09w06:4 Shakespeare's Blog VIII

by timothy. 0 Comments

February 6th
At work on this new play of Richard II and have Holinshed and Marlowe’s Edward before me. Ah, dead Kit, long rotted, long worm-eaten. How long has any one of us? By the Minories this morning was found, thrown into the kennel, bloody, stripped, robbed, a man I have seen oft about, a decent merchant called Gervis or some such name, now dead and his poor body dishonoured. I take to the drinking of a little sweet wine to dispel the vapours that clouds my brains. Soon I am on my way to her, determined on boldness. The little wine has become much. I am come, I tell her, to read verse to her. She is in a loose lawn gown, her arms and shoulders bare to the great seacoal fire. She will listen. Listen, then. Here is the Roman poet Catullus. You know no Latin but I will English it. Let us live, my Lesbia, and love (who is dis Lesvia? – She is the poet’s mistress.)…Suns may set and rise again. For us, when once the brief light has set, there is left for our sleeping the sleep of one endless night. Ah, the horror of that, Lesbia (Fatimah, I would say), is in the very sound of the Latin: nox est perpetua una dormienda. She shudders. So what den do dey do? Oh, he asks for a thousand kisses, then a hundred, then another thousand, then a second hundred, then another thousand again, then a hundred. Mx Cx Mx Cx Mx Cx. Thousands and hundreds of kisses in sweetest alternation. Dat is a many kisses.

-Do you kiss in your country?

-We kiss not as you do. We have what is called de chium. It is done wid de nose.

-Show me.

-Nay, dat I may not.

-I beseech you.

She shyly places her delicate splay-nose on my left cheek and ploughs up once and down once, as she were new-making the furrow already there.

-Ah, that is good, but an English kiss is better.

So saying, I seize her in mine arms and place my lips on hers. It is like no English kiss I have ever known: her lips are neither a rosebud nor a thin predatory line; they are full and fleshy, like some strange fruit or flower of her Indies. Her teeth are well forward, set like a palisade to forbid the melting of a close kiss. I bring my mouth away from hers and set it to kissing the cool-warm brown smoothness of her shoulder. But she will have none of this and yet she will; she pushes and pulls me toward-away from her. So now it is to me to say:

-I love thee, by God I do. My love my love I love thee.

-I love not dee.

And then she thrusts me away with more power and strength than I had thought possible to reside in such slenderness. But now I am whetted and will not desist. I clasp her and she batters me with little golden fists, crying at me in her own tongue. She cannot prevail and so she bites toward me, her tiny white teeth snapping at the air. So it is needful that I bear down upon her, drawing, as it were, the teeth of her biting in a great disabling kiss, the while I hold her to me as I would engraft her on to my body. And so soon she yields.

Soon? Very soon. I see soon that she knows all. She is no tyro in this game. I feel that disappointment that all men know when they discover they are not the first, and disappointment makes a kind of anger which makes a kind of savagery. But I possess her in a terrible joy, the appetite growing with the act of feeding, which astonishes me. And in the end I coldly see that I have a mistress. And a very rare one.

(Anthony Burgess, Nothing Like The Sun, p. 148-50)

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