Sunday, December 15, 2019

Agamben, Lovelock, Greta Thunberg & coluna da ANPOF (de 30/12/2019)



L'évangile d'après salò (by A/Z, for more see here);
#ActForTheAmazon
#ExtinctionRebellion
#GretaThunberg
#GreenNewDeal
#BoycottBrazilianFood

A crítica que saiu ao texto "Sulla Fine del Mondo" do Agamben em coluna da ANPOF de 3 de dezembro (por Jelson Oliveira e Tiago Vasconcelos) é trucada por dois simples motivos: 
(1) primeiro, Agamben não nega a base real das previsões de catástrofes climáticas (em nenhum nível, nem quanto ao alcance nem quanto à causa antropológica): 'Deve essere chiaro che queste considerazioni non intendono prendere posizione quanto alla realtà del problema dell’inquinamento e delle trasformazioni deleterie che le rivoluzioni industriali hanno prodotto nelle condizioni materiali e spirituali dei viventi. Al contrario...'
(2) segundo, Agamben é MAIS (e não menos) crítico com relação ao estado de coisas atuais, porque ele chama à sua crítica a responsabilidade que a própria ciência tem quanto à situação atual catastrófica de deterioração do meio ambiente (alguém pode, de sã consciência, negar isso?): 'Il fenomeno è tanto più inquietante, in quanto la scienza non ha mai annoverato l’escatologia fra i propri compiti ed è possibile che l’assunzione del nuovo ruolo profetico tradisca la consapevolezza della propria innegabile responsabilità nelle catastrofi di cui predice l’avvento.' 
O que o texto do Agamben exige é uma reflexão mais atenta sobre a situação e um posicionamento político que implique no reconhecimento da responsabilidade histórica da própria ciência, em conluio com o monopólio do dinheiro, na depredação do planeta (remonta a Feyerabend a ideia de que a ciência precisa sim de freio político tanto quanto a religião, visto que ambas estão sujeitas ao dogmatismo e podem conduzir a catástrofes). Essa exigência faz todo o sentido e é completamente legítima. Agamben está colocando sim sob suspeita a figura da Greta Thunberg, mas isso não significa que esteja desautorizando-a totalmente. O ponto que ele toca diz respeito aos limites do próprio saber científico (que diante da própria desmedida agora assume uma dimensão profética, num momento em que deveria, antes de mais nada, reconhecer o que tem de precário e dogmaticamente perigoso). E esse ponto vale ainda mais pra crítica, muito acertada, feita por Agamben, a Lovelock, que defende como antídoto pros problemas gerados pelo tecnicismo exacerbado não menos, mas mais tecnicismo!

Texto de Agamben:
"Sulla fine del mondo
Il tema della fine del mondo è apparso più volte nella storia della cristianità e in ogni tempo sono comparsi profeti che annunciavano come prossimo l’ultimo giorno. È singolare che oggi questa funzione escatologica, che la chiesa ha lasciato cadere, sia stata assunta dagli scienziati, che si presentano sempre più spesso come profeti, che predicono e descrivono con assoluta certezza le catastrofi climatiche che porteranno alla fine della vita sulla terra. Singolare, ma non sorprendente, se si considera che nella modernità la scienza si è sostituita alla fede e ha assunto una funzione propriamente religiosa – è, anzi, in ogni senso la religione del nostro tempo, ciò in cui gli uomini credono (o, almeno, credono di credere). 
Come ogni religione, anche la religione della scienza non poteva mancare di un’escatologia, cioè di un dispositivo che, mantenendo i fedeli nella paura, rafforza la loro fede e, insieme, assicura il dominio della classe sacerdotale. Apparizioni come Greta sono, in questo senso, sintomatiche: Greta crede ciecamente in quel che gli scienziati profetizzano e aspetta la fine del mondo nel 2030, esattamente come i millenaristi nel medioevo credevano nell’imminente ritorno del messia a giudicare il mondo. Non meno sintomatica è una figura come quella dell’inventore di Gaia, uno scienziato che, concentrando le sue diagnosi apocalittiche su un unico fattore – la percentuale di CO2 nell’atmosfera – dichiara con stupefacente candore che la salvezza dell’umanità sta nell’energia nucleare. Che, in entrambi i casi, la posta in gioco abbia carattere religioso e non scientifico, si tradisce nella funzione centrale che vi svolge un vocabolo – la salvezza – tratto dalla filosofia cristiana della storia.
Il fenomeno è tanto più inquietante, in quanto la scienza non ha mai annoverato l’escatologia fra i propri compiti ed è possibile che l’assunzione del nuovo ruolo profetico tradisca la consapevolezza della propria innegabile responsabilità nelle catastrofi di cui predice l’avvento. Naturalmente, come in ogni religione, anche la religione della scienza ha i suoi increduli e i suoi avversari, cioè gli adepti dell’altra grande religione della modernità: la religione del denaro. Ma le due religioni, in apparenza divise, sono segretamente solidali. Poiché è stata certamente l’alleanza sempre più stretta fra scienza, tecnologia e capitale che ha determinato la situazione catastrofica che gli scienziati oggi denunciano.
Deve essere chiaro che queste considerazioni non intendono prendere posizione quanto alla realtà del problema dell’inquinamento e delle trasformazioni deleterie che le rivoluzioni industriali hanno prodotto nelle condizioni materiali e spirituali dei viventi. Al contrario, mettendo in guardia contro la confusione fra religione e verità scientifica e fra profezia e lucidità, si tratta di non farsi dettare acriticamente da parti interessate le proprie scelte e le proprie ragioni, che in ultima analisi non possono essere che politiche.
18 novembre 2019"

["Concerning the end of the world
The idea of the end of the world has emerged several times along the History of Christianity, and in all its periods there were prophets announcing the imminence of the last day. It is curious how this eschatological vocation finally surrendered by the church has now been assumed by scientists, which increasingly present themselves as prophets, who foretell and describe with absolute certainty the climatic catastrophes leading to the end of life on earth. Curious but not surprising, if one takes into account that science replaced faith in modernity, assuming truly a religious role: it is, indeed and in every aspect, the religion of our time—what people believe in (or at least what they think they believe in). 
As any religion, the religion of science wouldn't be bereft of an eschatology, that is, of a device through which to keep the faithful in fear while, at the same time, securing the domination of the priestly class. Apparitions like Greta are, in this sense, symptomatic: she blindly believes in what scientists prophesy and awaits the end of the world to 2030, exactly as medieval millennialists believed in the imminent return of the messiah and the following last judgement. No less symptomatic is the figure of the inventor of Gaia, a scientist who reduces his apocalyptic diagnose to a single factor (CO2's percentage in the atmosphere) and declares—with the utmost candor—that the salvation of humanity lies in nuclear energy. That in both cases what is at stake is rather religious than scientific is betrayed by the central role played by the word salvation, taken from the Christian philosophy of history. 
The phenomenon is all the more disturbing because science has never included eschatology among its proper subjects, and it is possible that this assumption of a new prophetic task betrays the awareness of science's own responsibility in the catastrophes whose advent it predicts. Undoubtedly, as with any religion, the religion of science has its own unbelievers and adversaries, that is, the partisans of the other great religion of modernity: the religion of money. But the two religions, apparently in disaccord, are secretly united. For it was certainly the increasingly intimate alliance among science, technology and capital that determined the catastrophic situation that scientists today denounce. 
It must be clear that through these few paragraphs one is not committed to any stand concerning the reality of the problem of pollution and the deleterious transformations that industrial revolutions brought to the material and spiritual fate of living beings. Much on the contrary, by warning against the confusion between religion and scientific truth, prophecy and lucidity, the point is to avoid that the very interested parties now keep uncritically dictating what are our choices and reasons, which in the final analysis can only be political. November 18, 2019 (translation and emphasis by A/Z).]
**************************************************************

NEW (01/17/2020): Piaraçu Manifest 


"Nós, representantes de 45 povos indígenas do Brasil, somando mais de 600 participantes, fomos convocados pelo cacique Raoni, para nos reunirmos entre os dias 14 e 17 de janeiro de 2020 na aldeia Piaraçu (Terra Indígena Capoto Jarina), com o objetivo de juntar as nossas forças e denunciar que está em curso um projeto político do governo brasileiro de genocídio, etnocídio e ecocídio."
"O Estado brasileiro tem de entender que tem uma dívida histórica com os povos indígenas. Nós somos os primeiros habitantes de nosso país. Não apenas defendemos o meio ambiente: somos a própria Natureza. Se matar o meio ambiente está matado [a] nós. Sempre queremos floresta em pé, não porque a floresta é bonita, mas porque todos esses seres que habitam a floresta fazem parte de nós e correm no nosso sangue..."

