Category Archives: literature

Floris and Blancheflour (is) (not) the missing link …

Floris and Blancheflour (is) (not) the missing link between European medieval literature and the Arabian Nights.

Many of the details, such as the Tower of Maidens (i.e. harem), eunuch guards, and the odalisques (white slavery) derive from material carried to the west via The Arabian Nights. The frame tale of The Nights (the king “re-marries” every night) is reflected in a plot element (“the king re-marries every year”) in Floris and Blancheflour.

The tale could be originally French, or possibly of Oriental origins, or a synthesis of motifs. Kathleen Coyne Kelly, in her essay “Bartering of Blauncheflur,” summarized the discussion of the sources as follows: “Scholars disagree as to whether Floris and Blauncheflur is an oriental tale that was adapted for Western audiences, or a tale whose European author simply supplied it with an oriental setting.”

Compared to other medieval romances, the story has not frequently been brought to the screen. In 1978 Fabrice Luchini and Arielle Dombasle (photo) portrayed Floris and Blancheflour in Perceval le gallois by Éric Rohmer.

RIP Simon Vinkenoog (1928 – 2009)

RIP Simon Vinkenoog, 80, Dutch poet and writer.

Vinkenoog with Spinvis in a totally Fela Kuti-esque track

Simon Vinkenoog (1928 – 2009) was a Dutch poet and writer. He was instrumental in launching the Dutch “Fifties Movement“.

In the Anglosphere Vinkenoog’s name is associated with the Albert Hall poetry event (and the film Wholly Communion) and his connection with IT magazine.

He was one of the Néerlandophone beat writers. The same cultural climate that begot the beat writers in the United States engendered European counterparts.

These countercultures must be looked for in two spheres, the sphere of European counterculture and the sphere of European avant-garde.

In France this was the Letterist International, in Germany perhaps Gruppe 47; visually and on a European scale there was COBRA.

Vinkenoog was born in the same year as Andy Warhol, Serge Gainsbourg, Jeanne Moreau, Nicolas Roeg, Guy Bourdin, Luigi Colani, Stanley Kubrick, Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, William Klein, Roger Vadim, Yves Klein, Jacques Rivette, Alvin Toffler, Ennio Morricone and Oswalt Kolle.

Medieval erotica and Icon of Erotic Art #46

Medieval erotica

Hell detail from Giotto's Last Judgement

Hell detail from Giotto‘s Last Judgement

As Peter Webb notes in his excellent The Erotic Arts, eroticism is rare in the art of the Early Christian period and the Middle Ages. Pagan monuments were often overtly sexual, but Christian art shunned the world of physical love. Christianity was a non-sexual religion (Virgin birth of Jesus, Saint Paul advocating clerical celibacy).

Gargoyle mooning another building, Frieburg, GER, photographed by macg.stiegler on 4/9/2004, image sourced here. (via Gargoyle )

Mooning gargoyle, Frieburg, GER, photographed by macg.stiegler on 4/9/2004.

It was an era of sexual repression, but there are exceptions of course. There were elegiac comedies such as Lidia, erotic folklore such as the fabliaux, seductive enchantresses such as the Morgan le Fay, succubi and incubi, sexual church gargoyle ornamentations and Sheela na Gigs and sexual misericords.

The Christian repression of sexuality led to the depiction of erotic horrors in various frescos such as Giotto‘s Last Judgement.

See also medieval, history of erotica, Christianity and sexual morality, Sexuality in Christian demonology and De Daemonialitate et Incubis et Succubis.

The mooning gargoyle of Frieberg is Icon of Erotic Art #46.

Never mind the bollocks, here’s Rabelais

Never mind the bollocks, here’s Rabelais

Friar John and  Panurge give the Blason and contreblason du couillon  by  Rabelais

As I noted in a previous post[1] on satirical pornography or pornographic satire, Rabelais‘s masterpiece Gargantua and Pantagruel is more emetic than erotic.

There is however a strain of eroticism to be found in Rabelais, a strain of the bawdy, ribald and burlesque variety, which dates back at its earliest to the Ancient Greek Milesian tale.

