Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror. NOT FOR THE EASILY FRIGHTENED.
DISTANT SCREAMS OF MOST POIGNANT AGONY
For a change of pace we readers are not immersed entirely in a first person narration by Maldoror himself. This section begins with a mother, father and their beloved child Edward spending a quiet evening together. The parents are advanced in age and did not have Edward until very late in life after years of longing for a child of their own.
The happy trio catch a glimpse of the supernatural being Maldoror peering in at them through a window. Though they think they succeed at shooing him away from their home little Edward cannot get the hideous man out of his mind. The family’s conversation is periodically and repeatedly punctuated by what the author describes as “distant prolonged screams of the most poignant agony.”
The parents try to distract their child’s mind from thoughts of the vile Maldoror but they are not successful. At length they begin to relate tales they’ve heard of the evil figure, and this will be the first we’ve heard about Maldoror from someone besides himself.
The mother and father tell Edward that legend holds that Maldoror was born in a far-off country that exiled him for his wickedness. Since then he has wandered from land to land, hated by all. Some say the vile monster fell victim to a special madness while still a child, others say that he was born with an inhuman cruelty and that his parents died of sorrow as a result.
There are even those who have claimed that Maldoror is a vampire but he has proven time and again that he is actually something far worse. His constant anger is supposedly fueled by horrible nightmares that cause him to bleed from his ears and mouth or by ghosts who surround him while he tries to sleep and reproach him for his countless murders.
It is even rumored that Maldoror is driven to fury by remorse over some especially vile deed in his mysterious past. Some pious souls maintain that what really drives the monstrous figure is his oft-stated desire to force God to recognize him as an equal.
The mother and father warn little Edward that he must never become like Maldoror and even have him swear to them that he will not. The three of them then kneel and are led in prayer by the father. Maldoror takes this opportunity to reveal that he is in the house but he makes himself visible only to the child Edward, who is also the only one who can hear him.
While the child attempts to concentrate on following along with his father’s spoken prayers Maldoror tries to coerce Edward into abandoning his parents and coming with him. He promises the child a luxurious life in a palace where he can sleep as long as he likes, do whatever he pleases, breathe air sweetened by perfume and be surrounded by a gaggle of little girls who will fawn on him in every way.
He even states the girls – who have butterfly wings – will bathe him and serve him like he is royalty. Maldoror also promises the boy that he will give him an enchanted carriage that can take him to the sun and the moon. The boy rejects all of the offers one after the other and even tries to push Maldoror away, but the villain simply disappears only to reappear on another side of the kneeling boy and resume his cajoling.
Eventually our main character gives up trying to tempt Edward and angrily strangles him to death. He also uses his claws to mutilate the boy’s face beyond recognition before killing the boy’s mother as well. The father he spares so that he can live on in an agony of mourning, which the man does for many long years we are told.
The closing narration hints that each of the many distant screams of poignant agony heard throughout the affair might each have been triggered by a similar deadly drama unfolding in many other homes this night.
Maldoror closes with a boast that his supernatural power is not drawn from any demons but is drawn entirely from himself.
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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