["Representing 45 different indigenous people of Brazil and totalling more than 600 participants, we were summoned here in the village Piaraçu (indigenous land Capoto Jarina), from January 14 through 17, 2020, by chief Raoni, so as to gather our forces and denounce that the Brazilian government is carrying out at the present a political program of genocide, ethnocide and ecocide./ The Brazilian State should understand it has a historical obligation towards indigenous people. We are the first inhabitants of our country. It is not merely that we defend the environment: we are Nature itself. By killing the environment one kills us. We want the forest bustling, not because the forest is beautiful, but because all these beings that inhabit a forest are part of us and run inside our veins..." (translation by A/Z)] (see here the entire document in Portuguese, signed by Raoni and other indigenous leaderships); 

Clipping:
"... the tornadoes made of fire lifting up fire trucks weighing tonnes, of nightmarish dashcam footage of flames coursing through a fire truck with people in it, of vast fire fronts meeting up that are too big too fight (and the forests, lit up at night, look like when you’re on a plane, flying low over a metropolis)... Transformation is recognising the facts: Australia is a climate vandal, led by wreckers. We are ranked the worst of 57 countries on climate policy," "This apocalyptic Australian summer is our Sandy Hook moment – if we don't take climate action now we never will"  (Brigid Delanay/ The Guardian)
"'If 800 million sounds a lot, it’s not all the animals in the firing line,' he added.That figure excluded animals including bats, frogs and invertebrates. With these numbers included, Dickman said, it was 'without any doubt at all' that the losses exceeded 1 billion. 'Over a billion would be a very conservative figure,' he said... Critically endangered species, including the southern corroboree frog and mountain pygmy-possum, could be wiped out as fires ravage crucial habitat in Victoria’s Alpine National Park and New South Wales’s neighboring Kosciuszko National Park," "Number of Animals Feared Dead in Australia's Wildfires Soars To Over 1 Billion" (Josephine Harvey/ Huff Post);
"Tout d’un coup, l’électricité et les réseaux téléphoniques ont été coupés. Puis le ciel est devenu totalement noir. Et il y a eu ces bruits épouvantables : le rugissement du feu, le sifflement du vent, les hélicoptères. C’était une atmosphère surréaliste, terrifiante," "Ce n’est pas un feu de brousse mais une bombe atomique" (Isabelle Dellerba/Le Monde,  1/4/2020)
"There are real concerns entire species of plants and animals have been wiped out by bushfires following revelations almost 500 million animals have died since the crisis began... Harrowing scenes of kangaroos fleeing walls of fire, charred bodies of koalas and cockatoos falling dead out of trees have horrified the world as it tries to take in the scale of the unfolding disaster," "Huge loss of animal and plant life expected due to bushfires" (Marnie O'Neill/News Corp Australia)
"Australia today is ground zero for the climate catastrophe. Its glorious Great Barrier Reef is dying, its world-heritage rain forests are burning, its giant kelp forests have largely vanished, numerous towns have run out of water or are about to, and now the vast continent is burning on a scale never before seen... Flames leaping 200 feet into the air. Fire tornadoes. Terrified children at the helm of dinghies, piloting away from the flames, refugees in their own country... The prime minister, the conservative Scott Morrison, went on vacation to Hawaii," "Australia is Committing Climate Suicide" (Richard Flanagan/ The New York Times);
"He told me the temperatures they were facing near the blazes in Celsius, and I couldn’t quite compute, but I remember thinking, 'Wow, that’s 10 degrees hotter than Midnight Oil said The western desert lives and breathes.' Fifty-five degrees Celsius is 131 degrees Fahrenheit... during the night, the fires surrounding us had heaped so much smoke into the air that the sun was not visible in the sky. In fact, nothing was visible beyond 50 meters," "The Banality of Apocalypse: Escaping From the Australian Fires" (Eric Byler/ The Intercept);  

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Modern Literature and Esotericism: Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphane Mallarmé, Poe & others


Goya's Hasta su Abuelo, photographed by A/Z at the MNBA & Delacroix's Chasse aux lions (esquisse), photographed by A/Z at the Orsay (for more see here); 

The following text is an excerpt from my thesis on the Luso-Brazilian Encounters of the Sixteenth-Century (later published as a book by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press), which deals, besides the misleading (in times of 5G!) stringency of the topic, with many issues related to écriture, fictional writing & "mystical-" or esoteric-literary traditions typical of the (post-tremendous-bigbang) Renaissance. 
The excerpt extrapolates some of the thesis main arguments to a more contemporary panorama. It puzzled very much the national epic committee, from which a Heideggerian radical feminist had already frantically dropped (she deserted Dalhousie itself in the same fit, not unfairly), calling the whole material "unintelligible" (which otherwise was preposterously unfair). Ouch! As world-widely known, what enabled the miraculous defense and approval of the rumbling, was mad Ian Hacking's unequivocal & providential support, although he himself had already also many finally in particular unexpurgated qualms with the fateful excerpt, considered by the celebrated Canadian inheritor of Feyerabend's ominous legacy a "rapid tour" (a blurb, not to say an obnoxious FART, perhaps too literally in the face of the academy) on the "inevitable masters" (hateful literary nuisances too much flattered by persistent undesired packs)—which was probably just as totally unfair and freaked-out as his hostile reactive report on Lyotard's La condition postmoderne ("I was wrong: of course the book needed to be published in English," Why is There Philosophy of Mathematics at all, p. 259).
The excerpt has been published in the Fairleigh Dickinson's book, but in a somewhat more "resumed" version. Part of it has also been published in a paper I wrote in Portuguese for the Brazilian Association of Comparative Literature/ABRALIC).

The Fateful Excerpt:


Indeed, many authors have as well remarked that literature is a modern enterprise in which are reenacted several of the strange elements typical of certain discourses of the sixteenth century. This is a common idea to French literary criticism of the twentieth century... Michel Foucault asserted the existence of a decisive similarity between modern literature and a sixteenth-century conception of language in terms of analogical signs, both being opposed to an understanding of language in terms of conventional and representational signs (Les mots et les choses: 58-59). In his monumental study of the theory of the four senses of the Scripture, Henry de Lubac gives a quotation from Charles Baudelaire in order to explain the sense of Scotus Eriugena’s symbolical understanding of the world (Éxegèse Médiévale: 124). And in a famous essay about Les Chants de Maldoror of Isidore Lucien Ducasse, the nineteenth-century French poet born in South America (Uruguay), the celebrated literary critic Maurice Blanchot connected pictorial elements in literature to domains traditionally put also under the competency of religion and myth. He says that the Ducasse’s imagination “ne semble passer par les livres que pour rejoindre les grandes constellations dont les oeuvres gardent l’influence, faisceaux d’imagination impersonnelle que nul volume d’auteur ne peut immobiliser ni confisquer à son profit. ... les rêves vagues des religions et des mythologies sans mémoire” (Lautréamont et Sade: 261).

At least in the case of the French symbolists, or immediately previous authors, such as Charles Baudelaire, Stephanie Mallarmé and Arthur Rimbaud, there is considerable evidence of their concern, for instance, with works and figures of the revival of esotericism in the Europe of the end of the nineteenth century, what would historically connect them with early-modern traditions (Mercier, Les Sources Ésotériques et Occultes de la Poésie Symboliste: 26, 29-30, 123-45, 156-172; Surette, The Birth of Modernism: 79; Petitfils, Rimbaud: 114-19). In the English literature of around the same period, the two most outstanding examples who actually outshine the French symbolists in terms of a commitment to mysticism and esotericism are Willian Blake and the Irish William Butler Yeats. What is at issue here is not, however, the direct involvement of these authors with esotericism and mysticism per se, but how they concretely recreated in their literary practices strategies that were typical of esoteric and mystical traditions. An engagement with esotericism, and especially with the manifestation of the so-called psychic phenomena, was peculiar not only to literary but to scientific figures of the period as well: John Tyndall, William Fletcher Barrett, Willian Crookes, for instance. But the physicist Barrett eventually concluded that psychic phenomena demanded a kind of “sympathetic” conditions that made them unsuitable for physical investigation (Noakes, "The Bridge Which Is Between Physical and Psychical Research...": 420, 450-55). It is remarkable, on the other hand, that in the concrete process of writing of certain modern literary authors, one finds an employment of discursive techniques through which one is believed to be made visionary in a genuine sense, and which directly recalls much older traditions. According to Alain Mercier, in Rimbaud’s Illuminations, for instance, “le principe d’analogie y est appliqué par une imagination libérée jusqu’à romper les cadres habituels du langage… l’écriture des Illuminations rappelle, par-là, celle du Zohar — L’univers des correspondances entrevu par Baudelaire est conçu ici de manière radicale et absolue” (Mercier: 172).

