Monday, October 31, 2011
Rodolphe ran home without waiting to take breath. Going upstairs he found his carroty-haired cat giving vent to piteous mewings. For two nights already it has thus been vainly summoning its faithless love, an agora Manon Lescaut, who had started on a campaign of gallantry on the house-tops adjacent.
"Poor beast," said Rodolphe, "you have been deceived. Your Mimi has jilted you like mine has jilted me. Bah! Let us console ourselves. You see, my poor fellow, the hearts of women and she-cats are abysses that neither men nor toms will ever fathom."
When he entered his room, although it was fearfully hot, Rodolphe seemed to feel a cloak of ice about his shoulders. It was the chill of solitude, that terrible nocturnal solitude that nothing disturbs. He lit his candle and then perceived the ravaged room. The gaping drawers in the furniture showed empty, and from floor to ceiling sadness filled the little room that seemed to Rodolphe vaster than a desert. Stepping forward he struck his foot against the parcels containing the things belonging to Mademoiselle Mimi, and he felt an impulse of joy to find that she had not yet come to fetch them as she had told him in the morning she would do. Rodolphe felt that, despite all his struggles, the moment of reaction was at hand, and readily divined that a cruel night was to expiate all the bitter mirth that he had dispensed in the course of the evening. However, he hoped that his body, worn out with fatigue, would sink to sleep before the reawakening of the sorrows so long pent back in his heart.
As he approached the couch, and on drawing back the curtains saw the bed that had not been disturbed for two days, the pillows placed side by side, beneath one of which still peeped out the trimming of a woman's night cap, Rodolphe felt his heart gripped in the pitiless vice of that desolate grief that cannot burst forth. He fell at the foot of the bed, buried his face in his hands, and, after having cast a glance round the desolate room, exclaimed:
"Oh! Little Mimi, joy of my home, is it really true that you are gone, that I have driven you away, and that I shall never see you again, my God. Oh! Pretty brown curly head that has slept so long on this spot, will you never come back to sleep here again? Oh! Little white hands with the blue veins, little white hands to whom I had affianced my lips, have you too received my last kiss?"
And Rodolphe, in delirious intoxication, plunged his head amongst the pillows, still impregnated with the perfume of his love's hair. From the depth of the alcove he seemed to see emerge the ghosts of the sweet nights he had passed with his young mistress. He heard clear and sonorous, amidst the nocturnal silence, the open-hearted laugh of Mademoiselle Mimi, and he thought of the charming and contagious gaiety with which she had been able so many times to make him forget all the troubles and all the hardships of their hazardous existence.
Throughout the night he kept passing in review the eight months that he had just spent with this girl, who had never loved him perhaps, but whose tender lies had restored to Rodolphe's heart its youth and virility.
Dawn surprised him at the moment when, conquered by fatigue, he had just closed his eyes, red from the tears shed during the night. A doleful and terrible vigil, yet such a one as even the most sneering and sceptical amongst us may find in the depths of their past.
When his friends called on him in the morning they were alarmed at the sight of Rodolphe, whose face bore the traces of all the anguish that had awaited him during his vigil in the Gethsemane of love.
"Good!" said Marcel, "I was sure of it; it is his mirth of yesterday that has turned in his heart. Things must not go on like this."
And in concert with two or three comrades he began a series of privately indiscreet revelations respecting Mademoiselle Mimi, every word of which pierced like a thorn in Rodolphe's heart. His friends "proved" to him that all the time his mistress had tricked him like a simpleton at home and abroad, and that this fair creature, pale as the angel of phthisis, was a casket filled with evil sentiments and ferocious instincts.
One and another they thus took it in turns at the task they had set themselves, which was to bring Rodolphe to that point at which soured love turns to contempt; but this object was only half attained. The poet's despair turned to wrath. He threw himself in a rage upon the packages which he had done up the day before, and after having put on one side all the objects that his mistress had in her possession when she came to him, kept all those he had given her during their union, that is to say, by far the greater number, and, above all, the articles connected with the toilette to which Mademoiselle Mimi was attached by all the fibers of a coquetry that had of late become insatiable.
Mademoiselle Mimi called in course of the next day to take away her things. Rodolphe was at home and alone. It needed all his powers of self esteem to keep him from throwing himself upon his mistress's neck. He gave her a reception full of silent insult, and Mademoiselle Mimi replied by those cold and keen scoffs that drive the weakest and most timid to show their teeth. In face of the contempt with which his mistress flagellated him with insolent hardihood, Rodolphe's anger broke out fearfully and brutally. For a moment Mimi, white with terror, asked herself whether she would escape from his hands alive. At the cries she uttered some neighbors rushed in and dragged her out of Rodolphe's room.
Two days later a female friend of Mimi came to ask Rodolphe whether he would give up the things he had kept.
"No," he replied.
And he got his mistress's messenger to talk about her. She informed him that Mimi was in a very unfortunate condition, and that she would soon find herself without a lodging.
"And the lover of whom she is so fond?"
"Oh!" replied Amelie, the friend in question, "the young fellow has no intention of taking her for his mistress. He has been keeping another for a long time past, and he does not seem to trouble much about Mimi, who is living at my expense, which causes me a great deal of embarrassment."
