Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Open Lines / The Catcher in the Rye

Salinger by Robert Vickrey

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE
By J. D. Salinger

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They’re quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They’re nice and all —I’m not saying that—but they’re also touchy as hell. Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy. I mean that´s all I told D.B. about, and he´s my brother and all. He´s in Hollywood. That isn’t too far from this cumbry place, and he comes over and visits me practically every week end. He’s going to drive me home when I go home next month maybe.  He just got a Jaguar. One of those little English jobs that can do around two hundred miles an hour. It cost him damn near four thousand bucks. He´s got a lot of dough, now. He didn´t use to. He used to be just a regular writer, when he was home. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Secret Goldfish, in case you never heard of thim. The best one in it was “The Secret Goldfish.” It was about this little kid that wouldn´t let anybody look at his goldfish because he’d bough it with his own money. It killed me. Now he’s out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If there´s one thing I hate, it´s the movies. Don´t even mention them to me.


Salinger by Lo Snöfall

J. D. Salinger
EL GUARDIÁN ENTRE EL CENTENO
Traducción de Triunfo Arciniegas

Si de verdad les interesa lo que voy a contarles, lo primero que querrán saber es dónde nací, cómo fue mi desastrosa infancia, qué hacían mis padres antes de tenerme a mí, y demás mierdas estilo David Copperfield, pero no tengo ganas de contarles nada de eso, si quieren saber la verdad. Primero porque esas cosas me aburren y, segundo, porque a mis padres les daría un ataque si me pusiera a revelar sus intimidades. Son muy delicados con estos asuntos, sobre todo mi padre. Son buena gente y todo, no digo que no, pero también más delicados que un demonio. Además, no crean que voy a contar mi maldita autobiografía con pelos y señales. Sólo voy a hablarles de una cosa de locos que me pasó durante las Navidades pasadas, antes de que me quedara tan ido y tuviera que venir  aquí a reponerme un poco. A D.B. tampoco le he contado más, y eso que es mi hermano y todo. Vive en Hollywood. Como no está muy lejos de este antro, suele venir a verme casi todos los fines de semana. El me llevará  a casa cuando salga de aquí, quizás el mes próximo. Acaba de comprarse un Jaguar, uno de esos cacharros ingleses que alcanzan las doscientas millas por hora como si nada. Le costó cerca de cuatro mil malditos dólares. Ahora está forrado el tipo. Antes ni pensarlo. Cuando vivía en casa era sólo un escritor común y corriente. Por si no saben quién es, les diré que ha escrito El secreto del pez dorado, un libro de cuentos fenomenal. El mejor de todos, precisamente “El secreto del pez dorado”, trata de un niño que tiene un pez y no se lo deja ver a nadie porque se lo ha comprado con su dinero. Me mata esta historia. Ahora D.B. está en Hollywood prostituyéndose. Si hay una cosa que odie en este mundo es el cine. Ni me lo nombren.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Open Lines / Lolita


LOL ITA
By Vladimir Nabokov
BIOGRAPHY

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at there, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
         She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, tanding four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

Sue Lyon as Lolita

Vladimir Nabokov
LOLITA

Lolita, luz de mi vida, fuego de mis entrañas. Pecado mío, alma mía. Lo-li-ta: la punta de la lengua emprende un viaje de tres pasos desde el borde del paladar para apoyarse, en el tercero, en el borde de los dientes. Lo.Li.Ta.
Era Lo, sencillamente Lo, por la mañana, un metro cuarenta y ocho de estatura con pies descalzos. Era Lola con pantalones. Era Dolly en la escuela. Era Dolores cuando firmaba. Pero en mis brazos era siempre Lolita.






