A Little Lautréamont

Selected strophes from
Les Chants de Maldoror
Translated by Dan Clore

Canto I: 6

You should let your fingernails grow for fifteen days. Oh! -- How sweet it is to brutally tear a youth with a hairless upper lip from his bed and, eyes wide open, pretend that you'll suavely pass your hand across his forehead, as if to brush back his beautiful hair! Then, all of a sudden, when he's paying the least attention, to thrust your long fingernails into his soft chest, in such a way that he doesn't die: for if he died, you wouldn't have a good view of his miseries later on. Afterwards, you drink his blood, licking his wounds; and this whole time, which ought to last for as long as eternity endures, the child cries. Nothing's as good as blood extracted in the manner that I just described, and still quite hot, unless it's his tears, as bitter as salt. Man, haven't you ever tasted your own blood, when by accident you'd cut your finger? How good it is, isn't it: since it has no taste. And besides, don't you remember having, one day, in your melancholy reflections, carried in your deeply-hollowed hands, to your sickly face, damp from what fell from your eyes, hands that then headed fatalistically towards your mouth, which drew in long draughts from that cup -- trembling like the teeth of a schoolboy who looks obliquely at that which was born to oppress him -- tears? How good they are, aren't they: since they taste like vinegar. You might think it would be the tears of her who loves you the most, but the tears of a child are best on the palate. He doesn't deceive, still not knowing evil: she who loves you the most always deceives sooner or later -- I divine this by analogy, even though I don't know what friendship really means, what love really means (it's probable that I'll never accept them: at least not on the part of the human race). So, since your own blood and tears don't disgust you, nourish yourself, nourish yourself confidently on the tears and blood of a youth. Keep his eyes blindfolded, as you rend his palpitating flesh; and after long hours of listening to his sublime screams, which resemble the piercing death-rattles uttered in battle by dying casualties' throats, then, having rushed out like an avalanche, precipitate yourself into the next room, and make yourself look like you've come to his aid. Then you'll untie his hands, their nerves and veins swollen up, you'll restore sight to his haggard eyes, once again starting to lap up his tears and his blood. How then can repentance be something real! The divine spark which is within us, and appears so rarely, shows itself -- too late! How the heart overflows with longing to be able to console the innocent to whom someone has done evil: "Youth, you who have just suffered from cruel pains, who then could commit such a crime against you, one that I don't even know what name to give to! Unfortunate one that you are! How you must be suffering! And if your mother knew about this, she wouldn't be closer to death, so abhorred by the guilty, than I am right now. Alas! -- What then can good and evil be! Are they one and the same thing through which we testify to our impotent rage, and the passion to attain the infinite by even the craziest means? Or are they two different things? Yes -- Let them be one and the same thing -- For otherwise, what would become of me on the Day of Judgement! Youth, forgive me, the one before your noble and holy countenance, who's broken your bones and rent the flesh that's hanging from different places on your body. Is it a delirium of my sick reason, or is it a secret instinct that doesn't depend upon reasoning, like that of the eagle rending his prey, that guided me to commit this crime; and still, just as much as my victim, I was suffering! Youth, forgive me. One time in this passing life, I want us to be intertwined for eternity: to form but a single being, my mouth glued to your mouth. All the same, in this way, my punishment still won't be complete. Then you'll rend me, without ever stopping, with your teeth and your nails at the same time. I'll adorn my body with perfumed garlands for that expiatory holocaust; and we'll both suffer, I, from being rent, you, from rending me -- my mouth glued to your mouth. O youth, with your blond hair, your eyes so sweet, won't you do what I recommend to you? In spite of yourself, I want you to do it, and you'll ease my conscience." After having spoken in this way, at the same time that you do evil to a human being you'll be loved by that same being: it's the greatest happiness that you could imagine. Later on, you can take him to a hospital: since that cripple can't earn a living. They'll call you good, and laurel crowns and gold medals will hide your naked feet, laid out on the large tomb, with your aged face. O you, whose name I don't want to write on this page that sanctifies the holiness of crime, I know that your forgiveness was as immense as the universe. But as for me -- I still exist!

Canto II: 9

There exists an insect that men nourish at their own expense. They owe him nothing; but they fear him. The one, who doesn't love wine, but who prefers blood, if you don't satisfy his legitimate needs, would be capable, through a hidden power, of becoming as big as an elephant, crushing men like ears of corn. It's also necessary to look as though you respected him, as you surround him with canine veneration, as you place him in high esteem above the animals of creation. You give him your head for a throne, and he hooks his talons into the roots of your hair, with dignity. Later, when he's fat and has entered into advanced age, imitating the custom of an ancient people, you kill him, so that he won't feel the blows of old age. You make grandiose funerals for him, as for a hero, and the bier, which leads him directly towards the cover of his tomb, is carried, on their shoulders, by the most important citizens. On the humid earth that the gravedigger removes with his sagacious shovel, where he combines multi-colored sentences on the immortality of the soul, on the nothingness of life, on the inexplicable will of Providence, and the marble closes up, forever, on that existence, laboriously employed, which is nothing but a corpse. The crowd disperses, and Night doesn't wait to cover the cemetery's ramparts with her shadows.

But console yourselves, humans, for his sorrowful loss. Here's the innumerable family, that's advancing, and which was generously bestowed upon you, so that your despair would be less bitter, and as sweetened by that agreeable presence of those surly abortions, which will later become magnificent lice, adorned with a remarkable beauty, monsters with a sage's demeanor. They've incubated many dozens of cherished eggs, with their maternal wings, on your hair, parched by the tenacious suction of those redoubtable strangers. The period has promptly come, when the eggs are shattered. Fear nothing, they won't take long to grow great, those youthful philosophers, across this ephemeral life. They'll grow so great, that they'll make you feel them, with their talons and their suckers. You don't know, you others, why they don't devour the bones of your head, and content themselves extracting, with their pump, the quintessence of your blood. Wait an instant, I'll tell you why: it's because they don't have the strength. Be certain that, if their jaws were conformed to the measure of their infinite wishes, the brain, the retina of the eye, the vertebral column, would pass through them. Like a drop of water. On the head of a young beggar of the streets, observe, with a microscope, a louse that's at work: you'll be astonished by it. Unfortunately they're small, those brigands of long tresses. They wouldn't make good conscripts: for they don't have the figure the law requires. They belong to the Lilliputian world of the short-thighed, and the blind don't hesitate to classify them among the infinitely small. Misfortune to the sperm whale who battles against a louse. He'd be devoured in the blink of an eye, despite his figure. He wouldn't leave the tail to go announce the news. The elephant let's himself be caressed. The louse -- does not. I don't want to advise you to make that perilous attempt. Look out for yourself, if your hand's shaggy, or is just composed of bone and flesh. That's done it to your fingers. He'll crunch them as if they were on the rack. The skin disappears by a strange enchantment. Lice are incapable of committing as much evil as their imagination meditates upon. If you find a louse on your route, pass by on your way, and don't lick up his papillae with your tongue. Some accident would come to you. That's obvious. It doesn't matter, I'm already content with the quantity of evil that he does to you, O human race; only -- I wish that he'd done even more.

Until when will you keep the vermiculate cult of this god, insensible to your prayers and the generous offerings that you offer up to him in expiatory holocausts? See, he doesn't recognize, that horrible manitou, the large cups of blood and brains that you diffuse on his altars, piously decorated with garlands of flowers. He doesn't recognize -- for the quakings of the earth and the tempests have continued to rage since the beginning of things. And meanwhile, a spectacle worthy of observation, the more he shows himself indifferent, the more you admire him. He sees that you distrust his attributes, which he's hiding; and your reasoning props itself up on this consideration, that a divinity of an extreme puissance alone could show so much contempt towards the faithful who obey his religion. It's because of this that, in every country, there exist diverse gods, here the crocodile, there the vendor of love; but when it's a matter of the louse, with his blessed name, universally kissing the chains of their enslavement, all peoples kneel together in the august temple, before the pedestal of the shapeless and sanguinary idol. The people who don't obey their own instinct to crawl, and put on the face of rebellion, will disappear sooner or later from the earth, like an autumn leaf, annihilated by the vengeance of the inexorable god.

O Louse, with shriveled pupils, so long as the rivers diffuse their waters' declivity into the abysses of the sea; so long as the stars gravitate over the pathway of their orbit; so long as the mute vacuum has no horizon; so long as Humanity rends her own flanks with deadly wars; so long as divine Justice precipitates her avenging lightning bolts onto this selfish globe; so long as Man disregards his creator, and snaps his fingers at him -- not without reason, and mixing in contempt -- your reign will be assured over the universe, and your dynasty will extend its links from century to century. I salute you, rising sun, celestial liberator, you -- the invisible enemy of Man. Continue to order Filthiness to unite herself with him in impure embracings, and to swear to him, with oaths, not written in dust, that she'll remain his faithful lover until eternity. Kiss from time to time the dress of that great Immodesty, in memory of the important services she doesn't fail to render you. If she didn't seduce man, with her lascivious mammaries, it's probable that you couldn't exist, you -- the product of that reasonable and rational copulation. O son of Filthiness! Say to your mother that, if she forsakes Man's bed, walking across solitary roads, alone and without a prop, she'll see her existence jeopardized. May her entrails, which carried you nine months within their perfumed linings, stirred one instant at the thought of dangers that ran, in consequence, their tender fruit, so graceful and so tranquil, but already cold and ferocious. Filthiness, queen of empires, preserve from the eyes of my hatred the spectacle of your famished progeny's muscles' imperceptible increase. To attain this goal, you know that you have only to stick more tightly to the flanks of Man. You can do it, without inconvenience for modesty, since, the two of you -- you've been married for a long time.