"Let her do as she can," said Rodolphe. "She would have it,—it is no affair of mine."
And he began to sing madrigals to Mademoiselle Amelie, and persuaded her that she was the prettiest woman in the world.
Amelie informed Mimi of her interview with Rodolphe.
"What did he say? What is he doing? Did he speak to you about me?" asked Mimi.
"Not at all; you are already forgotten, my dear. Rodolphe has a fresh mistress, and he has bought her a superb outfit, for he has received a great deal of money, and is himself dressed like a prince. He is a very amiable fellow, and said a lot of nice things to me."
"I know what all that means," thought Mimi.
Every day Mademoiselle Amelie called to see Rodolphe on some pretext or other, and however much the latter tried he could not help speaking of Mimi to her.
"She is very lively," replied her friend, "and does not seem to trouble herself about her position. Besides she declares that she will come back to you whenever she chooses, without making any advances and merely for the sake of vexing your friends."
"Very good," said Rodolphe, "let her come and we shall see."
And he began to pay court to Amelie, who went off to tell everything to Mimi, and to assure her that Rodolphe was very much in love with herself.
"He kissed me again on the hand and the neck; see it is quite red," said she. "He wants to take me to a dance tomorrow."
"My dear friend," said Mimi, rather vexed, "I see what you are driving at, to make me believe that Rodolphe is in love with you and thinks no more about me. But you are wasting your time both for him and me."
The fact was that Rodolphe only showed himself amiable towards Amelie to get her to call on him the oftener, and to have the opportunity of speaking to her about his mistress. But with a Machiavelism that had perhaps its object, and whilst perceiving very well that Rodolphe still loved Mimi, and that the latter was not indisposed to rejoin him, Amelie strove, by ingeniously inventive reports, to fend off everything that might serve to draw the pair together again.
The day on which she was to go to the ball Amelie called in the morning to ask Rodolphe whether the engagement still held good.
"Yes," he replied, "I do not want to miss the opportunity of being the cavalier of the most beautiful woman of the day."
Amelie assumed the coquettish air that she had put on the occasion of her solitary appearance at a suburban theater as fourth chambermaid, and promised to be ready that evening.
"By the way," said Rodolphe, "tell Mademoiselle Mimi that if she will be guilty of an infidelity to her lover in my favor, and come and pass a night with me, I will give her up all her things."
Amelie executed Rodolphe's commission, and gave to his words quite another meaning than that which she had guessed they bore.
"Your Rodolphe is a rather base fellow," said she to Mimi. "His proposal is infamous. He wishes by this step to make you descend to the rank of the vilest creatures, and if you go to him not only will he not give you your things, but he will show you up as a jest to all his comrades. It is a plot arranged amongst them."
"I will not go," said Mimi, and as she saw Amelie engaged in preparing her toilette, she asked her whether she was going to the ball.
"Yes," replied the other.
"Yes, he is to wait for me this evening twenty yards or so from here."
"I wish you joy," said Mimi, and seeing the hour of the appointment approach, she hurried off to Mademoiselle Amelie's lover, and informed him that the latter was engaged in a little scheme to deceive him with her own old lover.
The gentleman, jealous as a tiger and brutal to boot, called at once on Mademoiselle Amelie, and announced that he would like her to spend the evening in his company.
At eight o'clock Mimi flew to the spot at which Rodolphe was to meet Amelie. She saw her lover pacing up and down after the fashion of a man waiting for some one, and twice passed close to him without daring to address him. Rodolphe was very well dressed that evening, and the violent crises through which he had passed during the week had imparted great character on his face. Mimi was singularly moved. At length she made up her mind to speak to him. Rodolphe received her without anger, and asked how she was, after which he inquired as to the motive that had brought her to him, in mild voice, in which there was an effort to check a note of sadness.
"It is bad news that I come to bring you. Mademoiselle Amelie cannot come to the ball with you. Her lover is keeping her."
"I shall go to the ball alone, then."
Here Mademoiselle Mimi feigned to stumble, and leaned against Rodolphe's shoulder. He took her arm and proposed to escort her home.
"No," said Mimi. "I am living with Amelie, and as her lover is there I cannot go in until he has left."
"Listen to me, then," said the poet. "I made a proposal to you today through Mademoiselle Amelie. Did she transmit it to you?"
"Yes," said Mimi, "but in terms which, even after what has happened, I could not credit. No, Rodolphe, I could not believe that, despite all that you might have to reproach me with, you thought me so worthless as to accept such a bargain."
"You did not understand me, or the message has been badly conveyed to you. My offer holds good," said Rodolphe. "It is nine o'clock. You still have three hours for reflection. The door will be unlocked until midnight. Good night. Farewell, or—till we meet again."
"Farewell, then," said Mimi, in trembling tones.
And they separated. Rodolphe went home and threw himself, without undressing, upon his bed. At half past eleven, Mademoiselle Mimi entered his room.
"I have come to ask your hospitality," said she. "Amelie's lover has stayed with her, and I cannot get in."
