Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror. This is the NEXT TO LAST installment.
CANTO SIX: STANZA EIGHT
God has sent down an Archangel from Heaven to try to protect sixteen year old Mervyn from Maldoror’s sinister designs on him. The Archangel has assumed the form of a hermit crab in order to sneak into France unobserved by Maldoror. However, our supernatural main character has sensed the Archangel’s arrival anyway and stands along the shore where the being is trying to pass itself off as a mere hermit crab.
With a club in hand instead of one of his usual knives Maldoror watches the disguised Archangel pause on a reef before heading to shore. The figure sent from Heaven is fearful regarding its impending confrontation with Maldoror, whom the Angelic Armies concede to be a greater threat than Satan himself. For his part our vile protagonist observes that the Archangel is not very comfortable in the terrestrial sphere and plans to make quick work of him, planning to thus provoke God into engaging him in personal combat once again.
The Archangel realizes it has been spotted and transforms from a crab into its full angelic form: Mario, the one-time Angel of the Sea who was in love with Maldoror. Way back in The Mysterious Riders this relationship was dealt with but Maldoror never revealed what happened to Mario, he simply vanished from the narrative. Now we learn why – Mario repented and returned to God, which must have been a particularly potent blow to Maldoror, which is why his ego would not permit him to recount that part of the tale. Now elevated to Archangel status Mario announces that God has given him a portion of his own power to make up for his inexperience in his new incarnation and to help him subdue our narrator.
Mario-as- Archangel calls upon Maldoror to surrender himself and return to Heaven peacefully. He assures him that God will forgive Maldoror as he has forgiven himself (The Novice Archangel) and will restore Maldoror to his former high rank among the angels. (So at long last we have some closure on which version of Maldoror’s past is the accurate one. He, like Mario, was one of the angels who remained neutral in the war between God and Lucifer.) The Archangel further states that if Maldoror offers no resistance to being chained and escorted back to Heaven both he and God will know that he has taken the first steps toward repentance.
Maldoror, as you can imagine, finds this offer hilarious. He has, after all, defeated angels from Heaven, devils from Hell, trounced Satan himself and fought God to a draw, so why should he meekly submit now after countless millenia of defiance? Still, to lull the Archangel into false security he replies that he will consider surrendering, but only to God himself in person. He invites the Heavenly messenger to come ashore and negotiate with him the conditions under which he will permit himself to be taken prisoner by God.
The Archangel is delighted and begins to come ashore, letting its guard down a little in relief that combat will apparently not be necessary. Maldoror pounces in that split-second, hurling his club at his opponent’s head, stunning him and allowing him to hurl himself upon the other figure. Without letting up or showing mercy Maldoror defeats the Archangel, forces it back into its hermit crab form, then binds the crab atop an anvil and drops both into the Atlantic Ocean.
His immediate issue taken care of, Maldoror goes off to the park to watch Mervyn’s mother and his two younger siblings at play. This alerts the reader to the fact that – chronologically – we are back to the Stanza which ended with Maldoror in mallard form observing his victim’s family members. Three times he attempts to become a white duck in order to blend in with the others, but all three times God – who observed the defeat of his Archangel – turns Maldoror black instead, causing the other ducks to shun him. Maldoror surrenders on the score of his color, but defiantly bears a crest on his feathers that shows the outline of a crab atop an anvil; a reminder of his recent victory.
CANTO SIX: STANZA NINE
The hour is 5 O’Clock on the following morning, when, as we know from previous Stanzas, Mervyn has planned to meet Maldoror at the Carrousel Bridge and run off with him. His youthful mind filled with thoughts of forbidden love and exotic travels with his newfound lover, Mervyn sets foot on one side of the deserted bridge at the same moment that Maldoror sets foot on it from the opposite bank.
The narrative gives another precise breakdown on Mervyn’s path from his parent’s rented home in the Rue Lafayette to the bridge. I throw that in for those conspiratorially-minded readers who go along with the theory that the author Isidore Ducasse has encoded information about a real-life murder he committed and the subsequent location of the body.
Mervyn, with tears of joy running down his face, reaches out to embrace the figure he hoped would be both father and romantic partner to him, only to have Maldoror casually stun him with a blow. With his supernatural strength the monster then stuffs the young man’s body into the sack he (Maldoror) was carrying tucked under his arm. Tying the bag shut, the malevolent one smashes the bag and its prisoner against the bridge a few times to break Mervyn’s bones and quiet his screams with unconsciousness. We at last understand Maldoror’s enigmatic line from a few Stanzas ago when he pondered why the Carrousel Bridge did not itself cry out at the outrage he committed against one who loved him.
Maldoror then calmly turns the sack over to a butcher, insisting that inside is a knocked-out dog he no longer wants and he invites the butcher to pulverize the contents and then make meat. With black-hearted irony Maldoror plays at being a kind-hearted man by giving some money to a little girl begging in the streets then goes on his merry way, awaiting the chance to pursue his next murder victim.
From Heaven, God has been infuriated by all this and, after Maldoror has departed, God causes a small cry to erupt from the suffering Mervyn inside the sack. This cry stops the descending hammers of the butcher and his men, who were about to pound the sack’s contents to tenderize the meat as Maldoror had planned. The butcher and his men are shocked at what they nearly did, and Mervyn is returned to his parents to recover from his ordeal. Heart-broken and bitter, Mervyn sulks as he convalesces in his room, refusing to even speak to his parents.
God, meanwhile, decides that the time has come for the final confrontation between him and the repulsive being named Maldoror.
UP NEXT: THE GRAND FINALE TO THE SONGS OF MALDOROR! God and Maldoror engage in their final combat ever! The angels in the Grail Castle return! We learn the ultimate outcome of the battle for Mervyn’s soul! Plus what about the fate of the submerged Archangel? And what role will be played by Maldoror’s ace-in- the- hole, the madman Aghone?
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/
© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.