The Legend of Pygmalion Part 6

VI. The Melody of Grief

A pale dawn hovered. With the first gleams the sea awoke, stretching its golden scales. Across the heavens as purple as martyred flesh flew black arrows of birds. And a beam came to encircle like a collar the neck of Galatea.

Pygmalion, wearied after that night, lay sleeping. Awakening, he rubbed his eyes that were freighted with visions, for this had doubtless been a nightmare. The statue was not his, his Galatea Victrix. The lips had lost their curve of a taut bow. With the human precision of pupils these eyes told the grief of living.

A maternal milk films and conquers these breasts; the hips have lost their softness; the fragile frame is bent toward Mother Earth. Instead of the statue of potent Beauty, all night long he has been sculpturing the very face of grief. His hands, formerly as exact as pupils, have deceived him, and now his eyes, too, must be deceiving him. No pain is comparable to that of the creator before whos

The Legend of Pygmalion Part 5

V. Fever

And because on one dazzling morning the light revealed her de-formation, Pygmalion foresaw her inevitable fate. Without wakening her, when night came he took his chisel and struck her bosom a blow. There came the roar of the sea, unfailing and intermittent, liljp Fate herself. And in the gloom that is so favorable to the dreams of the poets, Pygmalion said: “Why art thou so cruel, O Beauty? It were better that I should be blind. Why does human ugliness so much offend me, and why dream if every dead dream becomes a corpse?”

His hands felt the cold body. He trembled as he divined the new miracle: Galatea was returning to the original marble. Her body was acquiring the firmness and the inert smoothness of the pure divine mat-ter. Her tresses grew fixed in salient lines like hard veins. And even a tear on her cheek had turned to stone.

Oh, wonder of the creative soul, emotion of death or of miracle! To remedy the imperfections of this ruined

The Legend of Pygmalion Part 4

IV. Weariness

Thought Pygmalion, not daring to say it in words: “O godly form, despite your divine origin, you shall die. Worm and rot, instead of the eternity that I have dreamed. To reveal to myself my godly powers, I subjected you to the law of death. But I’ll not be able to bear that you should die. Let me die instead, and let my flesh rot; but you must remain unchangeable, immune to time. Ah, why did I teach you love!”

With a nameless anguish he espied in his perfect companion each hollow and wrinkle. Then began sad days of terrible memory when love, having reached the summit, descends the hill with wings folded across her soft shoulders. But no, as in earthly passion, blindness prolonged his affection, save that in Pygmalion’s eyes, unfortunately, was the clairvoyance of the artist accustomed to notice in the skin of the marble as in the flesh, the coarse grain and the future crack. In the hue of dawn his artist’s nerves at times tingled to exas

The Legend of Pygmalion Part 3

III. The Initiation

Pygmalion became her master and her guide. This manner of teaching filled him with a confused intoxication, like to that of one who models the cherished image in wax. And, as the features of human beauty are adumbrated in the hazy sketch, so in this ingenuous child appeared—with a more than terrestrial charm—the first restlessness of womanhood.

No longer did she wander among the slabs of the atelier; nor did she lie upon the marble blocks, so crude and full of possibilities, into which her body seemed ready to merge and thus suddenly return to its primal element. Perhaps some dim memory induced in her a preference for the nearness of this pure material. Standing, she assumed always the attitude of a goddess. And when she reclined in meditation, she became the supple form that advances in the procession of the Panathenaea.

Aureoled thus in pure, resplendent white, at every hour before the astonished artist she repeated the mira

The Legend of Pygmalion Part 2

II. The Miracle

Evening descended upon these virginal forms. But the white mass resisted the shadows, and when the walls were draped in mourning, these bodies still shed light. The very gloom lent them grace and the illusion of nakedness. At this hour Pygmalion could feel them throb with a life that was different from the changeless existence of marble. Twilight tinged their limbs with its ruddy flame and on their breasts the setting sun traced a lingering hand.