They talked together until three in the morning—an explanatory conversation which grew gradually more familiar.
At four o'clock their candle went out. Rodolphe wanted to light another.
"No," said Mimi, "it is not worth the trouble. It is quite time to go to bed."
Five minutes later her pretty brown curly head had once more resumed its place on the pillow, and in a voice full of affection she invited Rodolphe's lips to feast on her little white hand with their blue veins, the pearly pallor of which vied with the whiteness of the sheets. Rodolphe did not light the candle.
In the morning Rodolphe got up first, and pointing out several packages to Mimi, said to her, very gently, "There is what belongs to you. You can take it away. I keep my word."
"Oh!" said Mimi. "I am very tired, you see, and I cannot carry all these heavy parcels away at once. I would rather call again."
And when she was dressed she only took a collar and a pair of cuffs.
"I will take away the rest by degrees," she added, smiling.
"Come," said Rodolphe, "take away all or take away none, and let there be an end of it."
"Let it, on the contrary, begin again, and, above all, let it last," said Mimi, kissing Rodolphe.
After breakfasting together they started off for a day in the country.
Henry Murger, Bohemians of the Latin Quarter (1888)
Sunday, October 30, 2011
We have told how the painter Marcel made the acquaintance of Mademoiselle Musette. United one morning by the ministry of caprice, the registrar of the district, they had fancied, as often happens, that their union did not extend to their hearts. But one evening when, after a violent quarrel, they resolved to leave one another on the spot, they perceived that their hands, which they had joined in a farewell clasp, would no longer quit one another. Almost in spite of themselves fancy had become love. Both, half laughingly, acknowledged it.
"This is very serious. What has happened to us?" said Marcel. "What the deuce have we been up to?"
"Oh!" replied Musette. "We must have been clumsy over it. We did not take enough precautions."
"What is the matter?" asked Rodolphe, who had become Marcel's neighbor, entering the room.
"The matter is," replied Marcel, "that this lady and myself have just made a pretty discovery. We are in love with one another. We must have been attacked by the complaint whilst asleep."
"Oh oh! I don't think that it was whilst you were asleep," observed Rodolphe. "But what proves that you are in love with one another? Possibly you exaggerate the danger."
"We cannot bear one another," said Marcel.
"And we cannot leave one another," added Musette.
"There, my children, your business is plain. Each has tried to play cunning, and both have lost. It is the story of Mimi and myself. We shall soon have run through two almanacs quarrelling day and night. It is by that system that marriages are rendered eternal. Wed a 'yes' to a 'no,' and you obtain the union of Philemon and Baucis. Your domestic interior will soon match mine, and if Schaunard and Phemie come and live in the house, as they have threatened, our trio of establishments will render it a very pleasant place of residence."
At that moment Gustave Colline came in. He was informed of the accident that had befallen Musette and Marcel.
"Well, philosopher," said the latter, "what do you think of this?"
Colline rubbed the hat that served him for a roof, and murmured, "I felt sure of it beforehand. Love is a game of chance. He who plays at bowls may expect rubbers. It is not good for man to live alone."
That evening, on returning home, Rodolphe said to Mimi—
"There is something new. Musette dotes on Marcel, and will not leave him."
"Poor girl!" replied Mimi. "She who has such a good appetite, too."
"And on his side, Marcel is hard and fast in love with Musette."
"Poor fellow!" said Mimi. "He who is so jealous."
"That is true," observed Rodolphe. "He and I are pupils of Othello."
Shortly afterwards the households of Rodolphe and Marcel were reinforced by the household of Schaunard, the musician, moving into the house with Phemie Teinturiere.
From that day all the other inhabitants slept upon a volcano, and at quarter day sent in a unanimous notice of their intention to move to the landlord.
Indeed, hardly a day passed without a storm breaking out in one of these households. Now it was Mimi and Rodolphe who, no longer having strength to speak, continued their conversation with the aid of such missiles as came under their hands. But more frequently it was Schaunard addressing a few observations to the melancholy Phemie with the end of a walking stick. As to Marcel and Musette, their arguments were carried on in private sittings; they took at least the precaution to close their doors and windows.
If by chance peace reigned in the three households, the other lodgers were not the less victims of this temporary concord. The indiscretion of partition walls allowed all the secrets of Bohemian family life to transpire, and initiated them, in spite of themselves, into all its mysteries. Thus more than one neighbor preferred the casus belli to the ratification of treaties of peace.
It was, in truth, a singular life that was led for six months. The most loyal fraternity was practiced without any fuss in this circle, in which everything was for all, and good or evil fortune shared.
There were in the month certain days of splendor, when no one would have gone out without gloves—days of enjoyment, when dinner lasted all day long. There were others when one would have almost gone to Court without boots; Lenten days, when, after going without breakfast in common, they failed to dine together, or managed by economic combination to furnish forth one of those repasts at which plates and knives were "resting," as Mademoiselle Mimi put it, in theatrical parlance.
But the wonderful thing is that this partnership, in which there were three young and pretty women, no shadow of discord was found amongst the men. They often yielded to the most futile fancies of their mistresses, but not one of them would have hesitated for a moment between the mistress and the friend.