The Milesian tales are the earliest instances of erotic literature in the Western world. They directly influenced ApuleiusThe Golden Ass, PetroniusSatyricon in antiquity. They were mentioned in Traitté de l’origine des romans. Aristidean saucy and disreputable heroes and spicy, fast-paced anecdote resurfaced in the medieval fabliaux. Chaucer‘s The Miller’s Tale is in Aristides’ tradition, as are some of the saltier tales in Boccaccio‘s Decameron or the Heptameron of Marguerite of Navarre and the later genre of the picaresque novel.

Googling for “buttocks” in Gargantua and Pantagruel five-book series. I came across the tale of Han Carvel’s ring and the blazon and counterblazon of the bollocks in the Third Book. I first mentioned the poetic genre blason here when I posted the Blazon of the Ugly Tit[2] (1535) by Clément Marot.

Rabelais‘s blason and contreblason du couillon (Eng blason and counterblason of the bollock(s)) respectively sing the praise and disparagement of the male testicles. First, there is Panurge‘s blason in “How Panurge consulteth with Friar John of the Funnels“, then Frère Jean‘s contreblason in “How Friar John comforteth Panurge in the doubtful matter of cuckoldry“.

These rhapsodic lists and enumerations of adjectives are extremely poetic juxtapositions and show how the novel, which was a genre in its nascent state was allowed a maximum of formal and content-wise liberties. In this sense, 16th century literature is quite amazing.

The c. is short for couillons (bollocks).

Panurge‘s praise of the bollocks (275 adjectives):

Mellow C. Varnished C. Resolute C.
Lead-coloured C. Renowned C. Cabbage-like C.
Knurled C. Matted C. Courteous C.
Suborned C. Genitive C. Fertile C.
Desired C. Gigantal C. Whizzing C.
Stuffed C. Oval C. Neat C.
Speckled C. Claustral C. Common C.
Finely metalled C. Virile C. Brisk C.
Arabian-like C. Stayed C. Quick C.
Trussed-up Greyhound-like C. Massive C. Bearlike C.
Manual C. Partitional C.
Mounted C. Absolute C. Patronymic C.
Sleeked C. Well-set C. Cockney C.
Diapered C. Gemel C. Auromercuriated C.
Spotted C. Turkish C. Robust C.
Master C. Burning C. Appetizing C.
Seeded C. Thwacking C. Succourable C.
Lusty C. Urgent C. Redoubtable C.
Jupped C. Handsome C. Affable C.
Milked C. Prompt C. Memorable C.
Calfeted C. Fortunate C. Palpable C.
Raised C. Boxwood C. Barbable C.
Odd C. Latten C. Tragical C.
Steeled C. Unbridled C. Transpontine C.
Stale C. Hooked C. Digestive C.
full blason here

Frère Jean‘s disparagement of the bollocks (440 adjectives):

Faded C. Louting C. Appellant C.
Mouldy C. Discouraged C. Swagging C.
Musty C. Surfeited C. Withered C.
Paltry C. Peevish C. Broken-reined C.
Senseless C. Translated C. Defective C.
Foundered C. Forlorn C. Crestfallen C.
Distempered C. Unsavoury C. Felled C.
Bewrayed C. Worm-eaten C. Fleeted C.
Inveigled C. Overtoiled C. Cloyed C.
Dangling C. Miserable C. Squeezed C.
Stupid C. Steeped C. Resty C.
Seedless C. Kneaded-with-cold- Pounded C.
Soaked C. water C. Loose C.
Coldish C. Hacked C. Fruitless C.
Pickled C. Flaggy C. Riven C.
Churned C. Scrubby C. Pursy C.
Filliped C. Drained C. Fusty C.
Singlefied C. Haled C. Jadish C.
Begrimed C. Lolling C. Fistulous C.
Wrinkled C. Drenched C. Languishing C.
Fainted C. Burst C. Maleficiated C.
Extenuated C. Stirred up C. Hectic C.
Grim C. Mitred C. Worn out C.
Wasted C. Peddlingly furnished Ill-favoured C.
Inflamed C. C. Duncified C.
full counterblason here

As I noted in a previous post[1] on satirical pornography or pornographic satire, Rabelais‘s masterpiece Gargantua and Pantagruel is more emetic than erotic.

There is however a strain of eroticism to be found in Rabelais, a strain of the bawdy, ribald and burlesque variety, which dates back at its earliest to the Ancient Greek Milesian tale.