In an author such as Edgar Allan Poe, who also influenced both Baudelaire and Mallarmé, one finds a theory about poetry that helps one to understand a necessarily transcendental dimension of the aesthetic conceptions of these authors independently of their commitment to any specific religious system (Delfel, L’esthétique de Stéphane Mallarmé: 23-4). According to the critic Wilbur S. Scott, for Poe, a good poem must cast “a spell, and through the artist’s manipulation of echo and rhythm, becomes an incantation which will transport the reader to an ideal realm” (Introduction to Poe's Complete Tales & Poems: vii). [1] It should be noted, on the other hand, that, in his famous essay “The Philosophy of Composition”, Poe polemically derided the idea that it is by means of intuition, in a state of “frenzy”, that good poems are produced (Complete Tales and Poems, Castle Books: 151). The essay shows, however, that this conception, remindful of Plato’s Phaedrus, was still very alive in the literary circles at the time, for him to engage in a criticism the polemical character of which is so exaggerated that his later admirers (for instance, Baudelaire and T. S. Elliot) have considered it to be satirical. And in the lecture written in the end of his life, “The Poetic principle”, Poe overtly defends the idea of an inspiration by the “Beauty from above”, the “supernatural Beauty”, in terms of “ecstatic prescience” (Polonsky, "Poe's Aesthetic Theory": 43-46; cf. Poe, Complete Tales and Poems: 235-37). In such analyses Poe is certainly engaging with ideas he inherited from English Romanticism, and he refers both to Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Percy Bysshe Shelley. These authors were themselves influenced by the Italian Renaissance humanists, such as Boccaccio, Ficino and Tasso, whom they read and studied extensively (Zuccato, Coleridge in Italy: 5-6, 20, 98-100, 118-9; Weinberg, Shelley's Italian Experience: 167-8). A more contemporary main figure of literature in English language who also expressed an almost transcendental conception of beauty was James Joyce. Both in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and in his notes about aesthetic, he says that the feelings excited by proper works of art are “static”, they “hold us in rest, as it were, by fascination”. “… this rest is necessary for the apprehension of the beautiful” (Joyce, Occasional, Critic and Political Writing, Oxford: 102-103). The source of Joyce here is Thomas Aquinas, to whom he directly refers in order to defend the idea that both “the true and the beautiful are spiritually possessed” (105; cf. Joyce, A Portrait, Penguin  [2000]: 222-233). 

Joyce was directly influenced also both by the French symbolists and by William Blake, about whom he wrote an essay, acknowledging that “elementary beings and the spirits of deceased great men would often enter [Blake]’s room at night to speak to him about art and the imagination” (Occasional, Critic and Political Writing: 177). He then asks, not without the irony that is recognized as peculiar to the writer of Ulysses: “Ought we to be amazed that the symbolic beings Los, Urizen, Vala, Tiriel, and Enitharmon, and the shades of Homer and Milton should come from their ideal world into a poor room in London, or that the incense that greeted their coming was the smell of Indian tea and eggs fried in lard?” (179). Ulysses itself retains much of the literary practices of visionary authors such as Blake and the French symbolists, although Joyce is believed to justify these practices in that work in terms of philosophical relativism and perspectivism “rather than on the esoteric grounds of ineffability” (Surette, The Birth of Modernism: 81). His “mythical method” would be “an adaptation and secularization of the mystical symbolism” of the French symbolists (217). Another landmark of the literature of the twentieth century that has been characterized in terms of the same kind of secularized perspectivism is Marcel Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. As says the celebrated dramatist Samuel Beckett, Proust’s masterpiece exposes how reality stabilizes to different individuals in “a constant process of decantation, decantation from the vessel containing the fluid of future time, sluggish, pale and monochrome, to the vessel containing the fluid of past time, agitated and multicoloured by the phenomena of its hours” (Beckett, Poems, Short Fiction, Criticism, Grove: 513-514). In this process, individuals would loose contact with a more essential and ideal dimension of things, which gets hidden in the mechanical way ordinary experience is structured by habit (517). A way out of this boredom is granted by “involuntary memory”, triggered by unexpected associations (522-523, 543-45). 

A single passage of the second tome of Proust’s A la Recherche (A l’Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs) could in fact be taken as the model of engagement in the kind of discursive strategies that would be common to the sixteenth-century Portuguese colonizers and modern avant-garde writers. While in the restaurant Riverbelle, Proust’s narrator dabbles in a culinary kind of “histoire naturelle” that would not be entirely out of keeping with the corpus analyzed in this thesis. The natural history in question is nothing but an exercise of imagination through the use of unexpected (not to say strange and bordering a bad taste) analogies, stimulated by some over drinking of Porto (!) wine. Proust’s narrator compares, for instance, the restaurant glass gallery frequented by elegant ladies to a “réservoir, une nasse où le pêcheur a entassé les éclatants poissons qu’il a pris” (Proust, A l'Ombre, Gallimard [1919]: 68-69). More to the matter discussed here are the following daydreams: 

"Je regardais les tables rondes, dont l’assemblée innombrable emplissait le restaurant, comme autant de planètes, telles que celles-ci sont figurées dans les tableaux allégoriques d’autre-fois... Assises derrière un massif de fleurs, deux horribles caissières, occupées à des calculs sans fins sembalient deux magiciennes occupées à prévoir par des calculs astrologiques les bouleversements qui pouvaient parfois se produire dans cette voûte céleste conçue selon la science du moyen âge./ Et je plaignais un peu tous les dîneurs parce que je sentais que pour eux les tables rondes n’étaient pas des planètes et qu’ils n’avaient pas pratiqué dans les choses un sectionnement qui nous débarasse de leur apparence coutumière et nous permet d’appercevoir des analogies" (65-66).

A few pages forward, the narrator describes the paintings of the character Elstir as consisting of “une sorte de métamorphose des choses représentées, analogue à celle qu’en poésie on nomme métaphore” (98). And the same character will himself make enthusiastic praise of a “gigantesque poème théologique et symbolique” represented in the (fictioned) porch of Proust’s medieval church of Balbec. Proust will make use as well of books such as the Orphic Hymns in important passages of his novel, such as in a paragraph giving a characterization of the desires of the narrator in terms of perfumes (Sodome et Gomorrhe, Gallimard [1989]: 233-4).

Not only literature, but aesthetic experience in general has been characterized in more or less visionary terms, as “negation of automatic understanding”, by authors such as Henri Bergson and the author who is perhaps the most important aesthete of the twentieth century, the Jewish-German Theodor Adorno (Menke, The Sovereign of Art: 31, 65). Adorno was not unaware of the existence of fundamental connections between modern art and early-modern conceptions of nature and language. In discussing the pertinence of the concept of natural beauty in modern art, he wrote the following: “The more that art is thoroughly organized as an object by the subject and divested of the subject’s intentions, the more articulately does it speak according to the model of a nonconceptual, nonrigidified significative language; this would perhaps be the same language that is inscribed in what the sentimental age gave the beautiful if threadbare name, ‘The Book of Nature’” (Aesthetic Theory, Univ. of Minnesota: 67). That is, the more art (rationally) works towards a deconstruction of language as a system that would represent more or less stably the world (and consequently the more it subjectively works towards the disappearing of the very subject who produces it), the better it repays its old alliance with non-conceptual, that is, for Adorno, non-mediated and even irrational forms of thought, such as magic. In this sense, as much as art is for him something that emancipated from magic, it preserves magic in itself somewhat more than any other enlightened human activity (because it is the most mimetic of them; 110-111), and magic can thus returns with revenge when the dialectic of art is developed to the most, that is, in modern art. The idea of a book of nature is a residue of magical traditions as they survived in Renaissance and early-modern period, and it is to harass modern art since its emancipation (with modern science) from these traditions.

