Death

  • Dance of Death

    Carrying bouquet, and handkerchief, and gloves,
    Proud of her height as when she lived, she moves
    With all the careless and high-stepping grace,
    And the extravagant courtesan’s thin face.

    Was slimmer waist e’er in a ball-room wooed?
    Her floating robe, in royal amplitude,
    Falls in deep folds around a dry foot, shod
    With a bright flower-like shoe that gems the sod.

    The swarms that hum about her collar-bones
    As the lascivious streams caress the stones,
    Conceal from every scornful jest that flies,
    Her gloomy beauty; and her fathomless eyes

    Are made of shade and void; with flowery sprays
    Her skull is wreathed artistically, and sways,
    Feeble and weak, on her frail vertebrae.
    O charm of nothing decked in folly! they

    Who laugh and name you a Caricature,
    They see not, they whom flesh and blood allure,
    The nameless grace of every bleached, bare bone,
    That is most dear to me, tall skeleton!

    Come you to trouble with your potent sneer
    The feast of Life! or are you driven here,
    To Pleasure’s Sabbath, by dead lusts that stir
    And goad your moving corpse on with a spur?

    Or do you hope, when sing the violins,
    And the pale candle-flame lights up our sins,
    To drive some mocking nightmare far apart,
    And cool the flame hell lighted in your heart?

    Fathomless well of fault and foolishness!
    Eternal alembic of antique distress!
    Still o’er the curved, white trellis of your sides
    The sateless, wandering serpent curls and glides.

    And truth to tell, I fear lest you should find,
    Among us here, no lover to your mind;
    Which of these hearts beat for the smile you gave?
    The charms of horror please none but the brave.

    Your eyes’ black gulf, where awful broodings stir,
    Brings giddiness; the prudent reveller
    Sees, while a horror grips him from beneath,
    The eternal smile of thirty-two white teeth.

    For he who has not folded in his arms
    A skeleton, nor fed on graveyard charms,
    Recks not of furbelow, or paint, or scent,
    When Horror comes the way that Beauty went.

    O irresistible, with fleshless face,
    Say to these dancers in their dazzled race:
    “Proud lovers with the paint above your bones,
    Ye shall taste death, musk scented skeletons!

    Withered Antinoüs, dandies with plump faces,
    Ye varnished cadavers, and grey Lovelaces,
    Ye go to lands unknown and void of breath,
    Drawn by the rumour of the Dance of Death.

    From Seine’s cold quays to Ganges’ burning stream,
    The mortal troupes dance onward in a dream;
    They do not see, within the opened sky,
    The Angel’s sinister trumpet raised on high.

    In every clime and under every sun,
    Death laughs at ye, mad mortals, as ye run;
    And oft perfumes herself with myrrh, like ye
    And mingles with your madness, irony!

    A gloriously elegant representation of Lady Death. Dry, bone-white orris, black musk, serpentine patchouli and our murkiest myrrh.

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  • Elli’s Song

    “Most shows,” said Rukh after a time, “would end here, for what could they possibly present after a genuine unicorn? But Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival holds one more mystery yet – a demon more destructive than the dragon, more monstrous than the manticore, more hideous than the harpy, and certainly more universal than the unicorn.” He waved his hand toward the last wagon and the black hangings began to wriggle open, though there was no one pulling them. “Behold her!” Rukh cried. “Behold the last, the Very End! Behold Elli!” 

    Inside the cage, it was darker than the evening, and cold stirred behind the bars like a live thing. Something moved in the cold, and the unicorn saw Elli – an old, bony, ragged woman who crouched in the cage rocking and warming herself before a fire that was not there. She looked so frail that the weight of the darkness should have crushed her, and so helpless and alone that the watchers should have rushed forward in pity to free her. Instead, they began to back silently away, for all the world as though Elli were stalking them. But she was not even looking at them. She sat in the dark and creaked a song to herself in a voice that sounded like a saw going through a tree, and like a tree getting ready to fall.

    'What is plucked will grow again,
    What is slain lives on,
    What is stolen will remain –
    What is gone is gone.'

    “She doesn’t look like much, does she?” Rukh asked. “But no hero can stand before her, no god can wrestle her down, no magic can keep her out – or in, for she’s no prisoner of ours. Even while we exhibit her here, she is walking among you, touching and taking. For Elli is Old Age.”

    The cold of the cage reached out to the unicorn, and wherever it touched her she grew lame and feeble. She felt herself withering, loosening, felt her beauty leaving her with her breath. Ugliness swung from her mane, dragged down her head, stripped her tail, gaunted her body, ate up her coat, and ravaged her mind with remembrance of what she had once been. Somewhere nearby, the harpy made her low, eager sound, but the unicorn would gladly have huddled in the shadow of her bronze wings to hide from this last demon. Elli’s song sawed away at her heart.

