Anthony Aphrodisiac

I
THE COLLOQUY BEYOND THE STARS

SCENE: The Unapparent. Below in Space, gleam the lights of countless zodiacs.

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.—Welcome, Capocomico. By the star-dust on your cap and the blue mists that still fringe your face I should say you had been in Space.

CAPOCOMICO THE GREAT.—Yes, Sire, I have adventured over the planet Earth and my stroll this time took me through the United States.

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.—The planet Earth! As far away as that from wisdom? I believe that is your first visit to the very newest of our experiments, this United States. Tell me something of the people there, for as you know once a world is born of my will I leave the rest to the Wraith-maker, he that we call Demiurge.

CAPOCOMICO THE GREAT.—As to your very latest experiment, the United States, things there go with tremendous rapidity. Within the lifetime of a single being on that plent one could view the evolution of a people from a small colony to one of the mightiest industrial and commercial nations.

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.—Tell me more about these people who live between my Atlantic and my Pacific and whose empire [dreamily and with a vision in his voice] maybe, maybe, soon shall be bounded only by the Poles.

CAPOCOMICO THE GREAT.—As I said, Sire, they are now in the industrial and commercial stage of their evolution. Gold rules them utterly. They are the Titans of materialism, and yet they have almost made of materialism a mystical religion. They are the subtle theologians of the portable and prehensile. The[y] are the mystagogues of barter and they have mesmerized Europe and Asia with their prospectuses, which they unroll across the world like the scrolls of the Magi. They are the Alberichs of their age and I believe they are capable of minting sunshine and moonshine and turning them into double eagles.

This United States is a simmering vat, a witches’ broth, a Brocken of lurid nightmares and cyclopean charivaris of what they call “Business.” Charlatans who have about them something of the sublimity of Laocoon, gigantic thieves whose eyes gleam with the fire that Prometheus stole from the gods, boasters and bellow-lungs that take one back, Sire, to the bombast of Lucifer in the Lake of Fiery Pitch.

In the great Symphony of Materialism the souls of these Americans are opus No. 1.

And this country, too, Sire is the very Pisgah of respectability and conformity. In the pursuit of property they have lost their liberty. Their mental Vulcans wear kid gloves and forge hairpins for a living.

In a word, Sire, this latest experiment of yours has come to this: A daring, braggart, sublimely adventurous people who are at the same time the greatest moral and mental cowards and the supremest hypocrites of which the planet Earth has any record. They are titanic Tartuffes.

If you stretched a clothesline from star to star, you could not hang up on it all the dirty mental linen of the American sex-hypocrite.

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.—I should form, then, the opinion that these people of the United States are devoid of a sense of beauty; in other words, that they possess no art worthy the name.

CAPOCOMICO THE GREAT.—None whatever. There are a few gods who peddle stars in secret, but in most every instance their fate is that of beggars, book agents and street dogs that attempt to get inside their skyscrapers.

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.—As you know, Capocomico, I am only concerned about the Beautiful and its materialization into perfect and strange forms. Being myself the First Artist, the beings that I sprinkle on those various stars Down There, giving them varying degrees of intelligence, are interesting to me only in so far as they create through their imaginations.

The United States, in spite of all you say, Capocomico, has given three or four flashes of Light in the last century. But the way must be paved for the birth of what is now hidden in that great Golden Paunch of mediocrity and prudery and odiferous hypocrisy. And from the muck and murk and material sublimity of these really great Americans I wish to strike the flame that shall dazzle their children’s children.

CAPOCOMICO THE GREAT.—And you will, Sire, perform this wonder in your way, by paradox, of course?

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.—By paradox and irony. All life is born by the concussion of opposites. To create anything one must first create its opposite.

Let us go back to the Earth. See how Voltaire and Rousseau created Robespierre and Robespierre created Napoleon; how Dante, who expounded the glories of the ancient theology, was one of the instruments that brought about the materialism and atheism of the eighteenth century; how the Man of Galilee, preaching asceticism and the negation of the flesh, fathered unknowingly the nymphaleptic visions of the female saints and the unchaste cerebral carnivals of the monks of the desert.

It was the Puritan Oliver Cromwell who was the real father of Nell Gwynne and the epoch that she represents.