Adorno is here engaging with old traditional issues recurrent in European modern culture as a whole, distinguishable not only in the literary trends already mentioned here, but also, for instance, in the music of Richard Wagner, with its colossal mythological works recovering medieval motives. Wagner was actually rather another direct influence over Baudelaire and Mallarmé (Surette, The Birth of the Modern: 199; Mercier, Les Sources Ésotériques: 82, 89; Delfel, L'éstetique: 25, 125). Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus (to the elaboration of which Adorno directly contributed) is a twenty-century German amalgamation of all these influences. The hero (or antihero) of the novel, Thomas Leverkühn, can be viewed as a complex allegory of multiple faces: he is, among other things, Germany, German provincialism, Nietzsche, Schoenberg, and ultimately Faustus (a sixteenth-century legend). He is, moreover, paradoxically presented to the reader by another character who would apparently be his intellectual antithesis, the humanist that assumes the function of the narrator of the book, Serenus Zeitblom, also a representative of Latin, Italian culture. As the story goes on, the antithesis between the two characters is sustained in the utmost tension, sometimes inverted and even deconstructed, for Serenus, notwithstanding his alleged bashfulness, reveals himself as perfectly capable of writing down to the reader the most horrifying revelations concerning the life of the sublime Leverkühn. In many passages of the book, dichotomies are continually proposed, sustained, inverted and dismantled, as between “animate” and “inanimate nature” (Doktor Faustus, translation by John E Woods: 21), “subjectivity” and “objectivity” (in Beethoven’s late compositional period) (57), “abstraction” and “genitalia” (76), “rigor” and “laughter” (94), “the offensively blasphemous” and the “divine” (109), “faith” and “apostasy” (140), “love” and “sensuality” (201), “chastity” and “impurity” (236), “finite” and “infinite” (288), “tragedy” and “comedy” (322), “health” and “illness” (374). Leverkühn is a composer, and music for him is “ambiguity as a system” (51). It is also connected to “the dogged pursuit and laboratory work of the alchemist and sorcerer of ages past, which likewise stood under the sign of theology” (140). Leverkühn’s ideal music would “be a matter of developing all dimensions simultaneously and of generating them separately so that they then converge… it would mean the abrogation of the antitheses between the style of the polyphonic fugue and the essence of the homophonic sonata” (205). It would “resolve reason into magic” (208), and have an eschatological dimension (376-7) — in the end, it is “transfiguration” (398). All these features are, at the same time, ironical, since much of Leverkühn’s music is presented as well as artificial and a parody. [2]

The literature of the twentieth century in Portuguese language, produced both in Portugal and Brazil, has among its key figures authors who appropriate and transform with the utmost virtuosity many of the literary techniques that date back at least to the French symbolists, and were radicalized by modern writers. The works of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa are said to imply an extreme kind of abstraction and despersonalization. Fernando Pessoa wrote and signed his books through a peculiar heteronomy of other authors, what demanded the concrete creation of ideally different mentalities, personalities and sensibilities. His works have, accordingly, a unity and a plurality, being written by himself through the mask of his fictional authors: Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos, Ricardo Reis, Bernardo Soares. Parallel to these authors, there is the poetry that is attributed to Pessoa himself, which should be considered part of the heteronomical chain (Ordoñez, Um Místico Sem Fé: 5). Andrés Ordoñes connects Pessoa’s heteronomy to the twelfth-century Portuguese poetry of feminine love, actually written by male bards, as well as to Rimbaud’s famous dictum Je c’est un autre (6, 21). Independently of heteronomy, inside each of Pessoa’s works there is a constant mix between fiction and sincerity, which produces an irony that has an esoteric and Gnostic flavor (7). Reality would exist through literature and the act of feigning would provide access to what is beyond merely empirical experiences (25, 87). Oxymoron is a figure of speech conspicuous in Pessoa’s poetry, which Ordoñez compares to Medieval negative theology (43, 65-68). 

Clarice Lispector and João Guimarães Rosa are twentieth-century Brazilian writers whose literary radicalism would put them side by side with authors such as Joyce. In her romance A Cidade Sitiada [The Besieged City], Lispector creates, between Lucrecia Neves (the main character) and her town, a world that is not a world, presented and deconstructed, shown and hidden at the same time. Lispector boldly blurs many ordinary distinctions, such as between subject and object, in a writing that reveals the singular moment when persons and things are reciprocally constituted independently of their own understanding: “the [town’s] square was nude. So unrecognizable under the moonlight that the girl did not recognize herself” (A Cidade Sitiada, Editora A Noite [1949]: 9); “this was São Geraldo’s [that is, the town’s] night: the flanks of a horse traversed in quick contraction” (24); “without being aware the girl took the form that the man perceived in her” (46); “Lucrécia Neves looked at it, and made with her face, imperceptibly, the expression of the chair” (102). Infinite time explodes the limits of space, as in the following passage: “during the initial silences, a mare crazed its eyes as if surrounded by eternity” (24). Animate and inanimate states conflate in what would be an ante-room of life itself: “the girl shivered with a fear of being alive” (10, my emphasis) — that is, she is not yet alive, but already shivers. An empty room has eyes and calmly watch: “the room, getting ready for the long night, remained with tranquil, open eyes” (80). This is perhaps because “in nights without wind… silver flowers are cruel and murderers” (162). Many things might assume, suddenly, a dreadful aspect, which defies categorization and even imagination: “dreadful and delicate things lied in the floor: the perfect screw” (52); “she feared seeing in a singular look a train and a bird” (61); “and at her side, the porcelain boy playing a flute: something sober, dead, as fortunately we could never imagine” (68); “oh! the infinite positions in the room… one could suffer a vertigo at the edge of a bibelot” (100). Even the words with which the book itself is written, instigated in their own materiality, independently of their meaning, might unexpectedly jump out into the eyes of the reader, as sorcery: “Then the lad said what was lustrous as a beetle: ‘Pelagic beings reproduce in extraordinary profusion’” (30); “and suddenly, there were the bibelots — almost the word: bibelots” (101).

João Guimarães Rosa almost recreated the Portuguese language itself in the process of writing his master piece, Grande Sertão: Veredas. As says the scholar Jon S. Vincent, in his introduction of the works of Rosa for the English-speaking public, “the Portuguese in which they are written is so dense and convoluted that the prose presents serious problems of comprehension even to many Brazilians” (João Guimarães Rosa: 9). Because of this feature, the book has been compared to Joyce’s Ulysses, and both novels are believed to stay in the same position in relation to their respective original language-speaking worlds (64). In both cases there is a radically critical and peculiarly original engagement with previous mythical and epic topics. Besides, traditional narrative techniques are appropriated and transformed in a way to enable a maze of possible readings and interpretations. Grande Sertão: Veredas is a long massive flux of text, which could be characterized only equivocally as a monologue, since it has implicit but decisive dialogical features (67). It is written as if uttered (orally) by the main character, an ex-gunslinger, who tells the story of his adventures to a mysterious interlocutor. Only in the course of the narrative, the main character is named “Riobaldo”, but also “Tatarana” [Fire Caterpillar], and “Urutu Branco” [White Rattlesnake] — all names to which might be given different connotations, related, for instance, to watercourses (in the case of the first) and to the character’s celebrated skills with fire arms. This complexity and richness in the process of naming is a distinguishing quality in respect to all the other characters and elements in the story. The devil, for instance, is referred, in a single paragraph, by twenty-five different names, such as “o Tal” [the That-One], “o Indivíduo” [the Person], “o Pé-de-Pato” [the Webbed-Feet], “o Coisa-Ruim” [the Bad-Stuff], “o Pé-Preto” [the Black-Foot], “o Não-sei-que-diga” [the I-Don’t-Know-What], “o Outro” [the Other], etc. (Rosa, Grande Sertão Veredas, Nova Fronteira [1988]: 29-30). 

In the process of reading the book, it is impossible, even for a Brazilian, to know whether words and expressions are genuine regionalisms of the Brazilian central backlands in which the action is set, or inventions. The same is true concerning the conspicuous syntactic inversions, and morphological deformations grounded on analogical extrapolations of Portuguese inflections. The way Riobaldo speaks does not correspond to the way of speaking of any actual Brazilian. It has nonetheless a coherency, and emerges as an autonomous language in its apparent illogicalness and the unreality of the diction (Vincent, João Guimarães Rosa: 67-70). On the other hand, the very subjects conveyed in this language, Riobaldo’s adventures, the world in which he lived, the sertão, are things that permanently oscillate. As the past is recovered to the present, Riobaldo is always questioning not only its meaning, but its real occurrence, and even its possibility. Oxymoron here is determinant, as when Riobaldo asks: “The devil exists and does not exist?” And he answers evasively: “I take as they say. Exorcism. These melancholies.” (Rosa, Grande Sertão: 3). In other passage, after giving to his interlocutor the name of a crossroad, Veredas Tortas [Crooked Paths], he says: “I said, and you did not hear. Neither you talk about this name again, no. This is what I ask you. A place in the not there” (81). More to the end of the narrative, there are the following reflections: “fear my this is, sir: then, the soul, we sell it, alone, without any buyer…” (428); “for to-learn-to-live is what is to live, indeed. The backland produces me, then it swallowed me, then it spitted me from the warmth of the mouth… Do you believe [in] my story?” (518).

These and the other examples analyzed here suggest that modern literature, including the one produced in Brazil, might remain in vital relation with pre-modern ontological and metaphysical issues such as the ones this thesis identified in the corpus of the sixteenth-century Portuguese. These issues and the styles of thinking capable of articulating them, such as the one identified in this thesis, might, accordingly, still be alive to a certain extent. This is true no matter the amount of secularism and relativism that has been more and more embedded in literary works towards the twentieth century and later. The most radical literary works of the modernism of the twentieth century take up, develop and transform discursive techniques inherited from movements such as French Symbolism, which had an undeniable connection with older visionary-mystical traditions, the same traditions that helps one to understand the strange elements in the sixteenth-century corpus of the Portuguese colonizers about Brazil. Independently of the personal interests of authors such as James Joyce and José Guimarães Rosa, and even if it were impossible to attribute to them any kind of the religious concerns that are still explicit in the works of authors such as William Blake and William Butler Yeats, it remains that their works preserve in the very way they are produced, in their texture, old ontological and metaphysical yearnings, if in a critical and even skeptical perspective. [3] This fact suggests the existence of a genuine connection between the early-modern style of thinking investigated in this thesis and certain modern undertakings, being itself perhaps the main reason why one can still make sense of certain elements of the corpus of the Portuguese in the very outlandishness for which they are famous.