Sunday, April 24, 2011

Open Lines / One Hundred Years of Solitudine


Gabriel García Márquez
CIEN AÑOS DE SOLEDAD

Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo. Macondo era entonces una aldea de veinte casas de barro y cañabrava construidas a la orilla de un río de aguas diáfanas que se precipitaban por un lecho de piedras pulidas, blancas y enormes como huevos prehistóricos. El mundo era tan reciente, que muchas cosas carecían de nombre, y para mencionarlas había que señalarías con el dedo. Todos los años, por el mes de marzo, una familia de gitanos desarrapados plantaba su carpa cerca de la aldea, y con un grande alboroto de pitos y timbales daban a conocer los nuevos inventos. Primero llevaron el imán. Un gitano corpulento, de barba montaraz y manos de gorrión, que se presentó con el nombre de Melquiades, hizo una truculenta demostración pública de lo que él mismo llamaba la octava maravilla de los sabios alquimistas de Macedonia. Fue de casa en casa arrastrando dos lingotes metálicos, y todo el mundo se espantó al ver que los calderos, las pailas, las tenazas y los anafes se caían de su sitio, y las maderas crujían por la desesperación de los clavos y los tornillos tratando de desenclavarse, y aun los objetos perdidos desde hacía mucho tiempo aparecían por donde más se les había buscado, y se arrastraban en desbandada turbulenta detrás de los fierros mágicos de Melquíades.


ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDINE
By Gabriel García Márquez
BIOGRAPHY

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions. First they brought the magnet. A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, who introduced himself as Melquíades, put on a bold public demonstration of what he himself called the eighth wonder of the learned alchemists of Macedonia. He went from house to house dragging two metal ingots and everybody was amazed to see pots, pans, tongs, and braziers tumble down from their places and beams creak from the desperation of nails and screws trying to emerge, and even objects that had been lost for a long time appeared from where they had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent confusion behind Melquíades' magical irons. "Things have a life of their own," the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. "It's simply a matter of waking up their souls." José Arcadio Buendía, whose unbridled imagination always went beyond the genius of nature and even beyond miracles and magic, thought that it would be possible to make use of that useless invention to extract gold from the bowels of the earth. Melquíades, who was an honest man, warned him: "It won't work for that." But José Arcadio Buendía at that time did not believe in the honesty of gypsies, so he traded his mule and a pair of goats for the two magnetized ingots. Úrsula Iguarán, his wife, who relied on those animals to increase their poor domestic holdings, was unable to dissuade him. "Very soon we'll have gold enough and more to pave the floors of the house," her husband replied. For several months he worked hard to demonstrate the truth of his idea. He explored every inch of the region, even the riverbed, dragging the two iron ingots along and reciting Melquíades' incantation aloud. The only thing he succeeded in doing was to unearth a suit of fifteenth-century armor which had all of its pieces soldered together with rust and inside of which there was the hollow resonance of an enormous stone-filled gourd. When José Arcadio Buendía and the four men of his expedition managed to take the armor apart, they found inside a calcified skeleton with a copper locket containing a woman's hair around its neck.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Tennessee Williams in the Cinema


Marlon Brando con Vivien Leigh
in  A Streetcar named Desire

Tennessee Williams in the Cinema
By Salvador Arias
Translated by Roxana Márquez Herrera

