and raised it onto the easel. As he stepped back the old man tapped on the copper plate with his finger and proclaimed:

“Here for all to see is the Heart of Henry IV, the first Bourbon! It was a little damaged from Ravaillac’s stab in the back, a man of the highest and most praiseworthy principles.”

The painting portrayed a monstrous kitchen range with several cooking holes that were covered. Flames shot out of several of these holes and on them stood cooking pots in which living people stewed. Several were attempting to climb out; others were grabbing at each other and howling with horrified expressions. A grisly fear, an unbearable agony screamed out of all these starving faces. The brown kitchen range displayed a glazed tile with a heart painted on it and the letters “Henry IV”.

The Duke turned away.

“I don’t understand it at all,” he said.

Droling laughed brightly, “And yet in your school books you read the great words of your honest ancestor:

‘I would like every farmer to have a chicken in his pot on Sundays!’

Look, there you see the little roosters which the king had in his own pots! That is truly a royal heart, that kitchen range there! Would you like a sample of this Bourbon for your nose?”

He went to the cabinet, took out another snuff box and held it out to the Duke.

“There is only a little bit there,” he said, “but try some. It’s a good mix, Henry IV and Francis I. Try some; it will make you think like a predator.”

“Are you trying to say, Herr Droling,” asked the Duke, “that this tobacco—this dark brown powder here—comes from the hearts of both kings?”

“That I will most certainly admit, Herr Orlèans. It comes from nothing else. I mixed it myself.”

“How did you get these hearts?”

“I bought them. Didn’t I already tell you that? Are you interested in the particular details? Then listen.”

He pushed the Duke down in his chair and sprang back up onto his painter stool.

“Have you ever heard of Petit-Radel? No? Then you are uncultured, a true Orlèans. I’ve already noticed that. Your grandfather was good friends with the architect Petit-Radel. Well one day he received the silly commission from the Committee of Public Safety to destroy the king’s graves in the vaults of Saint Denis and Val-de-Grâce. He took care of it grandly too, I tell you. Then he had to do the same thing in the Jesuit church on Rue Saint Antoine. Your grandfather notified me about it.

‘Go with him, ‘said the honest Philippe. ‘You can buy some cheap mummy there!’

Do you know what that is Herr Orlèans? No? Well, mummy is from a mummy, the remnant of an embalmed body which you can use as pigment. And my soul, this pigment is very expensive! You can only imagine how happy I was to find some so cheaply. We found the urns with the embalmed hearts of the kings and princes in the Jesuit church. Petit-Radel pounded the urns to pieces. Then I bought the copper plates and the hearts.”

“And you made pigment out of the hearts?”

“Yes, naturally, what else? It is the only thing a king’s heart is good for. No, I exaggerate. It also makes an excellent snuff!—so help yourself, Henry IV and Francis I.”

The Duke declined, “Thank you, but no, Herr Droling.”

The old man snapped the box shut. “As you wish, but you are wrong in passing up such an opportunity. Never again will you be in a position to snuff a king’s heart.”

“The parts of the hearts that you don’t use as snuff you use as pigment in your paintings?”

“Certainly Herr Orlèans. I believed you grasped that long ago. You will find every heart of the Valois-Bourbon-Orlèans family in my paintings. But you will find more in them than just

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the physical substance. I have not made them that cheaply! Which heart would you like to see now?”

“Louis XV,” said the Duke at random.

Soon another painting stood on the easel. It was completely done in dark shades and the flesh tones showed a dull brown color.

“You seem to have used a lot of mummy here, Herr Droling,” remarked the Duke. “Was the heart that large?”

The old man laughed. “No, it was very small, a boy’s heart even though it beat for sixty four years. But in this one I have made use of other hearts as well. I have used those of the Regents, the Dukes of Orlèans, the Pompadour and Comtesse du Barry. This painting depicts an entire time period.”

The painting showed a throng of an astonishing number of Ladies and Gentlemen moving through each other in dull movements, pushing past one another and crawling over each other. Some were entirely naked, most were in the costume of their time period with high toupees, long powdered wigs, lace skirts and sabots. But instead of a head they all carried thin parchment covered skulls on their shoulders. The suffering movements were animal like, even dog like. The masterly painted figures, costumes and limbs, especially the hands, arms and shoulders were all human giving the entire impression of a repulsive corpse like milieu.

This curious mixture of life and death, of animal and human, rang together so harmoniously that the painting made an unprecedented horrible impression on the viewer’s awareness. Droling, who didn’t miss even the smallest movements of his guest, pointed to the carafe.

“Please, help yourself, Herr Orlèans. You silent critique satisfies me to the highest degree.”

“I find this painting awful,” said the Duke.

The old man crowed with delight. “Isn’t it disgusting? Very nasty. In a word genuinely royal!”

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The Hearts of Kings C

The Duke suddenly had the solid conviction that he was dealing with a lunatic. Yet there could not be any danger to him. Hadn’t he proven in Algiers that he feared no danger? Yet even though it was pointless he involuntarily threw a glance toward the door. The old man noticed the look and chuckled.

“You are my prisoner, Herr Orlèans, just like your grandfather once was. I thought you might want to flee. That’s why I locked the door and I have the key right here, here in my pocket.”

“I don’t have the slightest intention of fleeing,” replied the Duke, to whom the grand antics of the small little man appeared very comical.

He was a tall, very powerful man and with one blow could throw this old man that considered him a prisoner, to the floor and take the key away from him.

“Will you finally show me one of your paintings?”

Droling hopped down from his stool and pattered over to the Spanish wall.

