lunes, 30 de mayo de 2011

The Cogitator

However, I cannot pass over a very strange and extraordinary piece of Art which this Old Gentleman inform'd me of, and that was an Engine to screw a Man into himself: Perhaps our Country-men may be at some Difficulty to comprehend these things by my dull Description; and to such I cannot but recommend, a Journey in my Engine to the Moon.

This Machine that I am speaking of, contains a multitude of strange Springs and Screws, and a Man that puts himself into it, is very insensibly carried into vast Speculations, Reflexions, and regular Debates with himself: They have a very hard Name for it in those Parts; but if I were to give it an English Name, it should be call'd, The Cogitator, or the Chair of Reflection.

And First, The Person that is seated here feels some pain in passing some Negative Springs, that are wound up, effectually to shut out all Injecting, Disturbing Thoughts; and the better to prepare him for the Operation that is to follow, and this is without doubt a very rational way; for when a Man can absolutely shut out all manner of thinking, but what he is upon, he shall think the more Intensly upon the one object before him.

This Operation past, here are certain Screws that draw direct Lines from every Angle of the Engine to the Brain of the Man, and at the same time, other direct Lines to his Eyes; at the other end of which Lines, there are Glasses which convey or reflect the Objects the Person is desirous to think upon.

Then the main Wheels are turn'd, which wind up according to their several Offices; this the Memory, that the Understanding; a third the Will, a fourth the thinking Faculty; and these being put all into regular Motions, pointed by direct Lines to their proper Objects, and perfectly uninterrupted by the Intervention of Whimsy, Chimera, and a Thousand fluttering Dæmons that Gender in the Fancy, but are effectually Lockt out as before, assist one another to receive right Notions, and form just Ideas of the things they are directed to, and from thence the Man is impower'd to make right Conclusions, to think and act like himself, suitable to the sublime Qualities his Soul was originally blest with.

There never was a Man went into one of these thinking Engines, but he came wiser out than he was before; and I am persuaded, it would be a more effectual Cure to our Deism, Atheism, Scepticism, and all other Scisms, than ever the Italian's Engine, for Curing the Gout by cutting off the Toe.

This is a most wonderful Engine, and performs admirably, and my Author gave me extraordinary Accounts of the good Effects of it; and I cannot but tell my Reader, That our Sublunar World suffers Millions of Inconveniencies, for want of this thinking Engine: I have had a great many Projects in my Head, how to bring our People to regular thinking, but 'tis in vain without this Engin; and how to get the Model of it I know not; how to screw up the Will, the Understanding, and the rest of the Powers; how to bring the Eye, the Thought, the Fancy, and the Memory, into Mathematical Order, and obedient to Mechanick Operation; help Boyl, Norris, Newton, Manton, Hammond, Tillotson, and all the Learned Race, help Phylosophy, Divinity, Physicks, Oeconomicks, all's in vain, a Mechanick Chair of Reflection is the only Remedy that ever I found in my Life for this Work.

As to the Effects of Mathematical thinking, what Volumes might be writ of it will more easily appear, if we consider the wondrous Usefulness of this Engine in all humane Affairs; as of War, Peace, Justice, Injuries, Passion, Love, Marriage, Trade, Policy, and Religion.

When a Man has been screw'd into himself, and brought by this Art to a Regularity of Thought, he never commits any Absurdity after it; his Actions are squared by the same Lines, for Action is but the Consequence of Thinking; and he that acts before he thinks, sets humane Nature with the bottom upward.

M. would never have made his Speech, nor the famous B----ly wrote a Book, if ever they had been in this thinking Engine: One would have never told us of Nations he never saw, nor the other told us, he had seen a great many, and was never the Wiser.

H. had never ruin'd his Family to Marry Whore, Thief and Beggar-Woman, in one Salliant Lady, after having been told so honestly, and so often of it by the very Woman her self.

Our late unhappy Monarch had never trusted the English Clergy, when they preacht up that Non-Resistance, which he must needs see they could never Practice; had his Majesty been screw'd up into this Cogitator, he had presently reflected, that it was against Nature to expect they should stand still, and let him tread upon them: That they should, whatever they had preacht or pretended to, hold open their Throats to have them be cut, and tye their own Hands from resisting the Lord's Anointed.

Had some of our Clergy been screw'd in this Engine, they had never turned Martyrs for their Allegiance to the Late King, only for the Lechery of having Dr. S------- in their Company.

Had our Merchants been manag'd in this Engine, they had never trusted their Turkey Fleet with a famous Squadron, that took a great deal of care to Convoy them safe into the Enemies Hands.

Had some People been in this Engine, when they had made a certain League in the World, in order to make amends for a better made before, they would certainly have consider'd farther, before they had embarkt with a Nation, that are neither fit to go abroad nor stay at Home.

As for the Thinking practis'd in Noble Speeches, Occasional Bills, Addressings about Prerogative, Convocation Disputes, Turnings in and Turnings out at Ours, and all the Courts of Christendom, I have nothing to say to it.


Our Cogitator would be a very necessary thing to show some People, That Poverty and Weakness is not a sufficient Ground to oppress a Nation, and their having but little Trade, cannot be a sufficient Ground to equip Fleets to take away what they have.

I cannot deny, that I have often thought they have had something of this Engine in our Neighbouring Antient Kingdom, since no Man, however we pretend to be angry, but will own they are in the right of it, as to themselves, to Vote and procure Bills for their own Security, and not to do as others demand without Conditions fit to be accepted: But of that by it self.

There are abundance of People in Our World, of all sorts and Conditions, that stand in need of our thinking Engines, and to be screw'd into themselves a little, that they might think as directly as they speak absurdly: But of these also in a Class by it self.

This Engine has a great deal of Philosophy in it; and particularly, 'tis a wonderful Remedy against Poreing; and as it was said of Mons. Jurieu at Amsterdam, that he us'd to lose himself in himself; by the Assistance of this piece of Regularity, a Man is most effectually secur'd against bewildring Thoughts, and by direct thinking, he prevents all manner of dangerous wandring, since nothing can come to more speedy Conclusions, than that which in right Lines, points to the proper Subject of Debate.

All sorts of Confusion of Thoughts are perfectly avoided and prevented in this case, and a Man is never troubled with Spleen, Hyppo, or Mute Madness, when once he has been thus under the Operation of the Screw: It prevents abundance of Capital Disasters in Men, in private Affairs; it prevents hasty Marriages, rash Vows, Duels, Quarrels, Suits at Law, and most sorts of Repentance. In the State, it saves a Government from many Inconveniences; it checks immoderate Ambition, stops Wars, Navies and Expeditions; especially it prevents Members making long Speeches when they have nothing to say; it keeps back Rebellions, Insurrections, Clashings of Houses, Occasional Bills, Tacking, &c.

It has a wonderful Property in our Affairs at Sea, and has prevented many a Bloody Fight, in which a great many honest Men might have lost their Lives that are now useful Fellows, and help to Man and manage Her Majesty's Navy.

What if some People are apt to charge Cowardice upon some People in those Cases? 'Tis plain that cannot be it, for he that dare incur the Resentment of the English Mob, shows more Courage than would be able to carry him through Forty Sea-fights.

'Tis therefore for want of being in this Engine, that we censure People, because they don't be knocking one another on the Head, like the People at the Bear-Garden; where, if they do not see the Blood run about, they always cry out, A Cheat; and the poor Fellows are fain to cut one another, that they may not be pull'd a pieces; where the Case is plain, they are bold for fear, and pull up Courage enough to Fight, because they are afraid of the People.

This Engine prevents all sorts of Lunacies, Love-Frenzies, and Melancholy-Madness, for preserving the Thought in right Lines to direct Objects, it is impossible any Deliriums, Whimsies, or fluttering Air of Ideas, can interrupt the Man, he can never be Mad; for which reason I cannot but recommend it to my Lord S---, my Lord N---, and my Lord H-----, as absolutely necesssary to defend them from the State-Madness, which for some Ages has possest their Families, and which runs too much in the Blood.

It is also an excellent Introduction to Thought, and therefore very well adapted to those People whose peculiar Talent and Praise is, That they never think at all. Of these, if his Grace of B---d would please to accept Advice from the Man in the Moon, it should be to put himself into this Engine, as a Soveraign Cure to the known Disease call'd the Thoughtless Evil.

But above all, it is an excellent Remedy, and very useful to a sort of People, who are always Travelling in Thought, but never Deliver'd into Action; who are so exceeding busy at Thinking, they have no leisure for Action. These Gentlemen would make excellent use of this Engine, for it would teach 'em to dispatch one thing before they begin another; and therefore is of singular use to honest S----, whose peculiar it was, to be always beginning Projects, but never finish any.

The Variety of this Engine, its Uses, and Improvements, are Innumerable, and the Reader must not expect I can give any thing like a perfect Description of it.

Daniel DEFOE
The Consolidator

sábado, 28 de mayo de 2011

The Rat Ghost

"When he had finished his supper, and lifted the tray to the other end of the great oak dining-table, he got out his books again, put fresh wood on the fire, trimmed his lamp, and set himself down to a spell of real hard work. He went on without pause till about eleven o'clock, when he knocked off for a bit to fix his fire and lamp, and to make himself a cup of tea. He had always been a tea-drinker, and during his college life had sat late at work and had taken tea late. The rest was a great luxury to him, and he enjoyed it with a sense of delicious, voluptuous ease. The renewed fire leaped and sparkled, and threw quaint shadows through the great old room; and as he sipped his hot tea he revelled in the sense of isolation from his kind. Then it was that he began to notice for the first time what a noise the rats were making.

"Surely," he thought, "they cannot have been at it all the time I was reading. Had they been, I must have noticed it!" Presently, when the noise increased, he satisfied himself that it was really new. It was evident that at first the rats had been frightened at the presence of a stranger, and the light of fire and lamp; but that as the time went on they had grown bolder and were now disporting themselves as was their wont.

How busy they were! and hark to the strange noises! Up and down behind the old wainscot, over the ceiling and under the floor they raced, and gnawed, and scratched! Malcolmson smiled to himself as he recalled to mind the saying of Mrs. Dempster, "Bogies is rats, and rats is bogies!" The tea began to have its effect of intellectual and nervous stimulus, he saw with joy another long spell of work to be done before the night was past, and in the sense of security which it gave him, he allowed himself the luxury of a good look round the room. He took his lamp in one hand, and went all around, wondering that so quaint and beautiful an old house had been so long neglected. The carving of the oak on the panels of the wainscot was fine, and on and round the doors and windows it was beautiful and of rare merit. There were some old pictures on the walls, but they were coated so thick with dust and dirt that he could not distinguish any detail of them, though he held his lamp as high as he could over his head. Here and there as he went round he saw some crack or hole blocked for a moment by the face of a rat with its bright eyes glittering in the light, but in an instant it was gone, and a squeak and a scamper followed. The thing that most struck him, however, was the rope of the great alarm bell on the roof, which hung down in a corner of the room on the right-hand side of the fireplace. He pulled up close to the hearth a great high-backed carved oak chair, and sat down to his last cup of tea. When this was done he made up the fire, and went back to his work, sitting at the corner of the table, having the fire to his left. For a little while the rats disturbed him somewhat with their perpetual scampering, but he got accustomed to the noise as one does to the ticking of a clock or to the roar of moving water, and he became so immersed in his work that everything in the world, except the problem which he was trying to solve, passed away from him.