The Milesian tales are the earliest instances of erotic literature in the Western world. They directly influenced ApuleiusThe Golden Ass, PetroniusSatyricon in antiquity. They were mentioned in Traitté de l’origine des romans. Aristidean saucy and disreputable heroes and spicy, fast-paced anecdote resurfaced in the medieval fabliaux. Chaucer‘s The Miller’s Tale is in Aristides’ tradition, as are some of the saltier tales in Boccaccio‘s Decameron or the Heptameron of Marguerite of Navarre and the later genre of the picaresque novel.

Googling for “buttocks” in Gargantua and Pantagruel five-book series. I came across the tale of Han Carvel’s ring and the blazon and counterblazon of the bollocks in the Third Book. I first mentioned the poetic genre blason here when I posted the Blazon of the Ugly Tit[2] (1535) by Clément Marot.

Rabelais‘s Blason and contreblason du couillons (Eng blason and counterblason of the bollock) are two blasons which are featured in the Third Book of Gargantua and Pantagruel. First, there is Panurge‘s blason in “How Panurge consulteth with Friar John of the Funnels“, then Frère Jean‘s contreblason in “How Friar John comforteth Panurge in the doubtful matter of cuckoldry“.

These rhapsodic lists and enumerations of adjectives are extremely poetic juxtapositions and show how the novel, which was a genre in its nascent state was allowed a maximum of formal and essential liberties. In this sense, 16th century literature is quite amazing.

Panurge‘s praise of the bollocks (275 adjectives)::

Mellow C. Varnished C. Resolute C.
Lead-coloured C. Renowned C. Cabbage-like C.
Knurled C. Matted C. Courteous C.
Suborned C. Genitive C. Fertile C.
Desired C. Gigantal C. Whizzing C.
Stuffed C. Oval C. Neat C.
Speckled C. Claustral C. Common C.
Finely metalled C. Virile C. Brisk C.
Arabian-like C. Stayed C. Quick C.
Trussed-up Greyhound-like C. Massive C. Bearlike C.
Manual C. Partitional C.
Mounted C. Absolute C. Patronymic C.
Sleeked C. Well-set C. Cockney C.
Diapered C. Gemel C. Auromercuriated C.
Spotted C. Turkish C. Robust C.
Master C. Burning C. Appetizing C.
Seeded C. Thwacking C. Succourable C.
Lusty C. Urgent C. Redoubtable C.
Jupped C. Handsome C. Affable C.
Milked C. Prompt C. Memorable C.
Calfeted C. Fortunate C. Palpable C.
Raised C. Boxwood C. Barbable C.
Odd C. Latten C. Tragical C.
Steeled C. Unbridled C. Transpontine C.
Stale C. Hooked C. Digestive C.
full blason here

Frère Jean‘s disparagement of the bollocks (440 adjectives):

Faded C. Louting C. Appellant C.
Mouldy C. Discouraged C. Swagging C.
Musty C. Surfeited C. Withered C.
Paltry C. Peevish C. Broken-reined C.
Senseless C. Translated C. Defective C.
Foundered C. Forlorn C. Crestfallen C.
Distempered C. Unsavoury C. Felled C.
Bewrayed C. Worm-eaten C. Fleeted C.
Inveigled C. Overtoiled C. Cloyed C.
Dangling C. Miserable C. Squeezed C.
Stupid C. Steeped C. Resty C.
Seedless C. Kneaded-with-cold- Pounded C.
Soaked C. water C. Loose C.
Coldish C. Hacked C. Fruitless C.
Pickled C. Flaggy C. Riven C.
Churned C. Scrubby C. Pursy C.
Filliped C. Drained C. Fusty C.
Singlefied C. Haled C. Jadish C.
Begrimed C. Lolling C. Fistulous C.
Wrinkled C. Drenched C. Languishing C.
Fainted C. Burst C. Maleficiated C.
Extenuated C. Stirred up C. Hectic C.
Grim C. Mitred C. Worn out C.
Wasted C. Peddlingly furnished Ill-favoured C.
Inflamed C. C. Duncified C.
full counterblason here

Introducing Le Comte de Gabalis

Introducing Le Comte de Gabalis

Sourced via pierrepainblanc

I’ve just spent a good deal of hours researching Comte de Gabalis, a quest prompted by a new release on Creation BooksCreation Oneiros imprint and the reference I found there to occult fiction. Wikipedia has no entry on occult fiction but Googling them did bring up Gabalis.