“Yes, yes, that I will, Herr Orlèans. You shall have your pleasure of them!”

He pulled out a considerably large canvas in a heavy frame, dragged it out from the back and lifted it onto an easel. It was positioned so the back of the painting was turned towards the Duke. He carefully wiped it down with a dust cloth, then stepped to one side and cried out in the shrieking tones of a merchant in front of his fair booth:

“Here for all to see is the heart of one of the most illustrious names of the throne of France, one of the greatest cads that ever walked the earth! The Heart of Louis XI!”

With these words he turned the easel around so the Duke could see the painting.

It depicted a large barren tree in the foreground from whose branches a dozen naked and to some degree rotting corpses were hanging. In the dark bark of the tree a heart was carved that bore the initials “L.XI”. The painting seemed very realistic to the Duke and the repulsive smell of decay came out of it. He felt as if he had to hold his nose.

The Duke knew the history of France well enough, especially that of the royal houses, to immediately recognize the object of the painting. It portrayed the famous “garden” of his hang happy ancestor, the otherwise very humane and pious Louis XI. This incident was very well known and that the artist should choose to show it as the first one seemed very tasteless to him. Also, he found the symbolism of the painter in choosing to call his painting “The Heart of Louis XI” quite superficial. It was now only out of consideration for this undoubtedly sick old man that he chose to remain.

“I must admit, Herr Droling,” he said, “that while the artistic qualities of your painting appear excellent, the historical motif is not to my personal taste. Even though the ancestor cult runs wide in my house we are not all capable of such abominable deeds with such half-barbaric enthusiasm. I must say that I find this a little—”

The Duke hesitated; he searched for a possible kind word. But the painter pattered up to him, contentedly pleased with himself and rubbing his hands together.

He chuckled and urged, “Well? Well? What is it?”

“Tasteless,” said the Duke.

“Bravo,” grinned the old man. “Bravo, excellent! That is also my opinion. But your reproach means nothing to me, absolutely nothing to me at all. Instead it says something of the royal house itself. You see, everything that is stupid and foolish comes from your house. Listen, dear Herr. This idea does not come from me. It comes from your grandfather.”

“From who?”

“From the father of your father, who is today the king of France. It comes from my good friend Philippe Ègalitè. He played around with the idea as we returned from the execution of your uncle, Louis XI. By the way, the painting is only artistically bad because it is so obvious and crudely done. I don’t wonder that you noticed it. A cow could see that it is the heart of Louis XI.

By the way, it was the largest one of them all. That’s why it has such a dreadful smell. I always got a headache when I snuffed it—would you care to try a pinch?”

He pulled out a golden snuff box and held it out to his guest. The Duke, who was a strong snuffer took a little and pushed it into his nose.

“It is a good mix,” said the old man. “Prince Gaston of Orlèans, Anna of Austria and Charles V. Well? How do you like it? It is funny to see you snuffing the last earthly remains of your illustrious ancestors!”

“Herr Droling,” said the Duke. “I must praise your snuff tobacco as well as your wine. But please excuse me because I don’t understand what you are saying at all.”

“What don’t you understand?”

“Well, what you just said about my ancestors being stuck inside your paintings and your snuff box.”

“Stupid as an Orlèans!” crowed the old man. “Really, you are even denser than your grandfather, even though he was quite an ass as well to go over to the Gironde. Well, he had the opportunity to regret it under the guillotine.

So, you don’t understand, Herr Orlèans? Then listen to what I say. My paintings are painted with the hearts of the royal houses! Do you understand that?”

“Yes, Herr Droling, but—”

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“And out of what remains of the kings hearts, out of this can and other mixtures I snuff! Do you understand?”

“I hear quite well what you are saying, Herr Droling. You don’t need to shout so loudly. I just don’t entirely comprehend it.”

The painter sighed, but didn’t answer. Silently he went over to a chest and took out a couple of small copper plates which he handed to the Duke.

“There! There are still thirty-one left in the chest.  I give them all to you. You will receive them in addition to the paintings.”

The Duke looked attentively at the inscriptions on both plates, then went to the chest and examined the others himself. The inscriptions said that the plates belonged with the urns that contained the hearts of the kings, princes and princesses of the royal houses. Slowly he began to understand.

“How did you come by these?” he asked.

Involuntarily his voice sounded a little high handed.

“I bought them,” answered the old man in the same tone. “You know quite well that many painters are frequently interested in old clothing and junk.”

“So sell the plates back to me.”

“I have just given them to you—you can hang them under my paintings. I will tell you to which ones they belong. This one here,” he took a plate out of the Duke’s hand, “belongs under one of my more comical paintings. You shall see it immediately.”

He hung the plate on a nail on the crossbar of the easel, took the painting down and leaned it against a chair. Then he once more pattered behind the Spanish wall and in the next moment came out pulling a very large painting behind him.

“Please help me, Herr Orlèans. It is a bit heavy.”

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The Hearts of Kings B

The Duke, like almost all members of the royal house, was completely dependent on his companion. But he was not stupid enough to not be aware of it. He hated this dependence and this companion, whom he could not do without for even minutes, and he enjoyed nothing more than to see him embarrassed and made a fool of. The manner in which Herr Droling handled his adjutant, who was so immensely proud of his knightly nobility, amused the Duke so much that he could scarcely repress a smile.

“Go dear Touaillon,” he said. “Wait for me down below in the carriage. Herr Droling is right. He requires only the people that he has invited.”

As the adjutant made a deep bow and turned silently toward the stairs in a towering rage, he felt a satisfaction that almost reconciled him with the crazy painter.