That evening the zephyrs pulsed with voluptuousness. From the near-by sea where Venus ruled in her naked chastity, came an enervating languor. First Pygmalion kissed her naked feet, nestling his feverish head against her nubile thighs. Then, with a brusque movement, he arose on the pedestal and sealed her speechless lips with the human compact of a kiss. It was the first kiss of love. He lowered his eyes in shame. Suddenly, however, they grew wide with amazement and thrilling terror before the miracle:

The Legend of Pygmalion Part 1

Peru

Ventura Garcia-Calderon (1890—1956)

Ventura Garcia-Calderon, born at Lima of an old Peruvian family, was one of the most distinguished critics and literary historians of South America. He was also a fastidious writer of verse. His short stories are clearly the work of a poet, and are characterized by an extreme deli-cacy of style and treatment.

The legend of Pygmalion is translated by Isaac Goldberg especially for this collection and included by his permission. It has never before appeared in English.

The Legend of Pygmalion

I. The Artist

When Pygmalion had finished that statue, he smiled. The enchanted smile of children discovering the world! Truly it was perfect, unsurpassable. Just as the ancient sculptors of idols venerated the deity created by themselves, so would he gladly have fallen to his knees in adoration. About him, on rough pedestals or on the ground, close by, farther off, on shelves or on the w

What Vasile Saw part 10

But what was it that the Son of God was bearing on his shoulders— something dark and heavy and enormously large.

His Cross! Christ too was carrying His Cross, why? oh! why..

So lightly did He come over the snow, the Cross seemed no weight for His shoulders, yet Vasile’s shoulders still remembered the weight they had borne.

The luminous Figure did not pause before the young soldier, but Vasile had a fleeting glimpse of the angelic compassion in his eyes. … Slowly the Holy One passed the spot where Vasile knelt, and going straight up to the circle of sleeping soldiers, he stepped amongst them and Vasile saw—saw with his own eyes how the Son of God cast his Cross upon the cinders and how a glorious flame shot up from them, licking the sides of the Cross till the Cross itself was as a great torch of light!

Christ had brought his own Cross, had brought it to make a fire, so that the country’s brave defenders should not die of cold!

What Vasile Saw part 9

Why war? why suffering and cold and sacrifices when life might be easy—why? why? Why a God in the Heavens… too far off? Why symbols and superstitions and prejudices that had no clear meaning, no real use? Why hatred between nations? Why death and abominations of all sorts? Why? Why? The wind raged around him.…Read More

What Vasile Saw part 8

Others rose to examine the longed-for wood Vasile had brought and exclamations of all kinds arose.

The prisoners raised their heads and stared with sullen eyes at those who were talking. But Vasile was dumb. Overcome by fatigue, he sank down into the snow.

“A cross!” cried Scurtu. “How dare he bring a cross!”

“But it is wood and we are cold,” hazarded someone.

“That may be as it may be, but we cannot burn a cross!”

“It were sacrilege!”

“God would curse us!”

“And the dead also!”

“Yet we are cold and the dead are dead. …”

“What good to the dead if we freeze?”

“We have our country to defend!”

“There are so many dead without crosses!”

“For shame! Who dares burn a cross!”

Thus did exclamations fly from all tongues at once. Only Vasile and the prisoners were silent. Shame, weariness and a dull feeling of resent-

What Vasile Saw part 7

With a rapid movement Vasile seized the first cross and tried to pull it from the frozen ground. … The cross resisted—resisted like a tree with roots deep down in the ground, resisted like a living creature defending a sacred spot. But Vasile’s blood was up—the resistance he met with awoke the instinct of strife that lies dormant in each man. The stubborn cross became an opponent he had to overcome.

The strangest of struggles then ensued upon that forsaken plain—the wind howling like furies let loose whilst the young man wrestled with the wooden cross! The inert symbol offered a resistance that was ajmost human, and the youth fought desperately as though he had an enemy to throw.

The light of battle still in his eyes, Vasile lay awhile gasping; each time he drew in his breath, it was like a sob he could not hold back. The wind howled around him, whipping up crystals of frozen snow into his face.

But he had won! The cross had been uprooted; h