I am not that a big a fan of occultism except when I find it represented in fiction, such as supernatural horror or le fantastique.

A recap of what I found:

The Comte De Gabalis is a 17th century grimoire (posing as a novel of ideas) by French writer Abbé N. de Montfaucon de Villars, first published anonymously in 1670. The book is dedicated to Rosicrucianis and Cabalism and based on Paracelsus‘s four elementals: Gnomes, earth elementals; Undines; water elementals, Sylphs, air elementals and Salamanders, fire elementals. It is composed of five discourses given by a Count or spiritual master to the student or aspirant. The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology by the Gale Group notes that the work may be a satire of the writings of la Calprenède, a popular French writer of the 17th century.

David Teniers the Younger. The Alchemist. Oil on canvas. 44 x 58.5 cm. Palazzo Pitti, Galleria Palatina, Florence, Italy.  Comte de Gabalis The Comte De Gabalis is a 17th century grimoire (posing as a novel of ideas) by French writer Abbé N. de Montfaucon de Villars. The book is dedicated to Rosicrucianis and Cabalism and based on Paracelsus’s four elementals: Gnomes, earth elementals; Undines; water elementals, Sylphs, air elementals and Salamanders, fire elementals. It is composed of five discourses given by a Count or spiritual master to the student or aspirant.  It was anonymously published in 1670 under the title: “Comte De Gabalis.”  The meaning suggests the Count of the Cabala as the text is cabalistic in nature.  The “Holy Cabala” is mentioned explicitly throughout. The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology by the Gale Group notes that  the work may be a satire of the writings of la Calprenède, a popular French writer of the 17th century.

David Teniers the Younger. The Alchemist

It was also very pleasant to find and wikify elements in fiction:

Shakespeare‘s plays abound in elemental beings including Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Ariel in The Tempest. Alexander Pope was influenced by the Comte de Gabalis in his Rosicrucian poem “Rape of the Lock.” Sylphs have been the favorites of the bards. The “Mahābhārata” is full of stories about beings of the elements and their heroic offspring with their human partners. Similar themes and references are found in Homer‘s The Iliad and The Odyssey in which the elemental beings appear as gods and goddesses such as the mighty Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, and Achilles, son of a mortal man and the goddess Nymph Thetis (see The Iliad by Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics, 1990). German writer Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué wrote about a beautiful water-nymph, “Undine,” and Sir Walter Scott endowed the White Lady of Avenel with many of the attributes of the nymphs. Other works or characters influenced include Lord Lytton‘s Zanoni, James Barrie‘s Tinker Bell; and the bowlers Rip Van Winkle encountered in the Catskill Mountains. The story of Melusina is based on the historical marriage of a gentleman and a water nymph. Charles Mackay, father of Marie Corelli, wrote “Salamandrine,” a poem about a great love between a human and a female salamander. Cabalism, in general, influenced many Mediaeval poems as well as the writings of Dante.

The most interesting aspect of The Comte De Gabalis is the sexual union of gods and mortals. I like half creatures and I like the sexual part of it. It was the work of the minor British publisher of  anthropologica Robert H. Fryar who most clearly brought this link to my attention by reprinting in the late 19th century the Comte de Gabalis with its tale of the immortalization of elementals through sexual intercourse with men and supplementing the work with long citations from the recently discovered Demoniality Or Incubi and Succubi[1], an eighteenth-century work by Father Sinistrari on the dangers of incubi and succubi.

RIP Stanley Chapman (1925 – 2009)

RIP Stanley Chapman (1925 – 2009)[1]

via www.tate.org.uk RIP  Stanley Chapman (1925 - 2009)  Fig.3 Stanley Chapman Cover illustration for Subsidia Pataphysica, no.1, 19 December              1965enlarge

via www.tate.org.uk

Cover illustration for Subsidia Pataphysica, no.1, 19 December 1965

Stanley Chapman (19252009) was a British architect, designer, translator and writer. His interests included theatre and pataphysics. He was involved with founding the National Theatre of London, was a member of Oulipo of the year 1960, founder of the Outrapo and a member also of the French Collège de ‘Pataphysique, president the London Institute of ‘Pataphysics and the Lewis Carroll Society. His English translation of Hundred Thousand Billion Poems was received with “admiring stupefaction” by Raymond Queneau.