But then Herr Droling said, “If you imagine, Herr Orlèans, that I am pleased to meet you, then you will be very disappointed. On the contrary, this is highly unpleasant for me. I have only invited you here because I have business to do with you. Come inside!”

Herr de Touaillon grinned as the key turned in the door. Like all adjutants, he hated his master from the bottom of his heart and no less than this man did.

While the painter locked the door, secured the bolt and once more placed the long iron bar across it, the Duke looked around the studio. There were a couple of empty easels, a few unrecognizable studies and sketches hung on the walls and yellowed fabric covered trunks, crates and some easy chairs. Everything was dirty and covered with dust. The Duke could not discern a painting anywhere. He sat down resignedly on the little painter’s stool in the middle of the room. But he had scarcely sat down when the bleating goat voice of the old man came to his ears.

“Did I invite you to sit there? Not one of your worthy family appears to know even the simplest decency, Herr Orlèans! What would you say if I, as your guest, sat down uninvited, especially there, on your own stool?”

This time the Duke was really perplexed and he sprang up. Then Herr Droling pulled several old rags down from two old easy chairs, pulled one up a little and said formally:

“May I be permitted to have you take your place here?”

“After you,” replied the Duke just as formally, now solidly determined to play this comedy through to the end.

But Droling remained standing.

“No, after you. Here I am at home and you are my guest.”

The Duke sat down in the chair and Droling stepped over to an enormous old cabinet, opened it, and took out a brilliantly cut Venetian carafe and two tall fluted wine glasses.

“I seldom have guests, Herr Orlèans,” he began. “But when I do I entertain them with a glass of port wine. Drink, you will find no better at your father’s table in the palace.”

He poured the glasses full and handed one to the Duke. Without bothering to see if the other drank he raised his glass to the light, stroked it affectionately, and sipped in little swallows. The Duke drank as well and had to admit that the wine was an extremely excellent one. Droling filled the glasses again, but appeared to have no inclination to speak of the purchase of his paintings so the Duke began:

“You invited me here in order to sell several of your paintings. I am acquainted with your artistic style from your ‘Intérieur de Cuisine’ in the Louvre—”

“Have you seen that painting?” the painter interrupted him eagerly. “Well, how did appeal to you?”

“Oh, extraordinarily well,” praised the Duke. “A very fine painting, marvelously cheerful!”

But his words had an entirely different reaction than what he had expected.

The old man leaned back in his chair, ran his fingers through his white mane and said, “Well, that only shows that you understand nothing, absolutely nothing at all of art. You are a clod! Namely, the painting you saw was boring and without charm. In short, it is very bad. Well painted yes, but has nothing at all to do with real art. Only the brown pot with the dent in it has a little bit of Louis XIII and therefore—”

“Has something of whom?” asked the astonished Duke.

“Of Louis XIII,” calmly repeated Droling. “But little, very little of him. It was a weak first attempt which I made at that time, a helpless groping. It is sad that you liked that shit, Herr Orlèans.”

The Duke was getting the idea that diplomacy would not work with this crackpot and decided to pass up sophisticated talk about artwork and try simplicity instead.

“Excuse me, Herr Droling,” he began again. “I have tried to put something over on you out of courtesy. Namely, I have never seen your painting in the Louvre and therefore can not evaluate whether it is good or bad at all. Understand by the way, that I indeed know very little about art, not half as much as I know about wine. Your wine is really excellent.”

The old man poured his glass full again.

“Then drink, Herr Orlèans. So you have not seen my painting and have lied to me in saying that it was very beautiful?”

He placed the carafe on the floor and shook his head.

“The Devil,” he said. “You can tell that you come from a royal house! But can you expect anything different!”

He regarded his guest with an expression of unprecedented contempt. The Duke felt himself getting very uncomfortable. He rocked back and forth in his chair and slowly drank his wine.

“Perhaps now we would like to speak of our business, Herr Droling? I don’t see a painting anywhere.”

“You will see the paintings soon, Herr Orlèans. They stand over there behind the Spanish wall.

The Duke stood up.

“Wait a bit, remain seating. It is necessary that I explain the value of my paintings ahead of time and the value they have for you and your family.”

The Duke sat back down. Droling pulled his little legs up high onto the rickety three legged painter’s stool and wrapped his arms around his knees. He looked like a rare, ancient and ugly monkey.

“Believe me, Herr Orlèans; it is not by accident that I turn to you. I have considered this for a long time and assure you that it is highly distasteful to me to know that my paintings will be in the possession of such an underhanded family as the Valois-Bourbon-Orlèans are.

But you will see for yourself that the most enthusiastic art fan would not pay the price for my paintings that the Orlèans would pay and that speaks as well. Someone else would make me an offer and I would have to take his bid if I did not want to lose the sale. But with you I can simply dictate my price. That is because the family of the kings of France also has a right to these paintings to some extent. In an unusual way they contain all that has been sacred in your house for over a century and still is today.”

“I don’t entirely understand you,” said the Duke.

Martin Droling rocked back and forth on his little stool.

“Oh you will understand soon enough Herr Orlèans,” he grinned. My paintings contain the hearts of the French royal houses.”

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The Hearts of Kings- A

https://i1.wp.com/www.anarchistworld.net/images/illustrated.jpg

by Hanns Heinz Ewers

Translation by Joe Bandel

Copyright Joe Bandel

The Hearts of Kings

Ragusa, May 1907

As September 1841 came to an end Duke Ferdinand of Orlèans returned back to his Paris hotel after a trip in the country. His valet presented him with a large golden serving tray heaped with correspondence of all kinds that had accumulated while he was away on his vacation. The Duke had not permitted any of it to be forwarded.