Tennessee Williams, having arrived to the 100th anniversary of his birthday, can be considered one of the playwrights most linked to the cinema, not only by the so many works he wrote which were brought to the cinema (he´s been surpassed by Shakespeare and, probably, by some more); but also by the immediacy with which his first plays and screen versions were released, starting by the production of The Glass Menagerie, in 1950.  This “honeymoon” lasted up to the beginning of the nineteen-sixties; to be more exactly, up to 1964, with The Night of the Iguana, which has no less than nine titles that followed the same path, besides others that took different other ways.
However, during the transition from theater to cinema, something was in between: the code of supposed moral that ruled the film production prevailed at that time, backed up by the commercial nature of the industry, based on the principle of not scaring  so many shocked onlookers off the cinema. But, with Williams, the game was another: different aspects were polished or removed, though there always was some «forbidden thing", which, ironically, served to draw the attention of an important part of the audience.
Although, ultimately, one of the biggest hooks of those films based on Williams´ works, was the cast. Some of the best actresses and actors of that time found suitable ways to show their best skills and techniques through Williams´ characters. Let us remember, for example, Vivien Leight, Anna Magnani, Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, among women and Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift and Richard Burton, among men.
The first screen version on a Williams´s play (The Glass Menagerie) had an excellent cast (Jane Wyman, Gertrude Lawrence and Kirk Douglas), and a not so inspired direction in charge of Irving Rapper, with unnecessary changes as to the texts which led to an unflattering result. Nonetheless, the following year (1951) of the previous version, it almost exploded an artistic bomb with A Streetcar named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan, a man of a strong theater tradition, but who knew to establish an effective relationship with the new medium. Interestingly, this film was so awarded by the Academy for best performance to the main actress, Vivien Leight and the supporting actors, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden.  However, it set aside that one who shocked Broadway and Hollywood first, and the world after, a Marlon Brando, who set a new pattern of performance.
After  A Streetcar... Williams kept an interesting work collaboration with the  famous Italian filmmaker, Luchino Visconti, during the script of the film Senso, 1954. The relationship between the «beautiful" German soldier and the betrayed adulterous matched so well with Williams´ skills, who provided the character of Livia a great moment when she betrayed her lover, a time that the actress Alida Valli used so well.
The movie-theater relationship continued at full speed in the following years, with titles like The Rose Tattoo(1955) with the acceptable direction of Daniel Mann and the intense performances of Anna Magnani and Burt Lancaster.  The film was well received by the audience, as well as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by Richard Brooks; in spite of the so many changes that were introduced in the latter screenplay. The starring trio was integrated by Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor and Burl Ives. With Sidney Lumet´s The Fugitive Kind (1959) Magnani returned, excellently accompanied by Marlon Brando and Joanne Woodward, in a version of the play Orpheus Descending. But, before these two last films, we must highlight Baby Doll (1956), directed by Elia Kazan, a script especially written for the cinema by Williams, based on one of his unforgotten texts which, at some time, became famous, in more than one sense.
For many, the best screen version on a play written by this playwright has been, without any doubt, Suddenly Last Summer(1958), directed by Mankiewicz, with the great performances of Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.  After this, there came Summer and Smoke(1961) by Peter Glenville, starred by Geraldine Page and Lawrence Harvey; Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) by Brooks, starred by Page and Newman, and The Night of the Iguana, by John Huston, starred by Richard Burton, Ava Gardner and Deborah Kerr.  Before that,  there was The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961), by José Quintero, adapted from a novel by Williams, starred by Katherine Hepburn.
Others like Period of Adjustment(1960) and This Property Is Condemned (1946); as well as the pretentious and failed Boom! (exhibited in Cuba as The Angel of Death), from 1968,  starred by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and under the direction of Joseph Losey.  A last film titled Last of the Mobile Hot Shots, from 1970, is practically unknown.
Subsequently, despite the film divorce, the attraction by William´s roles has allowed some interesting adaptations for the US television. Thus, Hepburn starred The Glass Menagerie in 1970, and, in 1987, Paul Newman directed another version with his wife, Joanne Woodward, and John Malkovich. In 1984, A Streetcar named Desire was performed by Ann-Magret and Treat Williams, while in 1985, Jessica Lange made hers Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. On the other hand, Elizabeth Taylor came back, in 1989, to her old relation with Williams with Sweet Birth of Youth, and Jeremy Irons performed The Night of the Iguana, in 2005.
Now, celebrating the playwright´s centennial, we must think (and encourage)  new performances and hope that Cuba does not remain alien in terms of film screenings.