I have always found the odour of my beloved ones exceeding pleasant, and the stronger their transpiration, the more they seemed sweet to me

File:Tomato leaf stomate 1-color.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

a juxtapoetic illustration of sweat

There is a charming Italian restaurant and traiteur right next to my door, called Il Particolare.

Particolare

In their tiny dining room hangs a quote of the preface to Casanova’s Histoire de ma vie. Its most intriguing bit reads:

“Wat de vrouwen betreft, vond ik altijd dat het liefje, dat ik begeerde lekker rook en hoe meer ze zweette, des te heerlijker ik haar vond.”

Like so many translations of Histoire de ma vie, it was previously bowdlerized.

The original French text reads:

“J’ai toujours trouvé que celle que j’aimais sentait bon et plus sa transpiration était forte, plus elle me semblait suave.”

Jean Laforgue, who translated from the German Brockhaus edition “rectified”: “Quant aux femmes, j’ai toujours trouvé suave l’odeur de celles que j’ai aimées”.

Arthur Symons repeats the bowdlerized version (as he had no access to the original edition): “As for women, I have always found the odour of my beloved ones exceeding pleasant.” It should actually read: “I have always found the odour of my beloved ones exceeding pleasant, and the stronger their transpiration, the more they seemed sweet to me.

Of a Fool, Who Thought His Wife Had Two Openings

Poggio

I have a definite fondness for crude humour of the Middle Ages. The history of the genre was first documented in Italian scholar Poggio‘s Facetiae, a collection of humorous and indecent tales.

There is a presumably American 1930 private edition titled Facetia Erotica. Its full text can be found here.

It features such stories as Of a Fool, Who Thought His Wife Had Two Openings.

Poggio: Facetia Erotica, Title Page Poggio ‘s Facetiae, a collection of humorous and indecent tales is his best known work: it is available in several English translations. There is a public domain 1930 edition titled Facetia Erotica. It features such stories as Of a Fool, Who Thought His Wife Had Two Openings.

Facetiae, here published as Facetia Erotica. (source)

A peasant of our district, a stupid devil, who was utterly ignorant in matters of sex, got married. Thus it happened one night that his wife turned her back to him in bed, so that her buttocks rested in his lap. He had his weapon ready and landed by chance right in the goal. Marveling at his success, he inquired of his wife if she had two openings. And when she answered in the affirmative, he cried: “Hoho! I am content with but one; the second is entirely superfluous.” Upon which the sly woman, who was secretly consorting with the local priest, replied: “Then we can give the second away to charity. Let us grant it to the church and our priest.” The peasant, thinking to be relieved of an unnecessary burden, agreed [read the rest].

RIP James Kirkup (1918 – 2009)

RIP James Kirkup

James Kirkup, FRSL (23 April 1918 – 10 May 2009) was a prolific English poet, translator and travel writer, best-known for his controversial poem The Love that Dares to Speak its Name, which describes a sexual fantasy of a homosexual soldier for the dead Christ.

The Dead Christ (1582) by Annibale Carracci

The Dead Christ (1582) by Annibale Carracci

The Love that Dares to Speak its Name is  written from the viewpoint of a Roman centurion who is graphically described having sex with Jesus after his crucifixion, and also claims that Jesus had had sex with numerous disciples, guards, and even Pontius Pilate. Its title The Love that Dares to Speak its Name was taken from a line in the poem “Two Loves” by Lord Alfred Douglas.

Lamentation over the Dead Christ (c. 1480) by Andrea Mantegna

Lamentation over the Dead Christ (c. 1480) by Andrea Mantegna

Dead Christ

In Western art, the death of Christ and its depiction is usually known by the term lamentation of Christ and it is a very common subject in Christian art from the High Middle Ages to the Baroque. After Jesus was crucified, his body was removed from the cross and his friends and family mourned over his body. This event has been depicted by many different artists.