Within this pile of letters was also a curious one that caught the Duke’s interest more than any of the others.

“Mein Herr!

I have a great number of paintings by my hand that I intend to sell you. For these paintings I will demand an unparalleled high price from you. Nevertheless, it does not compare to the riches your own family has collectively stolen. Yes, you will even find my price very moderate in comparison to the extraordinary high value my painting have for the royal house. You will be very grateful to me for this opportunity that I offer.

By the way, I will tell you right from the first what I intend to do with the money that you will pay me. I am an old man without a family and without many personal requirements. I live for a little rent and need nothing more. I will bequeath the entire sum to the Montagnards, the men of the Mountain—MAY THEY NEVER BE FORGOTTEN—you know very well, Mein Herr, which people they are. They are the true, honest and loyal people that executed the traitor Louis XVI.

The king, your father, has driven these people out of Paris and France but they have found a new residence in Geneva and are doing quite well there. I hope you will hear more of them. After receipt of the money I will immediately send it to these men of the Mountain—MAY THEY NEVER BE FORGOTTEN—along with the request that it be used to affect the murder of the king.

I suspect you will think this use of your own money to be very unpleasant. But you will give it to me anyway so that no one else will get my paintings with their money. Even the golden Louis himself could not dissuade you against buying them. I have no doubt of this in the slightest. Under all circumstances you will purchase my paintings. In addition I will require you to write a letter to me in your own hand on paper with the royal seal explicitly thanking me for my courteous offer.

Martin Droling”

The unconventional openness of this letter, which bore neither a date nor an address of the sender, did not make an agreeable impression on the pampered Duke. His first assumption, that the writing must be from a lunatic, was shared by his adjutant. But he was not entirely certain. This uncertainty plus the great curiosity which always distinguished him, and had already nearly cost him his life in Algiers, prompted him to have his adjutant inquire into the facts of the letter and report back to him.

This happened early the following day. His adjutant, Herr de Touaillon-Geffrard reported to the Duke that a remaining faction of the people of the Mountain—MAY THEY NEVER BE FORGOTTEN—did in fact exist in Geneva. But the government had disbanded the group two years ago and imprisoned some of its members. The letter was not worth being taken seriously and appeared to be just windy talk. There was no danger.

Martin Droling was a painter, a quiet old man, by the way, who was over eighty years old and had never made any trouble at any time in his life. No one had seen or heard anything of him for ten years now and he almost never left his studio on Rue de Martirs. He had not placed anything on exhibit for a long time.

On the other hand he had been hard working as a young man and produced many excellent paintings. Most of them were of kitchen interiors. One of these kitchen scenes had been purchased by the government and now hung in the Louvre.

In light of this information the letter seemed stripped of its romantic color and not of much further interest to the Duke.

“This man appears to have such an extraordinarily high opinion of the Bourbon appetite,” he opined, “that he assumes we will be very interested in kitchen interiors!”

“I don’t believe it is necessary to reply to this crackpot,” he said. “This Droling is very droll.”

The adjutant laughed as he listened, but the crackpot appeared to have a different opinion over this essential point. At least several days later the Duke received another letter from the painter. This one was much more commanding and determined than the first.

“Mein Herr!

It is incomprehensible that you have still not come to visit me. I repeat that I am an old man. Therefore it is better for both parties that we immediately close our business before the highly unpleasant but at any time possible occurrence of my own death frustrates things. I definitely expect you here at my studio early tomorrow morning around eleven-thirty. But don’t come any earlier. I am a late riser and have no desire to crawl out of the covers any earlier.

Martin Droling”

The Duke handed the letter to his adjutant.

“Again he gives no address. He apparently takes it as self evident that we know where he lives. Well, he is right. We do know! What do you think? Shall we obey the strong command of Herr Droling? Exert yourself a bit tomorrow morning dear Touaillon, but only enough to be at his studio at least half an hour early. He will be more amusing when he is angry.”

The Duke and Herr de Touaillon-Geffrard panted as they climbed up the four flights of dirty stairs from the courtyard. They knocked on an old yellow door which bore an old shield with the name “Martin Droling” on it. But they knocked in vain. Nothing stirred inside. They called and beat with the handles of their canes on the door. The Duke was amused at this siege that grew ever stronger until the two of them were making a hellish noise.

Suddenly they heard a grumbling voice that sounded far distant from the door, “What’s going on? What do you want?”

“Get up Papa Droling, get up! Your visitors are here!” cried the Duke in great amusement.

“I get up when I want to,” the voice rang back. “Not when it pleases you.”

But the Duke was in high spirits.

“We must storm the fortress,” he cried and commanded, “Fire!”

Both marked time in short bursts against the door and made it rattle. They pounded with their canes and yelled over and over, “Get up sleepy head! Get up! Your visitors are here! Get out of bed!”

From inside they heard a not understandable mutter of curses and then the sound of steps that neared the door.

“Do whatever you want. You will not enter here until I have washed up, dressed and had breakfast.”

The Duke spoke, begged and cursed, all in vain. He received no answer. Finally he gave up and sat down at the top of the stairs with his adjutant.

So once more I learn how highly unpleasant it is to be kept in an antechamber. And this one is miserably wretched. I will avenge myself for this!

It is known from out of the papers of Prince Metternich that the Duke did indeed have his revenge. From that time on he passionately made all his visitors wait in his antechamber for hours at a time. He even allowed new arrivals to the front of the procession just to have the satisfaction of having those who had waited for hours wait even longer.