He suddenly looked up, his problem was still unsolved, and there was in the air that sense of the hour before the dawn, which is so dread to doubtful life. The noise of the rats had ceased. Indeed it seemed to him that it must have ceased but lately and that it was the sudden cessation which had disturbed him. The fire had fallen low, but still it threw out a deep red glow. As he looked he started in spite of his sang froid.

There on the great high-backed carved oak chair by the right side of the fireplace sat an enormous rat, steadily glaring at him with baleful eyes. He made a motion to it as though to hunt it away, but it did not stir. Then he made the motion of throwing something. Still it did not stir, but showed its great white teeth angrily, and its cruel eyes shone in the lamplight with an added vindictiveness.

Malcolmson felt amazed, and seizing the poker from the hearth ran at it to kill it. Before, however, he could strike it, the rat, with a squeak that sounded like the concentration of hate, jumped upon the floor, and, running up the rope of the alarm bell, disappeared in the darkness beyond the range of the green-shaded lamp. Instantly, strange to say, the noisy scampering of the rats in the wainscot began again.

By this time Malcolmson's mind was quite off the problem; and as a shrill cock-crow outside told him of the approach of morning, he went to bed and to sleep.


This evening the scampering of the rats began earlier; indeed it had been going on before his arrival, and only ceased whilst his presence by its freshness disturbed them. After dinner he sat by the fire for a while and had a smoke; and then, having cleared his table, began to work as before. Tonight the rats disturbed him more than they had done on the previous night. How they scampered up and down and under and over! How they squeaked, and scratched, and gnawed! How they, getting bolder by degrees, came to the mouths of their holes and to the chinks and cracks and crannies in the wainscoting till their eyes shone like tiny lamps as the firelight rose and fell. But to him, now doubtless accustomed to them, their eyes were not wicked; only their playfulness touched him. Sometimes the boldest of them made sallies out on the floor or along the mouldings of the wainscot. Now and again as they disturbed him Malcolmson made a sound to frighten them, smiting the table with his hand or giving a fierce "Hsh, hsh," so that they fled straightway to their holes.

And so the early part of the night wore on; and despite the noise Malcolmson got more and more immersed in his work.

All at once he stopped, as on the previous night, being overcome by a sudden sense of silence. There was not the faintest sound of gnaw, or scratch, or squeak. The silence was as of the grave. He remembered the odd occurrence of the previous night, and instinctively he looked at the chair standing close by the fireside. And then a very odd sensation thrilled through him.

There, on the great old high-backed carved oak chair beside the fireplace sat the same enormous rat, steadily glaring at him with baleful eyes.

Instinctively he took the nearest thing to his hand, a book of logarithms, and flung it at it. The book was badly aimed and the rat did not stir, so again the poker performance of the previous night was repeated; and again the rat, being closely pursued, fled up the rope of the alarm bell. Strangely too, the departure of this rat was instantly followed by the renewal of the noise made by the general rat community. On this occasion, as on the previous one, Malcolmson could not see at what part of the room the rat disappeared, for the green shade of his lamp left the upper part of the room in darkness, and the fire had burned low.

On looking at his watch he found it was close on midnight; and, not sorry for the divertissement, he made up his fire and made himself his nightly pot of tea. He had got through a good spell of work, and thought himself entitled to a cigarette; and so he sat on the great oak chair before the fire and enjoyed it. Whilst smoking he began to think that he would like to know where the rat disappeared to, for he had certain ideas for the morrow not entirely disconnected with a rat-trap. Accordingly he lit another lamp and placed it so that it would shine well into the right-hand corner of the wall by the fireplace. Then he got all the books he had with him, and placed them handy to throw at the vermin. Finally he lifted the rope of the alarm bell and placed the end of it on the table, fixing the extreme end under the lamp. As he handled it he could not help noticing how pliable it was, especially for so strong a rope, and one not in use. "You could hang a man with it," he thought to himself. When his preparations were made he looked around, and said complacently:

"There now, my friend, I think we shall learn something of you this time!" He began his work again, and though as before somewhat disturbed at first by the noise of the rats, soon lost himself in his propositions and problems.

Again he was called to his immediate surroundings suddenly. This time it might not have been the sudden silence only which took his attention; there was a slight movement of the rope, and the lamp moved. Without stirring, he looked to see if his pile of books was within range, and then cast his eye along the rope. As he looked he saw the great rat drop from the rope on the oak armchair and sit there glaring at him. He raised a book in his right hand, and taking careful aim, flung it at the rat. The latter, with a quick movement, sprang aside and dodged the missile. He then took another book, and a third, and flung them one after another at the rat, but each time unsuccessfully. At last, as he stood with a book poised in his hand to throw, the rat squeaked and seemed afraid. This made Malcolmson more than ever eager to strike, and the book flew and struck the rat a resounding blow. It gave a terrified squeak, and turning on his pursuer a look of terrible malevolence, ran up the chair-back and made a great jump to the rope of the alarm bell and ran up it like lightning. The lamp rocked under the sudden strain, but it was a heavy one and did not topple over. Malcolmson kept his eyes on the rat, and saw it by the light of the second lamp leap to a moulding of the wainscot and disappear through a hole in one of the great pictures which hung on the wall, obscured and invisible through its coating of dirt and dust.

"I shall look up my friend's habitation in the morning," said the student, as he went over to collect his books. "The third picture from the fireplace; I shall not forget." He picked up the books one by one, commenting on them as he lifted them. "Conic Sections he does not mind, nor Cycloidal Oscillations, nor the Principia, nor Quaternions, nor Thermodynamics. Now for the book that fetched him!" Malcolmson took it up and looked at it. As he did so he started, a sudden pallor overspread his face. He looked round uneasily and shivered slightly, as he murmured to himself:

"The Bible my mother gave me! What an odd coincidence." He sat down to work again, and the rats in the wainscot renewed their gambols. They did not disturb him, however; somehow their presence gave him a sense of companionship. But he could not attend to his work, and after striving to master the subject on which he was engaged gave it up in despair, and went to bed as the he first streak of dawn stole in through the eastern window.


"Now tell us all that you noticed in the old house," and so Malcolmson then and there told in minute detail all that had happened in the last two nights. He was interrupted every now and then by some exclamation from Mrs. Witham, till finally when he told of the episode of the Bible the landlady's pent-up emotions found vent in a shriek; and it was not till a stiff glass of brandy and water had been administered that she grew composed again. Dr. Thornhill listened with a face of growing gravity, and when the narrative was complete and Mrs. Witham had been restored he asked:

"The rat always went up the rope of the alarm bell?"


"I suppose you know," said the doctor after a pause, "what the rope is?"


"It is," said the doctor slowly, "the very rope which the hangman used for all the victims of the Judge's judicial rancour!"

Bram Stoker
The Judge´s House

miércoles, 25 de mayo de 2011


La ville des Rats

Un grand péril nous menace; notre existence pend à un cheveu. D'un moment à l'autre, nous pouvons être mangés tout vifs, et nous réveiller le matin parfaitement débarrassés d'yeux, de peau, de graisse, de chair, avec des os nettoyés, blanchis, brossés, prêts à recevoir des chevilles et des charnières de cuivre poûr aller figurer dans l'armoire vitrée d'un cabinet anatomique.

Voilà notre position....

Et pourtant l'on continue à se promener sur le boulevard de Gand , à boire du porter, à prendre des glaces chez Tortoni, à ne pas aller au Gymnase, à lire les feuilletons de Karr et les histoires de Méry. Les journaux quotidiens paraissent tous les jours, et les journaux hebdomadaires ne paraissent jamais. Les tigresses et les lions se pavanent aux avant-scènes, comme de coutume ; rien n'est changé dans la vie parisienne; personne ne semble avoir la conscience de sa mort future.

Plus insouciants que les Napolitains, qui dansent sur te bord du volcan, nous nous abandonnons au flot des voluptés mondaines, sans penser un instant que nous sommes exposés au sort de Ladistas, roi de Pologne, qui fut dévoré par les rais, ainsi qu'on le peut voir au livre des histoires prodigieuses.

La cinquième plaie d'Egypte va tomber un de ces jours sur nous.

Le Vésuve est près de Naples, mais Montfaucon est près de Paris. La Babylone moderne ne sera pas foudroyée comme la tour de Lylacq , submergée comme la Pentapole par un lac de bitume (Dez-Maurel et Cie), ni ensablée comme Thèbes; elle sera tout simplement dépeuplée et détruite de fond en combje par les rats de Montfaucon.

Des légions innombrables de rats vont descendre en noires colonnes sur Paris, miner les fondations des bâtiments, et les faire écrouler sur les rares habitants qu'ils n'auront pas encore dévorés.

Cette terrible invasion arrivera le jour où l'on transportera la voirie dans son palais de la plaine des Vertus; alors auront lieu dans Paris des anthropomyomacthies dignes d'un nouvel Homère. Tous ces rats, plus sensuels que le rat d'Horace, qui font à Montfaucon des déjeuners de Balthazar, comme dil Bilboquet, manquant soudain de pâture, viendront à Paris manger de l'homme à défaut de cheval.

Les rats de Montfaucon ne sont point des rats ordinaires; l'abondance et la qualité de la nourriture les a développés prodigieusement; ce sont dis rats herculéens, énormes, gros comme des éléphants, féroces comme des tigres, avec des dents d'acier et des griffes de fer; des rats qui ne font qu'une bouchée d'un chat, ou tout au plus deux; les champs qu'ils traversent sont ternissés et battus comme s'il y avait passé une armée avec artillerie, bagages, caissons et forges de campagne; la glaise qu'ils emportent avec leurs pattes donne à ces sentiers une couleur verdâtre qui les fait distinguer des autres chemins : ces routes, aussi unies que si elles étaient macadamisées, aboutissent à des ratopolis souterraines, à d'immenses terriers où fourmillent d'innombrables populations rongeantes et dévorantes.