For my part, if it's permitted to add a few words to this hymn of glorification, I'd say that I had a pit constructed, of forty square leagues, and of a relative depth. It's there that lies, in its unclean virginity, a living mine of lice. It fills the hollow of the pit, and meanders afterwards, in large, dense veins, in every direction. Here's how I constructed this artificial mine. I tore a female louse from Humanity's hair. They saw me go to bed with her for three consecutive nights, and I threw her into the pit. The human fecundation, which had been nothing in other, similar cases, was accepted, that time, by Fatality; and at the end of a few days, thousands of monsters, stirring in a compact knot of matter, were born into the light. That hideous knot became, in time, more and more immense, as if it were acquiring quicksilver's liquid property, and ramifying into many branches, which nourished themselves, presently, devouring each other (the birth rate is greater than the death rate), all those times that I didn't throw in for pasturage a bastard who'd just been born, and whose mother desired death, or an arm that I would cut off of a young girl, during the night, thanks to chloroform. For all of fifty years, the generations of lice, who nourish themselves on Man, have diminished in a notable manner, and themselves predict, infallibly, the nearby epoch of their complete destruction. For Man, more intelligent than his enemy, succeeds in conquering him. Then, with an infernal shovel that augmented my forces, I extracted from that inexhaustible mine a few blocks of lice, as great as mountains, broke them up with hatchet-blows, and transported them, during deep nights, into the arteries of cities. There, at the contact of the human temperature, they dissolve as in the first days of their formation in the subterranean mine's tortuous galleries, hollow out a bed in the gravel, and diffuse themselves in streams into the habitations, like noxious spirits. The household's guardian barks with a hollow voice, for it seems to him that a legion of unknown beings is piercing the walls' pores, and bringing terror to the bedside of sleep. Perhaps you haven't failed to have heard, at least once in your life, those kinds of sorrowful and prolonged barkings. With his impotent eyes, he tries to pierce the night's obscurity; for his dog-brain doesn't understand this. That buzzing irritates him, and he feels that he's deceived. Some millions of enemies tumble down thus, over every city, like clouds of locusts. That, for fifty years. They'll battle with Man, giving him burning wounds. After that lapse of time, I'll dispatch others. When I pound the blocks of animated matter, it can happen that one fragment's denser than another. Its atoms strive with rage to separate their agglomeration to go and torment Humanity; however, the cohesion resists in its durability. By a supreme convulsion, they engender such an effort, that the rock, unable to disperse its living elements, bounds up of itself to the height of the air, like an effect of gunpowder, and falls back, sinking solidly under the ground. Sometimes, the dreaming countryman perceives an aërolith split space vertically, heading, on the lower side, towards a field of maize. He doesn't know where the stone comes from. You now have, clear and succinct, the explanation of the phenomenon.

If the earth were covered with lice, as the coast of the sea with grains of sand, the human race would be annihilated, as the prey of terrible sorrows. What a spectacle! For me -- with an angel's wings, immobile in the air -- to contemplate.

Canto II: 11

"O Lamp of the silver burner, my eyes perceive you in the air, the companion of the cathedrals' vault, and seek the reason for that suspension. People say that your gleamings illuminate, during the night, the mob that comes to adore the Omnipotent and that you show the repentant the way that leads to the altar. Listen: it's highly probable; but -- what do you need to render such services to those to whom you owe nothing? Leave the basilicas' columns plunged in shadows; and, when a gust of the tempest on which the Demon whirls, carried above space, penetrates with it into the holy place, diffusing fear through it, instead of courageously contending against the Prince of Evil's corrupted squall, extinguish yourself at once, under his feverish sigh, so that he can, without their seeing him, choose his victims amongst the kneeling believers. If you do this, then you can say that I owe you all of my goodness. While you shine in this manner, diffusing your indecisive, albeit sufficient, clarities, I don't dare give myself up to my character's suggestions, and I remain under the sacred portico, watching by the half-open door those who escape from my vengeance, into the Lord's bosom. O poetic Lamp! You who would be my friend if you could understand me, when my feet tread the churches' basalt, in the nocturnal hours, why do you give yourself over to shining in a manner that -- I swear it -- seems extraordinary to me? Your reflections give color, with the white hues of your electric light; no one's eyes can fix on you; and you illuminate the smallest details of the Creator's kennel with a new and powerful flame, as if you were an enraged saint's prey. And when I retire after having blasphemed, you again become unperceived, modest and pallid, sure to have accomplished an act of justice. Tell me, a little bit: could it be that, because you know the windings of my heart, when I come to appear where you keep vigil, you rush to point out my pernicious presence, and to bring the adorants' attention to the side where the enemy of men comes to show himself? I incline towards that opinion; for I, also, I'm beginning to know you; and I know that you are, ancient sorcerer, the one who keeps vigil over the sacred mosques, where struts, like a cock's crest, your curious master. Vigilant guardian, you've given yourself a mad mission. I warn you: the first time that you point me out to my fellows' prudence, with the augmentation of your phosphorescent gleams -- as I don't like that optical phenomenon, which isn't mentioned, moreover, in any book on physics -- I'll take you by the hide of your breast, hooking my talons into the scabs on your scurvy neck's nape, and I'll hurl you into the Seine. (I'm not claiming that, whereas I do nothing to you, you knowingly comport yourself in a manner that's noxious to me.) There, I'll permit you to shine as much as will be agreeable to me; there, you'll snap your fingers at me with an inextinguishable smile; there, convinced of the incapacity of your criminal oil, you'll urinate bitterly." After having spoken in this way, Maldoror didn't depart from the temple, and kept his eyes fixed on the holy place's lamp -- He believed that he saw a species of provocation, in that lamp's attitude, which irritated him in the highest degree, by its inopportune presence. He said to himself that, if some soul's enclosed in that lamp, he's a coward not to answer, with a loyal attack, sincerely. He struck the air with his arms and wished that the lamp would transform itself into a man: he'd show him a bad quarter hour, he promised himself that. But the means by which a lamp changes itself into a man: that isn't natural. He doesn't resign himself, and is about to seek, in the court of the miserable pagoda, a flat pebble, to cut keenly. He forcefully chucks it into the air -- the chain's split, in its middle, as grass by a scythe, and the instrument of the cult falls to the earth, diffusing its oil on the flagstones -- He seizes the lamp to carry it outside, but it resists and grows large. He seems to see wings on its flanks, and the upper part dons the form of an angel's bust. The whole wishes to rise into the air to take its flight; but he holds it with a closed hand. A lamp and an angel that form one and the same body: that's something you don't see too often! He recognizes the form of the lamp; he recognizes the form of the angel; however, he couldn't divide them in his spirit; in fact, in reality, they're stuck the one in the other, and only form a single independent and free body; however, he believes that some cloud has covered his eyes, and has made him lose a little bit of his vision's excellence. Nevertheless, he prepares himself for the struggle with courage, for his adversary isn't afraid. Naïve folk recount, to those who wish to believe them, that the sacred portal closed itself, rotating its afflicted hinges, so that no one could help in that impious struggle, whose vicissitudes were about to unfold in that violated sanctuary's enclosure. The man with the cloak, while he receives cruel wounds from an invisible sword, strives to draw the angel's figure near his mouth; he thinks only of that, and all of his efforts incline to that end. The one loses his energy, and seems to have a presentiment of his destiny. He doesn't struggle any more except weakly, and you see the moment when his adversary could embrace him at his ease, if that's what he wants to do. Well, the moment's come. With his muscles he strangles the throat of the angel, who cannot breathe any more, and turns his visage upside down, propping him up on his odious breast. He's touched one instant by the fate that awaits that celestial being, whose friend he'd willingly have been. But he says to himself that he's the messenger of the Lord, and he cannot contain his ire. It's done: something horrible's about to re-enter the cage of time! He stoops, and brings his tongue, imbibed by saliva, over that angelic cheek, that throws suppliant glances. He walks his tongue for some time over that cheek. Oh! -- Look! -- Take a look, then! -- The white and pink cheek has become as black as a piece of charcoal! It's exhaling putrescent miasmata. It's gangrene: it's not permitted to doubt of that. The evil rodent extends over the whole figure, and from there, exercises its furies on the lower parts; quickly, the entire body's nothing but a vast, unclean sore. Himself, frightened (for he didn't believe that his tongue contained a poison of such violence), he took up the lamp and fled from the church. Once outside, he perceives in the air a blackish form, with burning wings, painfully steering its flight towards the regions of heaven. The two of them each gazed at the other, while the angel mounts towards the serene heights of good, and he, Maldoror, on the contrary, descends towards the vertiginous abysses of evil -- What a gaze! All that humanity has thought for sixty centuries, and will yet think, during the following centuries, could easily be contained in it, so many things were said, in that supreme farewell! But you understand that those thoughts were more elevated than those that spring from the human intellect; in the first place, because of their two characters, and in the second, because of the circumstances. That look bound them in an eternal friendship. He was astonished that the Creator could have missionaries with such a soul. For a single instant, he believed himself deceived, and wondered if he'd had to follow the path of evil, as he'd done. The uneasiness passed; he perseveres in his resolution; and it's glorious, following him, to conquer, sooner or later, the Great-All, in order to reign in his place over the entire universe, and the legions of so-beautiful angels. The one made him understand, without speaking, that he recovered his primordial form, to the degree that he mounted up towards heaven; dropped a tear, that refreshed the brow of the one who'd given him gangrene; and disappeared little by little, like a vulture, rising into the midst of the clouds. The culpable one gazes at the lamp, the cause of the foregoing. He runs like a madman through the streets, heads towards the Seine, and launches the lamp over the parapet. It whirls, for a few minutes, and definitively sinks into the miry water. Since that day, every evening from the fall of night, people have seen a brilliant lamp that rises and holds its ground, graciously, on the surface of the river, at the height of the Pont Napoléon, bearing, in place of handles, two delicate angel's wings. It slowly advances over the water, passes under the arches of the Pont de la Gare and the Pont d'Austerlitz, and continues on its silent water-way, on the Seine, up to the Pont de l'Alma. Once in that place, it re-ascends with facility the course of the river, and returns in four hours to its point of departure. And so forth, during the entire night. Its gleams, white as electric light, erase the gas-burners that line the two banks, and between which it advances like a queen, solitary, impenetrable, with an inextinguishable smile, without its oil diffusing bitterly. In the beginning, boats gave chase to it; but it foiled those vain efforts, escaped from all pursuits, plunging like a coquette, and reappearing, farther away, at a great distance. Now the superstitious seamen, when they see it, row in the opposite direction, and rein in their songs. When you pass over a bridge, during the night, pay attention: you're sure to see the lamp shining, here or there; however, people say that it doesn't show itself to everyone. When a human being who has something on his conscience passes over bridges, it extinguishes its reflections at once, and the passer-by, frightened, examines in vain, with a desperate look, the surface and ooze of the river. He knows what it means. He would like to think that he's seen the celestial gleam; however, he says to himself that the light came from the front of boats or from the reflection of the gas-burners; and he's right -- He knows that, regarding that disappearance -- he's the very one who's caused it; and, plunged into sad reflections, he quickens his pace to regain his home. Then the lamp of the silver burner reappears at the surface, and pursues its way, through its elegant and capricious arabesques.