Finally there was movement at the door. They heard a key turning in the lock, the bolt being drawn back, and the dull, muffled sound of an iron bar being removed. Then the door opened and allowed them to see a small, pale little man in the garb of the First Consulate. The clothing had once been elegant, but was now dirty and frayed.

The wrinkled features looked out from an enormous black collar with difficulty. Above they were framed by a full head of dirty white curls that fell loosely and wildly around each other.

“I am Martin Droling,” said the little man. “What do you want?”

“You have invited us here this morning—”, began the Duke.

But the little painter interrupted him He pulled a heavy silver watch out of his pocket and held it under the Duke’s nose.

“Eleven-thirty? I asked you to come around eleven-thirty, not earlier. What time is it now? Twenty minutes after eleven! And you’ve been pounding away with your silly antics for a half hour already.

You will pay one thousand Francs more for each one of my paintings, do you understand! I will teach you to be more decent.

“Which of you is Herr Orlèans?”

The adjutant thought the old man had finally gone too far in his treatment toward his master. He held it as his duty to protect and maintain the dignity of the Duke.

“Herr Droling, His Royal Highness, the Duke of Orlèans, stands in front of you!”

The little man snarled and spit with rage, “Call the gentleman whatever you want. It doesn’t matter to me. I will permit you to address him as he is named.—who are you anyway? You have not introduced yourself.”

The Duke feasted for a moment on the speechless bewilderment of his companion, and then he said with all of his diplomacy and charm.

“Allow me, Herr Droling. This is my adjutant Herr de Touaillon-Geffrard, Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd Cuirassier Regiment.”

Droling made a little bow.

“I don’t know you, Mein Herr, and have no desire to make your acquaintance at all. I have not invited you here and do not intend to keep you. You may go.”

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Poe-H

poeh

The poet was alone in his exaggerated dreams. He was beautiful, loved beautiful things and needed to surround himself with beauty. He created glorious beauty in his dreams that were real to him. The expensive country house in Landors or the marvelous estate at Arnheim.

But in his poor modest life the penny mattered. He knew how to create things around him that excited the admiration of the rich. His small cottage at Fordham where he endured a paradise of agony with his death marked spouse had a precious harmony flowing through it that charmed every visitor.

Stuff and clutter filled it. But it was attractive and beautiful. It was a miserable cottage on the top of a small hill but blooming cherry blossoms stood out of the green meadow. In the early dawn small songbirds enticed the poet out into the nearby pine forest. There he walked through his colorful Georginian bushes breathing the sweet perfume of wild Mignonettes and Heliotrope. The light morning air kissed his moist temples and stroked the weary eyes that had kept watch through the long night over his beloved.

He visited the high bridge over the river Harlem and the rocky cliffs in the wilderness where he dreamed under the shade of ancient cedar trees.

Now he rests somewhere. On the day after his death he was buried in the Westminster Church Cemetery in Baltimore. You have read of the poet dying like a vagabond and buried in a hurry like a dog found on the street.

His grave will be near that of his grandfather, General David Poe, who made a name for himself in the Civil war. It should be there somewhere, there is no cross or gravestone to mark the site. No one bothered. His countrymen had other cares. Why should they worry about one dead poet!

For one week they were employed with various miserable ways to soil and vilify his memory. All the false stories that have been invented since are still in circulation, a whole flood of poisonous ink sprayed over the dead lion. The mediocre fell upon him, the jealous torrents of small writers which he had so relentlessly pulled to pieces.

Voiced the battle cry of the lying moralist Griswold, “He went mad in a drunken fog! He drank too much! He drank too much!”

Then he was forgotten and that is all right. His countrymen are not yet mature enough to recognize the genius of their great poet. After another century they will gather his decayed bones together, erect a mighty monument and inscribe on it:

“The Greatest Poet of the United States”.

Allow them to keep his bones over there. What we want is to listen to the poet’s soul in the call of the nightingales that live here in the Alhambra.

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Poe-G

poeg

What was Edgar Allen Poe like?

There are people that give out a strange magic. Under their spell you have to believe in their personality. There is something that pushes back and makes you notice. No one knows what but it is there. They are marked with the sign of the artist. Oscar Wilde was one and so was Edgar Allan Poe. His manner was high; his gait was light and his demeanor always harmonious. He was always refined despite his poverty and had a romantic chivalrous manner.

His proud features were regular, yes, he was handsome. The pure dark gray eyes held a strange violet glint. The high confident brow had marvelous symmetry. His complexion was always pale and shadowed by his dark locks. Edgar Allan Poe was beautiful in body and in soul. His gentle voice was musical.

He was a strong supple athlete, a persevering swimmer that once swam over seven English miles upstream against the current from Richmond to Warwick without getting tired. He was an experienced jumper, elegant rider and excellent fencer that more than once demanded a duel from a hot-blooded opponent.

He was a gentleman from top to bottom; his social manner was cool and though entangled was charming. He was sensitive and tender, earnest and solid. He was a scholar with an almost universal education. It was an equally great pleasure to see him or to listen to him. He was always sharing and his curse was that so few, so few to whom he gave his great riches were worthy enough to understand.

Did a few beautiful women understand him? No, but they could sense the nobility of his soul, instinctively the way all women do.

Only three people lived in his time that were capable of grasping him completely. Baudelaire and the two Brownings, but they lived over in old Europe and he never saw them.

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Poe-F

poef

The Pit and the Pendulum

I slowly walk for a long time through the park at Alhambra under the ancient Elms that Wellington planted. On all sides I hear the babble and rustle of flowing water mixed with the sweet songs of a hundred nightingales. I stride between the high towers into the luxuriant valley of Alhambra.