Si, par malheur, un ivrogne attardé s'endormait près d'une de ces villes de rats, le lendemain, il ne resterait de lui que ses dents et les clous de ses souliers : aussi les habitants de l'endroit se veillentils les uns les autres, et ne dorment-ils que chacun leur tour : sans cela les rats viendraient leur grignoter les pieds pendant la nuit et leur ronger les tendons. Aucune bâtisse un peu solide n'est possible sur ce terrain fouillé, bouleversé, miné, contreminé par ces formidables animaux; en moins de rien, les fondations d'une maison sont criblées de trous, comme des planches à bouteilles ou des truelles à poisson: on se couche avec quatre murs, et le malin, il y en a trois de fondus; la fenêtre du premier étage se trouve au niveau du rez-dechaussée , et vous peut servir de porte; pour obvier à ce désagrément, on ne bâtit que sur un lit do tessons de bouteilles, où messieurs les rats se coupent les babines et se déchirent les pattes.

De temps à autre, vingt ou trente pieds de colline s'écroulent et font ce que les habitants appetlent un coup de cloche : tant pis pour ceux qui sont dessous; ceux qui sont dessus n'ont pas une position beaucoup plus agréable. C'est encore l'ouvrage de ces messieurs.

La croûte extérieure ne tient que par les racines des plantes. La couche intérieure est déchiquetée et vermiculée comme un polypier marin. Quand la voirie sera déplacée, ce joli travail s'exéculeni sous Paris, qui a déjà bien assez de catacombes.

On a essayé tous les moyens pour détruire celle vermine, mais inutilement. Les rats ont la vie dure; l'arsenic, la mort aux rats, ne fait que leur tenir le ventre libre et leur exciter l'appétit. Ainsi purgés, ils mangent davantage et vivent plus longtemps . Les souricières sont un artifice mesquin, bon pour les rats isolés qui se laissent prendre au maigre appât d'un morceau de lard rance : il faudrait faire une levée de cinquante à soixante mille chais bien vigoureux et bien disciplinés, pour pouvoir lutter avec eux sans trop de désavantage; mais les rais détruits ou diminués, comment sr débarrasser des chats? That is the question.

En attendant qu'ils nous dévorent, décrivons leurs mœurs et leurs goûts; bientôt il ne sera plus temps. L'endroit recherché et délicat, le fin morceau , le sot-l'y-laisse de ces gastronomes trottemenu , c'est l'œil du cheval. Aussitôt qu'un cheval est abattu, les rats accourent en faisant remuer leur groin vergeté de longues moustaches, en frétillant de la queue, en frottant leurs pattes contre leur nez avec tous les signes d'une profonde jubilation. Les chefs de la troupe, les plus considérables de la société, attaquent les yeux, les trouent, fendent la cornée et vident l'orbite , jusqu'à ce qu'ils aient atteint à une petite pelote de graisse qui tapisse le fond de la cavité. Cette friandise équivaut, pour un rat gourmand, à ce que serait pour nous une perdrix truffée ou une terrine de Nérac. Il est sans exemple, tant ce mets est recherché, qu'un cheval ait conservé les yeux après avoir passé une nuit dans un des clos.

S'il ne se trouve pas de graisse à cet endroit, vous en chercheriez en vain une demi-once sur tout le corps de l'animal : les rats le savent parfaitement bien, et, quand ils ne rencontrent pas la pelote cherchée dans le creux de l'orbite, ils abandonnent la carcasse et vont en essayer une autre.

Ce goût des rats pour les yeux est partagé par les corbeaux et les autres oiseaux de proie. C'est toujours par là qu'ils entament les charognes et les corps morts.

Dans les hivers rigoureux, les cadavres des clie» vaux surpris par la gelée prennent la rigidité et la consistance du bois, de sorte qu'il est impossible d'en détacher la peau. 11 faut donc les laisser sur place, avec leurs quatre pieds tendus en piquets . leur ventre gonflé et leur roideur de chevaux de carton, jusqu'à ce que l'adoucissement de la température permette de les travailler et de les équarrir. Les rats, animaux frileux de leur nature, rie pouvant plus d'ailleurs se nourrir avec les ri M. durcies par la gelée, choisissent un cheval de belle apparence pour en faire leur logis. Si l'animal a été saigné au col, ils entrent par la blessure; sinon, ils pénètrent par l'orifice opposé. Une fois entrés, ils nettoient leur demeure du mieux qu'ils peuvent, et la rendent tout à fait confortable; les boyaux leur servent de corridors et de couloirs de communication; le salon est établi dans les grandes cavités abdominales; les chambres à coucher et les cabinets de toilette dans les interstices des côtes et lieux circonvoisins. Ils sont d'abord fort à l'étroit, mais leur logis s'agrandit tous les jours; le cœur, le foie et les poumons dévorés leur font deux ou trois pièces de plus. Ils vivent là plus à l'aise que le rat de La Fontaine dans son fromage de Hollande; ils mangent, ils évident, ils creusent en prenant le plus grand soin de ne pas entamer ni piquer la peau, de peur de donner passage à l'air

Prieur, car les rats craignent beaucoup les vents coulis, et redoutent par-dessus toutes choses d'atîraper des fluxions ou des rhumes de cerveau. Quand vient le dégel, il ne reste du cheval qu'un squelette enveloppé d'une peau; cette peau sonne comme un tambour , et le squelette est aussi bien préparé qu'il pourrait l'être par l'anatomiste le plus habile du Jardin des Plantes et de l'école d'Alfort.

Cette sensuelle précaution est d'autant plus remarquable, qu'en été ils ne se font aucun scrupule de percer et de ronger le cuir. Leur férocité est tellement grande, qu'ils se battent et se dévorent entre eux comme des hommes. Dès qu'un rat blessé exprime la douleur par des glapissements, ses parents et ses amis accourent aussitôt, se jettent sur lui et l'achèvent. Rien ne paraît les contrarier comme les cris et les plaintes. Tout rat qui piaille hors de propos est mis à mort sur-le-champ.

Les amateurs du Sport envoient souvent chercher des rats à Montfaucon , pour les faire servir au divertissement tout à fait britannique que nous allons raconter:

On enferme dans des cages de bois, entourées de treillis à mailles fines, deux épagneuls ou deux pointers avec six ou huit douzaines de rats. Les chiens doivent étrangler tous les rats dans un temps marqué, sans se reprendre, c'est-à-dire en ne donnant qu'un coup de croc à chacun. Celui qui a fini le premier est proclamé vainqueur, et les gens qui ont parié pour lui empochent les enjeux, qui sont souvent très-considérables.

C'est un spectacle fort bouffon que celui de c: chien impassible au milieu de cette fourmilière t' rats éperdus, qui se démènent et poussent des m affreux ; ils vont, ils viennent, ils grimpent les treillages, ils se pendent aux babines de leur ennemi, qui balance la tête, et cogne leurs grappes noires contre les barreaux de la cage pour se débarrasser et leur faire lâcher prise; en quelques minutes tout est exterminé, tant est grande l'adr des chiens élevés à cet exercice. Mais ce qu'il y i de plus extraordinaire dans tout ceci, c'est que te domestiques chargés d'apporter les rats de Montfaucon à Paris sont obligés de mettre dans leim caisses deux ou trois douzaines supplémentaires pour avoir le compte en arrivant chez leurs maître car ils se mangent en roule, et l'on ne trouverait plus que les queues à l'ouverture de la boîte : ceci paraît peu croyable, rien n'est pourtant plus vrai. M. Magendie, ayant élé prendre lui-même doua rats à la voirie pour faire quelques expériences, n'en rapporta chez lui que trois vivants, prodigieusement gonflés et distendus. Il ne restait des autres que les griffes, les dents, et quelques débris.

O rats myophages! n'avez-vous donc pas honte de faire mentir les vers de Roileau, où il est dil que l'on ne voit point les animaux se déchirer entre eux?

A combien évaluer le nombre de ces formidables rongeurs! Les uns disent cent mille, les autres deux cents, ceux-là vingt mille seulement, ce qui est peu probable : il est fort difficile d'avoir un chiffre juste. Mais, d'après la quantité de chair dévorée , l'état du terrain entièrement bouleversé , les chasses générales et particulières , qui n'ont jamais eu d'effet sensible, l'extrême fécondité des mères rates, qui ne font pas moins de quinze à dix-huit petits, on doit supposer un nombre exorbitant.

Voici comme se pratiquent les grandes chasses:

II y a dans Montfaucon un clos exactement entouré de murailles; dans ces murailles sont pratiquées des espèces de chatières, des barbacanes espacées régulièrement : on fait abattre dans l'enceinte trois ou quatre chevaux bien gras; la nuit tombée, les rats entrent par les chatières et commencent leur festin. Quand on pense que la frairie est en bon train, que l'orgie est au plus haut degré d'effervescence, on arrive à pas de loup, on bouche les trous avec des tampons; puis on pénètre dans le clos par-dessus les murailles avec des échelles, des torches, des bâtons , des bottes fortes et une vingtaine de chiens.

Alors le carnage commence : à coups de pieds, à coups de bâton, à coups de dents. Les chiens aboient, les rais poussent leur glapissement à la fois lâche et féroce; les plus déterminés tâchent de gravir au long des murs, et de se sauver ainsi, mais on les poursuit avec la flamme des torches; à moitié grillés, ils sont bien forces de quitter te aspérités auxquelles ils se cramponnent, et de tomber, tout roussis et tout flambés, dans les gueules béantes qui les attendent en bas.

Dans l'espace d'un mois, l'on en a tué seize mille cinquante; neuf mille cent un en quatre chasses deux mille six cent cinquante en une seule fois. Un équarrisseur nous a dit en avoir pris cinq nidli cet hiver dans un trou qui se trouve à l'angle de l'écurie et qu'il avait garni d'une espèce de nasse ces grands massacres ne font pas le moindre effet. Les amateurs en tuent aussi beaucoup avec des sarbacanes dans lesquelles ils soufflent fortement un petit dard empenné d'un flocon de laine rouge; les rats blessés, se sauvant avec leur banderille plantée dans le dos en manière d'oriflamme, ont une mine fort héroïque. On les asphyxie encore dans leurs terriers en y poussant, au moyen d'un fourneau et d'un soufflet, de la vapeur de soufre. Mais ils n'en pullulent pas moins, et deviennent tous les jours de plus en plus nombreux; ainsi, il faut nous résigner à notre sort et nous accoutumer à l'idée d'être dévorés prochainement: Lo que ha de ser, non puedo faltar.

Théophile Gautier,
Caprices et zigzags

La Batrachomyomachie


EN commençant, et avant tout, je supplie le chœur des Muses de descendre du Hélikôn en mon esprit, à cause d’un chant que j’ai mis dans mes tablettes, récemment, sur mes genoux ; guerre immense, œuvre pleine du tumulte guerrier d’Arès, me flattant de faire entrer dans les oreilles de tous les hommes comment les Rats, combattants intrépides, se ruèrent sur les Grenouilles, imitant les travaux des Géants nés de Gaia, ainsi qu’on le rapporte parmi le mortels.

