March 22, 2004

Fifty-One Tales, Lord Dunsany

The Assignation is so pretty and formal that it warrants letterpress. It's so short that it would still fit on a large postcard. There wouldn't be much of a market, though; it could announce auctions by the executor, or serve as a refusal notice from those imaginary editors as cruel as a A. C. Swinburne daydream.

The Assignation
Fame singing in the highways, and trifling as she sang, with sordid adventurers, passed the poet by.
And still the poet made for her little chaplets of song, to deck her forehead in the courts of Time: and still she wore instead the worthless garlands, that boisterous citizens flung to her in the ways, made out of perishable things.
And after a while whenever these garlands died the poet came to her with his chaplets of song; and still she laughed at him and wore the worthless wreaths, though they always died at evening.
And one day in his bitterness the poet rebuked her, and said to her: "Lovely Fame, even in the highways and the byways you have not foreborne to laugh and shout and jest with worthless men, and I have toiled for you and dreamed of you and you mock me and pass me by."
And Fame turned her back on him and walked away, but in departing she looked over her shoulder and smiled at him as she had not smiled before, and, almost speaking in a whisper, said:
"I will meet you in the graveyard at the back of the Workhouse in a hundred years."

Gutenberg etext #7838

So wrote clew in SF&F. | TrackBack
And thus wrote others:

Ah, Mr. Swinburne's imaginary ladies. I'm afraid I don't qualify; but if you see him, let him know that if he'll drop me a note, I'll tell him the names of some NYC clubs where his painful muses like to hang out.

I have a soft spot for Swinburne because I suspect that he, too, had narcolepsy. There are contemporary accounts telling how, when he became overexcited, he'd collapse on the floor, unable to stand up but with his faculties otherwise intact. That sounds like nothing so much as cataplexy, which is a pathonomic symptom of narcolepsy.

Thank you for bringing "The Assignation" back to my attention after many years' absence. I have more than a soft spot for Lord Dunsany. I'm not perfectly sure, but I think he may be my favorite fantasy writer ever, in all categories and lengths. The short stories amaze me every time I read them.


yclept: Teresa Nielsen Hayden at March 23, 2004 11:15 AM

I'd always thought of him as insomniac, because of (say) The Garden of Proserpine:


I am tired of tears and laughter,
And men that laugh and weep;
Of what may come hereafter
For men that sow to reap:
I am weary of days and hours,
Blown buds of barren flowers,
Desires and dreams and powers
And everything but sleep.


I expect the two conditions are, horribly, not actually exclusive...

(And I corrected my misspelling of his name. Thanks.)


yclept: clew at March 24, 2004 02:10 PM
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