Aphrodite, by Pierre Louys, , at sacred-texts.com
p. 180 p. 181
NOW, having returned home with the mirror, the comb and the necklace, Demetrios was visited by a dream, during his sleep; and this was the dream:
He is going toward the jetty, among the crowd, through a strange night without a moon, without stars, without clouds, which shines of itself.
Without his knowing why, nor what draws him, he is in haste to arrive, to be there as soon as he can; but he walks with effort and the air opposes an inexplicable resistance to his legs, as deep water might hinder each step.
He trembles, he thinks that he will never arrive, that he will never know toward whom he walks thus, panting and uneasy, through the luminous obscurity.
At times the crowd disappears entirely, whether it be that it really vanishes or that he ceases to feel its presence. Then it elbows him afresh, more importunately, and all go, go, go, with a rapid and sonorous step, forward, quicker than he . . .
Then the human mass closes in; Demetrios pales; a man pushes him with his shoulder; a woman's brooch tears his tunic; a young girl, pressed by the multitude, is so closely crowded against him
that he senses the warmth of her skin, and she pushes away his face with frightened hands.
Suddenly he is alone, the first, upon the jetty. And as he turns to look back, he perceives in the distance a white swarm which is the whole crowd, suddenly drawn back to the Agora.
And he understands that it will advance no farther.
The jetty extends before him with all the fascination of an unfinished road which has undertaken the traverse of the sea.
He wishes to go to the Pharos, and he walks on. His legs have suddenly become light. The wind which breathes over sandy wastes drags him precipitately toward the undulating solitude into which the jetty reaches. But as he advances, the Pharos recedes before him; the jetty stretches out interminably. Soon. the high marble tower with its flaming crimson pile touches the livid horizon, palpitates, lowers, diminishes, and sets like another moon.
Demetrios still walks on.
Days and nights seem to have passed since he left in the distance the great quay of Alexandria, and he dares not turn his head for fear of seeing nothing more than the way already passed: a white line to the infinite and the sea.
Nevertheless, he turns.
Behind him lies an island covered with great trees from which enormous flowers droop.
Has he journeyed blindly, or did it rise at that very instant, becoming mysteriously visible? He does not think of asking; he accepts the impossible as a natural occurrence . . .
A woman is on the island. She stands before the door of the only house, her eyes half closed and her face bending over the
flower of a huge iris which grows to the height of her lips. She has deep hair the color of dull gold and of a length which one might suppose marvelous by the mass of the swollen knot which lies upon her drooping neck. A black tunic covers this woman and a still blacker robe is draped over the tunic, and the iris whose scent she inhales, closing her eyes, is also tinted like the night.
On this apparel of mourning, Demetrios sees only the hair, like a golden vase upon an ebony column. He recognizes Chrysis.
The memory of the mirror and of the comb and of the necklace returns to him vaguely, but he does not believe in it, and in this singular dream only the reality seems to him a dream . . .
"Come," she says. "Enter behind me."
He follows her. Slowly she ascends a staircase covered with white skins. Her arm rests over the balustrade, her bare heels float under her skirt.
The house has but one story. Chrysis halts upon the last step. "There are four rooms," she says. "When thou hast seen them, thou wilt never again come forth. Wilt thou follow me? Darest thou?"
But he would follow her anywhere. She opens the first door and closes it behind him.
The room is narrow and long. It is lighted by a single window which frames the whole sea. To the right and to the left, two little tables bear a dozen rolled volumes.
"Here are the books thou lovest," says Chrysis. "There are no others."
Demetrios opens them: they are the "neus" of Chæremon, the "Return" of Alexis, the "Mirror of Lais" of Aristippos, the "Witch," the "Cyclops" and the "Bucolics" of Theocritos, the
[paragraph continues] "dipos at Colonos," the "Odes" of Sappho and some other works. In the midst of this ideal library, a young girl reclines, silent, upon some cushions.
"Now," murmurs Chrysis, drawing from a long golden case a manuscript of a single leaf, "here is the page of antique verse which thou never readest alone without weeping."
The young man reads at random:
He stops, casting at Chrysis a tender, surprised look. "Thou?" he says to her, "thou showest me this?"
"Ah! thou hast not seen all. Follow me. Follow me, quickly!" They open another door.
The second room is square. It is lighted by a single window which frames all nature. In the center, a wooden stand bears a mass of red clay and in the corner, on a curved chair, a young girl rests in silence.
"Here thou wilt model Andromeda, Zagreus, and the Horses of the Sun. As thou wilt create them for thyself alone, thou wilt destroy them before thy death."
"It is the House of Happiness," says Demetrios, under his breath.
And he rests his forehead in his hand.
But Chrysis opens another door.
