Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hermes by Marcel Schwob

Souls on the Banks of Acheron by Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1898


Whether the dead be enclosed in sculptured stone sarcophagi, or sealed in the hollow of metal or clay urns, or encased upright, gilded and decorated in blue, with brain and viscera removed, swathed in linen bands, yet will I conduct them in a company and guide them on their way with my controlling wand.

We advance down a swift path that eye of man hath not seen. Harlots press close against virgins, murderers against philosophers, mothers against those that refused to bear children, and priests against perjurers. For they repent them of their sins, were they those of the imagination or of the deed. And having never been free upon earth, since they were there trammelled by customs and laws, or their own beliefs, they fear isolation and cling to each other for help. She that slept naked in the tiled chambers among the men is consoling a young girl who died before her nuptial eve, — yet dreaming imperiously of her love. One that was wont to murder on the highways, his face grimed with ashes and soot, places his hand on the brow of a thinker who wished to regenerate the world and preached death. The woman who loved her children and suffered through them buries her face in the bosom of an hetaira who, by intent, was without issue. The long-robed man that was persuaded he believed in his God and constrained himself to kneel often, now weeps on the shoulder of a cynic who broke every law of the flesh and spirit before the eyes of the world. So sustains the one the other along the route, journeying under the yoke of memory.

Then they come to the bank of Lethe where I range them along the shore of the silent-flowing water. Some plunge therein their heads containing evil thoughts, others the hands that wrought evil. Rising therefrom, the water of Lethe has effaced all remembrance.

Therewith they stand aloof from one another, and each smiles believing he is free.




Source:

Mimes, with a prologue and epilogue by Marcel Schwob, tr. A, Lenalie, p. Thomas B. Mosher, 1901.

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