Love is born above all from spontaneity—it is an improvisation. Friendship, on the contrary, is, so to say, built up. It is a sentiment that progresses with circumspection. It is the egoism of the mind, whilst love is the egoism of the heart.
The Bohemians had known one another for six years. This long period of time spent in a daily intimacy had, without altering the well-defined individuality of each, brought about between them a concord of ideas—a unity which they would not have found elsewhere. They had manners that were their own, a tongue amongst themselves to which strangers would not have been able to find the key. Those who did not know them very well called their freedom of manner cynicism. It was however, only frankness. With minds impatient of imposed control, they all hated what was false, and despised what was low. Accused of exaggerated vanity, they replied by proudly unfurling the program of their ambition, and, conscious of their worth, held no false estimate of themselves.
During the number of years that they had followed the same life together, though often placed in rivalry by the necessities of their profession, they had never let go one another's hands, and had passed without heeding them over personal questions of self-esteem whenever an attempt had been made to raise these between them in order to disunite them. Besides, they each esteemed one another at their right worth, and pride, which is the counter poison of envy, preserved them from all petty professional jealousy.
However, after six months of life in common, an epidemic of divorce suddenly seized on the various households.
Schaunard opened the ball. One day he perceived that Phemie Teinturiere had one knee better shaped than the other, and as his was an austere purism as regards plastics, he sent Phemie about her business, giving her as a souvenir the cane with which he had addressed such frequent remarks to her. Then he went back to live with a relative who offered him free quarters.
A fortnight later Mimi left Rodolphe to step into the carriage of the young Vicomte Paul, the ex-pupil of Carolus Barbemuche, who had promised her dresses to her heart's desire.
After Mimi it was Musette who went off, and returned with a grand flourish of trumpets amongst the aristocracy of the world of gallantry which she had left to follow Marcel.
This separation took place without quarrel, shock or premeditation. Born of a fancy that had become love, this union was broken off by another fancy.
One evening during the carnival, at the masked ball at the Opera, whither she had gone with Marcel, Mimi, Musette had for her vis-a-vis in a quadrille a young man who had formerly courted her. They recognized one another, and, whilst dancing exchanged a few words. Unintentionally, perhaps, whilst informing the young man of her present condition in life, she may have dropped a word of regret as to her past one. At any rate, at the end of the quadrille Musette made a mistake, and instead of giving her hand to Marcel, who was her partner, give it to her vis-a-vis, who led her off, and disappeared with her in the crowd.
Marcel looked for her, feeling somewhat uneasy. In an hour's time he found her on the young man's arm; she was coming out of the Cafe de l'Opera, humming a tune. On catching sight of Marcel, who had stationed himself in a corner with folded arms, she made him a sign of farewell, saying—"I shall be back."
"That is to say, 'Do not expect me,'" translated Marcel.
He was jealous but logical, and knew Musette, hence he did not wait for her, but went home with a full heart and an empty stomach. He looked into the cupboard to see whether there were not a few scraps to eat, and perceived a bit of stale bread as hard as granite and a skeleton-like red herring.
"I cannot fight against truffles," he thought. "At any rate, Musette will have some supper."
And after passing his handkerchief over his eyes under pretext of wiping his nose, he went to bed.
Two days later Musette woke up in a boudoir with rose-covered hangings. A blue brougham was at her door, and all the fairies of fashion had been summoned to lay their wonders at her feet. Musette was charming, and her youth seemed yet further rejuvenated in this elegant setting. Then she began her old life again, was present at every festivity, and re-conquered her celebrity. She was spoken of everywhere—in the lobbies of the Bourse, and even at the parliamentary refreshment bars. As to her new lover, Monsieur Alexis, he was a charming young fellow. He often complained to Musette of her being somewhat frivolous and inattentive when he spoke to her of his love. Then Musette would look at him laughingly, and say—
"What would you have, my dear fellow? I stayed six months with a man who fed me on salad and soup without butter, who dressed me in a cotton gown, and usually took me to the Odeon because he was not well off. As love costs nothing, and as I was wildly in love with this monster, we expended a great deal of it together. I have scarcely anything but its crumbs left. Pick them up, I do no hinder you. Besides, I have not deceived you about it; if ribbons were not so dear I should still be with my painter. As to my heart, since I have worn an eighty franc corset I do not hear it, and I am very much afraid that I have left it in one of Marcel's drawers."
The disappearance of the three Bohemian households was the occasion of a festival in the house they had inhabited. As a token of rejoicing the landlord gave a grand dinner, and the lodgers lit up their windows.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Oh! my friend Rodolphe, what has happened to change you thus? Am I to believe the rumors that are current, and that this misfortune has broken down to such a degree your robust philosophy? How can I, the historian in ordinary of your Bohemian epic, so full of joyous bursts of laughter, narrate in a sufficiently melancholy tone the painful adventure which casts a veil over your constant gaiety, and suddenly checks the ringing flow of your paradoxes?