Cubarte,  March 22, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

William Faulkner / A Rose for Emily

Fotografía de Andreas H. Bitesnich

  A ROSE FOR EMILY
By William Faulkner
BIOGRAPHY

I


WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant--a combined gardener and cook--had seen in at least ten years.
It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street. But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores. And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of those august names where they lay in the cedar-bemused cemetery among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson.
Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor--he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron-remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity. Not that Miss Emily would have accepted charity. Colonel Sartoris invented an involved tale to the effect that Miss Emily's father had loaned money to the town, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred this way of repaying. Only a man of Colonel Sartoris' generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it.
When the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and aldermen, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction. On the first of the year they mailed her a tax notice. February came, and there was no reply. They wrote her a formal letter, asking her to call at the sheriff's office at her convenience. A week later the mayor wrote her himself, offering to call or to send his car for her, and received in reply a note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded ink, to the effect that she no longer went out at all. The tax notice was also enclosed, without comment.
They called a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen. A deputation waited upon her, knocked at the door through which no visitor had passed since she ceased giving china-painting lessons eight or ten years earlier. They were admitted by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more shadow. It smelled of dust and disuse--a close, dank smell. The Negro led them into the parlor. It was furnished in heavy, leather-covered furniture. When the Negro opened the blinds of one window, they could see that the leather was cracked; and when they sat down, a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs, spinning with slow motes in the single sun-ray. On a tarnished gilt easel before the fireplace stood a crayon portrait of Miss Emily's father.
They rose when she entered--a small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head. Her skeleton was small and spare; perhaps that was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her. She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand.
She did not ask them to sit. She just stood in the door and listened quietly until the spokesman came to a stumbling halt. Then they could hear the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain.
Her voice was dry and cold. "I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris explained it to me. Perhaps one of you can gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves."
"But we have. We are the city authorities, Miss Emily. Didn't you get a notice from the sheriff, signed by him?"
"I received a paper, yes," Miss Emily said. "Perhaps he considers himself the sheriff . . . I have no taxes in Jefferson."
"But there is nothing on the books to show that, you see We must go by the--"
"See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson."
"But, Miss Emily--"
"See Colonel Sartoris." (Colonel Sartoris had been dead almost ten years.) "I have no taxes in Jefferson. Tobe!" The Negro appeared. "Show these gentlemen out."

II


SO SHE vanquished them, horse and foot, just as she had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell.
That was two years after her father's death and a short time after her sweetheart--the one we believed would marry her --had deserted her. After her father's death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all. A few of the ladies had the temerity to call, but were not received, and the only sign of life about the place was the Negro man--a young man then--going in and out with a market basket.
"Just as if a man--any man--could keep a kitchen properly, "the ladies said; so they were not surprised when the smell developed. It was another link between the gross, teeming world and the high and mighty Griersons.
A neighbor, a woman, complained to the mayor, Judge Stevens, eighty years old.
"But what will you have me do about it, madam?" he said.
"Why, send her word to stop it," the woman said. "Isn't there a law? "
"I'm sure that won't be necessary," Judge Stevens said. "It's probably just a snake or a rat that nigger of hers killed in the yard. I'll speak to him about it."
The next day he received two more complaints, one from a man who came in diffident deprecation. "We really must do something about it, Judge. I'd be the last one in the world to bother Miss Emily, but we've got to do something." That night the Board of Aldermen met--three graybeards and one younger man, a member of the rising generation.
"It's simple enough," he said. "Send her word to have her place cleaned up. Give her a certain time to do it in, and if she don't. .."
"Dammit, sir," Judge Stevens said, "will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?"
So the next night, after midnight, four men crossed Miss Emily's lawn and slunk about the house like burglars, sniffing along the base of the brickwork and at the cellar openings while one of them performed a regular sowing motion with his hand out of a sack slung from his shoulder. They broke open the cellar door and sprinkled lime there, and in all the outbuildings. As they recrossed the lawn, a window that had been dark was lighted and Miss Emily sat in it, the light behind her, and her upright torso motionless as that of an idol. They crept quietly across the lawn and into the shadow of the locusts that lined the street. After a week or two the smell went away.
That was when people had begun to feel really sorry for her. People in our town, remembering how old lady Wyatt, her great-aunt, had gone completely crazy at last, believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were. None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such. We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized.
When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad. At last they could pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. Now she too would know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less.
The day after his death all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body. Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly.
We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.