[1] The poet would have a duty “to dream, to provide a place, a verbal habitat, for the goddesses, the dryads, the naiads, the Elfin, and thereby to conduct the reader to a realm of Beauty… For Poe, this was, one might say, a religion: he felt that there is a realm of being beyond the worldly domain in which we prosaically live; and that poetry is the means by which we can momentarily reach it” (Scott, Introduction: xiii).
[2] This transfigured convergence between parody and eschatology reminds of another main figure who wrote literature in the German language: Franz Kafka, whose work has been characterized in terms of “the well-balanced coexistence of detached humor and deep-seated horror” (see the introductory note by Stanley Appelbaum in Kafka, Best Short Stories: iii). Adorno considered that in Kafka’s fables “the animal realm is the human world as it would appear from the standpoint of redemption” (Claussen, One Last Genius: 258). 
[3] One should not forget another key twenty-century figure who wrote literature in English language: Virginia Woolf. The celebrated Orlando is frequently compared to Ulysses (Woolf, 2006a: xxxv). But the work which is considered to have pushed Woolf’s literary innovations to its limits is The Waves, whose mystical implications have also been widely acknowledged (Orlando, Harcourt [2006]: xvi; Woolf, The Waves, Kate Flint [2006]: xii, xvi). In this novel, the five main characters, whose permanent fluidity and essential incompleteness challenge to the core ordinary conceptions of identity, group together around a mythical Percival, a namesake of the central figure in Arthurian legend, explicitly referred by Woolf in earlier drafts as a “pagan knight” and “Crusader” (The Waves: 88-110, 230 n.7). In her unpublished autobiographical writings, Woolf admits receiving, as a writer, “sudden shocks” and “blows” that “will become a revelation of some order; it is a token of some real thing behind appearances”. There would be a “hidden pattern” behind the “cotton wool” of daily life, that the writer is compelled to reveal (Moments of Being, Harcourt [1976]: 72).
**************************************************************

Selection from Baudelaire's essays & Les Fleurs du Mal [translated into English by A/Z]:


I propose the translations below as illustrations of the arguments defended in the excerpt above. It is perhaps useful to add that I nowadays understand the "mystical-" or esoteric-literary traditions I've been referring to also in terms of what Philippe Descola (Par-delà nature et culture, 2005) called "analogism," which is a way of approaching reality common to several traditions in different contexts, such as Eastern and even American ones before the colonisation.   
An interesting paper that refers more generally to some of the texts translated below, whose author also defends (as I do) the importance for Baudelaire of certain esoteric traditions (besides Christian classical notions such as that of original sin) was written by professor Reginald McGinnis (University of Arizona) and published in 2007 by the journal Alea:  Estudos Neolatinos, "Modernité et sorcellerie: Baudelaire lecteur du XVIIIe siècle".
Since what I'm here doing oscillates between criticism and poetry (since the translation of poetry is necessarily poetical writing, or transcreation, as Haroldo de Campos would say), I'd rather add a further note. In a passage in his "Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris" not translated below (but whose translation shall appear in the Portuguese translations of the same passages I'm preparing), Baudelaire says that it is preposterous to think that a critic might turn into a poet. On the other hand, for him, all true poets are (fatefully, inexorably!) critics. And the best critics are poets, which doesn't mean they are to be easily digested, much on the contrary.

"In works that are outcomes of unfathomable personalities, there is something which is reminiscent of these periodic, chronic dreams that assail systematically our sleep... In Goya, the sewing thread, the stitch conjoining the real and the phantasmagorical is undecipherable; it is a nebulous frontier that even the most subtle analyst will never be able to draw, so much is his art, at the same time, transcendent and natural."
"In the incredible works of Brueghel The Elder, hallucination is sovereign. How an artist could produce such monstrously paradoxical works if not under the influence of some unknown force? Our century, to which nothing is difficult to explain, thanks to its double character made of incredulity and ignorance, dismisses as fantasy and whim what in Brueghel I find mysterious. The late works of certain physicians who at last recognised the urgency of explaining an horde of historic and miraculous facts without the handy expedients of the Voltarian school (whose blindness reduces everything to the craftiness of imposture), have not as yet unravel all psychical arcana. I thus defy anyone to explain the diabolic and peculiar shambles of Brueghel The Elder without invoking some special and satanic kind of grace."
[Quelques caricaturistes étrangers]

"To paint is to evoque, it is a magical operation, we should learn that from the soul of children! Ask any French good citizen what he understands by progress. The answer will be steam, electricity, and gas lighting... The poor one is so americanised by those zoocratic and industrial philosophers, that he has lost even the most basic notion that there are differences between the material and the moral, the natural and the supernatural world..."
"We feel inclined to say that, like a witch or a magnetiser, by painting, Delacroix projects his thought in the distance. This singular phenomenon comes from his ability as a colourist... Edgar Allan Poe says that the effect of opium upon the senses is to invest nature with a supernatural interest, deepening the meaning of every object, increasing the  object's autonomy and sovereignty... As nature perceived by ultra-sensible nerves, Delacroix's paintings unveils the supernatural."
[Exposition universelle]

"Yesterday night, after sending the last pages of the letter in which I wrote, with a certain diffidence, 'as the imagination creates the world, it rules it,' I leafed through Catherine Crowe's The Night Side of Nature, or Ghost and Ghost Seers and stumbled across the following lines: 'By imagination, I do not simply mean to convey the common notion implied by that much abused word, which is only fancy, but the constructive imagination, which is a much higher function, and which, in as much as man is made in the likeness of God, bears a distant relation to that sublime power by which the Creator projects, creates, and upholds his universe.' I'm in no way ashamed, on the contrary, I'm quite thrilled that I've met this excellent woman, Miss Crowe, whose assurance I admired and envied, since it is so much developed in her as mistrust is in others."
"What an imagination! Delacroix was never afraid of climbing to the difficult heights of religion; heaven belongs to him, as much as hell, war, the Olympus, voluptuousness. He is truly a painter-poet!   Among the rare true callings, the domain of his spirit extends towards religion. His imagination, burning as burning chapels, shines with all flames and purples. All the pain there is in the Passion passionates him; all the splendour there is in the Church illuminates him."
[Salon 1859]

"The rich, idle man, who even if blasé has no other occupation than to run on the track of elation; the man brought up in luxury and familiar, since youth, with the acquiescence of others—in a word: the man whose specialty is nothing but elegance, he will always, at all times, be blessed with unmistakable, unique features. Dandyism is a vague institution, no less bizarre than duelling; age-old, since Cesar, Catilina, Alcibiades are staggering specimens of it; very disseminated, since Chateaubriand was able to find it in the forests and lakes of the New World... Those creatures own time and money to their liking and abundantly, without which their fantasy, degraded into the state of fleeting reveries, cannot be turned into action... I referred to money because it is indispensable to people worshiping their own passions; but a dandy does not seek money as something essential; an unspecific amount of credit might be enough to him; he surrenders the rude passion for money to the vulgar mortals. Dandyism is not even what many unadvised people seems to think of it, some immoderate craze for dressing and material elegance. For the consummate dandy, those things are nothing but symbols of the aristocratic superiority of his spirit. Moreover, to his eyes, charmed by distinction rather than by anything else, perfection in dressing consists in absolute simplicity, which is, certainly, the best road to distinctiveness. What is then this passion that, turned into a doctrine, has won such a commanding enthusiasts, this unwritten institution that fostered such a lofty caste? It is above all the passionate urgency of being original within the limits of conventions... We see that, in some respects, dandyism border on spiritualism and stoicism. This earnestness in frivolity should not give way to scandal. The reader must recall that there is greatness in every madness, strength in every excess. What a fantastic kind of spiritualism! To those that are at the same time the priests and the victims, all the intricate material conditions with which they comply (from the impeccable dressing at every hour of day and night to the dangerous sports), are nothing but gymnastics likely to strengthen the will and to improve the soul. I was not on the wrong when I thought that dandyism is a kind of religion."
"Fashion must accordingly be considered a symptom of the taste for the ideal floating over all that is coarse, earthly and filthy, and which is accumulated in the human brain by natural life. It is a sublime distortion of nature, or rather a permanent and ongoing endeavour to reform nature... all fashions are charming, that is, relatively charming, each one being a new, more or less fortunate effort towards the beautiful, the approximation to an ideal whose yearning titillates endlessly the unfulfilled human soul... A woman has a right, it is even her duty, to struggle to look bewitching and supernatural; she must astound, enthral; idole, she must shine like gold. She must borrow from every art the means to rise over nature so as to subjugate the hearts and strike the souls."
[Le Peintre de la vie moderne]

