Lawrence Durrell
Elegy on the Closing of the French Brothels

(For Henry Miller and George Katsimbalis)
Last of the great autumnal capitals
Disengaging daily like a sword
The civil codes, behaviour, friendship, love,
In houses of shining glass,
On tablecloths stained with pools of light,
By the rambling river's evening scents
Carried our freight of pain so lightly:
And towards evening when the inkwells overturn
And at last the figure which has sat
Motionless for hours, pours himself out
One glass of moonlight, drinks it, and retires.

By the railway arches a stone plinth.
Under the shadows of the lamps the figures.
So many ways of dividing up the self:
Correspondences moving outwards along a line
Of nerves, the memory of letters
Smelling like apples in an empty cupboard,
And at midnight the pall of clocks,
At odds among themselves, the shuffling
Of innumerable packs of cards where each shall see
One day his face instead of fortune's be.

Bound here to the great axis of the sex,
Black source that feeds your manners, gives
Information and vivacity to food and linen,
Determined as the penetration into self-abuse —
For each separation by kisses forges new bonds:
Three or four words on the back of a letter,
Tessa waiting on a corner with all she feels,
Rain glittering in that peacock's eye,
As heavy with sense as a king's letter with seals.

Here the professional observer met you,
The amateur in melancholy,
To the swish of an invisible fountain,
Drinking from a glass under a man on horseback,
Talking to a lady with a poisoned finger.

Women turned over by the mind and each
A proper noun, an act of trespass,
Improper for its aberration but accepted
As in a mirror one is twice but accepts.
So in these magazines of love they moved,
Experience misbegotten in each face like rings
In wood, were commentators on our weakness,
Through cycles of repentance in the blood,
Exhausted the body's ugly contents in a sigh,
Left, hard as ash, the object's shape: an art
Eros began, self-murder carries on.

Of all the sicknesses, autumnal Paris,
This self-infection was the best, where friends
Like self-possession could be learned
Through the mystery of a slit
Like a tear in an old fur coat,
A hole in a paper lantern where the seeing I
Looked out and measured one:
The ferocious knuckle of a sex
Standing to acknowledge like a hambone
Our membership in the body of a tribe
Holy and ridiculous at once:
Symbol of unrecognised desire, pain, pain.

You might have seen silence flower in eyes,
The tobacco eyes of every human critic,
Or a mouth laid along the meniscus
Of a lighted glass blazing like a diamond.

All the great brothels closed save Sacre Coeur!
Windows boarded up from the inheritors,
The nameless donors inhabiting marble fanes
On peninsulas with cocks of gold in sunlight,
Under the oleanders, printed in warm moss,
The bare ankles playing on a flute,
Selecting the bodies of boys, the temporary
Refuge for a kiss on the silver backs of mirrors:
Powder of statues in a grove born old,
Born sightless, wingless, never to be loved.

Crude man in his coat of nerves and hair
Whose kisses like apostles go about
On translated business never quite his own,
Derives from the obscure medium of the body,
As through some glass coffin, a retrieved sprite,
Himself holding the holy bottle, fast asleep.

All these rotten galleries were symbols
Of us, where the girls like squirrels
Leaned in the tarnished mirrors sadly sighing:
The wind in empty clothing, while the destroyer
Sorted the bottles for just the right medicine.

Below us, far below on the stairway somewhere
Tessa had already combed the dark disorder
Of curls, the flash of pectorals in a mirror,
Invented already this darker niece of Egypt,
Who leaves the small hashish-pipe by the pillow,
Uneasy in red slippers like the dust in urns,
The smashed columns, wells full of leaves,
The faces white as burns.

We suffer according to the terms we make
With time in cities: allowing to be rooted from us
Like useless teeth the few great healers
Who understand the penalties of confession,
And cannot fear these half-invented Gods,
Inhabiting our own cities of unconquered pain.

Now the capitals settle slowly in the sea
Of their failures. All the common brute has done
Building like a rat the rotten shanties
Of his self-esteem beside the water's edge,
His fear and prejudice into a dead index.
It is not enough. We have still to outgrow
The prohibitions in us with the fears they grow from:
For the beloved will be no happier
Nor the unloved less hungry when the miracle begins:
Yet both will be ineffably disclosed
In their own natures by simplicity
Like roses in a giving off of grace.

@темы: d, 20, english-british, durrell, lawrence