III


SHE WAS SICK for a long time. When we saw her again, her hair was cut short, making her look like a girl, with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows--sort of tragic and serene.
The town had just let the contracts for paving the sidewalks, and in the summer after her father's death they began the work. The construction company came with riggers and mules and machinery, and a foreman named Homer Barron, a Yankee--a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face. The little boys would follow in groups to hear him cuss the riggers, and the riggers singing in time to the rise and fall of picks. Pretty soon he knew everybody in town. Whenever you heard a lot of laughing anywhere about the square, Homer Barron would be in the center of the group. Presently we began to see him and Miss Emily on Sunday afternoons driving in the yellow-wheeled buggy and the matched team of bays from the livery stable.
At first we were glad that Miss Emily would have an interest, because the ladies all said, "Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer." But there were still others, older people, who said that even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige--without calling it noblesse oblige. They just said, "Poor Emily. Her kinsfolk should come to her." She had some kin in Alabama; but years ago her father had fallen out with them over the estate of old lady Wyatt, the crazy woman, and there was no communication between the two families. They had not even been represented at the funeral.
And as soon as the old people said, "Poor Emily," the whispering began. "Do you suppose it's really so?" they said to one another. "Of course it is. What else could . . ." This behind their hands; rustling of craned silk and satin behind jalousies closed upon the sun of Sunday afternoon as the thin, swift clop-clop-clop of the matched team passed: "Poor Emily."
She carried her head high enough--even when we believed that she was fallen. It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness. Like when she bought the rat poison, the arsenic. That was over a year after they had begun to say "Poor Emily," and while the two female cousins were visiting her.
"I want some poison," she said to the druggist. She was over thirty then, still a slight woman, though thinner than usual, with cold, haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eyesockets as you imagine a lighthouse-keeper's face ought to look. "I want some poison," she said.
"Yes, Miss Emily. What kind? For rats and such? I'd recom--"
"I want the best you have. I don't care what kind."
The druggist named several. "They'll kill anything up to an elephant. But what you want is--"
"Arsenic," Miss Emily said. "Is that a good one?"
"Is . . . arsenic? Yes, ma'am. But what you want--"
"I want arsenic."
The druggist looked down at her. She looked back at him, erect, her face like a strained flag. "Why, of course," the druggist said. "If that's what you want. But the law requires you to tell what you are going to use it for."
Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up. The Negro delivery boy brought her the package; the druggist didn't come back. When she opened the package at home there was written on the box, under the skull and bones: "For rats."

IV


SO THE NEXT day we all said, "She will kill herself"; and we said it would be the best thing. When she had first begun to be seen with Homer Barron, we had said, "She will marry him." Then we said, "She will persuade him yet," because Homer himself had remarked--he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks' Club--that he was not a marrying man. Later we said, "Poor Emily" behind the jalousies as they passed on Sunday afternoon in the glittering buggy, Miss Emily with her head high and Homer Barron with his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth, reins and whip in a yellow glove.
Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people. The men did not want to interfere, but at last the ladies forced the Baptist minister--Miss Emily's people were Episcopal-- to call upon her. He would never divulge what happened during that interview, but he refused to go back again. The next Sunday they again drove about the streets, and the following day the minister's wife wrote to Miss Emily's relations in Alabama.
So she had blood-kin under her roof again and we sat back to watch developments. At first nothing happened. Then we were sure that they were to be married. We learned that Miss Emily had been to the jeweler's and ordered a man's toilet set in silver, with the letters H. B. on each piece. Two days later we learned that she had bought a complete outfit of men's clothing, including a nightshirt, and we said, "They are married." We were really glad. We were glad because the two female cousins were even more Grierson than Miss Emily had ever been.
So we were not surprised when Homer Barron--the streets had been finished some time since--was gone. We were a little disappointed that there was not a public blowing-off, but we believed that he had gone on to prepare for Miss Emily's coming, or to give her a chance to get rid of the cousins. (By that time it was a cabal, and we were all Miss Emily's allies to help circumvent the cousins.) Sure enough, after another week they departed. And, as we had expected all along, within three days Homer Barron was back in town. A neighbor saw the Negro man admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening.
And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron. And of Miss Emily for some time. The Negro man went in and out with the market basket, but the front door remained closed. Now and then we would see her at a window for a moment, as the men did that night when they sprinkled the lime, but for almost six months she did not appear on the streets. Then we knew that this was to be expected too; as if that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman's life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die.
When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray. During the next few years it grew grayer and grayer until it attained an even pepper-and-salt iron-gray, when it ceased turning. Up to the day of her death at seventy-four it was still that vigorous iron-gray, like the hair of an active man.
From that time on her front door remained closed, save for a period of six or seven years, when she was about forty, during which she gave lessons in china-painting. She fitted up a studio in one of the downstairs rooms, where the daughters and granddaughters of Colonel Sartoris' contemporaries were sent to her with the same regularity and in the same spirit that they were sent to church on Sundays with a twenty-five-cent piece for the collection plate. Meanwhile her taxes had been remitted.
Then the newer generation became the backbone and the spirit of the town, and the painting pupils grew up and fell away and did not send their children to her with boxes of color and tedious brushes and pictures cut from the ladies' magazines. The front door closed upon the last one and remained closed for good. When the town got free postal delivery, Miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it. She would not listen to them.
Daily, monthly, yearly we watched the Negro grow grayer and more stooped, going in and out with the market basket. Each December we sent her a tax notice, which would be returned by the post office a week later, unclaimed. Now and then we would see her in one of the downstairs windows--she had evidently shut up the top floor of the house--like the carven torso of an idol in a niche, looking or not looking at us, we could never tell which. Thus she passed from generation to generation--dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse.
And so she died. Fell ill in the house filled with dust and shadows, with only a doddering Negro man to wait on her. We did not even know she was sick; we had long since given up trying to get any information from the Negro.
He talked to no one, probably not even to her, for his voice had grown harsh and rusty, as if from disuse.
She died in one of the downstairs rooms, in a heavy walnut bed with a curtain, her gray head propped on a pillow yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight.