"No musician excels Wagner in the painting of material and spiritual space, material and spiritual deepness. Several souls, the best of them, had to admit that in several occasions. Wagner knows how to translate through the means of subtle gradations all that is excessive, immense, ambitious in spiritual and natural men. It seems as if, by hearing this passionate and despotic music, one is put into contact with opium's vertiginous visions—painted over a background of darkness, teared up by reveries... I was obsessed with the idea of exploring the intelligence of these singular works. I felt like I was under some spiritual operation, witnessing a revelation."
"From the first measures of Tannhäuser on, our nerves felt in unison the melody; all flesh trembles in recollection. Every well-shaped brain carries in itself two infinites, heaven and hell, and in each image of one of these infinites the brain recognises immediately its own half..."
"... myth is like a tree that grows everywhere, in every climate, under whatever sun, spontaneously and without cutting. The religion and poetry of the four corners of the earth provide us with abundant proof of this. As sin is everywhere, redemption is everywhere, myth is everywhere."
"I love these excesses of health, these overflowings of the will, which inscribe themselves in artistic works as ignited bitumen in the ground of a volcano, and which, in ordinary life, usually sign the blissful period following a great moral or physical crisis."
[Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris]

"The poet has no party, otherwise it would be a mere mortal... it is more difficult to love God than to believe in him. Differently, for people in this century it is more difficult to believe in the Devil than to love him."
[Projets de Préface pour Les Fleurs du Mal, I]

"No human respect, no false modesty, no coalition, no universal suffrage shall contrive me neither to speak the dreadful patois of this century nor to confound the ink with virtue."
[Projets de Préface pour Les Fleurs du Mal, II]

"Poetry touches music through a prosody whose roots in the human soul extend much further than any classic theory could ever convey." 
[Projets de Préface pour Les Fleurs du Mal, III]

"Chaste as a paper, sober as water, inclined to devotion as a communicant, harmless as a victim, why should I bother to look like a debauchee, an alcoholic, an impious person and a murderer? Are we to explain to the public how, in the work's amalgam, much instinct and sincerity are mixed with stereotypes and the unavoidable charlatanism? I have my nerves, my vapors. I yearn for absolute rest and uninterrupted night. I sing religiously the mad voluptuousness of wine and opium, I'm thirsty of nothing but a liqueur unknown on earth and not available even from the celestial pharmacy... Nevertheless, since versed in superior sensibility we fear not our own contradictions, I gathered, at the end of this abominable book, favourable testimonies of, on my account, honourable men, so that the dispassionate reader might infer by himself I'm in no way worthy of excommunication..."
[Projets de Préface pour Les Fleurs du Mal, IV]

"—Blessed be the God, who provides torment
As a divine medicine to our impurities
As the very best and the purest element
Which strengthens all for the saintly lecheries!

I know you hold a place for the Poet
In the blissful ranks of saintly Legions,
And that you invite him for the eternal banquet
Of Thrones, Virtues and Dominations."
[Benediction]


"ASCENDING [III]

Above the ponds, above the gorges,
Oceans, clouds, woods, forests
Beyond the sun, beyond the ethers
Beyond the starry spheres' fringes,

My spirit, you move with the swiftness
Of a good swimmer, swooning in the swell,
The epic immensity with zest criss-crossing,
Lustful, ineffable, and virile.

Fly faraway from these morbid miasmas;
Purifying yourself in the air superior,
And drink, as a pure and divine liqueur
The clear fire that fills the limpid spaces.

Behind the boredoms and grief overwhelming
That heavily load the hazy existence,
Happy is the one who could with vigorous wing
Dash towards the luminous and peaceful fields;

He whose thoughts, as do the larks,
Fly off freely towards the morning heavens,
—who planes over life, and easily discerns
The language of flowers and benumbed things."


"CORRESPONDENCES [IV]

Nature is a temple where living pillars
Let once escape words indistinct—,
Man goes through it, among forests of symbols
Which observe him with eyes familiar.

As lingering echoes blending in the distance
In deep and obscure unity,
Vast as night and clarity,
Parfums, colors and sounds converse.

There are parfums as fresh as the flesh of infants,
Sweet as the oboe, green as meadows,
—And other, rotten, rich and triumphant,

Expanding as things infinite,
As the amber, the musk, benzoin and incense
Which sing the transports of the spirit and senses."


"THE SICK MUSE [VII]

My poor Muse, alas! what caught you this morning?
Your empty eyes are crowded with nocturnal visions
And I see reflected upon your eddy complexion,
Madness and horror, as cold as aloof.

Have the greeny succubus and the rose evil cherub
Poured over you the love and fear of their urns?
Have nightmare's mischievous and despotic fist
Drowned you in the depths of a fabulous Minturno?

I wish that your breast, exhaling a healthy odor,
Was, by strong thoughts, always visited,
And your Christian blood flew streaming

As the numerous sounds of ancient syllables
Where reign in turn the father of songs,
Phoebus, and the great Pan, lord of the harvest."


"HYMN TO BEAUTY [XXI]

Do you, Beauty, come from the heaven profound
Or out of the abysm? Charity and crime,
Your divine and infernal eye pours indistinctly,
For which we can compare you to wine.

You hold in your sight the sunset and daybreak;
As a stormy night, you shed perfumes;
Your kisses are a filter, your mouth, an amphora
That make the hero weary and audacious the child.

Come you out of the black gulf, or down from the stars?
Enchanted, destiny follows your petticoats as a dog;
As haphazardly you sow happiness and disasters,
Governing everything and answering for no one.

You march over the dead: Beauty, why should you care?
Horror, of your jewels is not the less charming,
And murder, among your dearest fetishes,
Alluringly—on your noble belly button dances!

The dazzled ephemeral moth flies off to you, candle,
Crackles, blazes up and says: blessed be this flame!
The panting lover inclined over his dearest
Looks like a terminal caressing his terminal tomb.

If you come from heaven or hell, whatever
Oh, Beauty! Colossal monster, dreadful, guileless!
If your eye, your smile, your feet, open to me the way
Through an infinite that I love and have never gain?

Of Satan and God, whatever? Angel or Siren,
Whatever, if you render—fair of velvet eyes,
Rhythm, parfum, moonshine, oh matchless queen!—
The universe less hideous and less tedious the moments."


"THE VAMPIRE [XXXI]

You who, as a knife's blow,
In my sorrowful heart has entered;
You who, tenacious as a herd of demons
Came, mad and adorned,

To make your bed and domain,
Of my humiliated spirit;
—Infamous to whom I'm attached
as to the fetters a convict,

As to the gamble a gamester,
As to the bottle a drunkard,
As to the maggots a carcass
—Damned, damned be you!

I prayed to the expeditious sword
So that to win my liberty,
And I already said to the treacherous poison
So that to help my cowardice.

Alas! the poison and the sword
Despised me saying:
'You are not worthy of being extricated
from your shameful bondage,

Moron!—if of his yoke
We acquitted you by our efforts,
Your own kisses should resurrect
Of your vampire, the corpse!'"


"THE CAT [XXXIV]

Come, beautiful cat, over my passionate heart;
The claws of your paw hold back,
And let me sink in your eyes delightful,
Infused with metal and agate.

As soon as my fingertips freely caress
Your head and elastic spine,
And my hand is enraptured,
By feeling your electric body,

I see the spirit of my wife. Her glance,
Like yours, dear beast,
Profound and cold, cut and split like a stinger,

And from head to tail,
An exquisite atmosphere, a dangerous parfum,
That around her dark body swims."


"THE POSSESSED [XXXVII]

The sun is covered up in crêpe. As him,
Oh, Moon of my life! Wrap yourself in shadows;
Sleep or smoke as it pleases you; be dumb, be shady,
And sink thoroughly in the boredom's abyss;

I love you that way! If you want, however, today,
As an eclipsed star coming out of the darkness,
Swagger to the places overloaded by Madness,
It is alright! Alluring dagger, flood out of your sheath!

Light your pupil with the chandelier's flame!
Light your desire in the eyes of the boors!
I enjoy in anything yours, morbid or sassy;

Be whatever you like, black night, flaming aurora;
There is no fiber in all my trembling body
That won't screech, oh dear, beloved: Beel-ze-bub!"