Oh! Rodolphe, my friend, I admit that the evil is serious, but there, really it is not worthwhile throwing oneself into the water about it. So I invite you to bury the past as soon as possible. Shun above all the solitude peopled with phantoms who would help to render your regrets eternal. Shun the silence where the echoes of recollection would still be full of your past joys and sorrows. Cast boldly to all the winds of forgetfulness the name you have so fondly cherished, and with it all that still remains to you of her who bore it. Curls pressed by lips mad with desire, a Venice flask in which there still lurks a remainder of perfume, which at this moment it would be more dangerous for you to breathe than all the poisons in the world. To the fire with the flowers, the flowers of gauze, silk and velvet, the white geraniums, the anemones empurpled by the blood of Adonis, the blue forget-me-nots and all those charming bouquets that she put together in the far off days of your brief happiness. Then I loved her too, your Mimi, and saw no danger in your loving her. But follow my advice—to the fire with the ribbons, the pretty pink, blue, and yellow ribbons which she wore round her neck to attract the eye; to the fire with the lace, the caps, the veils and all the coquettish trifles with which she bedecked herself to go love-making with Monsieur Cesar, Monsieur Jerome, Monsieur Charles, or any other gallant in the calendar, whilst you were awaiting her at your window, shivering from the wintry blast. To the fire, Rodolphe, and without pity, with all that belonged to her and could still speak to you of her; to the fire with the love letters. Ah! here is one of them, and your tears have bedewed it like a fountain. Oh! my unhappy friend!
"As you have not come in, I am going out to call on my aunt. I have taken what money there was for a cab."
That evening, oh! Rodolphe, you had, do you not recollect, to go without your dinner, and you called on me and let off a volley of jests which fully attested your tranquillity of mind. For you believed Lucille was at her aunt's, and if I had not told you that she was with Monsieur Cesar or with an actor of the Montparnasse Theater, you would have cut my throat! To the fire, too, with this other note, which has all the laconic affection of the first.
"I am gone out to order some boots, you must find the money for me to go and fetch them tomorrow."
Ah! my friend, those boots have danced many quadrilles in which you did not figure as a partner. To the flames with all these remembrances and to the winds with their ashes.
But in the first place, oh Rodolphe! for the love of humanity and the reputation of "The Scarf of Iris" and "The Beaver," resume the reins of good taste that you have egotistically dropped during your sufferings, or else horrible things may happen for which you will be responsible. We may go back to leg-of-mutton sleeves and frilled trousers, and some fine day see hats come into fashion which would afflict the universe and call down the wrath of heaven.
And now the moment is come to relate the loves of our friend Rodolphe and Mimi. It was just as he was turned four and twenty that Rodolphe was suddenly smitten with the passion that had such an influence upon his life. At the time he met Mimi he was leading that broken and fantastic existence that we have tried to describe in the preceding chapters of this book. He was certainly one of the gayest endurers of poverty in the world of Bohemia. When in course of the day he had made a poor dinner and a smart remark, he walked more proudly in his black coat (pleading for help through every gaping seam) along the pavement that often promised to be his only resting place for the night, than an emperor in his purple robe. In the group amongst whom Rodolphe lived, they affected, after a fashion common enough amongst some young fellows, to treat love as a thing of luxury, a pretext for jesting. Gustave Colline, who had for a long time past been in intimate relations with a waistcoat maker, whom he was rendering deformed in mind and body by obliging her to sit day and night copying the manuscripts of his philosophical works, asserted that love was a kind of purgative, good to take at the beginning of each season in order to get rid of humors. Amidst all these false sceptics Rodolphe was the only one who dared to talk of love with some reverence, and when they had the misfortune to let him harp on this string, he would go on for an hour plaintively wurbling elegies on the happiness of being loved, the deep blue of the peaceful lake, the song of the breeze, the harmony of the stars, &c., &c. This mania had caused him to be nicknamed the harmonica by Schaunard. Marcel had also made on this subject a very neat remark when, alluding to the Teutonically sentimental tirades of Rodolphe and to his premature calvity, he called him the bald forget-me-not. The real truth was this. Rodolphe then seriously believed he had done with all things of youth and love; he insolently chanted a De profundis over his heart, which he thought dead when it was only silent, yet still ready to awake, still accessible to joy, and more susceptible than ever to all the sweet pangs that he no longer hoped for, and that were now driving him to despair. You would have it, Rodolphe, and we shall not pity you, for the disease from which you are suffering is one of those we long for most, above all when we know that we are cured of it forever.