In the United States, then, to bring on the Age of Beauty it will be necessary to create one who will incarnate the very essence of the soul of these people—a messiah of puritanism, respectability and hypocrisy; a new avatar of the eternal Philistine and Bourgeois. That shall be the work of Demiurge and Wraith-maker. Let us go to his studio.

II
The Making of Anthony Aphrodisiac

SCENE: The sub-physical world of unlit consciousness, the factory of spheres and men. (Enter Impresario Eternitatus and Capocomico the Great.)

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.—Demiurge still dreams, creates and imprecates.

CAPOCOMICO THE GREAT.—Like those on Earth, those lesser Demiurges, those wraith-makers in petto, the artists; they dream and curse also.

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.— Nothing is so breedy of dreams as curses; the beautiful is born of the ugly, which brings us to our errand, Demiurge. The United States of America—you know, no doubt, by sight that plot of ground, discovered in the nick of time by Europe, who up until then had no backyard or underground drainage system—is to-day hopelessly commercial, bourgeois, philistine. There is no art or literature worth the name. It is—so I have it from Capocomico, who has just returned from the Earth—a nation of business brothels and fetid happy homes.

CAPOCOMICO THE GREAT.—Yes, just that. There is a stench of virtue wherever you go. Prudery, the Old Maid who has never taken a bath for fear of seeing her own body, has infected life everywhere in the United States. And you should hear them snicker at a smutty story! Indeed, if it were not for the travelling salesman there obscenity, of divine origin as you know, Demiurge, would die out entirely. The greatest hope in the United States for a renaissance of free speech in sex matters and the nude in art lies in the “drummer.” It is again, is it not, Sire, a sublime paradox that Art shall in that country be mothered and fathered in the purulent skull of the American commercial traveller, the adytum of puritanical teachings?

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.—Demiurge, you must create for us and for the ultimate redemption of these Americans a super-philistine, a gargantuan hypocrite, an enemy of all forms of healthy salacity, a persecutor of those who glory in the transcription of the unfigged human body either in color or prose or poetry. He must be chaste, moral, a family man, and must epitomize and typify in all its sapless grandeur the moral and mental cowardice of the American people, their middle class stupidity and their militant chastity.

DEMIURGE.—And what is the purpose, Sire?

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.—This ninny, his nipple and udder of godliness who will sweeten life, as he believes, with his free moral milk, this unconscious high priest of phallism, will by his repeated acts of tyranny in the name of Social Purity (a slogan which, Demiurge, you must affix in him so firmly that he will believe it is the unseverable umbilicus between him and his postmortem Redeemer) sting into life, gradually and rhythmically, the healthy curiosity which every act of literary and artistic reprisal will engender about the very things that are taboo.

You know that has always been the Law, the Law of the Immanent Paradox. You know what sublime results in cosmic artistry I have achieved before through the beautiful thaumaturgy of this Law. The same thing will happen in this case. Working with his deadliest weapons for one end, this celebrated and grandiloquent purist will achieve quite another end. Through his morality he will achieve immorality—the immorality of beyond-good-and-evil that is necessary to all great art and literature. He will plant seeds which will yield a harvest he never, in his superb nescience, dreamed of. That which he seeks to slay shall be immortal.

CAPOCOMICO THE GREAT.—Divine Master and Impresario! What sport thou hast provided for me! And will this Ninny-Avatar be born in the regular way?

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.—Not his dainty soul. What I through such an obscene swivel! Why he would raid his mother if he ever knew of it. No. He shall come forth from the bleat of a calf.

DEMIURGE.—More dirty work! Alas! And what is to be his name, Sire?

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.—Anthony Aphrodisiac.

(The third act is omitted because the doings of Anthony Aphrodisiac on earth are so well known.)

Did he not make known to every school child the meaning of certain things that it would have otherwise remained in ignorance of?

Did he not through his untiring activity in the cause of Social Purity put the study of the nude in art and the healthy frankness about sexual things in literature to the very forefront in the curriculum of human activity?

Did he not become a household word—so much so that to say “Anthony” in a home connoted bed, night, joy? [15]

Did he not put a prying snout on the face of Innocence?

What could there be said here that is not already known of teh marvelous life and serenely prim death of Anthony Aphrodisiac?