Canto II: 15

There are hours in life when Man, with lice-infested locks, throws, his eyes fixated, fulvous glances onto the green membrane of space; for he seems to hear, before him, a phantom's ironic whoopings. He totters and bends his head: what he's hearing, is the voice of his own conscience. Then he shoots from his house, with a madman's swiftness, takes the first direction that offers itself to his stupor, and devours the countryside's rugose plains. But the yellow phantom doesn't lose him from sight, and pursues him with an equal swiftness. Sometimes, on a stormy night, as the legions of wingèd octopi, resembling ravens in the distance, soar above the clouds, scuddingly heading towards the cities of humans, with the mission of warning them to change their conduct, the pebble, with somber eyes, sees two beings passing by in the glimmer of the lightning bolt, one behind the other; and, wiping a furtive tear of compassion, that flows from his frozen eyeball, he exclaims: "Certainly, he deserves it; and it's only justice." After having said this, he puts himself back into his bewildered posture, and continues to watch, with a nervous shudder, the pursuit of Man, and the great lips of the vagina of shadow, from which flow like a river immense, tenebrous spermatozoa that take their flight into the lugubrious aether, hiding, with their vast deployment of bat-wings, the entirety of nature, and the solitary legions of octopi, become dejected at the aspect of the dull and inexpressible fulgurations. However, during this time, the steeplechase continues between the two indefatigable coursers, and the phantom hurls from his mouth floods of fire onto the human antelope's calcined backside. If, in the accomplishment of his duty, he encounters along the way Pity, who wishes to bar his passage, he cedes with repugnance to her supplications, and lets Man escape. The phantom smacks his tongue, as if to say to himself that he's about to end the pursuit, and return to his kennel, until new orders. His voice of a damned one is heard unto the beds the furthest distant in space; and, when his ghastly howling penetrates into the human heart, that man would prefer to have -- so they say -- Death as his mother than Remorse as his son. He sinks his head to the shoulders in the earthen complications of a hole; but his conscience volatilizes that ostrich's trick. The excavation evaporates, a drop of aether; light appears, with its train of rays, like a flight of curlews that tumble onto lavenders; and Man is face to face with himself, his eyes open and wan. I've seen him head in the direction of the sea, mount onto a promontory jagged and beaten by the foam's eyebrows; and, like an arrow, precipitate himself into the waves. Here's the miracle: the corpse reappeared, the next day, on the surface of the ocean, and carried back to the shore that fleshly flotsam. Man arose from the mold that his body had hollowed out in the sand, wrung the water from his moistened hair, and retook, his brow mute and stooped, the road of his life. Conscience severely judges our most secret thoughts and acts, and isn't deceived. As she's often impotent to prevent evil, she doesn't cease to track Man like a fox, especially during darkness. The avenging eyes, which ignorant science calls meteors, diffuse a livid flame, pass by rolling over upon themselves, and articulate the speeches of Mystery -- which he understands! Then, his bed's ground by his body's jerkings, crushed under the weight of insomnia, and he hears the sinister respiration of the vague clatter of the night. The Angel of Sleep, himself, mortally struck on the brow by an unknown stone, abandons his task and re-ascends towards the heavens. Well, I'm presenting myself to defend Man, this time; I, the despiser of all the virtues; I, who haven't forgotten the Creator, since the glorious day when, knocking the Annals of Heaven off their pedestal, when, by I don't know what infamous underhandedness, his puissance and his eternity having been registered, I applied my four-hundred suckers to the underside of his armpit, and made him utter terrible screams -- They changed into vipers, coming out of his mouth, and were about to hide themselves in the bushes, the ramparts in ruin, with look-outs in the day, with look-outs in the night. Those screams, become creeping, and endowed with innumerable coils, with a small and flattened head, with perfidious eyes, swore that they were at a deadlock before Human Innocence; and, when that one's walking in the shrubs' entanglements, or on the embankments banks, or on the dunes' sands, she doesn't hesitate to change her idea. If, meanwhile, there's still time; for sometimes, Man perceives the poison intruding into the veins of his legs, by an almost imperceptible bite, before he has time to retrace his steps, and sheer off. It's thus that the Creator, conserving an admirable cold-bloodedness, even unto the most atrocious sufferings, knows how to withdraw, from their own breasts, the noxious seeds that belong to the inhabitants of the earth. What wasn't his astonishment, when he saw Maldoror, changed into an octopus, advancing against his body his eight monstrous legs, each of which, a solid lash, could have easily embraced the circumference of a planet. Caught nodding, he struggled, a few instants, against that viscous clasp, that compressed more and more -- I feared some hurtful blow on his part; after having nourished myself abundantly on the globules of that sacred blood, I bruskly detached myself from that majestic body, and I hid in a cavern, which, since then, has remained my home. After a few fruitless searches, he couldn't find me there. It's been a long time since then; but I believe that he now knows where my home is; he refrains from entering it; we live, both of us, like two neighbor monarchs, who know their respective forces, are unable to conquer each other, and are wearied from the useless battles of the past. He fears me, and I fear him; each, without being conquered, fears the rough blows of his adversary, and we remain there. Meanwhile, I'm ready to recommence the struggle, whenever he wants to. However, may he not await some moment favorable to his hidden designs. I'll always keep myself on my guard, having my eyes on him. May he not send over the earth Conscience and her tortures any more. I've instructed Man in the arms with which he can combat her to advantage. They're still not accustomed to her; but you know that, to me, she's the straw that the wind carries. I've handled enough such cases. If I wished to profit from the occasion, which presents itself, to subtilize these poetical discussions, I'd add that I care even more for straw than for Conscience; for straw's useful for a ruminating cow, whereas Conscience only knows how to display her steel talons. They submitted to a painful defeat, the day when they placed themselves before me. As Conscience had been sent by the Creator, I believed it suitable not to let myself bar her passage. If she had presented herself with the modesty and humility proper to her rank, and from which she never should have departed, I would have listened to her. I didn't like her pride. I extended a hand, and ground her talons under my fingers; they fell into dust, under the increasing pressure of a novel species of mortar. I extended my other hand and ripped her head off. I chased afterwards, outside of my house, that woman, with the lashings of my whip, and I saw her no more. I kept her head in memory of my victory -- A head in my hand, whose cranium I was gnawing, I held myself on one foot, like the heron, beside the precipice hollowed into the mountain's flanks. People saw me descend into the valley, while the skin of my breast was immobile and calm, like a tomb's cover! A head in my hand, whose cranium I was gnawing, I swam in the most dangerous gulfs, skirted the mortal reefs, and plunged deeper into the currents, to assist, as a stranger, in the combats of the marine monsters; I swerved from the coast, until I lost it from my piercing vision; and the hideous cramps, with their paralyzing magnetism, prowled around my members, which split the waves with their robust movements, without daring to approach. People saw me return, safe and sound, onto the beach, while the skin of my breast was immobile and calm, like a tomb's cover! A head in my hand, whose cranium I was gnawing, I hurdled the ascending portals of an elevated tower. I attained, legs weary, the vertiginous platform. I gazed at the countryside, the sea; I gazed at the sun, the firmament; pushing back with my foot the granite that wasn't retreating, I defied death and divine vengeance with a supreme whoop, and precipitated myself, like a cobble-stone, into the mouth of space. Men heard the sorrowful and resounding shock that resulted from the encounter of the ground with Conscience's head, which I had abandoned in my fall. They saw me descend, with a bird's slowness, carried by an invisible cloud, and gather up the head, to force it to be witness to a treble crime, which I would commit the same day, while the skin of my breast was immobile and calm, like a tomb's cover! A head in my hand, whose cranium I was gnawing, I headed towards the spot where uprose the posts that upheld the guillotine. I placed the suave grace of three young girls' necks under the blade. The executioner, I dropped the cordon with the apparent experience of an entire life; and the triangular iron, tumbling obliquely, cut off three heads that gazed at me sweetly. I then set my own under the ponderous razor, and the executioner prepared to accomplish his duty. Three times, the executioner re-descended between the grooves with a novel vigor; three times, my material carcass, above all the base of the neck, was shaken to its foundations, as when you imagine in a dream that you're being crushed by a collapsing house. The stupefied people let me pass, to ramble to the funereal site; they saw me open its undulatory billows with my elbows, and move, full of life, advancing before me, the upright head, while the skin of my breast was immobile and calm, like a tomb's cover! I'd said that I would defend Man, this time; but I fear that my apology isn't the truth's expression; and in consequence, I prefer to hold my tongue. It's with recognition that Humanity will applaud this measure!