Rodolphe then met Mimi, whom he had formerly known when she was the mistress of one of his friends; and he made her his own. There was at first a great outcry amongst Rodolphe's friends when they learned of this union, but as Mademoiselle Mimi was very taking, not at all prudish, and could stand tobacco smoke and literary conversations without a headache, they became accustomed to her and treated her as a comrade. Mimi was a charming girl, and especially adapted for both the plastic and poetical sympathies of Rodolphe. She was twenty two years of age, small, delicate, and arch. Her face seemed the first sketch of an aristocratic countenance, but her features, extremely fine in outline, and as it were, softly lit up by the light of her clear blue eyes, wore, at certain moments of weariness or ill-humor, an expression of almost savage brutality, in which a physiologist would perhaps have recognized the indication of profound egotism or great insensibility. But hers was usually a charming head, with a fresh and youthful smile and glances either tender or full of imperious coquetry. The blood of youth flowed warm and rapid in her veins, and imparted rosy tints to her transparent skin of camellia-like whiteness. This unhealthy beauty captivated Rodolphe, and he often during the night spent hours in covering with kisses the pale forehead of his slumbering mistress, whose humid and weary eyes shone half-closed beneath the curtain of her magnificent brown hair. But what contributed above all to make Rodolphe madly in love with Mademoiselle Mimi were her hands, which in spite of household cares, she managed to keep as white as those of the Goddess of Idleness. However, these hands so frail, so tiny, so soft to the lips; these child-like hands in which Rodolphe had placed his once more awakened heart; these white hands of Mademoiselle Mimi were soon to rend that heart with their rosy nails.
At the end of a month Rodolphe began to perceive that he was wedded to a thunderstorm, and that his mistress had one great fault. She was a "gadabout," as they say, and spent a great part of her time amongst the kept women of the neighborhood, whose acquaintance she had made. The result that Rodolphe had feared, when he perceived the relations contracted by his mistress, soon took place. The variable opulence of some of her new friends caused a forest of ambitious ideas to spring up in the mind of Mademoiselle Mimi, who up until then had only had modest tastes, and was content with the necessaries of life that Rodolphe did his best to procure for her. Mimi began to dream of silks, velvets, and lace. And, despite Rodolphe's prohibition, she continued to frequent these women, who were all of one mind in persuading her to break off with the Bohemian who could not even give her a hundred and fifty francs to buy a stuff dress.
"Pretty as you are," said her advisers, "you can easily secure a better position. You have only to look for it."
And Mademoiselle Mimi began to look. A witness of her frequent absences, clumsily accounted for, Rodolphe entered upon the painful track of suspicion. But as soon as he felt himself on the trail of some proof of infidelity, he eagerly drew a bandage over his eyes in order to see nothing. However, a strange, jealous, fantastic, quarrelsome love which the girl did not understand, because she then only felt for Rodolphe that lukewarm attachment resulting from habit. Besides, half of her heart had already been expended over her first love, and the other half was still full of the remembrance of her first lover.
Eight months passed by in this fashion, good and evil days alternating. During this period Rodolphe was a score of times on the point of separating from Mademoiselle Mimi, who had for him all the clumsy cruelties of the woman who does not love. Properly speaking, this life had become a hell for both. But Rodolphe had grown accustomed to these daily struggles, and dreaded nothing so much as a cessation of this state of things; for he felt that with it would cease forever the fever and agitations of youth that he had not felt for so long. And then, if everything must be told, there were hours in which Mademoiselle Mimi knew how to make Rodolphe forget all the suspicions that were tearing at his heart. There were moments when she caused him to bend like a child at her knee beneath the charm of her blue eyes—the poet to whom she had given back his lost poetry—the young man to whom she had restored his youth, and who, thanks to her, was once more beneath love's equator. Two or three times a month, amidst these stormy quarrels, Rodolphe and Mimi halted with one accord at the verdant oasis of a night of love, and for whole hours would give himself up to addressing her in that charming yet absurd language that passion improvises in its hour of delirium. Mimi listened calmly at first, rather astonished than moved, but, in the end, the enthusiastic eloquence of Rodolphe, by turns tender, lively, and melancholy, won on her by degrees. She felt the ice of indifference that numbed her heart melt at the contact of the love; she would throw herself on Rodolphe's breast, and tell him by kisses all that she was unable to tell him in words. And dawn surprised them thus enlaced together—eyes fixed on eyes, hands clasped in hands—whilst their moist and burning lips were still murmuring that immortal word "that for five thousand years has lingered nightly on lovers' lips."
But the next day the most futile pretext brought about a quarrel, and love alarmed fled again for some time.
In the end, however, Rodolphe perceived that if he did not take care the white hands of Mademoiselle Mimi would lead him to an abyss in which he would leave his future and his youth. For a moment stern reason spoke in him more strongly than love, and he convinced himself by strong arguments, backed up by proofs, that his mistress did not love him. He went so far as to say to himself, that the hours of love she granted him were nothing but a mere sensual caprice such as married women feel for their husbands when they long for a cashmere shawl or a new dress, or when their lover is away, in accordance with the proverb that half a loaf is better than no bread. In short, Rodolphe could forgive his mistress everything except not being loved. He therefore took a supreme resolution, and announced to Mademoiselle Mimi that she would have to look out for another lover. Mimi began to laugh and to utter bravados. In the end, seeing that Rodolphe was firm in his resolve, and greeted her with extreme calmness when she returned home after a day and a night spent out of the house, she began to grow a little uneasy in face of this firmness, to which she was not accustomed. She was then charming for two or three days. But her lover did not go back on what he had said, and contented himself with asking whether she had found anyone.
"I have not even looked," she replied.