V


THE NEGRO met the first of the ladies at the front door and let them in, with their hushed, sibilant voices and their quick, curious glances, and then he disappeared. He walked right through the house and out the back and was not seen again.
The two female cousins came at once. They held the funeral on the second day, with the town coming to look at Miss Emily beneath a mass of bought flowers, with the crayon face of her father musing profoundly above the bier and the ladies sibilant and macabre; and the very old men --some in their brushed Confederate uniiforms--on the porch and the lawn, talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottle-neck of the most recent decade of years.
Already we knew that there was one room in that region above stairs which no one had seen in forty years, and which would have to be forced. They waited until Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they opened it.
The violence of breaking down the door seemed to fill this room with pervading dust. A thin, acrid pall as of the tomb seemed to lie everywhere upon this room decked and furnished as for a bridal: upon the valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights, upon the dressing table, upon the delicate array of crystal and the man's toilet things backed with tarnished silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured. Among them lay a collar and tie, as if they had just been removed, which, lifted, left upon the surface a pale crescent in the dust. Upon a chair hung the suit, carefully folded; beneath it the two mute shoes and the discarded socks.
The man himself lay in the bed.
For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin. The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him. What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay; and upon him and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding dust.
Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Shakespeare / Romeo and Juliet / Act 2, Scene 2

Francesco Hayez
L'ultimo bacio di Romeo e Giulietta, 1823
Delaware Art Museum

ROMEO AND JULIET

By William Shakespeare

Act II, Scene II

Capulet's orchard.