Et cette guerre eut cette origine.

Un jour, un Rat altéré, ayant échappé au péril de la Belette, trempa son tendre menton dans le marais voisin, se délectant de l’eau douce comme miel. Une babillarde se plaisant dans le marais le vit et lui dit ces paroles :

— Étranger, qui es-tu ? D’où es-tu venu vers ce rivage ? Qui est ton père ? Dis-moi vrai en toutes choses, de peur que je te prenne mentant. En effet, si je reconnais en toi un digne ami, je te conduirai dans ma demeure, et je t’offrirai de nombreux et illustres présents hospitaliers. Moi, je suis le Roi Physignathos aux joues enflées, honoré dans tout le marais, chef immuable des Grenouilles, et mon père Pèleus le fangeux, m’a engendré autrefois, s’étant uni d’amour à Hydromédousè la Reine de l’eau, sur les bords de l’Éridanos. Mais je vois que, beau et brave entre tous, tu dois être un Roi porte-sceptre et un guerrier dans les batailles. Allons ! dis-moi promptement ta race.

Et Psikharpax le voleur de miettes lui répondit et dit :

— Pourquoi m’interroger sur ma race, ami ? Elle est connue de tous les hommes, et des Dieux, et des oiseaux aériens. À la vérité, je me nomme Psikharpax le voleur de miettes, et je suis fils de Trôxartès le rongeur de pain, mon père magnanime, et ma mère, certes, est Leikomylè qui lèche les meules, fille du roi Pternotrôktès rongeur de jambon. Elle m’enfanta dans un trou et me nourrit de choses bonnes à manger, de figues, de noix, et de toute façon. Mais comment ferais-tu de moi ton ami, moi qui ne suis point ton semblable de nature? En effet, ta vie est dans les eaux, et moi j’ai coutume de ronger toute chose parmi les hommes. Le pain trois fois pétri ne m’échappe point dans la corbeille ronde, ni les galettes larges contenant beaucoup de sésame, ni le morceau de jambon, ni le foie revêtu de sa blanche tunique, ni le fromage nouveau de doux lait caillé, ni le bon gâteau de miel que désirent les Bienheureux eux-mêmes, ni aucune des choses que les cuisiniers préparent pour le repas des hommes, quand ils ornent les plats d’argile d’assaisonnements de toute sorte.

Je n’ai jamais fui non plus la clameur terrible de la guerre, et, me ruant droit dans la bataille, je me suis mêlé aux premiers combattants. Et je ne crains point l’homme, bien qu’il ait un grand corps ; mais, montant sur son lit, je mords le bout de son doigt. Et même une fois, je l’ai saisi au talon, et, quand il eut senti la douleur, aussitôt son doux sommeil fut troublé par ma morsure. À la vérité, je crains deux ennemis sur toute la terre, l’épervier et la belette, qui me causent de grands maux, et aussi la ratière lamentable où veille une destinée pleine de ruses. Mais je crains par-dessus tout la Belette, car elle est de beaucoup la plus forte, et elle entre aussi dans les trous, et elle y furette. Je ne mange ni les radis, ni les choux, ni les citrouilles, et je ne me repais point non plus du vert poireau, ni du persil. Ces choses sont votre nourriture, à vous qui vivez dans les marais.

À ces paroles, Physignathos aux joues enflées, souriant, lui répondit :

— Étranger, tu te glorifies beaucoup de ton ventre ; mais de nombreuses choses admirables à voir sont à nous, dans le marais et sur terre ; car le Kroniôn a donné en partage aux Grenouilles d’être amphibies, de sauter sur la terre et de plonger dans l’eau, et d’habiter des demeures divisées en deux éléments. Si tu veux savoir ces choses, cela est aisé. Monte sur mon dos, mais tiens-toi bien, de peur de périr ; et, de cette façon, tu parviendras, joyeux, dans ma demeure.

Il parla donc ainsi et présenta son dos, et Psikharpax le voleur de miettes monta promptement d’un saut léger, entourant de ses pattes le cou mou. Et, à la vérité, il se réjouit d’abord, quand il contempla les ports voisins, en se délectant de la natation de Physignathos aux joues enflées ; mais quand, enfin, il fut baigné par les eaux pourprées, pleurant beaucoup et se reprochant son repentir tardif, il s’arracha les poils, et il serrait ses pieds contre son ventre, et, dans sa poitrine, son cœur battait à cause de la nouveauté, et il voulait revenir à terre.

Et il gémissait profondément, par la violence de la froide peur. Et, d’abord, il étendit sa queue sur l’eau, en la remuant comme un aviron, et suppliant les Dieux, afin de revenir à terre, parce qu’il était baigné par les eaux pourprées. Et il criait beaucoup, et il dit ceci du fond de sa gorge :

Le taureau ne porta pas ainsi le fardeau d’amour, quand il mena Europè dans la Krètè, à travers les flots ! Il ne fit pas comme cette grenouille qui, sur son dos, me porte en nageant vers sa demeure, tandis qu’elle élève son corps pâle au-dessus de l’eau blanche.

Mais voici qu’un Hydre apparut soudainement, horrible apparition pour tous deux, et il dressait son cou au-dessus de l’eau. Et Physignathos aux joues enflées, l’ayant vu, plongea, ne songeant pas que son compagnon abandonné allait périr. Et, plongeant au fond du marais, il évita la noire Kèr.

Et Psikharpax le voleur de miettes, dès qu’il eut été abandonné, tomba aussitôt à la renverse dans l’eau ; et il serrait les pattes, et il criait en périssant. Et il fut souvent submergé, et il remonta souvent en battant l’eau ; mais il ne lui était pas permis d’éviter la destinée. Et ses poils, étant mouillés, pesaient sur lui plus lourdement ; et, enfin, comme il périssait, il dit ceci :

— Tu ne cacheras point par ruse, Physignathos aux joues enflées, les choses que tu as faites, en me jetant, naufragé, du haut de ton corps, comme d’une roche. Tu ne l’aurais emporté sur moi, à terre, ô très-mauvais, ni au pugilat, ni à la lutte, ni à la course ; mais, là où tu m’as aventuré, tu m’as jeté dans l’eau. Les Dieux ont un œil vengeur, et tu seras châtié par l’armée des Rats, et tu n’échapperas point. Ayant ainsi parlé, il expira dans l’eau. Et Leikhopinax qui lèche les plats, assis sur les molles rives, le vit, et il gémit terriblement, et il courut l’annoncer aux Rats.

Et dès qu’ils eurent appris sa destinée, une grande colère les saisit tous, et ils ordonnèrent à leurs hérauts de convoquer, au lever du jour, les Rats à l’agora, dans les demeures de Trôxartès le rongeur de pain, père du malheureux Psikharpax le voleur de miettes, qui, dans les marais, flottait le ventre en l’air, comme un cadavre. Et le malheureux ne flottait point près du bord, mais au milieu de cette mer. Et quand ils furent tous arrivés, en même temps que le jour, le premier, Trôxartès le rongeur de pain se leva, irrité à cause de son fils, et il fit cette harangue :

— Ô amis, bien que j’aie subi seul bien des maux de la part des Grenouilles, cette Moire mauvaise vous est faite à tous. Et je suis maintenant très-malheureux, car j’ai perdu trois fils. Et, en effet, la très-haissable Belette saisit le premier et le tua, l’ayant surpris hors du trou. Les hommes féroces ont mené l’autre à la mort, à l’aide d’une invention nouvelle, de la machine en bois pleine de ruses qu’ils nomment Ratière, perdition des Rats. Celui-ci était le troisième, aimé de moi et de sa chaste mère, et Physignathos aux joues enflées l’a étouffé, l’ayant conduit dans l’abîme. Mais, allons ! armons-nous et ruons-nous sur les Grenouilles, ayant revêtu nos corps d’armes artistement travaillées.

Ayant ainsi parlé, il les excita tous à s’armer, et Arès, à la vérité, qui songe toujours à la guerre, les fit s’armer. Et, d’abord, ils mirent autour de leurs jambes des knèmides, ayant fendu des cosses de fèves vertes, bien préparées, et qu’ils avaient eux-mêmes rongées pendant la nuit. Et ils avaient des cuirasses habilement faites de la peau d’une Belette écorchée, et ils les recouvrirent de roseaux. Et leur bouclier était le milieu bombé d’une lampe, et leur lance était une très-longue aiguille, toute d’airain, travail d’Arès, et le casque, sur leurs tempes, était une coque de noix.

Ainsi les Rats étaient debout et en armes. Et dès que les Grenouilles les eurent vus, elles sortirent de l’eau. Puis, étant venues en un seul lieu, elles s’assemblèrent pour délibérer sur la guerre mauvaise. Et tandis qu’elles examinaient d’où venaient cette levée d’armes et ce tumulte, un héraut vint à elles, portant le sceptre dans ses mains, le fils du magnanime Tyroglyphos le troueur de fromage, Embasikhytros qui trotte dans les marmites. Et il venait leur annoncer la nouvelle funeste de la guerre, et il dit ceci : — Ô Grenouilles, les Rats, vous ayant menacées, m’ont envoyé vous avertir de vous armer pour la guerre et le combat. Ils ont vu, en effet, sur l’eau, Psikharpax le voleur de miettes, qu’a tué votre Roi Physignathos aux joues enflées. Combattez maintenant, vous qui êtes les plus braves d’entre les Grenouilles. Ayant ainsi parlé, il fit son message, et sa parole, étant entrée dans les oreilles de toutes, troubla les esprits des Grenouilles insolentes.

Et, les réprimandant toutes, Physignathos aux joues enflées, se levant, dit :

— Ô amis, je n’ai point tué ce Rat, et je ne l’ai point vu périr. Sans doute il s’est noyé en jouant auprès du marais et en imitant la natation des Grenouilles ; et, maintenant, voici que, pleins de méchanceté, ceux-ci m’accusent, moi qui suis innocent. Mais, allons ! délibérons pour savoir comment nous détruirons les Rats artificieux. Et moi, je dirai d’abord ce qui me semble le plus sage. Tenons-nous tous, couverts de nos armes, sur les hauteurs du rivage, là où il est le plus escarpé ; et quand les Rats se jetteront impétueusement sur nous, chacun saisissant par le casque celui qu’il rencontrera, nous les entraînerons dans le marais avec leurs casques. Et, en effet, nous les étoufferons ainsi dans l’eau, car ils ne savent pas nager ; et, pleins de joie, nous élèverons ici un trophée à cause des Rats que nous aurons tués.