    'What is sea-born dies on land,
    Soft is trod upon.
    What is given burns the hand –
    What is gone is gone.'

    The horrors of entropy, death, and decay: desiccated black mosses, vetiver, olibanum, patchouli, and ashes.

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  • Odin

    Odin is highest and eldest of the Æsir: he rules all things, and mighty as are the other gods, they all serve him as children obey a father.

    The All-Father, Lord of Wisdom and War. Odin’s name itself translates to “fury”, “excitation” and “poetry” and that is the core of His essence. He is the God of Victory, and holds sway over hunting, verse, war-lust and berserkers, magic, illumination, foresight, death, plots and machinations, and He dispenses the Mead of Inspiration to poets from his sacred vessel, Óõ-rœri. He gifted mankind with runes, both sacred and mundane, and the ability to use them for both communication and magical work. He grants glory and madness, inspiration and courage, power and wisdom. He commands the einheriar of his Hall, Valhalla, and the Valkyries that claim the souls of valiant warriors. Lord Odin’s favored weapon is the spear Gugnir, which he uses to claim those chosen to die in battle. He is accompanied by his ravens, Hugin and Munin [thought and memory], and his wolves, Geri and Freki [the Greedy], and rides an eight-legged horse, Sleipner, that is, in itself, symbolic of death. His scent is dry elm bark, amaranth, warrior’s musk, and Odin’s Nine Herbs of Power.

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  • The Black Rider

    As she stood there a third man on horseback came galloping up. His face was black, he was dressed all in black, and the horse he rode was coal-black. He galloped up to the gate of the hut and disappeared there as if he had sunk through the ground and at that moment the night came and the forest grew dark.

    But it was not dark on the green lawn, for instantly the eyes of all the skulls on the wall were lighted up and shone till the place was as bright as day. When she saw this Vasilissa trembled so with fear that she could not run away.

    Black leather, oppoponax, tobacco, and black amber.

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  • The Harlot’s House

    We caught the tread of dancing feet,
    We loitered down the moonlit street,
    And stopped beneath the harlot’s house.

    Inside, above the din and fray,
    We heard the loud musicians play
    The “Treues Liebes Herz” of Strauss.

    Like strange mechanical grotesques,
    Making fantastic arabesques,
    The shadows raced across the blind.

    We watched the ghostly dancers spin
    To sound of horn and violin,
    Like black leaves wheeling in the wind.

    Like wire-pulled automatons,
    Slim silhouetted skeletons
    Went sidling through the slow quadrille.

    The took each other by the hand,
    And danced a stately saraband;
    Their laughter echoed thin and shrill.

    Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressed
    A phantom lover to her breast,
    Sometimes they seemed to try to sing.

    Sometimes a horrible marionette
    Came out, and smoked its cigarette
    Upon the steps like a live thing.

    Then, turning to my love, I said,
    “The dead are dancing with the dead,
    The dust is whirling with the dust.”

    But she–she heard the violin,
    And left my side, and entered in:
    Love passed into the house of lust.

    Then suddenly the tune went false,
    The dancers wearied of the waltz,
    The shadows ceased to wheel and whirl.

    And down the long and silent street,
    The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet,
    Crept like a frightened girl.

    The dead are dancing with the dead, the dust is whirling with the dust: angel’s trumpet, violet, white sandalwood, oude, copaiba balsam, angelica, white tea, olibanum, and oakmoss.

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  • The Lights of Men’s Lives

    When Death saw that for a second time he was defrauded of his own property, he walked up to the physician with long strides, and said, “All is over with thee, and now the lot falls on thee,” and seized him so firmly with his ice-cold hand, that he could not resist, and led him into a cave below the earth. There he saw how thousands and thousands of candles were burning in countless rows, some large, others half-sized, others small. Every instant some were extinguished, and others again burnt up, so that the flames seemed to leap hither and thither in perpetual change. “See,” said Death, “these are the lights of men’s lives. The large ones belong to children, the half-sized ones to married people in their prime, the little ones belong to old people; but children and young folks likewise have often only a tiny candle.” “Show me the light of my life,” said the physician, and he thought that it would be still very tall. Death pointed to a little end which was just threatening to go out, and said, “Behold, it is there.”

    The wax and smoke of millions upon millions of candles illuminating the walls of Death’s shadowy cave: some tall, straight, and strong, blazing with the fire of life, others dim and guttering.

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