THE TEMPLE OF SOLOMON THE KING

The Prude

THE PRUDE

A FLY once sat upon the axle-tree of a chariot, and said: “What a dust do I raise!” Now a swarm of flies has come — the fourth plague of Egypt is upon us, and the land is corrupted by reason of their stench. The mighty ones are dead, the giants are no more, for the sons of God come not in unto the daughters of men, and the world is desolate, and greatness and renown are gone. To-day the blue blow-flies of decay sit buzzing on the slow-rolling wheel of Fortune, intoxicated on the dust of the dead, and sucking putrefaction from the sinews of the fallen, and rottenness from the charnel-house of Might.

O Reason! Thou hast become as a vulture feasting off the corpse of a king as it floats down the dark waters of Acheron. Nay! not so grand a sight, but as an old, wizened woman, skaldy and of sagging breast, who in the solitude of her latrina cuddles and licks the oleograph of a naked youth. O Adonis, rest in the arms of Aphrodite, seek not the hell-fouled daughter of Ceres, who hath grown hideous in the lewd embrace of the Serpent-God, betrayer of the knowledge of good and of evil. Behold her bulging belly and her shrivelled breasts, full of scale and scab — “bald, rotten, abominable!” Her tears no longer blossom into the anemones of Spring; {184} for their purity has left them, and they are become as the bilge which poureth forth from the stern of a ship full of hogs. O! Eros, fly, speed! Await not the awakening oil to scorch Thy cheek, lest Thou discover that Thy darling has grown hideous and wanton, and that in the place of a fair maiden there slimeth a huge slug fed of the cabbage-stalks of decay.

O Theos! O Pantheos! O Atheos! Triple God of the brotherhood of warriors. Evoe! I adore Thee, O thou Trinity of might and majesty — Thou silent Unity that rulest the hearts of the great. Alas! that men are dead, their thrones of gold empty, and their palaces of pearl fallen into ruin! Grandeur and Glory have departed, so that now in the Elysian fields the sheep of woolly understanding nibble the green turnip-tops of reason and the stubble in the reaped cornfields of knowledge. Now all is rational, virtuous, smug, and oily. Those who wrestled with the suns and the moons, and trapped the stars of heaven, and sought God on the summits of the mountains, and drove Satan into the bowels of the earth, have swum the black waters of Styx, and are now in the halls of Asgard and the groves of Olympus, amongst the jewels of Havilah and the soft-limbed houris of Paradise. They have left us, and in their stead have come the carrion kites, who have usurped the white thrones of their understanding, and the golden palaces of their wisdom.

Let us hie back to the cradle of Art and the swaddling bands of Knowledge, and watch the shepherds, among the lonely hills where the myrtle grows and the blue-bells ring out the innocence of Spring, learning from their flocks the mysteries of life. ... A wolf springs from the thicket, and a lamb lies sweltering in its blood; then an oaken cudgel is {185} raised, and Hermas has dashed out the brains from betwixt those green, glittering eyes. There now at his feet lie the dead and the dying; and man wonders at the writhing of the entrails and the bubbling of the blood. See! now he gathers in his flock, and drives them to a dark cavern in the sloping side of the mountain; and when the moon is up he departs, speeding to his sister the Sorceress to seek of her balsams and herbs wherewith to stanch his wound and to soothe the burning scratches of the wolf’s claws. There under the stars, whilst the bats circle around the moon, and the toad hops through the thicket, and the frogs splash in the mere, he whispers to her, how green were the eyes of the wild wolf, how sharp were his claws, how white his teeth and then, how the entrails wriggled on the ground, and the pink brains bubbled out their blood. Then both are silent, for a great awe fills them, and they crouch trembling amongst the hemlock and the foxgloves. A little while and she arises, and, pulling her black hood over her head, sets out alone through the trackless forest, here and there lit by the moon; and, guided by the stars, she reaches the city.

At a small postern by the tower of the castle known as the “lover’s gate” she halts and whistles thrice, and then, in shrill, clear notes as of some awakened night-bird, calls: “Brother, brother, brother mine!” Soon a chain clanks against the oaken door, and a bolt rumbles back in its staple, and before her in his red shirt and his leathern hose stands her brother the Hangman. And there under the stars she whispers to him, and for a moment he trembles, looking deep into her eyes; then he turns and leaves her. Presently there is a creaking of chains overhead — an owl, awakened from the {186} gibbet above, where it had been blinking perched on the shoulder of a corpse, flies shrieking into the night.

Soon he returns, his footsteps resounding heavily along the stone passage, and in his arms he is carrying the dead body of a young man. “Hé, my little sister,” he pants, and for a moment he props his heavy load up against the door of the postern. Then these two, the Sorceress and the Hangman, silently creep out into the night, back into the gloom of the forest, carrying between them the slumbering Spirit of Science and Art sleeping in the corse of a young man, whose golden hair streams gleaming in the moonlight, and around whose white throat glistens a snake-like bruise of red, of purple, and of black.