Canto III: 5

A red lantern, the standard of Vice, hung on the extremity of a pole, was swinging its carcass to and fro in the four winds' whipping, above a massive and worm-eaten door. A filthy corridor, which reeked of human thighs, gave out onto a courtyard, where cocks and hens sought pasture, leaner than their own wings. On the rampart that served to enclose the courtyard, and which was situated on the western side, diverse openings had been parsimoniously contrived, closed by grilled wicket-gates. Moss covered the main part of the building, which, no doubt, had been a convent, and served, at the current time, along with the rest of the building, as the home of all those women who displayed, every day, to those who had entered, their vaginas' interior, in exchange for a single piece of gold. I was on a bridge, whose piers plunged into a moat's miry water. From its elevated surface, I contemplated in the field that structure stooped over its oldness and the tiniest details of its interior architecture. Sometimes, a prison's wicket-gate would rise up on itself grating its teeth, like the ascending impulse of a hand that constrains the iron's nature: a man would present his half-obtruding head at the opening, advance his shoulders, onto which the scaly plaster fell, sending on, in that laborious extraction, his body covered with spiderwebs. Setting his hands, like a crown, onto the filth of all kinds that crushed the ground with its weight, while he still had his leg engaged in the wicket-gate's torsions, he'd retake in that way his natural posture, about to steep his hands in a gimcrack tub, whose soapy water had seen rise, fall, entire generations, and afterwards flee, as quickly as possible, from those faubourgian lanes, to go breathe the pure air towards the center of the town. As soon as the client had gone, a buck naked woman would carry herself to the outside, in the same manner, and head towards the same tub. Then, the cocks and hens would rush in a mob from diverse points of the courtyard, drawn by the seminal odor, upend her onto the earth, despite her vigorous efforts, stamping the surface of her body like a manure pile, and hack, with beak-pecks, until the blood flowed from the flaccid lips of her swollen vagina. The hens and cocks, with their gullets satiated, would return to scratch the courtyard's grass; the woman, having become tidy, would rise up, trembling, covered with wounds, as when you awaken after a nightmare. She'd drop the dishcloth she had carried to wipe her legs dry; no longer having need of the common tub, she'd return to her lair, as she had left it, to wait for another customer. At that spectacle, for my part, also, I wanted to penetrate into that business-place! I was about to descend from the bridge, when I saw, on the entablature of a pillar, this inscription in Hebrew characters: "You, who pass over this bridge: don't go over there. Crime sojourns with Vice over there: one day, his friends awaited in vain a young man who had overstepped the fatal door." Curiosity then flared up above my fear: after a few instants, I had arrived before a wicket-gate, whose grill possessed solid bars which intersected narrowly. I wanted to gaze into the interior, through that dense sieve. At first I couldn't see anything; but it didn't take me long to distinguish the objects that were in the obscure chamber, thanks to the rays of the sun that was diminishing its light and shortly about to disappear on the horizon. The first and only thing that struck my sight was a blond walking-staff, composed of horns, sunk one into another. That staff was moving itself! It was walking in the room! Its stomps were so strong, that the floor staggered; with its two ends, it was making enormous breaches in the rampart and seemed like a battering-ram that people shake against a besieged town's gate. Its efforts were useless: the walls had been constructed with freestone and, when it struck the partition, I saw it bend inward like a steel blade and rebound like an elastic ball. That staff was not, therefore, made of wood! I noticed, afterwards, that it coiled and uncoiled itself with facility like an eel. Even though as tall as a man, it didn't hold itself upright. Sometimes it tried to, and displayed one of its ends, before the wicket-gate's grillwork. It bounded impetuously, fell back to the earth and could not stave in the obstacle. I set myself to watching it more and more attentively and I saw that it was a hair! After a great struggle, with the matter which surrounded it like a prison, it was about to support itself on the bed that was in that room, its root reposing on a carpet and its tip against the head of the bed. After a few instants of silence, during which I heard shattered sobs, it raised its voice and spoke in this way: "My master forgot me in this room; he didn't search for me. He rose from this bed, on which I'm supporting myself, he combed his perfumed mane and didn't dream that I had previously fallen to earth. Meanwhile, if he had just gathered me up, I wouldn't have found that act of simple justice astonishing. He abandoned me, in this cooped-up room, after having been enveloped in the arms of a woman. And what kind of a woman! The bedsheets are still moist from their lukewarm contact and bear, in their disorder, the imprint of a night passed in love -- " And I asked myself who his master might be! And my eye pressed against the wicket-gate with even more energy! -- "While all of nature slept in its chastity, for his part, he copulated with a degraded woman, in lascivious and impure embracings. He debased himself to the point of allowing cheeks despicable for their habitual impudence, withered in their strength, to approach his August face. He didn't blush, but as for me -- I blushed for him. It's certain that he felt happy to sleep with such a one-night spouse. The woman, astonished at that guest's majestic aspect, seemed to experience incomparable voluptuous pleasures, embraced his neck frenziedly." And I asked myself who his master might be! And my eye pressed against the wicket-gate with even more energy! -- "As for me, during that time, I felt the envenomed pustules that were growing more numerous, in proportion to his ardor unaccustomed to the enjoyments of the flesh, surrounding my root with their mortal gall, absorbing, with their suckers, the generating substance of my life. The more those two forgot themselves, in their senseless movements, the more I felt my forces decrease. At the moment when their fleshly desires attained the paroxysm of ecstasy, I became aware that my root sunk over on itself, like a soldier stricken by a bullet. The torch of life having been extinguished in me, I detached myself, from his illustrious head, like a dead branch; I fell to earth, without courage, without strength, without vitality; but with a deep pity for the one to whom I belonged; but with an eternal sadness for his voluntary error! -- " And I asked myself who his master might be! And my eye pressed against the wicket-gate with even more energy! -- "If he had, at least, surrounded a virgin's breast with his soul. She would have been more worthy of him and the degradation would have been less great. He embraced, with his lips, that mire-covered brow, on which men had trodden with their dust-covered heels! -- He inhaled, with shameless nostrils, the emanations of those two humid armpits! -- I saw the latter's membranes contract from shame, while, on their own side, the nostrils begrudged themselves that infamous respiration. But neither he, nor she, paid any attention to the armpits' solemn warnings, to the nostrils' mournful and pale repulsion. She raised her arms even more, and he, with a more forceful pressure, sunk his visage into their hollows. I was obliged to be the accomplice of that profanation. I was obliged to be the spectator of that unheard-of waddling; to assist at the forced mixture of those two beings, whose diverse natures were separated by an incommensurable abyss -- " And I asked myself who his master might be! And my eye pressed against the wicket-gate with even more energy! -- "When he had satiated himself with breathing that woman, he wanted to rip out her muscles, one by one; but as this was a woman, he excused her and preferred to make a being of his own sex suffer. He called out, in the neighboring cell, to a young man who had come into that house to pass a few moments of carelessness with one of those women, and enjoined him to come and place himself at one step away from his eyes. It had been a long time, then, that I had been lying on the ground. Not having the force to raise myself up on my smarting root, I couldn't see what they were doing. What I do know, is that scarcely was the young man within his reach, than shreds of flesh fell at the foot of the bed and placed themselves at my sides. They recounted to me hushedly that my master's talons had detached them from the youth's shoulders. The latter, after a few hours, during which he had struggled against a greater force, rose from the bed and exited majestically. He was literally peeled from head to toe: he dragged, across the room's flagstones, his inside-out skin. He said to himself that his character was full of goodness; that he liked to believe that his fellows were also good; that because of this he had acquiesced to the wish of the distinguished stranger who had called out to him; but that never, never ever, would he have looked forward to being tortured by an executioner. By such an executioner, he added, after a pause. Finally, he headed towards the wicket-gate, which split open out of pity, clear to the ground's flattening, in the presence of that body destitute of epidermis. Without abandoning his skin, which could yet serve him, even if only as a cloak, he tried to disappear from that cut-throat's den; once he had gone from the chamber, I couldn't see whether he had the strength to regain the exit. Oh! -- How the hens and cocks removed themselves respectfully, despite their hunger, from that long trail of blood, on the imbibed earth!" And I asked myself who his master might be! And my eye pressed against the wicket-gate with even more energy! -- "Then, the one who had to think even more about his dignity and his justice, arose, laboriously, on his fatigued elbows. Alone, somber, disgusted, and hideous! -- He slowly got dressed again. The nuns, entombed for centuries in the convent's catacombs, after having awakened with a start at the noises of that horrible night, which collided against each other in a cell situated above the sepulchral vaults, took each other by the hand, and had just formed a funereal ring around him. While he searched the rubbish of his former splendor; while he washed his hands with his spittle, wiping them afterwards on his hair (it was worthwhile washing them with spittle, rather than not washing them at all, after an entire night's time passed in vice and crime), they intoned lamentable prayers for the dead, as when someone had descended into the tomb. In fact, the young man shouldn't outlast the torture, performed on him by a divine hand, and his agonies terminated while the nuns' songs -- " I recalled the pillar's inscription; I understood what had become of the pubescent dreamer whose friends still awaited him every day since the moment of his disappearance -- And I asked myself who his master might be! And my eye pressed against the wicket-gate with even more energy! -- "The ramparts swerved aside to let him pass; the nuns, seeing him take his flight, into the air, with wings which he had hidden up until then in his emerald frock, put themselves back in silence under the cover of the tomb. He departed to his