The third chamber is vast and round. It is lighted by a single window which frames the whole blue sky. Its walls are bronze grilles, reticulated in regular lozenges, through which steals the music of flutes and citheri, played in a melancholy mode by invisible musicians. And against the farthest wall, upon a throne of green marble, a young girl sits in silence.
"Come! Come!" repeats Chrysis. They open another door. The fourth chamber is low, somber, hermetically closed and of triangular form. Heavy draperies and furs bedeck it so softly, from floor to ceiling, that nudity does not astonish. When the door is closed, it is impossible to tell where it is. There is no window. It is a tiny world, out of the world. Here and there, hanging locks of black fir let tears of perfume slip into the air. And this chamber is lighted by seven myrrhine panes which color diversely the incomprehensible light of seven subterranean lamps.
"Thou seest," the young woman explains, in a calm and affectionate voice, "there are three different beds in the three corners of our room . . ."
Demetrios makes no reply. And lee asks himself: "Is this indeed the end? Is this truly the limit of human existence? Have I, then, traversed the three other rooms but to stop in this one? And could I, could I leave it if I sleep within it a whole night in the attitude which is the outstretched posture of the tomb?"
But Chrysis speaks . . .
"Well-Beloved, thou hast commanded me, I have come. Look at me well . . ."
She raises her arms together, rests her hands upon her hair and, elbows advanced, smiles. "Well-Beloved, I am thine . . . Oh, not so soon. I promised thee to sing. I will sing first."
And he thinks no more but of her as he lies down at her feet. She wears little black sandals. Four threads of bluish pearls pass between the slender toes whose every nail has been painted with a carmine crescent.
Her head inclined upon her shoulder, she strikes the palm of her left hand with the finger tips of her right, slightly undulating her hips:
"Ah! It is the Song of Songs, Demetrios! It is the nuptial canticle of the girls of my country.
She throws her veil from her and stands in a narrow garment which clasps her closely from knees to hips.
She throws back her head, closing her eyes.
She curves her arms and offers her mouth.
Without moving her feet, without bending her closed knees, she slowly turns her torso upon her motionless hips. Her face above her garments seems like a great rosy flower in a vase of drapery.
She dances gravely, with her shoulders and her head and her beautiful arms entwined. She seems to suffer in her encasements. Respiration swells her bosom. Her mouth cannot close. Her eyelids cannot open. An increasing fire reddens her cheeks.
Sometimes her ten fingers are interlaced before her face. Sometimes she raises her arms, stretching deliciously. A long fugitive furrow separates her raised shoulders. Finally, panting, covering her face with her hair in a single quick gesture, as one rolls the wedding veil, she stands silent in the center of the floor in all the mystery of her grace.
Demetrios and Chrysis . . .
So harmonious, so immediately perfect, is their first embrace, that they hold it, motionless, to taste to the full its many-faceted
delight. Chrysis is crushed in the arms which embrace her so strongly. Their lips cling in the glowing sweetness of a demanding affection that will not be recklessly satisfied. Intoxicated with each other, their very souls ache.
Nothing is observed so intimately as the face of a loved woman. Seen at the excessive approach of the kiss Chrysiss eyes seem enormous. When she closes them, two parallel folds appear upon each lid and a uniformly pallid tint extends from the brilliant eyebrows to the beginning of the cheeks. When she opens them, a green ring, fine as a silken thread, lightens with a corona of color the unfathomable black pupil which enlarges beyond measure under the long, curved lashes. The little rosy corner whence the tears flow has sudden palpitations.
This kiss will never finish. It seems as though it were not honey and milk as is said in the Scripture, but something living, quick, enchantedmore caressing than the hand, more expressive than the eyes, a moving flower which Chrysis animates with all tenderness and all fancy. . . . Caresses prolong and envelop. The tips of her fingers clasp him in a network of ceaseless convulsive shudders. She is happy, but desire terrifies her as though it were a suffering. She puts him aside with her outstretched arms, her lips begging. Demetrios holds her by force.
No spectacle of natureneither the flames of the western sun, nor the tempest among the palms, nor thunder-bolts, nor mirage, nor the great risings of the watersseems worthy of astonishment to those who have seen a woman transfigured in their arms. Chrysiss eyes, lighted by gratitude, gaze dizzily from the corners
of the lids. Her cheeks are resplendent. Every muscular line is admirable.
Demetrios contemplates, with a sort of religious fear, this power of the goddess in the feminine nature, this transport of a whole being, this superhuman ecstasy whose direct cause he is, which he exalts or represses freely and which, for the thousandth time, confounds him. Under his eyes, all the forces of life put forth effort and magnify themselves to create. Already she seems to take on a maternal majesty.
186:1 Song of Solomon, 5: 2, 6, 8.
187:2 Ibid., 2: 8-17.
188:3 Ibid., 2: 3-4; 3: 9-15.
188:4 Ibid., 3: 16.
189:5 Ibid., 7: 10-11; 8: 7, 13-14.