Thursday 7 May 2020

Bluebeard by Guy Wetmore Carell

Something very bad has happened to my laptop. It's a mechanism that reminds me of the ascenseur in Marcel Proust's apartment building. He would apologise to visitors for the dilapidated contraption by explaing that it dated back to a time before ascenseurs were invented. My Mac powerbook is likewise past its prime and yesterday gave up the ghost. I've been struggling until now to get a squeak out of it and have finally managed to get onto the blog site. And here is today's blog, a rather random choice of a favourite Amercian poem by the grat Guy Wetmore Carell, something of a gemius when it came to knocking out stuff like this. It's about Bluebeard, and really needs to be read aloud, and with relish.

A maiden from the Bosphorus,
With eyes as bright as phosphorus,
Once wed the wealthy bailiff
Of the caliph
Of Kelat.
Though diligent and zealous, he 
Became a slave to jealousy.
(Considering her beauty,
'T was his duty 
To be that!)

When business would necessitate 
A journey, he would hesitate,
But, fearing to disgust her,
He would trust her
With his keys,
Remarking to her prayerfully:
'I beg you'll use them carefully.
Don't look what I deposit
In that closet,
If you please.'

It may be mentioned, casually,
That blue as lapis lazuli
He dyed his hair, his lashes,
His mustaches,
And his beard.
And, just because he did it, he
Aroused his wife 's timidity:
Her terror she dissembled,
But she trembled
When he neared.

This feeling insalubrious
Soon made her most lugubrious,
And bitterly she missed her
Elder sister
Marie Anne:
She asked if she might write her to
Come down and spend a night or two,
Her husband answered rightly
And politely:
'Yes, you can!'

Blue-Beard, the Monday following, 
His jealous feeling swallowing,
Packed all his clothes together 
In a leather-
Bound valise,
And, feigning reprehensibly, 
He started out, ostensibly
By traveling to learn a
Bit of Smyrna
And of Greece.

His wife made but a cursory
Inspection of the nursery;
The kitchen and the airy
Little dairy
Were a bore,
As well as big or scanty rooms,
And billiard, bath, and ante-rooms,
But not that interdicted
And restricted
Little door!

For, all her curiosity 
Awakened by the closet he
So carefully had hidden, 
And forbidden
Her to see,
This damsel disobedient 
Did something inexpedient,
And in the keyhole tiny 
Turned the shiny
Little key:

Then started hack impulsively, 
And shrieked aloud convulsively -
Three heads of girls he'd wedded
And beheaded
Met her eye!
And turning round, much terrified, 
Her darkest fears were verified, 
For Blue stood behind her,
Come to find her
On the sly!

Perceiving she was fated to 
Be soon decapitated, too,
She telegraphed her brothers 
And some others
What she feared.
And Sister Anne looked out for them,
In readiness to shout for them
Whenever in the distance
With assistance
They appeared.

But only from her battlement 
She saw some dust that cattle meant.
The ordinary story
Is n't gory,
But a jest.
But here 's the truth unqualified. 
The husband wasn't mollified
Her head is in his bloody
Little study
With the rest!

The Moral: Wives, we must allow,
Who to their husbands will not bow,
A stern and dreadful lesson learn
When, as you've read, they 're cut in turn. 

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