However, she had looked, and even before Rodolphe had advised her to do so. In a fortnight she had made two essays. One of her friends had helped her, and had at first procured her the acquaintance of a very tender youth, who had unfolded before Mimi's eyes a horizon of Indian cashmeres and suites of furniture in rosewood. But in the opinion of Mimi herself this young schoolboy, who might be very good at algebra, was not very advanced in the art of love, and as she did not like undertaking education, she left her amorous novice on the lurch, with his cashmeres still browsing on the plains of Tibet, and his rosewood furniture still growing in the forests of the New World.
The schoolboy was soon replaced by a Breton gentleman, with whom Mimi was soon rapidly smitten, and she had no need to pray long before becoming his nominal countess.
Despite his mistress's protestations, Rodolphe had wind of some intrigue. He wanted to know exactly how matters stood, and one morning, after a night during which Mademoiselle Mimi had not returned, hastened to the place where he suspected her to be. There he was able to strike home at his heart with one of those proofs to which one must give credence in spite of oneself. He saw Mademoiselle Mimi, with two eyes encircled with an aureola of satisfied voluptuousness, leaving the residence in which she had acquired her title of nobility, on the arm of her new lord and master, who, to tell the truth, appeared far less proud of her new conquest than Paris after the rape of Helen.
On seeing her lover appear, Mademoiselle Mimi seemed somewhat surprised. She came up to him, and for five minutes they talked very quietly together. They then parted, each on their separate way. Their separation was agreed upon.
Henry Murger, Bohemians of the Latin Quarter (1888)
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
This is for the girls who have left song lyrics in their away messages, who have tried to make someone understand through a subliminally appealing profile, who hate the fact that time after time again, they’ve dropped their male friends hint after hint, only to watch him chase after the first blonde gal in a skirt. This is for the girls who have been told that they’re too good or too smart or too pretty, who have been given compliments as a way of breaking off the relationship, who have ever been told that they are only wanted as a friend. This one’s for the girls that you can take home to home, but won’t, because it’s easier to sleep with a whore than foster a relationship. This is for the girls who have been led on by words and kisses and touches, all of which were either only for the moment, or never real from the beginning. This is for the girls who have allowed a guy into their head and heart, which led only to discover that he’s just not ready, he’s just not over her, he’s just not looking to be tied down; this is for the girls that believe the excuses, because it’s easier to believe that it’s not that they don’t want you, it’s just that they don’t want anyone. This is for the girls who have had their hearts broken and their hopes drained by someone too cavalier to have cared in the first place. This is for the nights spent dissecting every word and syllable and inflection in his speech, for the nights when you’ve returned home alone, for the nights a little too close, or standing a little too near, or talking a little too softly for the girl he’s with to be a random hookup. This is for the girls who have endured party after party in his presence, finally having realized that it wasn’t that he didn’t want a relationship: it was that he didn’t want you.
Women are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. Most men don’t want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they sometimes take the apples from the ground that aren’t as good, but easy. The apples at the top think something is wrong with them,when in reality, they’re amazing. They just have to wait for the right man to come along, the one who is brave enough to climb all of the way to the top of the tree.
Now for men, men are like fine wine. They begin as grapes, and it’s up to the women to stomp the shit out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with.
Enjoy fellow good apples :)
Now for men, men are like fine wine. They begin as grapes, and it’s up to the women to stomp the shit out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with.
Enjoy fellow good apples :)
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Now I’ll speak openly, about what I should offer, regarding
your sexual practice: love must be wholly driven away.
There’s much of this in fact that it’s shameful for me to say:
but with wit you’ll understand more than my words.
For lately there’s been a sort of slandering of my books,
of which the criticism is my Muse is insolent.
While I please in my way, while I’m sung throughout the world,
those few can attack my work as much as they like.
Envy disparages the genius of mighty Homer:
because of it Zoilus the critic (who was he?) has a name.
And sacrilegious tongues have savaged your poem, Virgil,
you who led the conquered gods here, carried from Troy.
Envy seeks the summits: wind blows across the heights:
the lightning seeks the summits, flung from Jove’s right hand.
But you, whoever you are, whom my licence offends,
if you’re wise, consider everything in context.
Manly warfare rejoices to be told in Homeric measure:
what place can there be in that for our delights?
Tragedians sound sublimely: rage suits the tragic heights:
from public life comedy’s realised.
The frank iambic is unsheathed against our enemies,
either as swift-paced trimeter, or dragging its last foot.
Let smooth-tongued Elegy sing Cupids with their quivers,
and play the gentle mistress, as she decides.
Achilles is not spoken of in Callimachus’s rhythms,
sweet Cydippe’s not for your mouth Homer.
Who could stand Andromache’s part performed by Thais?
Whoever acted Andromache in Thais’s role would err.
Thais is in my art: liberated playfulness is mine:
I’ve nothing to do with wives: it’s Thais in my art.
If my Muse corresponds to light-hearted matters, I’ve won,
and the case against the defendant’s a false charge.
Gluttonous Envy, burst: my name’s well known already:
it will be more so, if only my feet travel the road they’ve started.
But you’re in too much of a hurry: if I live you’ll be more than sorry:
many poems, in fact, are forming in my mind.
