Sunday, 13 May 2012

Klingsor's last summer

Hugo Pratt: Corto Maltese

"He closed his eyes and thought of Gina, and of the portico with the washtubs. God in heaven, so many thousands of things were waiting, so many thousands of cups stood ready poured. Not a thing on earth that he should not have painted. Not a woman in the world whom he should not have loved. Why did time exist? Why always this idiotic succession of one thing after another, and not a roaring, surfeiting simultaneity? Why was he now lying alone in bed again, like a widower, like an old man? You could enjoy, could create, all through this short life; and yet at best you were always merely singing one song after another. The whole full symphony with all its hundred voices and instruments never sounded all at once."
"One dream image among the many delighted and greatly stirred him. He lay in a forest and had a woman with red hair across his lap, and a black-haired woman leaned against his shoulder and another knelt beside him, holding his hand and kissing his fingers, and everywhere, all around, were women and girls, some still children, with long thin legs, some nubile, some mature and with the signs of knowledge and of fatigue in their restive faces, and all loved him and all wanted to be loved by him. Then war and fury erupted among the women, the red one thrust a raging hand into the black one's hair and pulled her to the ground and was herself dragged down, and all fell upon one another, each one screaming, each tearing, each biting, each hurting, each suffering pain. Laughter, cries of fury and howls of anguish rang out intertwined and tangled, blood flowed everywhere, nails dug bloodily into fat flesh."
""It's a pity, Klingsor," the doctor remarked plaintively in his kindly voice. "Your wonderful watercolors will all be white in ten years. These colors you like so well have no lasting qualities."
            "Yes," Klingsor said, "and what is worse, Doctor: your fine brown hair will all be gray in ten years, and a little while later all our good gay bones will be lying in some hole in the ground, including, alas, your beautiful and healthy bones, Ersilia. My friends, let's not start becoming sensible so late in life. Hermann, how does Li Po put it?"
            Hermann the Poet stood still and intoned:

            Life passes like a flash of lightning
            Whose blaze barely lasts long enough to see.
            While the earth and the sky stand still forever
            How swiftly changing time flies across man's face.
            O you who sit over your full cup and do not drink,
            Tell me whom you are still waiting for?

            "No," Klingsor said, "I mean the other poem, the rhymed one, about the hair that was still dark at morning. . ."
            Hermann promptly recited:

            Only this morning your hair gleamed silken and black,
            Evening has already sprinkled it with snow.
            If you would not suffer as on the rack
            Hold out your cup and summon the moon for your drink-fellow. "
"Klingsor drank them in with a thirsty eye, but his thoughts were with Gina. He would not be able to see her for another week. She was sitting in an office in the city, working away at the typewriter; he seldom managed to see her, and never alone. And he loved her, her more than all the others, though she knew nothing about him, did not understand him, regarded him as a strange rare bird, a famous foreign painter. How strange that was, that his longings should cling to her alone, that no other love satisfied him. It was not like him to go far out of his way for a woman. But he did for Gina, in order to be beside her for an hour, to hold her small slender fingers, to thrust his shoe beneath hers, to imprint a quick kiss on the nape of her neck. He thought about that, a droll puzzle to himself. Was this already the turning point? Old age already coming on? Was it only that, the December-May impulse of the man of forty for the girl of twenty?"

(Herman Hesse: Klingsor's last summer)