celestial home, leaving me here: it isn't fair. The other hairs remained on his head; and for my part, I lie, in this lugubrious chamber, on the floor covered with curdled blood, with shreds of dry meat; this room has become damned, since he introduced himself here; no one enters into it; meanwhile, I'm shut in. That's over with, then! I shall never again see the legions of angels marching in dense phalanxes, or the stars promenading in the gardens of harmony. Oh well, so be it -- I'll know how to support my misfortune with resignation. However, I won't fail to tell men what occurred in this cell. I'll give them permission to reject their dignity, as a useless vestment, since they have my master's example; I'll council them to suck Crime's cock, since someone else has already done that -- " The hair cut itself off -- And I asked myself who his master might be! And my eye pressed against the wicket-gate with even more energy! -- Immediately thunder shattered; a phosphorescent gleam penetrated the room. I recoiled, despite myself, by I don't know what instinct of aversion; even though I had removed myself from the wicket-gate, I heard another voice, but this one crawling and sweet, for fear of making itself heard: "Don't bound around like that! Hush up -- Hush up -- What if someone heard you! I'll put you back with the other hairs; but first let the sun set on the horizon, in order that Night might cover your steps -- I didn't forget you; but people would see you go out, and I'd be compromised. Oh! -- If you only knew how I've suffered since that moment! Returned to heaven, my archangels surrounded me with curiosity; they didn't wish to ask the motive for my absence. They, who never dared to lift up their sight upon me, threw -- attempting to divine the enigma -- stupefied glances upon my crestfallen face, even though they didn't perceive the meaning of that mystery, and hushedly communicated to each other thoughts that dreaded some unaccustomed mutation in me. They wept silent tears; they felt vaguely that I was no more the same, become inferior to my identity. They had wished to know what baneful resolution had made me hurdle the frontiers of heaven, to hurtle myself onto the earth, and taste ephemeral voluptuous pleasures, which they themselves deeply despised. They noticed on my brow a drop of sperm, a drop of blood. The first had spurted from the courtesan's thigh! The second was launched from the martyr's veins! Odious stigmata! Unshakable rosettes! My archangels recognized, hanging in the thickets of space, the flaming débris of my opaline tunic, that was floating above the gawking peoples. They couldn't reconstruct it, and my body remained naked before their innocence; the memorable punishment of abandoned virtue. Take a look at the furrows that etched a riverbed on my discolored cheeks: it's the drop of sperm and the drop of blood, that slowly strain through my sere wrinkles. Having reached my upper lip, they make an immense effort, and penetrate into the sanctuary of my mouth, drawn, like a lover, by the irresistible gullet. They suffocate me, those two implacable drops. For my part, until now, I believed myself the Omnipotent; but -- not; I must abase my neck before Remorse who's screaming at me: 'You're nothing but a wretch!' Don't bound around like that! Hush up -- Hush up -- What if someone heard you! I'll put you back with the other hairs; but first let the sun set on the horizon, in order that Night might cover your steps -- I've seen Satan, the arch-enemy, straighten the bony entanglements of his frame, above his ghostly enervation, and upright, triumphant, sublime, harangue his assembled troops; as I merit it, turn me to derision. He said that he was very much astonished that his proud rival -- taken in the very act, by a success, finally realized after a perpetual espionage -- could thus debase himself to kiss the dress of Human Debauchery, by a voyage of long courses through the aether's perilous reefs, and assassinate, in torments, a member of humanity. He said that that young man, pulverized in the cogwheels of my refined tortures, could perhaps have become an intellect of genius; have consoled men, on this earth, with admirable cantos of poetry, of courage, against the blows of misfortune. He said that the nuns of the convent-whorehouse would never recover their slumber; prowling in the courtyard, gesticulating like automata, crushing the buttercups and lilacs with their feet; become mad from indignation, but not enough to fail to recall the cause that engendered that illness, in their brains -- (See them advancing, clothed in their white shrouds; they don't speak; they hold each other by the hand. Their hair falls in disorder over their naked shoulders; they each have a bouquet of black flowers bent over their breast. Nuns, return to your sepulchral vaults; Night hasn't yet completely arrived; it's only the twilight of evening -- O hair, you see it for yourself; from every side, I'm assailed by the sentiment unchained by my deprivation!) He said that the Creator, who boasts of being the Providence of all that exists, conducted himself with much fickleness, not to say any more about it, offering such a spectacle to the starry worlds; for he clearly affirmed the design he had of going to report to the orbicular planets how I uphold, by my own example, virtue and goodness in the vastness of my kingdoms. He said that the great esteem, which he'd had for such a noble enemy, had flown from his imagination, and that he would rather lay hands upon a young girl's breast, even though that would be an act of execrable wickedness, than to spit on my face, covered with three strata of blood and sperm mixed together, so as not to defile his slobbery spittle. He said that he believed himself, in just title, superior to me, not through vice, but through virtue and modesty; not through crime, but through justice. He said that it was necessary to attach me to a screen, because of my innumerable faults; make me burn with a little fire in a blazing brazier, to throw me afterwards into the sea, if the sea would receive me after all. That since I boasted of being just, myself, who had damned him to eternal torments for a fickle rebellion which didn't have any serious consequences, I should then make justice strict upon myself, and impartially judge my conscience, loaded with iniquities -- Don't bound around like that! Hush up -- Hush up -- What if someone heard you! I'll put you back with the other hairs; but, first let the sun set on the horizon, in order that Night might cover your steps -- " He stopped for an instant -- even though I didn't see him at all, I understood, by that period of necessary pause, that the surge of emotion was lifting his breast, as a gyratory cyclone lifts a school of whales. A divine breast, defiled, one day, by the bitter contact of the tits of a woman without modesty! A royal soul, delivered, in a moment of forgetfulness, to the crab of Debauchery, the octopus of Weakness of Character, the shark of Individual Vileness, the boa constrictor of Absent Morality, and the monstrous snail of Idioticism! The hair and his master embraced closely, like two friends who were seeing each other again after a long absence. The Creator continued, again appeared as the accused before his own tribunal: "And men -- what will they think of me, of whom they have such an elevated opinion, when they learn the vagaries of my conduct, the hesitant gait of my sandal, in the miry labyrinths of matter, and the direction of my tenebrous path through the stagnant waters and the humid rushes of the quagmire where, covered with mists, somber-pawed Crime turns blue and bellows! -- I perceive that I must toil much at my rehabilitation, in the future, in order to reconquer their esteem. I'm the Great-All; and meanwhile, in a way, I remain inferior to men, whom I created with a little jot of sand! Recount to them an audacious lie, and tell them that I never left heaven, constantly enclosed, with the cares of the throne, between the marble-slabs, the statues, and the mosaics of my palace. I presented myself before the celestial sons of humanity; I said to them: 'Chase evil from your cottages, and let the cloak of good enter the hearth. He who has laid hands on one of his fellows, making a mortal wound in his breast, with the homicidal iron, may he not hope at all for the effects of my mercy, and may he dread the scales of justice. He hid his sadness in the woods; but the rustling of the leaves, across the clearings, sang to his ears the ballade of remorse; and he fled from those latitudes, pricked on the haunch by the brush, the holly-tree, and the sea-holly, his rapid steps entwined by the suppleness of creeping liana-vines and the bites of scorpions. He headed towards the beach's shingles; but the rising tide, with its spindrifts and dangerous onrush, recounted to him that they weren't ignorant of his past; and he precipitated his blind course toward the cliff's crowning, while the shrill winds of the equinox, sinking into the natural grottoes of the gulf and the contrived careers under the rampart of the resounding crags, would bellow like the enormous troops of pampas buffaloes. The lighthouses of the coast would pursue him, unto the limit of the north, with their sarcastic reflections, and the will-o'-the-wisps of the maremmas, simple gasses in combustion, in their fantastic dances, would make the hair of his pores shudder, and make the irises of his eyes turn green. May Modesty please herself in your huts, and be in the surety of the shade of your fields. It's in this way that your sons would become beautiful, and bow before their parents in recognition; otherwise, sickly and stunted like the parchment of libraries, they would advance with great steps, conducted by Rebellion, against the day of their birth and their impure mother's clitoris.' How will men wish to obey those severe laws, if the legislator himself is the first to refuse to be confined to them -- And my shame's as immense as eternity!" I heard the hair who forgave him, with humility, for his sequestration, since his master had acted through prudence and not through fickleness; and the pale final ray of the sun that illuminated my eyeballs retired to the ravines of the mountain. Turned towards him, I saw him retreat thus as in a shroud -- Don't bound around like that! Hush up -- Hush up -- What if someone heard you! He'll put you back with the other hairs. And, now that the sun has set at the horizon, cynical old man and sweet hair, crawl, both of you two, towards the eloignment from the brothel, while Night, extending her shade over the convent, covers your furtive steps' elongation on the plain -- Then Louse, suddenly coming out from behind a promontory, said to me, bristling his talons: "Whaddaya thinka that?" But, for my part, I didn't want to answer him. I retired, and arrived on the bridge. I erased the primordial inscription, I replaced it with this one: "It's dolorous to keep, like a dagger, such a secret in one's heart; but I vow never to reveal that which I've been witness to, when I penetrated, for the first time, into this terrible donjon-keep." I threw the penknife that had served me to engrave those letters over the parapet; and, making some rapid reflections on the Creator's character in his childhood, who must yet -- alas! -- for a good deal of time, make humanity suffer (eternity is long), be it by his practiced cruelties, be it by the ignoble spectacle of the chancres that a great vice has occasioned, I closed my eyes, like an intoxicated man, at the thought of having such a being for an enemy, and I retook, with sadness, my pathway, through the mazes of the daedal roads.