Who does this magic palace, these dream gardens belong to? The destitute Spanish nation that I despise? The vulgar strangers with their red books that I must take ten steps to avoid?

Oh no! It belongs to me, to me and the few capable of receiving this beauty into their souls. There is a voice in these stones, in these bushes that lends life to the spirit of beauty and brings an understanding of truth.

Everything around me and everything that is beautiful on this earth is the sacred everlasting property of the Nation of Culture that stands above the masses. It is ruler. It is owner. The beauty does not speak to anyone else. Understand this command and dare to live. Edgar Allan Poe did.

I sit on a stone bank where Aboul-Haddjadj once dreamed. In front of me a spring gushes up out of the hill and flows into a marble basin. I wonder if the Sultan ever sat alone here in the dawn hours. Oh, it is so sweet to dream here.

There was once a poet that wrote only of his conversations with the dead. He chatted with all seven Sages, all the kings of Ninevah, with Egyptian priests and Thessalonian witches, with Athenian singers, with Roman Commanders and with the knights of King Arthur’s round table. Finally he didn’t want to talk with living people anymore, the dead were so much more interesting!

Certainly anyone can chat with them. Every dreamer knows this and everyone that believes in dreams as the ultimate reality.

Have I not today wandered there above through the halls with my favorite? Have I not shown the world a beautiful piece of the dead that living eyes have never seen before? Now he stands before me leaning against an elm.

“Any questions?” He says.

He looks good, my caressing eyes question him and he speaks. Soon clear words drip from his lips, soon his voice babbles out of the fountain and sings out of the throats of the nightingales and rustles in the leaves of the ancient elm. The dead are so clever.

“Leave my poor life alone.” He says. “Ask Goethe about his. He went hunting around the world with a prince that paid him with six stallions. I was a solitary.”

I never let my gaze leave him. “Tell of your life and of your love!”

“I forgot life, forgot that I lived.” He says. “Oh, not now since I’ve been dead, as the children say. I forgot every day on the next day. Could I have lived any other way? My true life, the one in my dreams you already know about.”

A light mist rose from the ground and scurried away into the evening; a sweet cool fanned my temples. I certainly knew his dream life; it poured through me and through the world. Through his poetry his life has slowly unfolded before me.

William Wilson. Naturally this is Poe, so very much Poe that the moralist Griswold deemed Wilson’s birth year as the poet’s own. The boy ruled over all his schoolmates in the old boarding school at Stoke-Newington, all except one, his own self.[i]

Those good things that he inherited as a boy, youth and man would always turn to rags because his conscience was not free of the other Wilson, his own self.

Pigheaded conscience pushed against his fascination with crime in the world and he became his own punishing judge.

This is how the poet’s childhood poisoned his youthful years. What he inherited along with his education awakened still more feelings for good and evil so exaggerated in him that he went here and there trapped in an eternal struggle that nearly destroyed him.

Every little wrong he had ever experienced grew in his dreams into enormous crimes that tormented him, tormented him. Still more was the sinful thought of playing with the idea of evil in his dreams until it became real as well. He, himself, is the hero in all his gruesome stories. As the last of his kind he rights the sins of his father and like his Friedrich von Metzgerstein rides a demonic horse into the flames of hell.

How the elm leaves rustle! I hear this luckless voice in the wind. “If I had not been a poet I would have been a murderer, a fraud, a thief and a cheat.”

The elm leaves clang and his voice continues, “and perhaps I would have been happier.”

I think, who knows?

How is it that this tormented poet never became a criminal? Where he really lived, in his dreams, he was not only a murderer but at the same time a victim. He entombed his enemy alive in the cellar and it was himself that he entombed. (A Cask of Amontillado)

He murdered the man with the vulture eyes because he had to and buried him under the floor. The heart kept beating and beating and gave the deed away. It was again himself. (The Tell-Tale Heart)  His evil twin, the double, William Wilson everywhere.

Seldom has an artist toiled so much for so few results, never has anyone so immersed themselves in their work. A German or Frenchman could more easily have freed himself from this morality. But the poet was so encumbered with a crushing religion of the soul from early childhood and in his education that he could never entirely free himself. When he was finally able to distance himself it was too late.

He was never able to stand on the other side of good and evil. The old English curse oppressed him. No fortune would spare him and like Breughel, Jean van Bosch and Goya, this poor soul had to suffer insane anguish and drink the bitter cup to the last drop.

Oh yes, if he had been a criminal he would have ended his life on a gallows instead of in a hospital for the poor. He would not have shared his thoughts and his life would still have been miserable and full of agony but not as dreadful as it was.

But a temple stands out of Golgotha, lily fields grow out of blood fertilized meadows, and we are fortunate to partake of these glorious flowers that grew out of the poisoned heart’s blood of this poet.

The spring fed brook splashes through the park at Alhambra. Small lively rivulets prattle and chatter. It rushes in the narrow gravel plastered bed, rushing like the good hours of this poet’s life. The hours, minutes perhaps that he was able to spend in harmless enjoyment.

In those times when he dreamed they were amusing dreams. About the man with the wonderful nose so huge that all the world sat in amazement. Painters painted it and Duchesses kissed it. This precious little story in a bizarre way is in advance of the talent of Mark Twain. Only in this one by Poe the exaggerations are finer and expressed more naturally so that no where is word play over emphasized.

Or his funny one about Hot Beggars Soup dished up in the weekly paper for good natured readers, or the instruction of Miss Zenobia with her capable and gripping Blackwood article and lastly the Honorable Thingum Bob from the World Lantern with the sublime delightful chat over his literary career.