Ayant ainsi parlé, il les fit tous s’armer. Et ils entourèrent leurs jambes de feuilles de mauves, et ils avaient des cuirasses de larges et vertes poirées, et ils firent des boucliers avec des feuilles de choux, et ils avaient pour lance un long roseau pointu, et ils couvrirent leurs têtes de légères coquilles de limaçon. Et, s’étant ainsi armés, ils se tinrent debout sur la hauteur du rivage, brandissant leurs lances, et chacun étant plein de colère. Et Zeus, ayant appelé les Dieux dans l’Ouranos étoilé, leur fit voir la puissance de cette guerre, et les braves com. battants, nombreux et grands et portant de longues lances. Telle s’avançait l’armée des Centaures et des Géants.

Et, souriant doucement, il demanda qui viendrait en aide aux Grenouilles ou aux Rats affligés. Et il dit à Athènaiè :

— Ô ma fille, ne vas-tu point venir en aide aux Rats ? En effet, tous bondissent toujours à travers ton temple, se délectant de l’odeur des graisses et des restes des sacrifices.

Ainsi parla le Kronide, et Athènè lui répondit :

— Ô Père, jamais je ne viendrai en aide aux Rats affligés, car ils m’ont fait subir beaucoup de maux, rongeant mes bandelettes et nuisant à mes lampes, à cause de l’huile ; et ce qu’ils m’ont fait m’a trop mordu au cœur. Ils ont rongé mon péplos que j’avais tissé d’une trame subtile et d’un fil très-fin, et ils y ont fait des trous ; et le ravaudeur me demande beaucoup et me presse, et j’en suis irritée ; car il exige des intérêts, ce qui est affreux pour les Immortels ; et j’ai travaillé en empruntant, et je n’ai pas de quoi rendre. Mais je ne veux pas non plus venir en aide aux Grenouilles, car elles n’ont pas l’esprit sain. Récemment, revenant de la guerre, j’étais très-fatiguée et j’avais besoin de sommeil et, par leur bruit, elles ne m’ont pas laissée fermer l’œil, et je suis restée couchée tout éveillée, ayant mal à la tête, jusqu’à ce que le coq eût chanté. Allons ! ne les secourons donc point, ô Dieux, de peur qu’un d’entre nous soit blessé par un trait aigu et qu’il ait le corps percé d’une lance ou d’une épée ; car les voici ardents au combat, même quand un Dieu viendrait à leur rencontre. Mais, tous, du haut de l’Ouranos, charmons-nous en regardant le combat.

Elle parla ainsi, et tous les autres Dieux lui obéirent et se réunirent tous en un seul lieu. Et, alors, deux hérauts s’avancèrent, portant le signal du combat, et des Cousins, ayant de grandes trompettes, sonnèrent terriblement le trépignement de la mêlée ; et, de l’Ouranos, le Kronide Zeus tonna, présage de la guerre mauvaise.

Et le premier, Hypsiboas qui crie haut frappa de sa lance Leikhènôr qui lèche l’homme, debout entre les premiers combattants, dans le ventre, en plein foie. Et celui-ci tomba à la renverse, et il souilla de poussière ses poils délicats ; et il tomba avec bruit, et ses armes résonnèrent sur lui. Et, après celui-ci, Troglodytès l’habitant des trous frappa Pèléiôn le limoneux, et lui enfonça sa forte lance dans la poitrine ; et la noire mort saisit le guerrier tombé et son âme s’envola de son corps. Puis, Seutlaios le poiréen tua Embasikhytros qui trotte en marmite, d’un coup au cœur ; mais la douleur saisit Okimidès l’enfant du basilic, et il frappa Seutlaios le poiréen d’un roseau pointu. Et Artophagos le mangeur de pain frappa Polyphonos le bavard, dans le ventre, et celui-ci tomba à la renverse, et son âme s’envola de son corps. Mais Limnokharis la grâce du marais voyant périr Polyphonos, et prévenant Troglodytè s, le frappa au milieu du cou d’une pierre telle qu’une meule, et la nuit enveloppa ses yeux.

Et Leikhènôr lança contre Limnokharis la grâce du marais sa pique éclatante, et la pique, sans s’égarer, le frappa dans le foie. Dès qu’il vit cela, Krambophagos qui mange les choux, fuyant, tomba des hautes rives ; mais Leikhènôr ne cessa point de combattre et le frappa. Et Krambophagos tomba et ne se releva point, et le marais fut teint de son sang pourpré ; et il resta flottant auprès du bord, ses grasses entrailles hors du ventre. Et, sur ces mêmes rives, fut tué Tyrophagos le mangeur de fromage. Et Kalaminthios qui hante les roseaux, voyant Pternoglyphos le troueur de jambon, fut saisi de frayeur ; et, fuyant, il sauta dans le marais, après avoir jeté son bouclier. Et l’irréprochable Borborokoitès qui couche dans la fange tua Philtraios le charmant.

Et Hydrokharis la grâce de l’eau tua le roi Pternophagos le rongeur de jambon, l’ayant frappé d’un rocher sur le haut de la tête. Et sa cervelle coula par ses narines, et la terre fut souillée de sang. Et Leikhopinax qui lèche les plats, se ruant avec sa lance, tua l’irréprochable Borborokoitès, et l’obscurité enveloppa ses yeux. Alors, Prassophagos le mangeur de poireau, saisissant l’occasion, entraîna par un pied Knissodiôktès qui accourt à l’odeur de la graisse, et, le tenant par le tendon, le noya dans le marais. Mais Psikharpax le voleur de miettes, vengeant ses compagnons morts, frappa Prassophagos, comme celui-ci n’était pas encore remonté à terre ; et Prassophagos tomba devant lui, et son âme alla chez Aidès. Pèlobatès qui trotte dans la fange, l’ayant vu, lui jeta une poignée de boue à la tête, et il l’aveugla aussitôt ; mais Psikharpax, très-irrité de cela, saisissant de sa patte robuste une lourde pierre, fardeau de la terre, qui gisait dans la plaine, en frappa Pèlobatès sous les genoux ; et toute la jambe droite fut fracassée, et il tomba à la renverse dans la poussière.

Et Krangasides le fils de la vocifération, pour le défendre, revint sur Psikharpax et le frappa au milieu du ventre, et le roseau aigu s’y enfonça tout entier, et toutes les entrailles se répandirent à terre, arrachées avec la lance par une main vigoureuse. Et dès que Sitophagos le mangeur de blé l’eut vu sur les bords du fleuve, il s’éloigna du combat en boitant, car il souffrait beaucoup, et il sauta dans un fossé, afin de fuir la destinée terrible. Et Trôxartès le rongeur de pain frappa Physignathos aux joues enflées à l’extrémité du pied, et celui-ci, fuyant, sauta, affligé, dans le marais ; mais Prassaios nourri de poireau, le voyant tomber à demi inanimé, se rua parmi les premiers combattants et lança un roseau aigu ; mais il ne perça point le bouclier, et la pointe de la lance y resta.

Alors, le divin Origaniôn enfant de l’Origan, imitant Arès lui-même, frappa Trôxartès sur son casque irréprochable fait d’un morceau de marmite carrée. Et il était le seul, parmi les Grenouilles, qui combattît bravement dans la mêlée. Et les Rats se ruèrent tous sur lui ; mais, voyant cela, il ne soutint pas l’attaque de héros puissants, et il plongea dans les profondeurs du marais. Et il y avait, parmi les Rats, un seul adolescent qui l’emportait sur tous les autres en combattant de près, cher fils de l’irréprochable Artépiboulos le guetteur de pain, chef semblable à Arès lui-même, le hardi Méridarpax le voleur de portions, qui seul, entre les Rats, excellait encore en combattant. Et il s’arrêta orgueilleusement près du marais, en avant des autres, et il se vantait d’exterminer la race des belliqueuses Grenouilles. Et, certes, il l’eût fait, car sa force était grande, si le Père des hommes et des Dieux ne l’eût aussitôt deviné.

Et, alors, le Kroniôn eut pitié des Grenouilles qui périssaient, et, secouant la tête, il dit ceci : — Ô Dieux ! je vois de mes yeux une grande action. Méridarpax le voleur de portions ne m’a pas peu troublé en menaçant furieusement d’exterminer les Grenouilles auprès du marais. Envoyons très-promptement Pallas qui excite la mêlée guerrière, et Arès aussi, et ils éloigneront Méridarpax du combat, malgré sa vigueur. Le Kronide parla ainsi, mais Arès lui répondit :

— Kronide, ni la force d’Athènaiè, ni celle d’Arès, ne suffiront à préserver les Grenouilles de la destinée terrible. Allons plutôt tous à leur aide, ou bien brandis ta grande arme tueuse de Titans, très-puissante, avec laquelle tu as tué les Titans, les plus terribles de tous ; avec laquelle tu as tué autrefois Kapaneus, homme farouche, par laquelle tu as enchaîné Egkélados et dompté la race féroce des Géants ! Brandis-la, et, bien que celui-ci soit très-brave, il sera réprimé.

Il parla ainsi, et le Kronide lança la foudre fuligineuse. Et, d’abord, à la vérité, il tonna et il ébranla le grand Olympos ; puis il lança la foudre, arme terrible et tournoyante de Zeus. Et elle jaillit des mains du Roi. Et l’éclair épouvanta les Grenouilles et les Rats. Cependant, l’armée des Rats ne cessait pas de combattre, et elle n’en désirait que davantage détruire la race des belliqueuses Grenouilles ; mais, du haut de l’Olympos, le Kroniôn eut pitié des Grenouilles, et il leur envoya aussitôt des alliés. Et, soudainement, survinrent, avec des dos tels que des enclumes, et des ongles recourbés, marchant obliquement, louches, la bouche entourée de tenailles, la peau écaillée, le corps osseux, le dos large, les épaules reluisantes, les pieds tournés, les mains longues, regardant par la poitrine, il huit pattes, à deux têtes et manchots. — ceux qu’on nomme Crabes, et qui tranchèrent de leurs bouches les queues, les pieds et les pattes des Rats. Et les lances se rompaient sur eux. Et les misérables Rats, épouvantés par eux, prirent la fuite. Et voici que Hêlios tombait, et ce fut la fin de cette guerre d’un seul jour.

Attribué à Homère
puis à Pigrès d'Halicarnasse
et traduit par Leconte de Lisle

martes, 24 de mayo de 2011

Rats Take Over The Subway

Something moving caught his eye. A dark shape was moving along between the tracks. He walked to the edge of the platform and peered down the track into the gloom.

Nothing. Then he noticed the shape had stopped. Realising it must be a rat, he threw the empty milk carton to see if he could make it scamper back into the darkness of the tunnel, but it merely shrank beneath the electric rail. The boy looked up sharply as he heard noises coming from the dense black cave of the tunnel. It sounded like the rash of air, but not the sound caused by an approaching train. He glanced nervously back at the form lurking in beneath the track and up again as the noise grew louder. As he did, hundreds, it seemed, of small black bodies came pouring from the tunnel, some between the tracks, others up the ramp and along the platform.