Canto IV: 4

I'm absolutely filthy. Lice gnaw me. When swine look at me -- they puke. The scabs and scars of leprosy have blanketed my skin with scales, covered with a yellowish pus. I know neither the water of rivers, nor the dew of clouds. On the nape of my neck, as on a manure pile, sprouts an enormous mushroom, with umbelliferous peduncles. Seated on a shapeless lump of furniture, I haven't bestirred my members for four centuries. My feet have taken root in the ground and sprout, up to my belly, a kind of lively vegetation, filled with ignoble parasites, that don't yet proceed from the plant, and no more so from the flesh. Meanwhile my heart's beating. But how could it be beating, if the putrefaction and the exhalations of my corpse (I don't dare say body) didn't nourish it abundantly? Under my left armpit a family of toads has taken up residence, and when one of them stirs -- it tickles me. Take care that one of them doesn't escape from there, and doesn't scratch, with its mouth, the inside of your ear: afterwards it would be able to enter your brain. Under my right armpit, there's a chameleon who gives them perpetual chase: everyone must live. However, when one party completely baffles the other's ruses, he finds nothing better than not constraining himself, and sucks the delicate grease that covers my sides: I've gotten used to it. A wicked viper devoured my cock and took its place: it made me a eunuch, that infamous scoundrel. Oh! -- If I could have defended myself with my paralyzed arms; but I rather believe that they've changed into logs. Whatever it may be, it matters that my blood no longer comes and takes its redness for a walk. Two little hedgehogs, who aren't growing any more, threw to a dog, who didn't turn it down, the interior of my testicles: the epidermis, carefully washed -- they lodged inside. My anus was intercepted by a crab: encouraged by my inertia, he's guarded the entrance with his pincers -- and hurt me an awful lot! Two jellyfish surmounted the seas, immediately allured by a hope that was not deceived. They attentively gazed at the two fleshy parts that form the human ass, and, holding fast onto their convex contours, they so crushed them with a constant pressure, that the two morsels of flesh have disappeared, while there yet remained the two monsters, departed from the kingdom of viscosity, equal in color, form, and ferocity. Don't talk to me about my vertebral column, since it's a sword. Yes, yes -- I wasn't paying attention -- your question is fair. You want to know, don't you, how it was implanted in my back? As for myself, I don't recall very clearly; meanwhile, if I take for a memory what's only a dream, know that Man, when he found out that I had formulated the wish to live with illness and immobility until I had conquered the Creator, walked, behind me, on the soles of his feet, but not so sweetly that I couldn't hear him. I perceived nothing else, during an instant that wasn't long. That keen poniard sank to the hilt, between the two shoulders of the fiestas' bull, and his bony framework shuddered like an earthquake. The blade adhered so strongly to his body, that no one, up until now, has been able to extract it. Athletes, mechanics, philosophers, physicians, have tried, in their turn, the most diverse means. They didn't know that the evil that Man had done couldn't come loose! I forgave them in the depths of their native ignorance, and I saluted them with the lids of my eyes. Traveler, when you pass by me, don't address to me, I beg of you, the least word of consolation: you would weaken my courage. Let me relight my tenacity in the flame of voluntary martyrdom. Off with you -- may I not inspire any piety. Hatred is more bizarre than you think she is: her conduct is inexplicable, like the broken appearance of a staff sunken in water. Such as you see me, I can yet make excursions to the ramparts of heaven, at the head of a legion of assassins, and again come to take this posture, to meditate anew upon the noble projects of vengeance. Farewell -- I won't make you any later; and, to instruct and preserve you, reflect on the fatal lot that led me to rebellion, when -- perhaps -- I was born good! You'll recount what you have seen to your son; and, taking him by the hand, make him admire the beauty of the stars and the marvels of the universe, the robin redbreast's nest and the Lord's temples. You'll be astonished to see him so docile at Paternity's councils, and you'll reward him with a smile. But when he thinks that he isn't being observed, throw your eyes upon him, and you'll see him spit his slobber onto Virtue; he has deceived you, he who's descended from the human race, but he'll deceive you no more: you'll know henceforth what he's going to become. O unfortunate father, prepare, to accompany the steps of your old age, the ineffaceable scaffold that will whack off a precocious criminal's head, and the sorrow that will display to you the pathway that leads to the tomb.

Canto IV: 8

Every night, plunging the span of my wings into my agonizing memory, I evoked the remembrance of Falmer -- every night. His blond hair, his oval countenance, his magnificent features, were still imprinted on my imagination -- indestructibly -- above all, his blond hair. Leave, leave then -- that head without a mane, polished like the turtle's carapace. He was fourteen years old, and I was only one year older. May that lugubrious voice hold its tongue. Why did it just come to denounce me. But I myself am the one who's speaking. Using my own tongue to emit my thought, I perceive that my lips are moving, and that I myself am the one who's speaking. And I myself am the one who, recounting a story from my youth, and feeling remorse penetrate into my heart -- I myself -- at least I'm not deceiving myself -- I myself am the one who's speaking. I was only one year older. Who knows that? Let's repeat it, meanwhile, but with a painful murmur: I was only one year older. Who, then, is he to whom I'm alluding? He's a friend whom I possessed in past times, I believe. Yes, yes, I've already said what his name is -- I don't want to spell out those six letters anew, no, no. It wouldn't be any more useful to repeat that I was one year older. Who knows that? Let's repeat it, meanwhile, but with a painful murmur: I was only one year older. Even then, the pre-eminence of my physical strength was rather a motive to support, through life's harsh pathway, the one who had been given to me, than to mistreat a visibly weaker being. Now, I believe in fact that he was weaker -- Even then. He's a friend whom I possessed in past times, I believe. The pre-eminence of my physical strength -- every night -- Above all, his blond hair. More than one human exists who has seen bald heads: old age, illness, sorrow, -- (the three together or taken separately), -- explain that negative phenomenon in a satisfactory manner. Such is, at least, the answer that I would give a scientist, if I were interrogating him thereupon. Old age, illness, sorrow. But I'm not unaware -- (I, as well, am a scientist) -- that one day, because he raised his hand, at the moment when I was lifting my poniard to pierce a woman's breast, I seized him by the hair with an iron arm, and spun him around in the air so swiftly, that his mane remained in my hand, and his body, launched by the centrifugal force, was about to smash into the trunk of an oak-tree -- I'm not unaware that one day his mane remained in my hand. I, as well, am a scientist. Yes, yes, I've already said what his name is. I'm not unaware that one day I accomplished an infamous act, when his body was launched by the centrifugal force. He was fourteen years old. When, in a fit of mental alienation, I run across the fields, holding, pressed onto my heart, a blood-stained thing that I've been preserving for a long time, as a venerated relic, the little children who pursue me -- the little children and the old women who pursue me, throwing stones, utter these lamentable groanings: "Take a look at Falmer's mane." Leave, leave then -- that bald head, polished like the turtle's carapace -- A blood-stained thing. But I myself am the one who's speaking. His oval countenance, his magnificent features. Now, I believe in fact that he was weaker. The old women and the little children. Now, I believe in fact -- what did I want to say? -- now, I believe in fact that he was weaker. With an iron arm. That crash, that crash: did it kill him? Were his bones broken against the tree -- irreparably? Did it kill him, that crash engendered by an athlete's vigor? Did he preserve his life, even though his bones were broken -- irreparably? Did that crash kill him? I fear to know that which my closed eyes couldn't have been witness to. In fact -- Above all, his blond hair. In fact, I fled far away with a conscience henceforth implacable. He was fourteen years old. With a conscience henceforth implacable. Every night. When a young man, who aspires to glory, on a sixth floor, stooped over his work-table, at the silent hour of midnight, hears a rustling which he doesn't know what to attribute to, he turns, to every side, his head, made heavy by the meditation and dusty manuscripts; but -- nothing, no surprised indication reveals to him the cause of that which he's weakly hearing, even though meanwhile he is hearing it. He perceives, finally, that a candle's smoke, taking its flight towards the ceiling, through the environing air, the nearly imperceptible vibrations of a leaf of paper hung on a nail congealed against the rampart. On a sixth floor. Even as a young man, who aspires to glory, hears a rustling which he doesn't know what to attribute to, in that way I hear a melodious voice which pronounces in my ear: "Maldoror!" But before ending his mistake, he believes that he's hearing a mosquito's wings -- stooped over his work-table. Meanwhile, I'm not dreaming: what does it matter to me if I'm being heard on my satin bed? I make cold-bloodedly the perspicacious remark that I have my eyes open, even though it's the hour of pink dominoes and masked balls. Never -- Oh! -- No, never! -- a mortal voice isn't making heard those seraphic accents, pronouncing, with so much sorrowful elegance, the syllables of my name! A mosquito's wings -- How his voice is well-meaning. Has he forgiven me then? His body was about to smash into the trunk of an oak-tree -- "Maldoror!"

