Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sunday St. Vincent Millay


This door you might not open, and you did;
So enter now, and see for what slight thing
You are betrayed. . . . Here is no treasure hid,
No cauldron, no clear crystal mirroring
The sought-for truth, no heads of women slain
For greed like yours, no writhings of distress,
But only what you see. . . . Look yet again--
An empty room, cobwebbed and comfortless.
Yet this alone out of my life I kept
Unto myself, lest any know me quite;
And you did so profane me when you crept
Unto the threshold of this room to-night
That I must never more behold your face.
This now is yours. I seek another place.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

A good annotated rendition of the Bluebeard story can be found here. Basically he was a serial murderer who enticed women with his riches into fatal marriage. He gave them great freedom and comfort but forbade them from entering just one room of his great castle; the closet that held the bodies of his many dead wives.

I came to know the story via the opera Bluebeard's Castle by Bela Bartok, one of the great classical composers of the first half of the twentieth century and always a personal favorite of mine.

In modern times Bluebeard may have been identified as a psychopath, not innapropriately. But even in the the decades of Millay and Bartok this kind of personality had not been yet scientifically defined and it was left to mythology and the arts to explore and explain the phenomenon.

Like the contemporary psychopath, Bluebeard tries to outwardly show charm and sympathy, when in fact he has a secret that he will kill to maintain: he has no conscience. He plays games with people, and in his extreme case, he murders them.

Millay, probably protesting the wrongful executions of Sacco and Vanzetti.

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