And would it be wise to go into the erotic underworld of Anthony’s tumescent imaginings?

IV
THE BEATIFICATION OF ANTHONY

SCENE: The Unapparent. The great Cyclorama of Impresario Eternitatus, where from all eternity he has held his fetes, beatifications and auto-da-fe’s.

TIME: 1964 (Earth measurement).

CAPOCOMICO THE GREAT (laughing).—Yes, it was Anthony Aphrodisiac who egged them on. The United States to-day has an Art and a Literature. They have broken all moulds, smashed all traditions, Sire, and bounded in a little less than two generations from the mud to the stars. Theirs will be the glory of Athens and Byzantium plus. It was your marvelous Anthony who gave them the flair.

It was he with his eternal “Thou shalt not” that set into motion the flames that transformed these slave-born Americans into what you see they are to-day, Sire, the very flowers of freedom in sex-utterance and art creation. They are fairly a-reek with the Promethean fire. And Anthony was their Prometheus; it was he who dropped the flaming brand into their subconscious nature!

What pruderies, stupidities, commonplaces, and moral maxims I put into his mouth at your behest: and with what joy I watched them filter into the secret alleys and chambers of those to whom they were uttered! And there, in those souls, all those pruderies, stupidities, and anti-naturalistic maxims hailed their paramours, looked into mirrors—by the supreme law of the association of ideas by contrast—and beheld not themselves, but their alter egos, the subtle double of all those who are “pure of heart” (one of their phrases, Sire), the eternal imp of perversity hidden in every “moral act” (another earthism, Sire).

To-day in the United States sex and its mysteries are glorified and hymned everywhere. Life, pain, joy, and love are sanctified in dithyrambs and bacchic strains. The old super-eunuchs and celestial bearded thugs that were their gods have been wrenched from their sockets in their temples and the fetter-footed lords of passion out of the earth and sky have been freed and walk up and down the land.

Democracy and all its vulgarities is dead in the United States. The real aristocracy rules—an aristocracy of Art, Intellect, Culture. Jehovah and Christ are dead and Eros and Rabelais are come back. They have the newest and the oldest of religions now—the religion of One Life at a Time and the divinization and transfiguration of Whatever Is.

IMPRESARIO ETERNITATUS.—Yes, it was a tremendous transformation, and the redemption of the United States must come through those who rise beyond-good-and-evil. It is only in the great individuals of a nation that a people find their raison d’etre. The voice of Rome spoke through Nero just as truly as it later spoke through Christ. Here, as you know, Capocomic, only the law-breakers on earth are immortal; only the Anarchs, the Trespassers, the Misdoers, the Outlaws of the Status Quo make life worth living and justify it. They are the Artists, as I am the Artist. They are made in my image.

Now, I work through strange ways, and sometimes the humblest among them do my work.

Therefore, to-day, Capocomico, I have decreed the beatification of Anthony Aphrodisiac. He was the Iago of the great American Renaissance. Look.

 ❦

The background of the Cyclorama flames into light and color. Anthony Aphrodisiac is seen throned and crowned and unfigged, above him gleam in abysmal black spaces a constellated universe of eyes that twinkle like stars; they are the laughing, ironic, libidinous eyes of fauns, satyrs and the immortal progeny of the great god Pan.

His throne is held aloft by the Queen of Sheba, Aspasia and Nell Gwynne, all unfigged, shimmering, mirific shapes of Beauty.

Sappho and Anacreon, unfigged, pass by him leading the poets and the painters of the Earth—those who worshipped Bacchus and Aphrodite beyond all mortal and immortal things.

Above, beneath, around is heard the passionate sex-music of Franz Liszt, Ludwig van Beethoven and Richard Wagner.

Capocomico advances and, kneeling, anoints the feet of Anthony Aphrodisiac with puritanized and sterilized grape-juice. On the face of Anthony there gleams the nymphaleptic light of pre-ordained idiocy; his eyes have a lickerish stare and the few hairs on his head are erectile, and from his lips that drool with expectancy there issues the bleat of a calf.

And it was thus that Anthony Aphrodisiac was beatified among the unfigged by Impresario Eternitatus for his foreordained service in America.

Benjamin De Casseres.

 

Source: Puck, April 4, 1914, Vol. LXXV. No. 1925, pp. 14-15