So light, so kind is the poet’s wit like the lively splashing brook babbling through the park at Alhambra.

But how the nightingales sob his dream of longing! And his soul appears to sing in the voice of the nightingale, so pure, so without blemish that the divine Cecilia would be jealous and break her violin and Apollo would smash his lyre. In his criminal dreams there was no hell deep enough for this poet but in this divine song there is no heaven high enough.

No where do we find a single sentence or gentle thought by Poe speaking of sexual love.[ii] The erotic is so completely alien to him as to no other except perhaps to Paul Scheerbart. There is little to be found where he expressed social feelings as well and while he does have a heart in his breast that yearns for love it is never permitted to be expressed.

He was not able to love people and always took a small view. He pushed away the caressing hand and the endearing words died on his tongue unspoken. This is when his addiction helped and proved his ability to love animals, to pet the hound and feed the starving cats. Then he was grateful for the faithful gaze and the contented purring.

The poet was aware of this and expressed in his novel Black Cat how this love of animals was his richest source of joy. The higher love of his dying spouse gave him joy mixed with horrible pain and was certainly not the richest source of happiness in his poor life.

Edgar Allan Poe is Roderich Usher and like him has a lute from the angel Israfel of the Koran in his breast instead of a heart. When he looks at his beautiful beloved his heart stops and the lute sings. Its high song of longing sounds such sweet tones in his ear in the pure manner of Morella and Berenice, of Eleonora and Legeia. That same inner music flows through The Raven and Ulalume and is perhaps the highest art there is, this intoxication expressed through poetry and prose.

And in the poet’s world song Eureka it is accompanied by these sounds, “They can not die: or if by any means they be now trodden down, so that they die, they will rise again to the life eternal.”

Yes, in the short space of time that he lived he achieved what men call immortality, the highest man can ever reach now or in the future.

The worth of Edgar Allan Poe is at no time higher than in our day. Our time can learn so much from him and it has. Poe is not a problem today; he is a beacon whose clear light shines the way for others.

The awareness of his art through intoxication, the significance of stress and technique, the clear recognition of the Parnessian principle of art in the broadest sense. The strong sweeping back of the borders and the extreme significance of the inner music for all poets.

These are all moments some of which others individually stress but in their entirety and pervasive connection no artist has recognized and applied as much as the New England poet. And these moments in their entirety represent what is demanded by the modern spirit of cultural art expressed in a way that can be comprehended and studied. No artist or layman should be as grateful to any other poet as much as to Edgar Allan Poe.

When an artist is really stuck and can’t make a translation there lies at hand a way to learn and enjoy being a poet by forcing a way into his inner being and bringing out the needed original translation. No other poet can show this process more than Poe can.

Now the nightingales flute and out of their small throats sings the voice of the artist I love. The light wind stops beating its frenzied wings on the leaves of the elms. The trickling brook quiets its chatter as the park of Alhambra pauses to listen to the song of the nightingales.

For a hundred years the old towers and mortar have experienced these familiar sweet evening sounds but today is different, so different. The loud beating of a dead poet’s heart and the little birds are singing his soul song. The brook and the trees listen, the square red stones listen, the purple glowing snow capped mountains listen. And an infinite sigh sounds through the huge garden as in the west the warm sinking sun mournfully takes its needed parting from the poets raised song.

The twilight breathes through the elms and light misty shadows rise out of the laurel bushes to climb up toward the Moorish Palace.  In ancient times long gone they sat round these marble banks. I know well who they are. Gabirol now sits next to me, now Ibn al-Khabib and Ibn Esra, and Jehudah ben Halevy and Mohammed Ibn Khaldoun and Ibn Batouta. A hundred dead poets listen hushed to the song of the nightingales. How clever are the dead.

They hear the heart of the angel Israfel whom the Koran told of, and give thankful praises to God that such music has awakened.

“Ouala ghaliba ill’ Allahta ‘ala” murmur the misty shadows. And the nightingales sing of dark mysteries, of the immense longing that is the pure source of life.

They sing of the greatest secret of all, that all things created and brought through eternity are filled with the breath of infinite love. They sing of beauty as the truth that comes before truth. They sing of dreams that are the life that comes before life.

Poe’s soul sings and a hundred dead poets listen to the clamor and from their lips arise once more the ancient words “Ouala ghaliba ill’ Allahta ‘ala”.

So thankful are the dead.

And the night sinks deeper here. The nightingales hush and the east wind rises and comes from the Sierra. The misty shadows disperse. I am alone again in the enchanted park of Alhambra. Alone with a great poet’s soul. And how the wind blows through the ancient elms rustling the leaves and singing of Ulalume, the very same ballad in the poet’s dreadful dream.

 

“The skies they were ashen and sober

The leaves they were crisped and sere

The leaves they were withering and sere

It was night in the lonesome October

Of my most immemorial year.

It was hard by the dim lake of Auber

In the misty region of Weir

It was down by the dark tarn of Auber

In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir

Here once through an alley Titantic

Of cypress, I roamed with my soul.”

I know well that the verse speaks of me. But I perceive my lips are not saying anything different than that of the rustling elms. I perceive that it is the grief of the October wind howling in distress at the poet’s unearthly longing enspelled in human words and being pulled out of me.

It is the spark of his peculiar thought or essence that emanates from his corpse as the divine breath of nature penetrating everything. The original spark of his being is in all things and a small proof of the poet’s highest law, that the source of all things is unity.