Canto V: 2

I saw before me an object standing upright on a hill. I didn't clearly distinguish its head; but already I divined that it was of no ordinary shape, without, nevertheless, precisely knowing its contours' exact proportions. I didn't dare approach that immobile column; and even if I had at my disposition the ambulatory claws of more than three thousand crabs -- (I'm not even talking about those that serve in the prehension and mastication of nutriments) -- I would still have remained in the same place, if an event -- quite useless, if considered all by itself -- hadn't exacted a heavy tribute on my curiosity, which burst its dams. A scarab-beetle, rolling along on the ground -- with its mandibles and antennae -- a ball, whose principal elements were composed of excremental materials, was advancing at a rapid pace towards the designated hill, applying itself to putting into evidence the will which it had formulated to take that direction. That articulated animal wasn't much bigger than a cow! If someone doubts what I'm saying, let him come to me, and I'll satisfy even the most incredulous through the witnessing of good witnesses. I followed it from afar, ostensibly intrigued. What did it want to do with that big, black ball? O reader, you who boast ceaselessly of your perspicacity (and not wrongly), would you be capable of telling me that? But I don't want to submit your known passion for enigmas to a harsh proof. Let it suffice for you to know that the sweetest punishment that I can inflict on you is to make you observe that this mystery won't be revealed to you (it'll be revealed to you) until later, at the end of your life, when you'll broach philosophical discussions with agony at the side of your bed -- and perhaps even at the end of this very strophe. The scarab arrived at the hill's base. I had fitted my steps into his tracks, and I was yet at a great distance from the scene's site; for even as skuas, birds disquieted -- as though they're always famished -- please themselves in the seas that bathe the two poles, and only advance into the temperate zones by accident, even so I wasn't tranquil, and I carried my legs on before me very slowly. But what, then, was the corporeal substance towards which I was advancing? I knew that the family of pelicaninae includes four distinct species: the booby, the pelican, the cormorant, the frigate-bird. The greyish form that was appearing to me was not a booby. The plastical lump that I was perceiving was not a frigate-bird. The crystallized flesh that I was observing was not a cormorant. I saw him now -- the man with his encephalon deprived of its annular protuberance! I vaguely sought, in the folds of my memory, in what torrid or icy country I had previously noticed that beak -- overly-long, wide, convex, vaulted, markedly ridged, unguiculate, swollen, and quite crooked at its extremity; those ridges -- denticulate, straight; that lower mandible -- separated into branches close up to its tip; that interval -- filled with a membraneous skin; that wide pouch -- yellow and sacciform, occupying the whole gullet and able to make it distend considerably; and those very narrow nostrils -- longitudinal, nearly imperceptible, hollowed into a basal furrow! If that living being, with pulmonary and simple respiration, with a body garnished with hair, had been entirely a bird clear down to the soles of his feet, and not only down to his shoulders, it wouldn't then have been so difficult for me to recognize him: a thing very easy to do, as you'll see for yourself. But this time, I'm dispensing with it: for the clarity of my demonstration, I would need one of those birds placed on my work-table, even if it were just a stuffed one. Now -- I'm not rich enough to procure one. Following an anterior hypothesis step by step, I would have all of a sudden assigned its veritable nature and found a place, within the framework of natural history, for the one whose nobility I was admiring in his sickly pose. With what satisfaction of not being entirely ignorant of the secrets of his double organism, and with what avidity of knowing it even more than that, did I contemplate him in his durable metamorphosis! Even though he didn't possess a human visage, he seemed as beautiful to me as an insect's two long, tenticuliform filaments; or rather, as a precipitous inhumation; or better yet, as the law of mutilated organs' reconstitution; and above all, as an eminently putrescible liquid! However, not paying any attention to what was happening in the neighborhood, the stranger was always gazing before him, with his pelican's head! On some other day, I'll resume the end of this story. Meanwhile, I'll continue my narration with a gloomy promptness; for if, on your side, you long to know where my imagination wishes to come from (may it please heaven that -- in fact -- there isn't anything there but imagination!), on my own, I've made the resolution to terminate on one single occasion (and not two!) that which I have to tell you. Even though, meanwhile, no one would have the right to accuse me of lacking courage. But when people find themselves in such circumstances, more than one feels the pulsations of his heart beating against the palm of his hand. He just died, nearly unknown, in a little port of Brittany, a coasting vessel's master, an old sailor, who was the hero of a terrifying tale. He was then captain on a long route, and voyaged for a ship-owner in Saint-Malo. Now, after an absence of three months, he arrived at the conjugal hearth, at the moment when his wife, still bedridden, had just given him an heir, whose recognition he didn't recognize any right to. The captain did nothing to seem outside of his surprise and his anger; he coolly made his wife get dressed, and accompany him on a promenade on the town's ramparts. This was in January. The ramparts of Saint-Malo are elevated, and when the north-wind sighed, even the most intrepid recoiled. The unfortunate one obeyed, calm and resigned; re-entering, she raved. She expired during the night. But that was only a woman. If I, who am a man, were in the presence of a drama no less great, I don't know if I would keep enough command over myself, for the muscles of my face to remain immobile! As soon as the scarab had arrived at the base of the hill, the man lifted his arms to the west (precisely in that direction, a lamb-eating vulture and a Virginian eagle-owl were engaging in combat in the air), wiped from his long beak a tear that presented a schema of diamond-set coloration, and said to the scarab: "Unfortunate ball! -- Haven't you been rolling it along for long enough? Your vengeance isn't yet satiated; and already that woman -- whose legs and arms you've bound with a pearl necklace, in such a manner as to realize an amorphous polyhedron, in order to drag her with your tarsi, across the valleys and pathways, on the thorns and stones (let me approach and see if it's still her!) -- has seen her bones become hollow with wounds, her members become polished by the law of rotatory friction, become confounded in the unity of coagulation, and her body present, in place of its primordial lineaments and natural curves, the monotonous appearance of one completely homogeneous who only resembles too much, through the confusion of her diverse, pulverized elements, the mass of a sphere! It's been a long time since she died; leave these spoils on the earth, and take care to augment, in irreparable proportions, the fury that's consuming you: it's no longer Justice; for Selfishness, hidden inside your brow's integuments, is slowly lifting, like a phantom, the drapery that's covering him." The lamb-eating vulture and the Virginian eagle-owl, imperceptibly borne by the vicissitudes of their struggle, had approached us. The scarab trembled before those unexpected words, and that which, on another occasion, would have been an insignificant movement, became, that time, the distinctive mark of a fury that didn't know any boundaries: for he redoubtably rubbed his posterior thighs against his wing-sheaths' edges, producing a keen noise: "Who are you, then, you: a pusillanimous being? It seems that you've forgotten certain weird developments of past times: you don't retain them in your memory, my brother. That woman betrayed us, one after the other. You first, me second. It seems to me that injury should not (should not!) disappear from remembrance so easily. -- So easily! For your part, your magnanimous nature permits you to forgive. But know whether or not -- despite the abnormal situation of the woman's atoms, reduced to kneading-pan dough (it isn't now a question of knowing if people won't believe, at the first investigation, that this body has been augmented with a notable quantity of density, rather by the cog-action of two strong wheels, than by the effects of my impetuous passion) -- she exists any more? Hush up, and permit me to avenge myself." He again took up his little game, and departed, the ball impelled before him. When he had departed, the pelican exclaimed: "That woman, by her magical power, gave me a palmiped's head, and changed my brother into a scarab: perhaps she merits even worse than that which I've just enumerated." And I -- who wasn't certain that I wasn't dreaming -- divining from what I had heard the nature of the hostile relationships that united, above me, in a blood-soaked combat, the lamb-eating vulture and the Virginian eagle-owl, I threw my head behind me like a cowl, in order to give ease and susceptible elasticity to the play of my lungs, and I exclaimed to them, aiming my eyes toward the heighths: "You others, cease your discord. You're right, both of you: for to each one she had promised her love: in consequence, she deceived both of you together. But you aren't the only ones. Besides, she stripped you of your human form, making a cruel sport of your most holy sorrows. And -- you'll hesitate to believe me! Moreover, she's dead; and the scarab has made her submit to an ineffaceable, imprinted chastisement, despite the pity of the one first betrayed." At these words, they ended their quarrel, and pulled out no more plumes, or shreds of flesh: they were right to act that way. The Virginian eagle-owl, as beautiful as a memory of the curve described by a dog running after his master, sunk into the crevice of a convent in ruins. The lamb-eating vulture, as beautiful as the law of arrest of development of the breast in adults whose propensity to growth doesn't agree with the quantity of molecules that their organism assimilates, lost itself in the high strata of the atmosphere. The pelican, whose generous forgiveness had made a great impression on me -- since I didn't find it natural -- retaking on his hill the majestic impassivity of a pharos, as if to warn human navigators to pay attention to his example, and to preserve their kind from the love of somber enchantresses, gazed ever before him. The scarab, as beautiful as the trembling hands of alcoholism, disappeared on the horizon. Four more existences that you could expunge from the Book of Life. I ripped an entire muscle out of my left arm, for I no longer knew what I was doing, so much did I find myself moved before that quadruple misfortune. And -- I, who believed that they were excrementitial materials. Big dumb brute that I am -- go on.

Canto V: 3

The intermittent annihilation of human faculties: whatever your thought might be inclined to suppose, those aren't just words. At least, they aren't just words like any others. May he lift up his hand, he who believes that he's accomplished a just act, entreating some executioner to skin him alive. May he hold his head up, with the smile's voluptuosity, he who will voluntarily offer his breast to the bullets of Death. My eyes will seek the marks of scars; my ten fingers will concentrate the totality of their attention on carefully palpating that eccentric's flesh; I'll verify that the mud-splashes of his brain have spurted onto the satin of my brow. Isn't it just that a man, the lover of such a martyrdom, could not be found in the entire universe? I don't know what it is to laugh, it's true -- never having experienced it myself. Meanwhile, what imprudence wouldn't it be to uphold that my lips would not enlarge, if it were given to me to see someone who claims that, somewhere, that man does indeed exist? That which no one would wish for his own existence, has happened to me by an unequal lot. It isn't that my body is swimming in the lake of sorrow: that would be okay. But my spirit is drying up through a condensed, continually held, reflection; it's croaking like a marsh's frogs, when a troop of voracious flamingoes or famished herons come to plummet onto its margins' reeds. Fortunate is the one who's peacefully sleeping on a bed of feathers, plucked from the eider-duck's breast, without noticing that he's betraying himself. For more than thirty years I haven't slept a wink. Since the unspeakable day of my birth, I've vowed an irreconcilable hatred for the somniferous planks. I'm the one who willed it: let no one else be accused. Quick! -- May you strip yourself of the miscarried surmise. Distinguish, on my brow, this pale crown. The one who weaved it with her thin fingers was Tenacity. As long as a remainder of burning sap flows within my bones, like a torrent of molten metal -- I won't sleep at all. Every night, I force my livid eyes to fix on the stars, through my window's panes. To be more sure of myself, splinters of wood separate my swollen eyelids. As soon as the dawn appears, it finds me in the same position, my body propped up vertically, standing upright against my cold wall's plaster. Meanwhile, it sometimes comes upon me to dream, but without losing the lively sentiment of my personality and the free faculty of self-movement for a single instant: know that Nightmare, who's hiding in the phosphorescent angles of shadow, Fever, who's palpating my visage with her stump -- every impure animal who's extending his blood-stained claws -- well, it's my will that, to give a stable nutriment to its perpetual activity, spins them around. In fact, an atom who avenges himself in his extreme weakness, Free Will isn't afraid to affirm, with a powerful authority, that he doesn't count Bestialization among his sons' number: someone who's sleeping is less than an animal castrated the night before. Even though insomnia drags, towards the depths of the grave, these limbs that already sprinkle an odor of cypress, never will the white catacomb of my intellect open its sanctuaries to the Creator's eyes. A secret and noble Justice, towards the stretched-out arms of her from whom I throw myself by instinct, orders me to ferret out that ignoble punishment without intermission. Redoubtable enemy of my imprudent soul, at the hour when you light a lantern on the coast, I forbid my ill-fated kidneys to bed down on the dew of the lawn. The conqueror, I thrust back the hypocritical poppy's ambushes. It's a certain consequence that, by this strange struggle, my heart has walled in its designs, a famished one who's eating himself. As impenetrable as the giants, I -- I've lived ceaselessly with the span of gaping eyes. At the least, it's authenticated that, during the day, everyone can oppose a useful resistance against the Great External Object (who doesn't know its name?); for then, the will watches over its own defense with a remarkable tenacity. But even forthwith the veil of nocturnal vapors extends, even over the condemned men that they're about to hang, -- oh! -- seeing your intellect between a stranger's sacrilegious hands. An implacable scalpel scrutinizes the dense bushes. Consciousness exhales a long throat-rattle of malediction; for her modesty's veil receives cruel rendings. The humiliation! -- Our door is open to the Celestial Bandit's ferocious curiosity. I didn't merit this infamous torture, you -- the hideous spy of my causality! If I exist -- then I'm not someone else. I don't admit that equivocal plurality within myself. I want to reside alone within my intimate reasoning. Autonomy -- or at the very least, may someone change me into a hippopotamus. Collapse into an abyss under the earth, O anonymous stigmata, and don't reappear any more before my haggard-eyed indignation. My own subjectivity and the Creator: it's too much for one brain. When the night obscures the course of hours, who hasn't battled against the influence of slumber, in his bed moistened with a glacial sweat? That bed, drawing against its breast the dying faculties, is nothing but a tomb composed of planks of squared fir. The will imperceptibly draws back, as in the presence of an invisible force. A viscous pitch thickens the eyes' crystalline lenses. The eyelids seek each other like two friends. The body's no longer anything more than a corpse that's breathing. Finally, four enormous stakes nail the totality of members onto the mattress. And notice, I beg of you, that in sum, the bedsheets are nothing but shrouds. There's the perfuming-pan that burns the incense of the religions. Eternity roars, in the same way as a far-off sea, and approaches with a huge stride. The apartment has disappeared: prostrate yourselves, humans, in the mortuary chapel! Sometimes, uselessly attempting to conquer the imperfections of the organism, in the midst of the heaviest slumber, the magnetized sense perceives with astonishment that it's no longer anything more than a sepulcher's marker, and reasons admirably, propped up on an incomparable subtlety: "Departing from this bed is a problem more difficult than people think. Seated on the tumbrel, someone's dragging me towards the binarity of the guillotine's posts. A curious thing, my arms have learnedly assimilated themselves to a stump's stiffness. It's just too bad to dream that you're marching to the scaffold." His blood flows in wide billows across his face. His breast has effectuated repeated jolts, and inflates itself with wheezings. An obelisk's weight suffocates the expansion of fury. The real has destroyed the dreams of somnolence! Who doesn't know that, as soon as the struggle prolongs itself between the ego, full of haughtiness, and the terrible enlargement of catalepsy, the hallucinating spirit loses its judgment? Gnawed by Despair, it delights in his evil, until he's conquered Nature, and Slumber, seeing his prey escape from him, flees irretrievably far from his heart, with an irritated and shameful wing. Throw a little ash onto my flaming eye-socket. Don't fix my never-closing eye. Do you understand the sufferings that I endure (meanwhile, pride's satisfied)? As soon as the night exhorts humans to repose, a man whom I know marches with great strides in the countryside. I'm afraid that my resolution will succumb to the strokes of old age. Just let it come -- that fatal day when I'll fall asleep! Upon awakening my razor, opening a passage for itself through my neck, will prove that nothing was, in fact, more real.

