Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror.
THE PHILOSOPHICAL GRAVEDIGGER
The supernatural being Maldoror, here referring to himself as “He who knows not how to weep”, found himself in Norway in his wanderings. While in the Faroe Islands he observed men who hunt for the nests of sea birds in mountain crevices hundreds of feet deep. He mused that if he was in charge of such an expedition he would have knicked the strong rope the mountain climbers use, weakening it so he could enjoy watching at least one of them plummet to a bone-shattering death far below.
This image of a human body fatally falling into a massive hole in the earth put him in mind of freshly-dug graves. Thus inspired, Maldoror indulged in a nocturnal exploration of the area’s graveyards. In one in particular he passed a band of necrophiliacs violating beautiful corpses and stopped to chat with a nearby gravedigger.
With typical vanity Maldoror told the gravedigger to consider himself lucky to be interacting with him. He (Maldoror) fancied himself a figurative “great whale” momentarily raising his head above the waters of the Sea of Death in which he made his home, granting a mere mortal like the gravedigger the privilege of seeing him in his dread majesty.
The eccentric gravedigger indicated he would love to exchange thoughts with Maldoror but had no time to spare. Already it is the hour of the night when the ghosts of murdered women walk, their shrouds spattered with as many blood-stains as there are stars in the sky. The gravedigger wants to finish the grave he’s digging for the next morning’s funeral and considers that too important a task (you might call it a “grave responsibility”) to risk distractions.
Maldoror was charmed by the man’s belief that digging a grave was an important task and as their conversation continued he felt a certain bond with the gravedigger and his morbid mind. After a scattershot conversation touching upon various oddities the gravedigger makes his case for the importance of his work. He considers digging a grave to be an action that transcends the forces of nature.
After all, with his icey hands he uses his pick and spade to tear up the soil that provides nourishment to us via agriculture, then after death provides our corpses with sheltering graves. He fingers the cold cheeks of the dead by day and by night watches the dead rise from their coffins to breathe the night air.
At that point a thoroughly bemused Maldoror told the gravedigger to take a rest and he would finish digging the grave for him. For his part the gravedigger could continue entertaining Maldoror with his philosophical musings. The pair discuss the nature of humanity and of Maldoror’s archrival God. They ponder the inevitablity of human suffering. All the while the gravedigger marvels at our main character’s supernatural strength and the speed with which he finishes digging the grave.
While the conversation continues the mortal also ponders who or what Maldoror is. He notes that one of his clawed hands is still blood-stained from whatever murder he committed earlier that night. He wonders if he is elderly or merely hideous. He notes our protagonist’s horrific scars and his long white hair. The gravedigger grows bold enough to feel Maldoror’s hair and compare it to the hair on the corpses he fondles. Our “hero” warns him away from such familiar conduct and their conversation continues.
In the end the gravedigger invites Maldoror to spend what little is left of the night and all of the next day resting at the man’s nearby shack where he often has sex with some of the cemetery’s corpses. Maldoror accepts, and as he soaks in the sight of the gravedigger’s nocturnal domain he wistfully observes that as wonderful as it would be to contemplate the ruins of cities on a graveyard of an Earth it is even more wonderful to contemplate a literal graveyard full of the ruins of human beings. +++
If this poem from The Songs of Maldoror had a theme song it would be Motorhead’s Ace of Spades! Okay, next time around we get an alternate explanation of our vile protagonist’s origins and more insight into his hostile relationship with God.
I WILL RESUME THIS LOOK AT THE SONGS OF MALDOROR SOON. CHECK BACK ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK FOR NEW INSTALLMENTS.
FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2015/02/28/maldoror-a-neglected-masterpiece-of-surreal-horror/
FOR OTHER PARTS OF MALDOROR CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/maldoror/
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