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D'ANNUNZIO, Gabriele

Il piacere / The Child Of Pleasure

And in the kisses, what deep sweetness! There are women's mouths that seem to ignite with love the breath that opens them. Whether they are reddened by blood richer than purple, or frozen by the pallor of agony, whether they are illuminated by the goodness of consent or darkened by the shadow of disdain, they always carry within them an enigma that disturbs men of intellect, and attracts them and captivates them. A constant discord between the expression of the lips and that of the eyes generates the mystery; it seems as if a duplicitous soul reveals itself there with a different beauty, happy and sad, cold and passionate, cruel and merciful, humble and proud, laughing and mocking; and the ambiguity arouses discomfort in the spirit that takes pleasure in dark things.


Notturno / The Beauty of the Night

It was one of those wonderful January nights, cold and serene, which turn Rome into a city of silver set in a ring of diamonds. The full moon, hanging in mid-sky, shed a triple purity of light, of frost, and of silence.

He walked along in the moonlight like a somnambulist, conscious of nothing but his pain. The last blow had been struck, the idol was shattered, nothing remained standing above the ruins—this was the end!

So it was true—she had never really loved him. She had not scrupled to break with him in order to contract a marriage of convenience. And now she put on the airs of a martyr before him, wrapped herself round with a mantle of conjugal inviolability! A bitter laugh rose to his lips, and then a rush of sullen blind rage against the woman came over him. The memory of his passion went for nothing—all the past was one long fraud, one stupendous, hideous lie; and this man, who throughout his whole life had made a practice of dissimulation and duplicity, was now incensed at the deception of another, was as indignant at it as at some unpardonable backsliding, some inexcusable and inexplicable perfidy. He was quite unable to understand how Elena could have committed such a crime; he denied her all possibility of justification, and rejected the hypothesis of some secret and dire necessity having driven her to sudden flight. He could see nothing but the bare brutal fact, its baseness, its vulgarity—above all its vulgarity, gross, manifest, odious, without one extenuating circumstance. In short, the whole matter reduced itself to this: a passion which was apparently sincere, which they had vowed was profound and inextinguishable, had been broken off for a question of money, for material interests, for a commercial transaction.

'Oh, you are ungrateful! What do you know of all that has happened, of all I have suffered!'

Elena's words recurred to him with everything else she had said, from beginning to end of their interview—her words of fondness, her offer of sisterly affection, all her sentimental phrases. And he remembered, too, the tears that had dimmed her eyes, her changes of countenance, her tremors, her choking voice when she said good-bye, and he laid the roses in her lap. 'But why had she ever consented to come? Why play this part, call up all these emotions, arrange this comedy? Why?

By this time he had reached the top of the steps, and found himself in the deserted piazza. Suddenly the beauty of the night filled him with a vague but desperate yearning towards some unknown good. The image of Maria Ferrès flashed across his mind; his heart beat fast, he thought of what it would be to hold her hands in his, to lean his head upon her breast, to feel that she was consoling him without words, by her pity alone. This longing for pity, for a refuge, was like the last struggle of a soul that will not be content to perish. He bent his head and entered the house without turning again to look at the night.