Canto V: 5

O incomprehensible paederasts! -- I'm not the one who'll launch insults to your great degradation; I'm not the one who'll hurl contempt onto your infundibuliform anus. It suffices that the shameful -- and nearly incurable -- illnesses that besiege you, bear their ineluctable chastisement with them. Legislators of stupid institutions, inventors of a narrow morality -- get away from me, for I'm an impartial soul. And you, young adolescent boys -- or rather, young girls -- explain to me how and why (but keep yourselves at a suitable distance, for I, myself, don't know how to resist my passions anymore) Vengeance has sprouted in your hearts, to have fastened such a crown of wounds onto Humanity's ass. You make her blush for her sons through your conduct (which I happen to venerate!); your prostitution, offering itself to the first comer, exercises the deepest thinkers' logic, even as your exaggerated sensibility overwhelms even Woman's measure of stupefaction. Are you of a nature more or less terrestrial than that of your fellows? Do you possess a sixth sense that we lack? Don't lie: say what you're thinking. It isn't a query that I'm posing to you; for since I frequented your grandiose intellects' sublimity as an observer, I know how to stick by it. Be blessed by my left hand, be sanctified by my right hand, angels protected by my universal love. I kiss your visage, I kiss your breast, I kiss, with my suave lips, the diverse parts of your harmonious and perfumed body. Why didn't you tell me at once what you are: the crystallizations of a superior moral beauty? It was necessary that I divine for myself the innumerable treasures of tenderness and chastity that were concealed by the beatings of your oppressed hearts. Breasts adorned with garlands of roses and vetiver. It was necessary that I open your legs agape to know you, and that my mouth suspend itself above the emblems of your modesty. But (an important thing to represent) don't forget to wash your parts' skin every day with hot water, for, otherwise, some venereal chancres will unfailingly grow on my unsatiated lips' cloven commisures. Oh! -- if only instead of being a hell, the universe had just been an immense celestial anus, take a look at the gesture that I'd make with my crotch: yes, -- I'd ram my cock through its blood-soaked sphincter, shattering its pelvis's very own partitions with my impetuous movements! Misfortune wouldn't then have blown, onto my blinded eyes, entire dunes of shifting sand; I would have discovered the subterranean place where Truth lies dozing, and the rivers of my viscous sperm would have found in that way an ocean to precipitate themselves into! But why do I catch myself regretting a state of things that's imaginary, and which will never receive the stamp of its ulterior accomplishment? Let's not take pains to construct fugitive hypotheses. Waiting, let the one who's burning with the ardor of partaking of my bed come to find me; but I set a serious condition on my hospitality: it's necessary that he be no older than fifteen. May he not believe on his side that I'm thirty: what does that matter? Age doesn't diminish the intensity of feelings, far from it; and even though my hair has become as white as snow, it's not because of old age: on the contrary, it's because of -- the reason that you know. As for me, I don't like women! -- or even hermaphrodites! I need those beings who resemble me, on whose brow human nobility is marked in the most out-spoken and ineffaceable characters! Are you certain that those who wear their hair long are of the same nature as mine? I don't believe it -- and I won't desert my opinion. A brackish spittle is rolling out of my mouth, why -- I don't know. Who wants to suck it off of me, so that I'll be disencumbered of it? It's welling up -- it's always welling up! I know what it is. I've noticed that, when I drank blood from the throats of those who had bedded down next to me (people are wrong to consider me a vampire, since that's how they refer to the dead who emerge from their tombs; now, as for me, I'm still alive), the next day I puke up a portion of it from my mouth: there's the explanation of the noxious spittle. What do you want me to do, if my organs, weakened by vice, refuse themselves the accomplishment of the functions of nutrition? But reveal my confidences to no one. It's not for myself that I'm telling you this: it's for you, your own selves, and others, so that the secret's prestige will retain within the limits of virtue and duty those who, magnetized by the unknown one's electricity, will be tempted to imitate me. Have the goodness to gaze at my mouth (for the moment, I don't have time to employ a longer formula, ordained by politeness): at first it strikes you with the appearance of its structure, excluding the serpent from your simile; that's because I'm contracting its tissue unto the final reduction, in order to make you believe I possess a cool character. You aren't unaware that it's diametrically opposite. May I be able to gaze across these pages at the seraphic visage of him who's reading me. If he hasn't passed puberty, let him approach. Press me against you, and don't be afraid that you'll hurt me: let's progressively tighten our muscles' bands. Even more. I feel that it's useless to insist: the opacity, remarkable on more than one ground, of this leaf of paper, is a hindrance of the most considerable kind to the operation of our complete conjunction. For my part, I've always felt an infamous caprice for the pallid youths of grammar-school, and the etiolated children of factories! My speeches aren't the reminiscence of a dream, and I would have too many remembrances to disentangle, if the obligation were imposed upon me to pass the events that could affirm with their witnessing my dolorous affirmation's veracity before your eyes. Human Justice hasn't yet caught me in flagrante delicto, despite her agents' incontestable ability. I've even assassinated (it wasn't a long time ago!) a paederast who didn't sufficiently yield to my passion: I threw his corpse into an abandoned well, and no one had decisive evidence against me. Why are you shuddering with fright, youth who's reading me? Do you think that I wish to do as much against you? You show yourself sovereignly unjust --  You're right: distrust me, especially if you're beautiful. My parts eternally offer the lugubrious spectacle of turgidity; no one can maintain (and how many haven't they been approached by!) that he saw them in the state of normal tranquillity, not even the boot-black who dealt me a dagger-blow there in a moment of delirium. -- The ingrate! I change my clothes twice a week, cleanliness not being the principal motive of my determination. If I didn't act in this way, the members of humanity would disappear at the end of a few days, in prolonged combats. In fact, in some country in which I find myself, they continually pester me with their presence and come to lick the surface of my feet. But then what power do they possess -- my seminal drops -- to draw towards them everyone who breathes with olfactory nerves! They come from the banks of the Amazon, they traverse the valleys that the Ganges irrigates, they abandon the polar lichen, to accomplish the search for me with long voyagings, and ask the immobile cities whether or not they've seen passing by, for one instant, along the ramparts, the one whose sacred sperm has balmed the mountains, lakes, heaths, forests, promontories, and the vastness of the seas! The despair of being unable to encounter me (I secretly hid myself in the most inaccessible localities, in order to feed their ardor) brings them to the most regrettable acts. They set three hundred thousand on each side, and the roaring of cannons serves as the battle's prelude. All the wings set into motion at the same time, like a single warrior. Squares form and fall forthwith, never to arise again. Haggard horses flee in every direction. Cannon-balls till the soil like implacable meteors. The theater of combat is nothing but a vast field of carnage, when the night reveals its presence and the silent moon appears between a cloud's fissures. Pointing out to me with a finger a space of many leagues covered with corpses, that star's vaporous crescent orders me to take, for an instant, as the subject of meditative reflections, the deadly consequences which the inexplicable, enchanting talisman that Providence has accorded to me drags after it. Unfortunately the centuries must yet be many, before the human race perishes entirely in my perfidious snare! This is the way in which a spirit -- able, and who doesn't boast -- employs, to attain his own ends, the same means that at first appeared to bring on an insurmountable obstacle. Ever my intellect arises toward that imposing question, and you yourself are witness that it's no longer possible for me to remain within the modest subject that I had the design of treating in the beginning. One last word: -- It was a winter night. As the north-wind was sighing through the fir-trees, the Creator opened his door in the midst of the shadows and took in a paederast.

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