Chapter 8

Vedere Napoli

Over the Top
A Knight Out

We had just time to get down to the Gare de Lyon for the train de luxe. A sense of infinite relief enveloped us as we left Paris behind; and this was accompanied with an overwhelming fatigue which in itself was unspeakably delicious.

The moment our heads touched the pillows we sank like young children into exquisite deep slumber, and we woke early in the morning, exhilarated beyond all expression by the Alpine air that enlarged our lungs; that thrilled us with it keen intensity; that lifted us above the pettiness of civilisation, exalting us to communion with the eternal; our souls soared to the primaeval peaks that towered above the train.

They flowed across the limpid lakes, they revelled with the raging Rhone.

Many people have the idea that the danger of drugs lies in the fact that one is tempted to fly to them for refuge whenever one is a little bored or depressed or annoyed. That is true, of course; but if it stopped there, only a small class of people would stand in real danger.

For example, this brilliant morning, with the sun sparkling on the snow and the water, the whole earth ablush with his glory, the pure keen air rejoicing our lungs; we certainly did say to ourselves, our young eyes ablaze with love and health and happiness, that we didn’t need any other element to make our poetry perfect.

I said this without a hint of hesitation. For one thing, we felt like Christian when the burden of his sins fell off his back, at getting away from Paris and civilisation and convention and all that modern artificiality implies.


The Glitter on the Snow

We had neither the need to get rid of any depression, nor that to increase our already infinite intoxication; ourselves and our love and the boundless beauty of the ever changing landscape, a permanent perfection travelling for its pleasure through inexhaustible possibilities!

Yet almost before the words were out of our mouths, a sly smile crept over Lou’s loveliness and kindled the same subtly secret delight in my heart.
She offered me a pinch of heroin with the air of communicating some exquisitely esoteric sacrament and I accepted it and measured her a similar dose on my own hand as if some dim delirious desire devoured us.

We took it not because we needed it; but because the act of consummation was, so to speak, an act of religion.

It was the very fact that it was not an act of necessity which made it an act of piety.

In the same way, I cannot say that the dose did us any particular good. It was at once a routine and a ritual.

It was a commemoration like the Protestant communion, and at the same time a consecration like the Catholic. It reminded us that we were heirs to the royal rapture in which we were afloat. But also it refreshed that rapture.

Short Commons

The Bubble Bursts

Lou and I, my love and I, my wife and I, we were not merely going there; we had always been there and should always be. For the name of the island, the name of the house, the name of Shelley, and the name of Lou and me, they were all one name—Love.

“The winged words with which my song would pierce
Into the heights of love’s rare universe
Are chains of lead about its flight of fire,
I pant, I sink, I tremble, I expire.”

I noticed, in fact, that our physical selves seemed to be acting as projections of our thought. We were both breathing rapidly and deeply. Our faces were flushed, suffused with the sunlight splendour of our bloods that beat time to the waltz of our love.
Waltz? No, it was something wilder than a waltz. The Mazurka, perhaps. No, there was something still more savage in our souls.

I thought of the furious fandango of the gypsies of Granada, of the fanatical frenzy of the religious Moorish rioters chopping at themselves with little sacred axe till the blood streams down their bodies, crazily crimson in the stabbing sunlight, and making little scabs of mire upon the torrid trampled sand.

I thought of the mcenads and Bacchus; I saw them through the vivid eyes of Euripides and Swinburne. And still unsatisfied, I craved for stranger symbols yet. I became a Witch-Doctor presiding over a cannibal feast, driving the yellow mob of murderers into a fiercer Comus-rout, as the maddening beat of the tom-tom and the sinister scream of the bull-roarer destroy every human quality in the worshippers and make them elemental energies; Valkyrie-vampires surging and shrieking on the summit of the storm.

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