"SEMPER EADEM [XL]

'From where does it come? This strange sadness,
Rising like the ocean over the dark, naked rock?'
—Once the grapes of our heart have been harvested,
To live is evil. A secret known to all,

A neat and simple pain, enfolding no enigma,
And, like your joy, to everyone astonishing.
Stop thus searching, inquisitive beauty!
And, sweet as is your voice, do shut up!

Shut up, ignorant! Always radiant soul!
Childish smiling mouth! Even more than Life,
Through ingenious ties, Death often holds us.

Let, let my heart be entranced by a lie,
To sink in your dazzling eyes as in a dazzling dream
And to doze indefinitely under the shadow of your lashes!"


"THE LIVING TORCH [XLIII]

They march in front of me, those Eyes full of light,
That an artful Angel, no doubt, magnetized;
They march, those divine brothers who are my brothers,
Shaking up in my eyes their diamond fires.

Saving me from every trap and every grave sin,
They guide my steps through the path of the Beautiful;
They are my servants and I'm their captive;
All my being obeys to this living torch.

Charming Eyes, you shine the mystical clarity
Of candles burning in daylight—fantastic flames
That the sun reddens without extinguishing;

Celebrating Death, as you celebrate Awakening;
The awakening of my soul, which you march singing
—Stars whose flame no sun can wither!"


"HARMONY OF THE NIGHT [XLVII]

Here is the time when vibrating on its stem
Each flower evaporates as if in a censer;
Sounds and perfumes revolve in the nightly air;
Waltz melancholic and languorous vertigo!

Each flower evaporates as if in a censer;
The violin shivers as a tormented heart;
Waltz melancholic and languorous vertigo!
The sky is stern and splendid as an altar of repose.

The violin shivers as a tormented heart,
A tender heart that hates vast and dark nothingness!
The sky is stern and splendid as an altar of repose;
The sun drowned in its blood that freezes.

A tender heart that hates vast and dark nothingness,
Of the luminous past collects all traces!
The sun drowned in his blood that freezes...
Your memory in me shimmers as an altar of repose!"


"THE FLASK [XLVIII]

There are strong perfumes for which all matter
Is porous. It seems they would through glass pass.
As while opening a casket, coming from the Orient
Whose seal creaks and balks, screeching,

Or in a deserted home, some cupboard
Dusty and dark, full of the acrid odor of times,
Sometimes we find an old bottle with memories,
From which bursts out alive a revenant soul.

A thousand thoughts slumber, funeral chrysalides,
Quivering sweetly in the heavy darkness,
—they release their wings and fly off,
Tinged of blue, glazed of rose, plated of gold.

Fluttering about, in the troubled air, here it is
The intoxicating memory, eyes closed: Vertigo
That seizes the defeated soul, pushing her with both hands
Towards the abyss darkened by human miasmas;

It lies her down on the edge of a secular abyss,
Where, while odorous Lazarus tears up his shroud,
The spectral corpse of an old, rancid, charming
And sepulchral love, moves waking up.

Thus, when I become erased from the memory
Of men, in the corner of a sinister cupboard,
When they throw me away, old, desolate, decrepit,
Dusty, dirty, abject, viscous, cracked bottle,

I will be your coffin, dear pestilence!
The witness of your strength and virulence,
Dear poison concocted by angels! Liqueur
That gnaw me, oh life and death of my heart!"


"THE POISON [XLIX]

Wine knows how to cover the most sordid dive
With a miraculous opulence,
And it makes appear more than one fabulous portico
In the gold of its red vapours,
Like a sun setting in a cloudy sky.

Opium expands what has no boarders,
It enlarges the unlimited.
It deepens time, hollows out voluptuousness,
And of obscure and dismal pleasures
Overfills the soul beyond its capacity.

Nothing of this is worthy the poison coming
From your eyes, from your green eyes,
Lakes where my soul trembles and sees itself capsized...
My dreams show up in hordes
To quench these bitter gulfs.

Nothing of this is worthy the dreadful wonder
Of your biting saliva,
That sinks unwavering my soul in oblivion,
And, pulling along with vertigo,
Rolls it fainting through the rivers of death!"


"THE CAT [LI]

I
Walks through my brain,
As though in its apartment,
A beautiful, strong, sweet and charming cat.
When he meows, we hardly hear him,

So gentle and discrete is his timbre;
But whether his voice calms down or he growls,
It is always rich and profound.
There lies his spell, his secret.

This voice, filters and oozes,
In my most dreadful background,
It fills me with sumptuous verses
And pleases me like a love potion.

It deadens the cruelest torments
And contains all ecstasies;
To utter the longest phrases,
It needs no words.

No, there is no bow that bites
On my heart, perfect instrument,
And makes more royally
Its most vibrant chord to sing,

Than your voice, mysterious cat,
Seraphic cat, strange cat,
In which everything is, as in an angel,
As much subtle as concordant!

II
His golden and dark fur
Emanates a parfum so sweet,
That one night, I was embalmed,
For caressing it just once.

He is the familiar spirit of the place;
He judges, inspires, presides over
All things in its empire;
Maybe he is a fairy, is he a god?

When, drawn to this cat
That I love, as to a magnet,
My eyes turn sweetly, so
That I look at myself,

Then I see, how amazing!
The fire of his pale pupils
Bright lanterns, lively opals,
That contemplate me fixedly."


"THE REVENANT [LXIII]

As angels with fawn eyes,
I shall come back to your alcove
And towards you I shall silently glide
With the shadows of the night;

And I shall give you, my brunette
Kisses as cold as the moon
And serpent-like caresses
Around a creeping catacomb.

Soon as the livid morning be broken,
My place you shall find vacant,
Just where until night shall chill.

Over your life and over your youth,
—As others do by tenderness,
It is through dread I wish to reign."


"SADNESS OF THE MOON [LXV]

Tonight, the moon slumbers more lazily;
Like a beauty, over countless cushions,
Caressing with an airy and oblivious hand
The contour of her breasts, prior to dreaming.

Over the satiny back of soft avalanches,
Dying, she swoons deeply,
And, over white visions, strolls her sight
That rise to the blue just as flowers burgeoning.

When sometimes over this globe, in her idle languor
She allows a furtive tear to trickle,
A pious poet, enemy of sleep,

Takes, in the hollow of his hand, this pale tear,
With iridescent reflexes like a fragment of opal,
Hiding it in his heart, away from the sun."


"CATS [LXVI]

Passionate lovers and scholars stern,
Treasure equally, in their mature season,
Cats, mighty and sweet, pride of the house,
Who, just like them, fear the cold and are idle.

Friends of science and voluptuousness,
They search the silence and darkness horrific;
Erebus would've taken them as burial steeds,
Could they bow to serfdom their lofty pride.

Dreaming they assume the noble demeanor,
Of great sphinxes, behind solitudes stretched,
Who seem to slumber a bondless bubble.

Of magic sparks, their rich kingdoms are full,
And grains of gold as much as dainty sand,
Scatter their mystic pupils vaguely as stars."


"THE OWLS [LXVII]

Under the black yews' shelter
Stand the owls aligned,
Darting, like foreign gods,
Their red eyes. Meditating.

Without moving, they keep quiet
Till the melancholic hour
When, pushing the sun askew,
The darkness settles down.

Their attitude teaches the wise
What in this world to worry:
—Commotion and movement;

For by a passing shadow intoxicated,
Men bear, always, the punishment
For wishing to change places."


"SEPULTURE [LXX]

If through a heavy and shadowy night
A good, charitable Christian,
Behind some old rubble
Buries your flattered body,

At the time when chaste stars
Close their weighty eyes,
The spider there shall lay its webbing
And the viper its progeny;

And you, all over the year,
Over your doomed head, shall hear
The appalling wailing of the loups

And of emaciated witches,
The frolicking of lecherous old men
And, of black swindlers, the hoaxes."


"A FANTASTIC ENGRAVING [LXXI]

This singular specter has for outfit,
Grotesquely installed over his skeletal front,
Nothing but a dreadful carnivalian coronet.
A horse he exhausts, without spur, no whip,
Apocalyptic nag, like him a phantom,
That dribbles from the nose as an epileptic.
Breaking with him through open space,
Trading in the infinite venturesome.
The rider carries a sabre that blazes up
Over the nameless crowd that his mount crushes,
And runs, like a prince inspecting his house,
Where ancient and modern people all stretch out,
— Vast and cold, boundless cemetery."


"THE HAPPY DEATH [LXXII]

In a fat ground, full of escargots
I want to dig myself a deep pit,
Where I could stretch my old bones leisurely
And, like a shark in the wave, sleep.

I hate the wills and I hate the tombs,
And rather than beg the world a tear,
Alive, I'd prefer the crows invite
To bleed, of my filthy carcass, all ends.

Oh, worms: dark companions, eyes & ears lacking!
Welcome the arrival of a free and festive defunct;
Epicurean philosophers, fruits of decay,

Wander through my ruin with no remorse,
And tell me if there isn't still some torture
For this old soulless body, dead among the dead!"


