Parallels 8 – St Sebastian

I know I’ve written about this before, but without any proper quotations except for Rilke’s poem. All these are things that I’ve discovered after that post, anyway; enjoy.

I would come in a shirt of hair
I would come with a lamp in the night
And sit at the foot of your stair;
I would flog myself until I bled,
And after hour on hour of prayer
And torture and delight
Until my blood should ring the lamp
And glisten in the light;
I should arise your neophyte
And then put out the light
To follow where you lead,
To follow where your feet are white
In the darkness toward your bed
And where your gown is white
And against your gown your braided hair.
Then you would take me in
Because I was hideous in your sight
You would take me in without shame
Because I should be dead
And when the morning came
Between your breasts should lie my head.
I would come with a towel in my hand
And bend your head beneath my knees;
Your earls curl back in a certain way
Like no one’s else in all the world.
When all the world shall melt in the sun,
Melt or freeze,
I shall remember how your ears were curled.
I should for a moment linger
And follow the curve with my finger
And your head beneath my knees—
I think that at last you would understand.
There would be nothing more to say.
You would love me because I should have strangled you
And because of my infamy;
And I should love you the more because I mangled you
And because you were no longer beautiful
To anyone but me.

T.S. Eliot’s posthumously published The Love Song of St Sebastian

Suddenly, by the sort of violent effort with which one wrenches one’s head away from the pillow in a nightmare, Winston succeeded in transferring his hatred from the face on the screen to the dark−haired girl behind him. Vivid, beautiful hallucinations flashed through his mind. He would flog her to death with a rubber truncheon. He would tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastian. He would ravish her and cut her throat at the moment of climax. Better than before, moreover, he realized why it was that he hated her. He hated her because she was young and pretty and sexless, because he wanted to go to bed with her and would never do so, because round her sweet supple waist, which seemed to ask you to encircle it with your arm, there was only the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity.”

George Orwell’s 1984

How did Saint Sebastian die?
Arrows piereced his throat and thigh
which only knew, before that time,
the dolors of a concubine.
Near above him, hardly over,
hovered hid gold martyr’s crown.
Even Mary from Her tower
of heaven leaned a little down
and as She leaned, She raised a corner
of a cloud through which to spy.
Sweetly troubled Mary murmured
as She watched the arrows fly.
And as the cup that was profaned
gave up its sweet, intemperate wine,
all the golden bells of heaven
praised an emperor’s concubine.
Mary, leaning from her tower
of heaven, dropped a tiny flower
but, privately, she must have wondered
if it were indeed wise to
let this boy in Paradise?

Tennessee Williams, San Sebastiano de Sodoma

I might return to this subject sometime, seeing as it seems to be inexhaustible.


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Filed under Letterlove, Parallels, Poetrylove, Pseudointellectual

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