There under the oaks by an age-worn dolmen did they celebrate their midnight mass. ... “Look you! I must needs tell you, I love you well, as you are to-night; you are more desirable than ever you have been before ... you are built as a youth should be. ... Ah! how long, how long have I loved you! ... But to-day I am hungry, hungry for you! ...”

Thus under the Golden Bough in the moonlight was the host uplifted, and the Shepherd, and the Hangman, and the Sorceress broke the bread of Necromancy, and drank deep of the wine of witchcraft, and swore secrecy over the Eucharist of Art.

Now in the place of the dolmen stands the hospital, and where the trilithons towered is built the “Hall of Science.” Lo! the druid has given place to the doctor; and the physician has slain the priest his father, and with wanton words ravished the heart of his mother the sorceress. Now {187} instead of the mystic circle of the adepts we have the great “Bosh-Rot” school of Folly. Miracles are banned, yet still at the word of man do the halt walk, and the lame rise up and run. The devils have been banished, and demoniacal possession is no more, yet now the most lenient of these sages are calling it “hystero-demonopathy” — what a jargon of unmusical syllables! Saul, when he met God face to face on the dusty road of Damascus, is dismissed with a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex; and George Fox crying, “Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield!” is suffering from a disordered colon; whilst Carlyle is subject to gastro-duodenal catarrh. Yet this latter one writes: “Witchcraft and all manner of Spectre-work, and Demonology, we have now named Madness, and Diseases of the Nerves; seldom reflecting that still the new question comes upon us: What is Madness, what are Nerves?” — Indeed, what is Madness, what are Nerves?

Once, when a child, I was stung by a bee whilst dancing through the heather, and an old shepherd met me, and taking a black roll of tobacco from a metal box, he bit off a quid and, chewing it, spat it on my leg, and the pain vanished. He did not spend an hour racking through the dictionary of his brain to find a suitable “itis” whereby to allay the inflammation, and then, having carefully classified it with another, declared the pain to be imaginary and myself to be an hysterio-monomaniac suffering from apiarian illusions!

To-day Hercules is a sun-myth, and so are Osiris and Baal; and no may can raise his little finger without some priapic pig shouting: “Phallus ... phallus! I see a phallus! O what a phallus!” Away with this church-spire sexuality, {188} these atavistic obstetrics, these endless survivals and hypnoid states, and all these orchitic superficialities! Back to the fruits of life and the treasure-house of mystery!

Let us leap beyond the pale of these pedantic dictionary proxenetes and this shuffling of the thumbed cards of Reason. Let us cease gnawing at this philosophic ham-bone, and abandon the thistles of rationalism to the tame asses of the Six-penny Cult, and have done with all this pseudo-scientce, this logic-chopping, this levelling loquacity of loons, louts, lubbers, and lunatics!

O Thou rationalistic Boreas, how Thou belchest the sheep and with the flatulence of windy words! Away with the ethics and morals of the schoolmen, those prudish pedants whose bellies are swollen with the overboiled spinach of their sploshy virtues; and cease rattling the bread-pills of language in the bladder of medical terminology! The maniac’s vision of horror is better than this, even the shambles clotted with blood; for it is the blood of life; and the loneliness of the distant heath is as a cup of everlasting wine compared with the soapsuds of these clyster-mongers, these purge-puffed prudes, who loose forth on us an evil-smelling gas from their cabbage-crammed duodenary canals.

Yea! it shall pass by, this gastro-epileptic school of neurological maniacs; for in a little time we shall catch up with this moulting ostrich, and shall slay him whilst he buries his occipital cortex under the rubbish-heap of discharging lesions. Then the golden tree of life shall be replanted in Eden, and we little children shall dance round it, and shall banquet under the stars, feasting off the abandon of the wilderness and the freedom of the hills. Artists we shall {189} become, and in the storm shall we see a woman weeping; and in the lightning and the thunder the sworded warrior who crushes her to his shaggy breast. Away with laws and labours. ... Lo! in the groves of Pan the dance catches us up, and whirls us onward! O how we dash aside the goblets and the wine-skins, and how the tangled hair of our heads is blown amongst the purple clusters of the vine that clambers along the branches of the plane-trees in the Garden of Eros!

But yet for a little while the mystic child of Freedom must sit weeping at the footstool of the old prude Reason, and spell out her windy alphabets whilst she squats like a toad above her, dribbling, filled with lewd thoughts and longings for the oleograph of the naked youth and the stinking secrecy of her latrina!

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Index | Preface | The Black Watch-Tower | The Miser | The Spendthrift | The Bankrupt | The Prude | The Child | The Wanton | The Slave | The Warrior | The King | The White Watch-Tower

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