"SPLEEN [LXXV]

Rainy, annoyed against the entire town,
Out of its urn, in floods, a dreadful cold
Pours over the pale dwellers of the cemetery nearby,
As mortality upon the hazy suburbs.

My cat over the tile, searching a blanket,
Shakes boisterously its thin and mangy corpse;
The soul of an old poet wanders through the gutter,
With the bereaved voice of a shivering ghost.

The bumblebee moans, and the smoky pinelog
Accompanies, in falsetto, the runny pendulum,
While in a tournament full of filthy parfums,

The fatal inheritance of a hydropic granny,
Handsome jack of hearts and queen of spades
Blather sinisterly about their dearests defunct."


"SPLEEN [LXXVI]

More than a thousand-year memories I have.

A large cabinet cluttered with proceedings,
Balance-sheets, love letters, romances, verses,
With heavy hairs rolled up in receipts,
Hides less secretes than my bitter brain.
It is a pyramid, an immense vault,
Containing more corpses than a common grave.
—I am a cemetery by the moon abhorred,
Along which long worms, like remorses, drag,
Furiously assailing my most dear dead.
I am an old boudoir full of faded roses,
Where lies a mayhem of obsolete vogues,
Where plaintive pastels and pales Bouchers,
Lonely, breath the odor of an uncorked flask.

Nothing is longer than the shaky daytimes,
When under the heavy flakes of the snowy years
Boredom, fruit of dismal incuriosity,
Assumes the proportions of immortality.
—From now on, living matter, you are no more!
Than a granite surrounded by a vague terror,
Dozing in the bottom of a hazy Sahara;
An old sphinx forgotten by the impassive world,
A location in the map no one knows, and whose wild
Temper, only, at the rays of the setting sun, sings."


"DESTRUCTION [CIX]

Tirelessly by my side, the Demon tosses and turns;
He swims around me like an intangible air;
I swallow and sense it burning my lungs,
Filling it with a desire eternal and contrite.

Sometimes, knowing how much I love art,
He assumes the form of the most seductive woman,
And under specious pretexts of a hypocrite,
Initiates my lips to infamous philters.

He maneuvers me so, away from God's eye,
Panting and shattered, in the middle of
The plains of boredom, bottomless and barren,

While into my bewildered eyes he hurls
Muddied garments, lacerated wounds,
And the bleeding machinery of Destruction!"


"ALLEGORY [CXIV]

It is a stylish woman with a stately neck,
Who lets her hair tresses trail into her wine.
The claws of love, the poisons of the gambling den,
Everything glide and get dull on the granite of her skin.
She laughs at Death and taunts Debauchery,
These monsters whose hand, always scrapping and mowing
In their destructive games, even so respected,
Of this firm and straight body, the rude majesty.
She parades like a goddess and reposes like a sultana;
In pleasure she believes with a Mohammedan faith,
And in her open arms that fill up her breasts,
She captivates with her eyes the race of the humans.
She believes and knows, this infertile virgin,
Necessary though to the turning of the world,
That the beauty of a body is a sublime gift
That from all infamies forgiveness pulls out.
She ignores Hell as much as Purgatory,
And when the hour to enter the dark Night comes,
She will glance at the face of Death,
As a newborn baby—with neither hatred nor remorse."


"THE LOVERS DEATH [CXXI]

We shall have beds full of faint fragrances,
Divans as deep as deep-seated tombs.
Terraces with unfamiliar flowers,
Under splendid heavens, open to us.

Vying with their utmost heats,
Our hearts shall be vast torches
In both of our spirits reflecting
Their double mirrored, twin lights.

In a night made of rose and mystic azure,
We shall exchange, as a long sob,
A singular flash, overwhelmed with farewell;

And later on, opening the doors ajar,
A faithful and joyous angel shall reanimate
The dulled mirrors and the dead, extinct torches."


"THE DREAM OF A CURIOUS FELLOW [CXXV]

To Félix Nadar
Do you know, as I know, the tasty pain,
And willingly hear of yourself: 'Oh! Singular one!'
—I'm going to die. It was to my lovely soul,
Desire mixed up with horror, a peculiar evil;

Anguish and lively hope, with no agitator temper.
The emptier the hourglass fatally became,
More sour and delicious became my torture;
My whole heart pulled out from the familiar world.

I was like a child eager to see the show,
Hating the curtain as we hate an obstacle...
Finally, the icy truth revealed:

I was boringly dead, and the dreadful aurora
Shrouded me. —Then what! Is this all?
The curtain raised, I waited still."


"THE SETTING OF THE ROMANTIC SUN [Les Épaves, I]

That the sun is beautiful when it rises all fresh
Throwing us its good day, as an explosion!
—Happy the one who can, with love,
Greet its setting more glorious than a dream!

I remember!... Flower, spring, furrow, I saw everything
Swooning under its eye, as a palpitating heart...
—Let's run towards the horizon, its late, let's run fast,
So that to catch, at last, an oblique ray!

But it is in vain that the retiring God I pursue;
Night irresistible, its dark, humid and fateful,
full of shivers empire—establishes;

An odor of tomb bathes in the darkness,
And my fearful foot bruises, on the edge of the swamp,
Toads unforeseen, and chilly snails."


"THE METAMORPHOSES OF THE VAMPIRE [VII]

The female, however, from her strawberry mouth,
Twisting like a serpent over the embers,
And kneading her breasts against the iron of her corset,
Let run the following words all saturated with musk:
—'I have humid lips, and I know the science
Of losing at the bottom of a bed the calcified conscience.
I wipe all tears over my triumphant breasts,
And make the old to smile with the smile of infants.
I replace, for whomever sees me naked and without veils,
Sun, heaven and the stars, the moon!
I am, my dear doctor, so well-versed in voluptuousness
When I drown a man in my dreaded arms,
Or when I abandon my breasts to bites,
Timorous and libertine, fragile and robust,
That over these mattresses that swoon in agitation,
Helpless angels would damn themselves for me!'

As soon as from my bones she sucked the marrow all out,
And, to kiss her back in love,
Towards her I turned languidly,
The sticky sides of another, all covered up with pus!
Was the only thing I saw—eyes both closed cold, in terror.
And when them I reopened to the living clarity,
Around me, instead of a mighty dummy
That seemed to have stocked blood,
Trembled confusedly the debris of a skeleton,
That themselves gave back the cry of a weathercock,
Or of a sign on the top of an iron rusty triangle,
That swings with the wind in winter windy nights."


"THE HYMN [X]

To the very dear, and very beautiful
Who fills my heart with the utmost clarity,
To the angel, to the immortal idol,
A toast in immortality!

She spreads through my life
Like an air suffused with salt,
And in my unfulfilled soul
Pours the taste of the eternal.

An always fresh sachet that parfums,
Of a dear recess, the atmosphere,
Forgotten censer that smokes
Secretly, through the night.

How, incorruptible love,
Could one truly express you?
Grain of musk that is lying, invisible,
In eternity's hollow back!

To the very good, to the very beautiful,
Who makes my joy and so my health,
To the angel, to the immortal idol,
A toast in immortality!"


"THE RANSON [XIX]

To pay his ransom, man has
Two fields of deep and rich tuff,
That he must stir and clear
With the iron of reason;

To obtain a small rose
To extort some wheat ears,
With salted tears from his grey brow
Tirelessly, he shall them water.

One is Art, the other Love.
—To make the judge favorable,
When severe justice
Shows up the dreadful day,

One shall have to show him the barns
Full of cropping, and flowers
Whose forms and colors
Earn the esteem of angels."


"LAMENTS OF AN ICARUS [Troisième édition, XII]

Lovers of prostitutes
Are happy, sprightly and appeased;
As for me, my arms are worn out
For having embraced the clouds.

It is thanks to singular stars
That blaze behind heaven
That my consumed eyes don't see
But solar reminiscences.

In vain I wanted of space
To find the end and the middle;
Under whatsoever eye of fire
I feel my broken wrecked wing;

And burned by the love of beauty,
I won't have the sublime honor
Of giving my name to the abysm
That shall provide me a tomb."


"MEDITATION [XIII]

Be wise, Woe of mine, and hold yourself together.
For smoothly descends the Night, which you claimed,
And it is here: an obscure air that the town encloses,
To ones bringing peace, care to others.

While the vile multitude of the mortals
Under the whip of Pleasure, this pitiless executioner,
Gathers to assemble remorse in the servile celebration,

Woe of mine, give me your hand; come this way, faraway
From them. See the stretching out of deceased years,
Over the balconies of heaven, clad in outmoded robes;
The rising of smiling Regret from the bottom of the sea;

The moribund sun slumbering over an arc,
And, as a long shroud dragging towards the Orient,
Hear, my dear, hear the sweet Night that silently strolls."
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