Now I’m happy, and my enthusiasm for fame grows with my esteem:
my stallion’s panting for the start of the climb.
It’s acknowledged the elegy owes as much to me,
as the epic owes to famous Virgil.
So far I’ve answered Envy: tighten the reins
more resolutely, and ride your course out, poet.
So when you’re headed for bed and youthful labour,
and the time of night she promised you is near,
lest your girl’s charms, if you spend you whole self on her,
captivate you, I’d like you to do it as much as you want to first.
Take as much as you want, where your initial pleasure can end:
after the first the next will be much more sluggish.
Sex postponed is most welcome: sunlight’s delighted
by the cold, shade by sun, water’s welcome in a drought.
I speak but I’m ashamed: make love too in a position
that you think makes love least likely, and becoming.
It’s not hard to do: few truthful girls confess even to themselves
that there’s nothing they think unbecoming to them.
Then too order all the windows to be opened,
and note her worst features in broad daylight.
As soon as pleasure’s reached the finishing post,
and the spirit lies there exhausted, and the whole body,
while you’re repenting, and you’d rather never have touched
a girl, and you don’t think you’re going to touch one for years,
then impress your mind with whatever’s wrong with her body,
and keep your eyes fixed all the time on those faults.
Perhaps someone might call these things trivial (as they are too),
but what has no benefit on its own, is useful in numbers.
And a little viper may kill a vast bull with its bite:
the boar is often gripped by a not very large hound.
You should only fight in strength, and assemble
all my rules together: from many one large heap will be made.
There are so many methods, so many positions
there’s no need to give them, all in my opinion.
The action that won’t offend your feelings,
to another’s judgement will seem a crime.
One man who saw the sexual organs on a naked body,
brought his lovemaking, that was in progress, to a halt:
one, on his girl’s rising from Love’s affairs,
considered those shameful tokens, in the stained bed.
O, you’re just playing at it, if those things bother you:
your heart is being breathed on by tepid flames.
Let that Boy draw the straining bow more strongly:
you’ll look for greater help for a mass of wounds.
What about the man who hid secretly to observe a girl,
and saw indecent things that custom forbids us seeing?
The gods forbid that I advise anyone to do such things!
While they might help, they just aren’t suitable.
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2001 All Rights ReservedThis work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2001 All Rights ReservedThis work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Além do que é permitido
Pouco a pouco, poesia, perdi os meus ares tímidos,
falei-te como se já nos conhecêssemos há muito tempo
ou tivéssemos andado à noite pelos bares de Lisboa
a afogar em álcool a solidão e a mediocridade da vida.
Eu, que pouco bebo e raramente saio depois de jantar.
A ti, que és recatada e conservas protegido em ti
o pudor que tinge de vermelho as faces adolescentes.
Agora sei que tenho de punir-me por ter ousado
tratar-te sem respeito nem sentido das conveniências.
Nem todas as palavras te podem ser dirigidas;
mas tu baixavas os olhos quando eu me esquecia
de que a banalidade da vida fere a tua pureza.
Não foi por mal que fui além do que é permitido:
à força de me encontrar contigo à mesa dos cafés
devo ter-me convencido de que a nossa intimidade
tornava inútil o meu acanhamento.
E repugnou-me inverter a ordem das palavras na frase
para disfarçar a simplicidade do que tinha a dizer-te.
Senti sinceramente que tu não apreciarias esse e
outros dar de ancas despropositados de adolescente
ingenuamente perversa e na realidade tola,
essa prova de mau gosto de tempos idos,
esse snobismo de pacotilha de épocas que já passaram.
Mas pergunto-me se não me enganei, estou cheio de dúvidas
Que pensarão de mim aqueles que foram testemunhas
do à vontade com que me debrucei sobre o teu ombro?
Eles, que souberam manter-se nos limites da boa educação
e na tua presença sempre se comportaram
como diante da filha de treze anos que tinham em casa
e que só pouco a pouco deverá ir adquirindo experiência?
A maldade do mundo é imensa, mas preservaram-te dela.
E eu falava-te de tudo como se te fosse possível ouvir-me,
cheguei a inventar histórias e aventuras que nunca vivi
só para te ver sorrir e procurar o brilho do meu olhar.
E dei vida a personagens que nunca existiram,
a sentimentos que eram o contrário do que eu sentia,
a fantasmas alheios à minha própria imaginação.
Não tinha os mesmos direitos que um autor de romances?
Não mais, porém, repetirei a ofensa antiga.
Na ingenuidade pálida do teu rosto
deixarei de ter prazer em ver a perturbação.
Sufocarei em mim tudo o que ainda podia confessar-te,
não irei sentar-me perto de ti quando te vir de longe
e me apetecer de novo procurar a tua companhia.
Dessa maneira tentarei merecer o teu perdão,
simultaneamente farei o possível por educar-me.
E quem sabe se um dia, tendo caído seriamente em mim,
não serei digno de voltar a olhar-te nos olhos, de respirar
de perto o ar que acaba de sair da tua boca?
In A Mala dos Marx Brothers, Editorial Caminho, Lisboa, 1988, ps. 82-83