He turned and ran even before he realised they were rats, much larger than normal, and much faster. He reached the stairs, a long, black river of vermin almost at his heels, and flew up them, three at a time. He slipped once, but quickly regained his balance, grasping at the hand-rail by the side, pulling at it to gain momentum. But a rat had raced ahead of him, and his next step was on its back, causing Dave to stumble once more. As his hand went to steady himself, sharp teeth snapped at his fingers. He shouted in fear, kicking out wildly, sending two of the bristling bodies back down over the backs of their companions. He lurched onwards, now weighed down by rats that had attached themselves to his clothes and his flesh.

He fell again, hitting the bridge of his nose on the sharp comer of a step, causing blood to spill down his face and on to his white long-collared shirt.

He kicked and screamed but they pulled him back down the stairs, roiling to the bottom with him, ripping his body, shaking him as though he were a toy doll. His screams echoed through the old station. He half rose and before his senses blacked out completely he cried for his mother.

Errol Johnson pulled the door marked ‘private’ open and rushed out. He’d heard the screams and assumed someone had fallen down the long Stairway to the platform. He knew it would happen some day - those stairs were too badly lit.

If he ever became station-master, if coloureds ever became station-masters he’d clean it up and make it a respectable station. Just because it wasn’t used by many people didn’t mean it should be badly kept.

He stopped dead at the spectacle before him, his mouth hanging wide.

Millions of rats swarming all over the station. And bigones, like those he’d seen in his own country, but even bigger.

His mind didn’t even stop to evaluate, He ran, without looking back. There was only one place for him to go, the stairs being cut off by a struggling mass of vermin. Without hesitation, he ran down the ramp and into the dark womb of the tunnel. His fear drove him straight into the approaching train, mercifully killing before he was aware of death’s presence.

The driver, who was braking anyway, slammed them on even harder, pitching his~ few passengers forward in their seats. As he emerged from the tunnel, the train’s wheels screeching in high-pitched protest, the scene before him caused him to react instinctively, thereby saving the lives of his passengers and himself. He released the brakes and drove on.

The rats became still and glared at the huge intruding monster. Those beneath the tracks crouched low as it rumbled over them, the squealing from its wheels freezing them.

The passengers stared down through the window, horror struck, wondering if the train had found its way down to the corridors of hell. One fell back as a dark furry body hurtled itself at him only to bounce off the window and back on to the platform. As the train began to gather speed, more of the creatures leapt at the windows, some falling between the train and the platform to be sliced by the grinding wheels.

A rat broke through the window of one carriage and immediately attacked its solitary passenger. The man was strong and managed to pull the frenzied creature from his throat. It tore at his hands with teeth and claws, causing him to shout out in pain, but he still held its neck and body.

His terror gave him added strength and speed; he threw it to the floor and brought his heavy boot swiftly down on its head, crushing its skull. He picked up the limp body, amazed at its size, and threw it through the broken window into the black tunnel that the train was now in. He sank into his seat, shock spreading through his body, not knowing that within twenty-four hours he would be dead.

The station-master choked on his tea ashe beard screams coming from the stairs. He spluttered as he tried to regain his breath. Not another fight. Why was it that his station always attracted hooligans on weekends? Especially Saturday nights. Underground stations always attracted trouble on Saturday nights from the yobbos and drunks, but Sundays usually weren’t too bad. He hoped that daft ape Errol wasn’t involved. Always interfering. Making suggestions about how to run the place. Helping drunks instead of booting them out. Where did he think it was - Chafing Cross?
Shadwell suited the station-master. It was quiet compared to most stations and that suited him fine. Of course it was dirty, but what could you do with an old dump like this? Anyway, it helped keep the people away.

When he’d recovered his composure, he slipped his jacket on and stepped out from the ticket office. Without rushing he ambled towards the top of the stairs to Platform One.

‘What’s going on down there?’ he bellowed, squinting as he tried to see through the dim lights. He heard one cry of what sounded like, ‘Mum’ and saw one black, thrashing shape. He moved cautiously down a few steps and stopped again. ‘Come on, who is it?’

The black slope seemed to break op into little shapes that began mounting the stairs towards him. He heard a train grinding to a halt downstairs, and then suddenly, for some unknown reason, the whine of it picking up speed again and carrying on through the station without stopping. Then he heard the squeaks hat sounded like hundreds of mice. He realised that the creatures were coming up the stairs towards him.

Not mice - but rats. Horrible big rats. Black, ugly.

He moved surprisingly fast for a man of his bulk. He cleared the few stairs he’d descended in two bounds and headed for the ticket office, slamming the door behind him. He leaned back against it for a couple of seconds, fighting for breath and giving his heartbeats a chance to slow down.

He made for the phone and with trembling fingers dialled emergency.

‘Police. Hurry! Police? This is Shadwell Underground, Stationmaster Green speak...’

He looked up as he heard a scuttling noise. Staring across at him from the ticket-office pay window was a huge, black, evil-looking rat.

He dropped the phone and ran to the back of the office.

The windows were barred, preventing any escape. He looked around in desperation, his gross figure shaking with fear. He saw the cupboard set back in the wall, where brooms and buckets were kept for the cleaners, pulled it open and pushed himself inside, closing the-door behind. He crouched, half sitting, whimpering, wetness spreading between his thighs, in the darkness, scarcely daring to breathe.That
scream ! It must have been Errol or someone, waking for a tram. They’d got him and now they were coming for him!

The driver of the train hadn’t stopped. He’d seen them and driven on. And there’s no one else on the station. Mother-of-God, what’s that? Gnawing. Scraping. They’re in the office. They’re trying to eat their way through the cupboard door!

(...) The train suddenly gave a lurch and screeched to a halt, throwing the surprised solicitor’s clerk on to the laps of Violet Melray and Jenny Cooper.

‘Oh, excuse me,’ he stuttered, his face red alerting as he pulled himself up again. Other passengers were in the same predicament and were now picking themselves up, some laughing, others tutting angrily.

‘Here we go,’ a voice was heard to say. ‘Another twenty- minute delay.’ He was wrong. They sat or stood for forty minutes in a state of agitation, trying to hear the shouted conversation between the driver and the guard over their intercom. Henry Sutton, Violet Melray and Jenny Cooper were in the first carriage so they could hear the driver’s replies to the guard’s questions quite plainly. He’d seen something on the line, not quite sure what, but it had been quite large, so he’d jammed on his brakes and cut his power.

Having decided that whatever it was man or animal, it must have been killed by the train and there wasn’t much he could do about it now, so the obvious thing to do was to go on and send a crew back from the next station. The only trouble now was that he couldn’t get any juice. No power. It could be that whatever he’d run over had done some damage to the train although he doubted that, A faulty cable maybe?

He’d actually heard of rats chewing through cables.

The driver, or ‘motor-man’ as he was officially called, had been on to central control and they’d advised him to sit tight for a while until they located and repaired the fault. But it was the smell of smoke that decided him upon his course of action. The passengers became aware of the smoke at the same time and began to stir apprehensively.

The next station, Stepney Green, wasn’t very far, so he would get them off the train and up the tunnel. With so many passengers it would be dangerous, but it would be better than have them panic in the confined spaces of the carriages. Already he could hear excited voices coming from the carriage next door. He told the guard of his intentions then opened the connecting door, to be confronted by anxious-looking faces.

(...) By now, the carriage was becoming less crowded as the people used the side-doors to escape the choking smoke.

‘Ah, now I think I can stand.’ Henry got to his feet and reached down to pull the woman and the girl to theirs. ‘I think we should stick together, ladies. When we get into the tunnel we’ll hold hands and feel our way along the wall. I’ll lead, come along.’

He led the two white-faced passengers towards the front of the carriage. Suddenly the screaming reached a new pitch. In the gloom of the tunnel, lit by the lights of the train, they could see struggling figures. There were so manyfaces out there that they couldn’t comprehend exactly what was happening.

Henry caught a glimpse of one man, still wearing a bowler-hat, disappearing from view beneath the window with something black against his face. As they neared the open door of the driver’s compartment, they saw that people were struggling to get back on the train but were being blocked by those still trying to get off.

Henry and his two female companions reached the small darkened driver’s compartment.
‘Now let me see,’ he said, half to himself, ‘there should be a torch or a lantern somewhere here - ah, just the job.’ He reached down for a long rubber-covered torch tucked away in one corner. A sudden scraping noise made him turn towards the driver’s’ open door. Something black was crouched there. He switched on the torch and shone a beam of light towards it. Jenny screamed as it reflected on two
shining, evil-looking eyes. Instantly, without realising his actions, Henry lashed out with his foot, catching the rat’s head and knocking it back into the tunnel.
‘It’s one of those black rats that the papers were on about!’ Violet cried in horror. Jenny burst into tears, burying her head into the older woman’s shoulder. Henry shone the torch down into the darkness and was dumb-struck at the scene before him. In the confined space of the tunnel, men and women were running, fighting, cowering as hundreds of black rats rampaged amongst them, leaping and tearing, their
bloodlust stirring them into a frenzy. He quickly closed the door and then looked back into the carriage.

He saw that the rats had entered the train and were now attacking the passengers who hadn’t managed to get off or had scrambled back on. He slammed the compartment door shut and switched off his torch.

He was trembling slightly but managed to control the tremor in his voice. ‘I think,our best bet is to sit fight for a while, ladies.’

They all jumped as something fell against the door. Jenny began to moan loudly, her whole body shaking fitfully.

Violet did her best to comfort her. ‘It’s all right, dear. They can’t get in here,’ she soothed.

‘But you must keep quiet,’ Henry said, placing a hand kindly on her shoulder. ‘They mustn’t hear us. I think I broke that devil’s neck, so he won’t try to get in. I suggest we all crouch down on the floor and keep as still as possible.’

He helped lower the sobbing girl to a sitting position and took one more glance out of the window. He wished he hadn’t. His mind registered a mental picture he knew he would never forget for as long as - he quickly pushed the thought of life and death from his mind. Below him was part of a nightmare. A scene from hell. He saw bloody covered limbs; torn faces; ripped bodies. A man stood almost opposite him,
against the wall, stiff and straight, his eyes lifelesslystaring, it seemed, into his own, while three or four rats gorged themselves on his bare legs. A fat woman, completely naked cried pitifully as she beat at two rats clinging to her ample breasts. A young boy of about eighteen was trying to climb to the top of the train by
pushing his feet against the wall and slowly levering himself up. A huge rat ran up the side of the wall and landed on his lap, causing the boy to fall back on to the ground. Screams pervaded the air. Cries for help beat into his brain. All in the half-gloom, against the blackness of the tunnel, as though the whole event
was taking place in black limbo. And everywhere scurrying, furry black creatures, running up the walls, launching themselves into the air, only stopping when the victims’ struggles ceased, and then eating and drinking...