My mouth speaks the mysterious words that the wind has carried to my ears. I am becoming afraid in the dark loneliness, in this living fairy tale. I want to leave out of the valley of Alhambra. Groping in the darkness I lose my footing and miss the path. Finding a trail in the ancient cypress I come up hard against a low door. Oh, the terror that comes upon me in the darkness. I know, I know well whose grave this is. And against my will my lips speak to my soul.

“What is written, sweet sister

On the door of this legended tomb?”

She replied, “Ulalume, Ulalume.

Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!”

Again and again the fear rises up within me. The dead poet’s soul that rustled through the elm trees, that resounded in the nightingales song, that babbled in the spring fed brook, that howled such a dreadful song in the wind, has taken possession of me.

Only a small mote of dust with the divine breath of nature has pierced through me, through me. I know there is no escape and he will destroy me. He does not crush me. And strangely I am quiet, so quiet as if I have been completely filled by him.

The human fear gently fades away.

Now I find the path again. I stride through the gate of vines in the place leading to the Aljibes. I go in the Alcazaba, climb up the Ghafar, the mighty watchtower of the Moorish rulers.

A glowing crescent moon shines now between two moving clouds, it is the true mark of Arabian greatness that no God in heaven can wipe away.

I glance deep down into church happy Grenada, noisy and swarming with nightly street traffic. They run into the coffeehouses, they read the newspapers, polish boots and get their boots polished. They look into lit shop windows, travel in streetcars, call out, “fresh water!” and collect cigar stubs. The noise and bustle annoy me but I try to tolerate it. No one raises a glance; no one looks up to the singular splendor that is here above.

Over there on my right resounds the river Darro, behind me I hear the rushing of the torrent Geni. Bright campfires penetrate out of the caves of the gypsies and in another direction the snow capped Sierra glows silvery in the moonlight.

From where I stand between two watchtowers and the purple towers of the Moorish Mountains lies the park hidden in the darkness deep in the valley. Behind me lies the magic palace of Alhambra, hall on hall, courtyard on courtyard.

There below is the small life of this century; here above is the land of dreams. That down below in the distance is so infinitely far from me and this here above, is not every stone a part of my soul?

Haven’t I been in this world of ghosts, that the living blind down below can not see? Haven’t I been a part of this dream? It is the almighty beauty that makes these dreams come true. Here life blossoms and the reality down below is only a shadow game.

The deed is nothing. The thought is everything. The reality is ugly and not justified to exist. The dream is always beautiful and is true because it is beautiful. That is why I believe dreams

are the only true reality.


[i] Poe’s biographer, the moralist Griswold does not hesitate to say; “In the entire literature we find only shadows and no example of Poe’s missing conscience.”

[ii] It is completely mistaken for van Vleuten to state as fact that excessive alcohol consumption will lead to Bachus being the enemy of Venus. His remark, “Every doctor knows that alcohol is the enemy of physical love, it seems that in Poe it has also destroyed its psychological equivalent.” (Tomorrow”1903 page 189)

For me to hear this from the mouth of a serious psychiatrist like van Vleuten is simply inconceivable. I have often had the opposite experience and several psychiatrists have confirmed to me that chronic alcoholics during intoxication often enough, sometimes even regularly, show an extraordinary increase in sex drive.

This is not the place to question this detail. At the least every police officer will confirm and van Vleuten will certainly not deny that three quarters of the nightly patrons of Bordellos spend much of their time one way or the other in a highly intoxicated condition.

Van Vleuten’s hypothesis is wrong and his conclusion completely absurd.

“Alcohol seems to have destroyed in Poe the psychic equivalent to have and the feminine was banished from his deliriums.”

“That is why the entire sphere of the feminine and human sexuality finds no root in the deliriums of this poet.”

The sphere of the feminine is not missing and Poe has of course in the purest and most noble form related it often. By the way, van Vleuten contradicts himself when he notes that the “Raven” seems to come from a delirium.” (Ibid. page 189) Well, woman plays the main role in this poem how can he claim the feminine has been banished from Poe’s deliriums?

The sentence that “Alcohol is the enemy of physical love and even of its psychic equivalent” is certainly inaccurate; the effect is individual and entirely different in this case.

Baudelaire, in writing of the sexuality in Poe’s work, noted van Vleuten’s comment in his own remark, “I can find no real explanation for this finding.” Baudelaire, the artist of intoxication par excellence, did not avoid this well known remark and responded intentionally because he recognized its hollowness.

Unfortunately not one word of the sociality as well as the sexuality that leaps to the eye of Poe’s readers seems to touch van Vleuten. Does he claim these psychic equivalents did exist before they were destroyed by alcohol?

Logically he must because there is no other way to explain his negation of something that is so obviously there in the internal context of Poe’s work.

It is also outrageous for van Vleuten in his otherwise intelligent work to take the poet and attempt to force him into a time deposited Procrustean bed with its pre-established template.

He claimed, “Poe’s landscapes are schematic and uniform, they show no illness and are not liable to remind one of amnesia.”

This psychiatrist, who himself is a gifted poet, takes these songs of a high landscape, the fifty pages from Poe’s “Landor’s Cottage” and “The Domain of Arnhiem” and calls them nothing more than scenic beauties of speech!

I can only conclude that van Vleuten has only a fragmentary knowledge of Poe and has never read the two aforementioned cabinet pieces, or the majority of his poems with their scenic images.

I can do this safely without making false allegations but I can not save him from another more serious allegation. That he has prefixed a work for an elite audience without sufficient knowledge. While it is largely in the whole certainly laudable, it contains serious errors in detail that reduce the all-encompassing image of a great genius for future readers.

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