Enter ROMEO
ROMEO
He jests at scars that never felt a wound.
JULIET appears above at a window
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold, 'tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!
JULIET
Ay me!
ROMEO
She speaks:
O, speak again, bright angel! for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o'er my head
As is a winged messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturned wondering eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.
JULIET
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
ROMEO
[Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?
JULIET
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
ROMEO
I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.
JULIET
What man art thou that thus bescreen'd in night
So stumblest on my counsel?
ROMEO
By a name
I know not how to tell thee who I am:
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,
Because it is an enemy to thee;
Had I it written, I would tear the word.
JULIET
My ears have not yet drunk a hundred words
Of that tongue's utterance, yet I know the sound:
Art thou not Romeo and a Montague?
ROMEO
Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike.
JULIET
How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
The orchard walls are high and hard to climb,
And the place death, considering who thou art,
If any of my kinsmen find thee here.
ROMEO
With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls;
For stony limits cannot hold love out,
And what love can do that dares love attempt;
Therefore thy kinsmen are no let to me.
JULIET
If they do see thee, they will murder thee.
ROMEO
Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords: look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.
JULIET
I would not for the world they saw thee here.
ROMEO
I have night's cloak to hide me from their sight;
And but thou love me, let them find me here:
My life were better ended by their hate,
Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love.
JULIET
By whose direction found'st thou out this place?
ROMEO
By love, who first did prompt me to inquire;
He lent me counsel and I lent him eyes.
I am no pilot; yet, wert thou as far
As that vast shore wash'd with the farthest sea,
I would adventure for such merchandise.
JULIET
Thou know'st the mask of night is on my face,
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek
For that which thou hast heard me speak to-night
Fain would I dwell on form, fain, fain deny
What I have spoke: but farewell compliment!
Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say 'Ay,'
And I will take thy word: yet if thou swear'st,
Thou mayst prove false; at lovers' perjuries
Then say, Jove laughs. O gentle Romeo,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully:
Or if thou think'st I am too quickly won,
I'll frown and be perverse an say thee nay,
So thou wilt woo; but else, not for the world.
In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond,
And therefore thou mayst think my 'havior light:
But trust me, gentleman, I'll prove more true
Than those that have more cunning to be strange.
I should have been more strange, I must confess,
But that thou overheard'st, ere I was ware,
My true love's passion: therefore pardon me,
And not impute this yielding to light love,
Which the dark night hath so discovered.
ROMEO
Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear
That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops--
JULIET
O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.
ROMEO
What shall I swear by?
JULIET
Do not swear at all;
Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,
Which is the god of my idolatry,
And I'll believe thee.
ROMEO
If my heart's dear love--
JULIET
Well, do not swear: although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract to-night:
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say 'It lightens.' Sweet, good night!
This bud of love, by summer's ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.
Good night, good night! as sweet repose and rest
Come to thy heart as that within my breast!
ROMEO
O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?
JULIET
What satisfaction canst thou have to-night?
ROMEO
The exchange of thy love's faithful vow for mine.
JULIET
I gave thee mine before thou didst request it:
And yet I would it were to give again.
ROMEO
Wouldst thou withdraw it? for what purpose, love?
JULIET
But to be frank, and give it thee again.
And yet I wish but for the thing I have:
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
Nurse calls within
I hear some noise within; dear love, adieu!
Anon, good nurse! Sweet Montague, be true.
Stay but a little, I will come again.
Exit, above
ROMEO
O blessed, blessed night! I am afeard.
Being in night, all this is but a dream,
Too flattering-sweet to be substantial.
Re-enter JULIET, above
JULIET
Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed.
If that thy bent of love be honourable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow,
By one that I'll procure to come to thee,
Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite;
And all my fortunes at thy foot I'll lay
And follow thee my lord throughout the world.
Nurse
[Within] Madam!
JULIET
I come, anon.--But if thou mean'st not well,
I do beseech thee--
Nurse
[Within] Madam!
JULIET
By and by, I come:--
To cease thy suit, and leave me to my grief:
To-morrow will I send.
ROMEO
So thrive my soul--
JULIET
A thousand times good night!
Exit, above
ROMEO
A thousand times the worse, to want thy light.
Love goes toward love, as schoolboys from
their books,
But love from love, toward school with heavy looks.
Retiring
Re-enter JULIET, above
JULIET
Hist! Romeo, hist! O, for a falconer's voice,
To lure this tassel-gentle back again!
Bondage is hoarse, and may not speak aloud;
Else would I tear the cave where Echo lies,
And make her airy tongue more hoarse than mine,
With repetition of my Romeo's name.
ROMEO
It is my soul that calls upon my name:
How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night,
Like softest music to attending ears!
JULIET
Romeo!
ROMEO
My dear?
JULIET
At what o'clock to-morrow
Shall I send to thee?
ROMEO
At the hour of nine.
JULIET
I will not fail: 'tis twenty years till then.
I have forgot why I did call thee back.
ROMEO
Let me stand here till thou remember it.
JULIET
I shall forget, to have thee still stand there,
Remembering how I love thy company.
ROMEO
And I'll still stay, to have thee still forget,
Forgetting any other home but this.
JULIET
'Tis almost morning; I would have thee gone:
And yet no further than a wanton's bird;
Who lets it hop a little from her hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silk thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty.
ROMEO
I would I were thy bird.
JULIET
Sweet, so would I:
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! parting is such
sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.
Exit above
ROMEO
Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy breast!
Would I were sleep and peace, so sweet to rest!
Hence will I to my ghostly father's cell,
His help to crave, and my dear hap to tell.
Exit