James Herbert
The Rats

In Praise of Future Rats

"Even the pestilent, friendless rat was the substance theme of discourse at one of these popular assemblages. The humane investigator had made a particular study of the animal, and surprised his audience with the number and character of his facts and observations — original and from authentic sources. The nature and qualities of the creature were presented in a manner to excite astonishment and sympathy. At the risk of being considered tedious, some of his facts and anecdotes are repeated.

He related an incident communicated by a clergyman, to prove that the detested rodent shows a consideration and care for its elders on the march which was worthy of human philanthropy. Walking out in some meadows one evening, he observed a great number of rats migrating from one place to another. He stood perfectly still, and
the whole assemblage passed close to him.

His astonishment, however, was great when he saw amongst the number an old blind rat, which held a piece of stick at one end in its mouth, while another had hold of
the other end of it and thus conducted its blind companion. A kindred circumstance was witnessed by a surgeon's mate. Lying awake one evening in his berth, he saw
a rat enter, look cautiously round, and retire. He soon returned, leading a second rat, who seemed to be blind, by the ear. A third rat joined them shortly afterwards,
and assisted the original conductor in picking up some fragments of biscuit and placing them before their infirm parent, as the blind old patriarch was supposed to be.

Incredible as the story might appear of their removing hens' eggs by one fellow lying on his back and grasping tightly his ovoid burden with his fore paws, whilst his comrades drag him away by the tail, he had no reason to disbelieve it, knowing as he did that they would carry eggs from the ingenious bottom to the top of a house, lifting them from stair to stair, the first rat pushing them up on its hind and the second lifting them with its fore legs. They would extract the contents from a flask of oil, dipping in their long tails, and repeating the manoeuvre until they had consumed every drop. He had found lumps of sugar in deep drawers, at a distance of thirty feet from the place where the petty larceny was committed ; and a friend of his saw a rat mount a table on which a drum of figs was placed and straightway tip it over, scattering its contents on the floor beneath, where a score of his expectant brethren sat watching for the windfall.

The propensity of the rat to gnaw, he said, should not be attributed altogether to a reckless determination to overcome impediments. The never-ceasing action of his teeth was not a pastime, but a necessity of his existence.

It was explained : the rat had formidable weapons in the shape of four small, long, and very sharp teeth, two of which were in the upper and two in the lower jaw. These were formed in the shape of a wedge, and had always a fine, sharp, cutting edge. On examining them carefully, it was found that the inner part was of soft, ivory-like composition, which might be easily worn away, whereas the outside was composed of a glass-like enamel, which was excessively hard. The upper teeth worked exactly into the under, so that the centres of the opposed teeth met exactly in the act of gnawing ; the soft part was thus being perpetually worn away, while the hard part kept a sharp, chisel-like edge ; at the same time the teeth grew from the bottom, so that as they wore away a fresh supply was ready. In consequence of this peculiar arrangement, if one of the teeth be removed, either by accident or on purpose, the opposed tooth would continue to grow, and, as there would be nothing to grind it away, it would project from the mouth and turn upon itself ; or, if it were an under tooth, it would even run into the skull above.

There was a preparation in one of the museums which perfectly illustrated the fact. It was an incisor tooth of a rat, which, from the cause mentioned, had increased its growth to such a degree, that it had formed a complete circle and a segment of another ; the diameter was about large enough to admit a good-sized thumb. He once saw a newly killed rat to whom this misfortune had occurred.

(...) A lady living in the country had her attention drawn one day to some rats in an outer room, surrounding a pail which had been prepared for the pigs. Observing them carefully, she soon discovered that a young rat had fallen into the pail, and that his friends, to the number of five or six, were in consultation as to the best means of rescuing him. The lady called others of her family to witness their manoeuvres, while they continued busily at work, regardless of the presence of the spectators. By twining their feet together — the hind feet of the foremost rat being entwined with the fore feet of the next, and so on — they formed a chain extending over the side of the pail.

The foremost rat, supposed to be the mother, then reached down, grasped the young one in her paws, and both were drawn out on the floor. Unfortunately, their deliberations had occupied so much time that the young rat was drowned before he was extricated, and apparently the intelligence of his friends did not extend so far as to attempt resuscitation. Three persons were looking over a garden at sunset, when a rat appeared near a stone wall ; then another and another, until five had assembled, the fifth and last dragging a dead rat. A council then seemed to be held. Then four of them took the foot of their dead companion and drew the body to a place where the earth was soft. The fifth dug a grave with his head and feet, the depth being sufficient to allow the earth to cover the body. The four afterward assisted in covering it up, leaving the tail of the deceased out of the ground.

Pear Russell Sub-Coelum

viernes, 20 de mayo de 2011

Lands where dreams come true

"In a palace where a curious conception of the love of Atalanta and Meleager was said to figure on the walls, there was a door on which was a sign, imitated from one that overhung the Theban library of Osymandias--Pharmacy of the Soul. It was there Tiberius dreamed. On the ivory shelves were the philtres of Parthenius, labelled De Amatoriis Affectionibus, the Sybaris of Clitonymus, the Erotopaegnia of Laevius, the maxims and instructions of Elephantis, the nine books of Sappho. There also were the pathetic adventures of Odatis and Zariadres, which Chares of Mitylene had given to the world; the astonishing tales of that early Cinderella, Rhodopis; and with them those romances of Ionian nights by Aristides of Milet, which Crassus took with him when he set out to subdue the Parthians, and which; found in the booty, were read aloud to the people that they might judge the morals of a nation that pretended to rule the world.

Whether such medicaments are serviceable to the soul is problematic. Tiberius had other drugs on the ivory shelves--magic preparations that transported him to fabulous fields. There was a work by Hecataesus, with which he could visit Hyperborea, that land where happiness was a birthright, inalienable at that; yet a happiness so sweet that it must have been cloying; for the people who enjoyed it, and with it the appanage of limitless life, killed themselves from sheer ennui. Theopompus disclosed to him a stranger vista--a continent beyond the ocean--one where there were immense cities, and where two rivers flowed--the River of Pleasure and the River of Pain. With Iambulus he discovered the Fortunate Isles, where there were men with elastic bones, bifurcated tongues; men who never married, who worshipped the sun, whose life was an uninterrupted delight, and who, when overtaken by age, lay on a perfumed grass that produced a voluptuous death.

Evhemerus, a terrible atheist, whose Sacred History the early bishops wielded against polytheism until they discovered it was double-edged, took him to Panchaia, an island where incense grew; where property was held in common; where there was but one law--Justice, yet a justice different from our own, one which Hugo must have intercepted when he made an entrancing yet enigmatical apparition exclaim: "Tu me crois la Justice, je suis la Pitie." And in this paradise there was a temple, and before it a column, about which, in Panchaian characters, ran a history of ancient kings, who, to the astonishment of the tourist, were found to be none other than the gods whom the universe worshipped, and who in earlier days had announced themselves divinities, the better to rule the hearts and minds of man.

With other guides Tiberius journeyed through lands where dreams come true. Aristeas of Proconnesus led him among the Arimaspi, a curious people who passed their lives fighting for gold with griffons in the dark. With Isogonus he descended the valley of Ismaus, where wild men were, whose feet turned inwards. In Albania he found a race with pink eyes and white hair; in Sarmatia another that ate only on alternate days. Agatharcides took him to Libya, and there introduced him to the Psyllians, in whose bodies was a poison deadly to serpents, and who, to test the fidelity of their wives, placed their children in the presence of snakes; if the snakes fled they knew their wives were pure. Callias took him further yet, to the home of the hermaphrodites; Nymphodorus showed him a race of fascinators who used enchanted words. With Apollonides he encountered women who killed with their eyes those on whom they looked too long.

Megasthenes guided him to the Astomians, whose garments were the down of feathers, and who lived on the scent of the rose. In his cups they all passed, confusedly, before him; the hermaphrodites whispered to the rose-breathers the secrets of impossible love; the griffons bore to him women with magical eyes; the Albanians danced with elastic feet; he heard the shrill call of the Psyllians, luring the serpents to death; the column of Panchaia unveiled its mysteries; the Hyperboreans the reason of their fear of life, and on the wings of the chimera he set out again in search of that continent which haunted antiquity and which lay beyond the sea.

Saltus Imperial Purple

jueves, 19 de mayo de 2011

Politically Correct Snow White

Once there was a young princess who was not at all unpleasant to look at and had a temperament that many found to be more pleasant than most other people´s. Her nickname was Snow White, indicative of the discriminatory notions of associating pleasant or attractive qualities with light, and unpleasant or unattractive qualities with darkness. Thus, at an early age, Snow White was an unwitting if fortunate target for this type of coulourist thinking.

When Snow White was quite young, her mother was suddenly stricken ill, grew more advanced in nonhealth, and finally was rendered noviable. Her father, the king, grieved for what can be considered a healthy period of time, then asked another woman to be his queen.Snow white did her best to please her new mother-of step, but a cold distance remained between them.

The queen’s prized possession was a magic mirror that would answer truthfully any question asked it. Now, years of social conditioning in a male hierarchial dictatorship had left the queen very insecure about her own self-worth. Physical beauty was the one standard she cared about now, and she defined herself solely in regard to her personal appearance. So every morning the queen would ask the mirror:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, Who’s the fairest one of all?”

Her mirror would anwer:

“For all it’s worth, O my queen, Your beauty is the fairest to be seen.”

That dialogue went on regularly until once when the queen was having a bad hair day and was desperately in need of support, she asked the usual question and the mirror answered:

“Alas, if worth be based on beauty, Snow White has surpassed you, cutie.”

At this, the queen flew into a rage. She ordered the royal woodsperson to take Snow White into the forest and kill her. And, possibly to impress the males in the royal court, she barbarously ordered that the girl´s heart be cut out and brought back to her.

The woodsperson sadly agreed to these orders, and led the girl, who was actually now a young wommon, into the middle of the forest. But his connections to the earth and seasons had made him a kind soul, and he couldn´t bear to harm the girl. He told Snow White of the oppressive and unsisterly order of the queen and told her to run as deeply as she could into the forest.

The frightened Snow White did as she was told. The woodsperson, fearing the queen´s wrath but unwilling to take another life merely to indulge her vanity, went into town and had the confectioner concoct a heart of red marzipan. When he presented this to the queen, she hungrily devoured the heart in a sickening display of pseudo-cannibalism.

Snow White ran deep into the woods. Just when she thought she had fled as far as she could form civilization and its unhealthy influences, she stumbled upon a cottage. Inside she saw seven tiny beds, set in a row and all unmade. She also saw seven sets of dishes piled high in the sink and seven reclining chairs in front of seven remote-controlled TVs. She surmised that the cottage belonged to either seven little men or one sloppy numerologist. The beds looked so inviting that the tired youngster curled up on one and immediately fell asleep.

When she awoke several hours later, she saw the faces of seven bearded, vertically challenged men surrounding the bed. She sat up with a start and gasped. One of the men said, “You see that? Just like a flighty woman: resting peacefully one minute, up and screaming the next.”

"I agree", said another. "She´ll disrupt our strong bond of brotherhood and create competition among us for ther affections. I say we throw her in the river in a sack full of rocks".

"I agree we should get rid of her", said a third, "but why degrade the ecology? Let´s just feed her to a bear or something and let her become part of the food chain"

When Snow White finally regained her senses, she begged, “Please, please don’t kill me. I meant no harm by sleeping on your bed. I thought no one would ever notice.”

"Ah, you see?" said one of the men. "Female preoccupations are already surfacing. She´s complaining that we don´t make our beds"

"Kill her! Kill her!"

"Please, no!" she cried. "I have travelled so deep into these woods because my mother-of-step, the queen, ordered me to be killed".

"See that? Internecine female vindictiveness!"

“Don’t try to play victim with us, kid!”


we are known as the seven towering giants!” said the leader. Snow White´s suppression of a giggle did not go unnoticed. The leader continued “We are towering in spirit and so are giants among the men of the forest. We used to earn our living by digging in our mines, but we decided that such a rape of the planet was immoral and short-sighted (besides, the bottom fell out of the metals market). So now we are dedicated stewards of the earth and live here in harmony with nature. To make ends meet, we also conduct retreats for those who need to get in touch with their primitive masculine identities.”

“So what does that involve,” asked Snow White, “aside from drinking milk straight from the carton?”

“Your sarcasm is ill-advised,” warned the leader of the Seven Towering Giants. “My fellow giants want to get rid of our corrupting feminine presence, and I might not be able to stop them, understand? My men, we must speak our hearts openly and honestly. Let us adjourn to the sweat lodge!”


Meanwhile, back at the castle, the queen rejoiced at the thought that her rival in beauty had been eliminated. She puttered around her boudoir reading Elle and Glamour, and indulged herself with three whole pieces of chocolate without purging. Later, she confidently strolled up to her magic mirror and asked her same, sad question:

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, Who’s the fairest one of all?”

The mirror replied,

“Your weight is perfect for your shape and height, But for sheer OOOOMPH!, you can’t beat Snow White.”

At this news, the queen clenched her fists and screamed at the top of her lungs. For years, her insecurities had been eating away at her until now they turned her into someone who was morally out of the mainstream. With cunning and malice, she began to devise a plan to ensure the nonviability of her daughter-of-step.

A few days later, Snow White, to be sure she didn´t touch or rearrange anything, was meditating on the floor in the middle of the cottage. Suddenly there was a knock on the door of the cottage. Snow White opened the door to find a chronologically gifted woman with a basket in her hand. By the look of her clothes, she was apparently unfettered by the confines of regular employment.

“Help a woman of unreliable income, dearie,” she said, “and buy one of my apples.”

Snow White thought for a moment. In protest against agribusiness conglomerates, she had a personal rule against buying food from middlepersons. But her heart went out to the economically marginalized woman, so she said yes. What Snow White didn´t know was that this was really the queen in disguise and that the apple had been chemically and genetically altered so that whoever bit it would sleep forever.

The queen burst into tears.

“Why, what’s the matter?” asked Snow White.

“You’re so young and beautiful.” sobbed the queen. “How do you stay in such perfect shape?”

“Well, I meditate, work out in step aerobics three hours a day, and eat only half-portions of anything placed in front of me. Would you like me to show you?”

“Oh, yes, yes, please,” said the queen. So they started out with 30 minutes of simple hatha yoga meditation, then worked out on step for another hour. As they relaxed afterward, Snow White cut her apple in half and gave a piece to the queen. Without thinking, the queen bit into it, and both of them fell into a deep sleep.

Later that day, the Seven Towering Giants returned from a retreat in the woods, elaborately decked out in animal skins, feathers, and mud. With them was a prince from a nearby kingdom, who had come on this male retreat to find a cure for his impotence (or, as he preferred to call it, his involuntary suspension from phallocentric activity.) They were all laughing and high-fiving until they saw the bodies stopped short.

“What has happened?” asked the prince.

“Apparently our house guest and this other woman got into some sort of catfight and killed each other,” surmised one giant.

"If they thought that by doing this, they could make us slaves to our weaker emotions, they´re wrong" fumed another.

"Well, since we´ve got to dispose of them, let´s practise one of those Viking funerals we´ve read about".

“You know,” said the prince, “this might sound a little sick, but I trust you guys. I find that younger one attractive. Extremely attractive. Would you fellows mind…um…waiting outside while I…?”

“Stop right there!” said the leader of the giants. “These half-eaten apple pieces, that filthy-costume–this has all the earmarks of some sort of magic spell. They’re not really dead at all.”

“Whew,” sighed the prince, “that makes me feel better. So, could you guys take five and let me…?”

“Hold it, Prince,” said the leader. “Does Snow White make you feel like a man again?”

“She certainly does. Now, could you guys…?”

“Don’t touch her! You’ll break the spell.” The leader thought for a minute and said, "My brothers, I see certain economic possibilities arising from this. If we kept Snow White around here in that state, we could advertise our retreats as impotency therapy".

The giants nodded in agreement with this idea, but the prince interrupted, "But what about me? I´ve already paid for my retreat. Why can´t I, um take the cure?"

"No dice, Prince", said the leader. "you can look but don´t touch. Otherwise you´ll break the spell. Tell you what, though. You can have the other one if you want"

James Finn Garner
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life and Times

miércoles, 18 de mayo de 2011

Le bras de Salomé l´incrédule

18.1. Mais il [Joseph] trouva là une grotte, l'y conduisit et la confia à la garde de ses fils. Puis il partit chercher une sage-femme juive dans le pays de Bethléem. [Il en trouva une qui descendait de la montagne et il l'amena.]

2. « Or moi, Joseph, je me promenais et ne me promenais pas. Et je levai les yeux vers la voûte du ciel et je la vis immobile, et je regardai en l'air et je le vis figé d'étonnement. Et les oiseaux étaient arrêtés en plein vol. Et j'abaissai mes yeux sur la terre et je vis une écuelle et des ouvriers étendus pour le repas, et leurs mains demeuraient dans l'écuelle. Et ceux qui mâchaient ne mâchaient pas et ceux qui prenaient de la nourriture ne la prenaient pas et ceux qui la portaient à la bouche ne l'y portaient pas. Toutes les faces et tous les yeux étaient levés vers les hauteurs.

3. Et je vis des moutons que l'on poussait, mais les moutons n'avançaient pas. Et le berger levait la main pour les frapper, et sa main restait en l'air. Et je portai mon regard sur le courant de la rivière et je vis des chevreaux qui effleuraient l'eau de leur museau, mais ne la buvaient pas.
Soudain la vie reprit son cours.

19.1. Et je vis une femme qui descendait de la montagne et elle m'interpella : « Eh, l'homme, où vas-tu ? » Je répondis : « Je vais chercher une sage-femme juive. - Es-tu d'Israël ? me demanda-t-elle encore. - Oui », lui dis-je. Elle reprit : « Et qui donc est en train d'accoucher dans la grotte ? »
[Et Joseph dit à la sage-femme : « C'est Marie, ma fiancée; mais elle a conçu de l'Esprit saint, après avoir été élevée dans le temple du Seigneur. »]
Et je lui dis : « C'est ma fiancée. - Elle n'est donc pas ta femme ? » demanda-t-elle. Et je lui dis : « C'est Marie, celle qui a été élevée dans le temple du Seigneur. J'ai été désigné pour l'épouser, mais elle n'est pas ma femme, et elle a conçu du Saint-Esprit. » Et la sage-femme dit : « Est-ce la vérité ? » Joseph répondit : « Viens et vois. »
Et elle partit avec lui, 2. et ils s'arrêtèrent à l'endroit de la grotte. Une obscure nuée enveloppait celle-ci. Et la sage-femme dit : « Mon âme a été exaltée aujourd'hui car mes yeux ont contemplé des merveilles : le salut est né pour Israël. » Aussitôt la nuée se retira de la grotte et une grande lumière resplendit à l'intérieur, que nos yeux ne pouvaient supporter. Et peu à peu cette lumière s'adoucit pour laisser apparaître un petit enfant. Et il vint prendre le sein de Marie sa mère. Et la sage-femme s'écria : « Qu'il est grand pour moi ce jour ! J'ai vu de mes yeux une chose inouïe. »

3. Et la sage-femme sortant de la grotte, rencontra Salomé et elle lui dit : « Salomé, Salomé, j'ai une étonnante nouvelle à t'annoncer : une vierge a enfanté, contre la loi de nature. » Et Salomé répondit : « Aussi vrai que vit le Seigneur mon Dieu, si je ne mets mon doigt et si je n'examine son corps, je ne croirai jamais que la vierge a enfanté. »

20.1. Et la sage-femme entra et dit : « Marie, prépare-toi car ce n'est pas un petit débat qui s'élève à ton sujet. » A ces mots, Marie se disposa. Et Salomé mit son doigt dans sa nature et poussant un cri, elle dit : « Malheur à mon impiété et à mon incrédulité ! disait-elle, j'ai tenté le Dieu vivant ! Et voici que ma main se défait, sous l'action d'un feu. »

2. Et Salomé s'agenouilla devant le Maître, disant : « Dieu de mes pères, souviens-toi que je suis de la lignée d'Abraham, d'Isaac et de Jacob. Ne m'expose pas au mépris des fils d'Israël, mais rends-moi aux pauvres. Car tu sais, ô Maître, qu'en ton nom je les soignais, recevant de toi seul mon salaire.

3. Et voici qu'un ange du Seigneur parut, qui lui dit : « Salomé, Salomé, le Maître de toute chose a entendu ta prière. Etends ta main sur le petit enfant, prends-le. Il sera ton salut et ta joie. »

4. Et Salomé, toute émue, s'approcha de l'enfant, le prit dans ses bras, disant : « Je l'adorerai. Il est né un roi à Israël et c'est lui. » Aussitôt Salomé fut guérie, et elle sortit de la grotte, justifiée. Et voici qu'une voix parla « Salomé, Salomé, n'ébruite pas les merveilles que tu as contemplées, avant que l'enfant ne soit entré à Jérusalem. »

Protévangile de Jacques
(apocryphe grec du IIe siècle)