THE THREE DEMONS

 

This is my re-telling of a prose-poem by the great Parisian poet Charles Baudelaire. This is not a translation from the original French by any means, I don’t even have a copy, but I read it many years ago and it struck a chord in my heart. Now I thought I might have a go at telling the tale and share it with my readers.

I hope I’ve captured something of the flavour of the original poem. So gather around children for the story of..

 

The Three Demons

 

One dark, moonless night long ago, I awakened suddenly from my dreamless sleep, seized by a feeling of overwhelming excitement and anticipation, as though something of tremendous importance was about to happen. As events were to prove, I was not mistaken.

For, sitting up in my bed, I saw with surprise that set in the dingy wall opposite was a door, where there had never been a door before. Furthermore, from around the edges of this door there streamed a greenish light that illuminated my room with a weird, unworldly hue.

As I sat staring at this inexplicable manifestation, the door slowly swung open. Beyond were revealed steps which descended down, down into a swirling viridian mist. And out of this mist came three demons. Up the steep steps they came and through the door and into my room, and there they stood before me. And each of them offered me their gifts, if only I would give them my soul in return.

*

The first demon was a jolly fat man, his name was FORTUNE. He laughed often and when he laughed you could hear the clinking & chinking of metal, as though his vast belly were filled with silver coins. He was clad in loose shimmering robes of gold, but through the gaps in the cloth you could see that his whole body was curiously tattooed with entwined and convoluted figures.

This Demon promised me all the wealth of the world if I wanted it, unimagined riches would be mine! Treasures long buried by dead tyrants. Vaults of gold and jewels in anonymous Swiss banks. Stocks that would climb until I sold. Yes, all this could be mine, and all that such wealth could buy, if only I would sell him my soul.

But as he made his sales pitch I was staring in horror at his tattooes, for I could now discern that the twisting figures depicted the forms of starving children. Each was a picture of FAMINE, the round, staring eyes, the distended bellies, the matchstick limbs.

I knew then how those vaults came to be filled with gold, and it was with cold contempt that I declined the Demon’s gift.

 

The name of the second Demon was EROS, and it had something of the androgynous allure of a professional transvestite of the stage, mixed with the unworldly beauty of a Hindu God. Its skin was tinged a delicate blue and the scent of perfumes and incense hung about it. Its heavy lidded eyes were rimmed with Kohl. Dressed in fishnets and the latest pop-star fetishware, I thought at first it must be wearing stillettoes from its clicking footsteps, but then I observed in fact it had hooves instead of feet.

This Demon offered me the Love of whoever I desired. Any girl, any woman, any boy could be mine. Any and as many as I would choose would be my lovers. The most unattainable Model, the most blushing virgin. The Demon offered me a life of unending Pleasure and Passion.

But I noticed around the Demons waist a knotted leather belt which filled me with a growing feeling of dread. For from this belt hung many tiny hooks and also curious crystal phials filled with unknown fluids. From some subconscious part of my brain the suspicion came upon me that these tiny bottles contained sinister potions, poisons and acids. Though I did not understand the purpose or meaning of these hooks and phials, I found myself shivering, and stammering declined the second Demon’s gifts.

The third demon’s name was FAME and she carried a golden trumpet.

Clad in sweeping purple robes, she had the majestic mien of a mature and noble woman whose beauty has not yet faded. She was both beautiful and familiar, like a gracefully aging actress whose fine cheekbones still defy Time.

Wasting no time with words, she merely brought the golden trumpet to her lips and sounded a single note upon it. And wonder of wonders, the note that trumpet sounded was my name! Ah and what a note it was! What a pure, pealing, tremendous note it was, a note of brass and thunder, that reverberated with a hundred overtones, and each of them travelled to the furthest reaches of the Universe and back, crossing and recrossing and echoing down the corridors of time.

Hmm, I thought, tempting.

Indeed, I was on the point of accepting the Demons gift, when a memory unbidden tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of when it was that I had last seen this Lady, and who it was I had seen her with, and where. And I remembered all the others whom Fame had made her pet, the whole ghastly crew. The unending line of miserable creatures she had had as her consort to strut the red carpet for a season or three, their follies and their scandals. I remembered also how each had been ultimately discarded in their turn, how fickle she was with her Favourites.

“Madame,” I demurred with cold and formal politeness,

“I do not care to be seen with One

who keeps such company as yours”.

 

At this my last refusal, the three demons bowed to me, and in serene and stately procession, passed back through the mysterious door, down the steep steps and dissappeared into the swirling green mists. After a moment the door itself swung slowly shut, and the light seeping through its edges faded, till the outlines could no longer be discerned, and I found myself once again staring at the blank and dingy wall of my room.

I know not how long I sat there staring mutely at the wall, but I was suddenly brought back to myself by the sound of a cock crowing, and startled, I realised that the sky had just begun to lighten on the eastern rim of the world.

Yes at that moment it was as though I had awakened fully, and acute awareness of the night’s events flooded my mind.

Instantly I lept from my bed and flung myself to my knees on the floor. There I cried out loudly, my hands raised in supplication,

“Oh mighty Demons! Oh good, kind, wise Demons, please come back to me! I’ve changed my mind! Please forgive my arrogance and stupidity! I was a fool to spurn your gifts! Return! Please return! Won’t one of you return?”

But there was only silence. The door remained closed.

 

That was many years ago now.

And although since then I have repeated my prayer

to the three Demons every single day of my life,

they have never,

ever

returned.

***

***

The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet and an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanists AND the Church of the Universe.

He’s got his own angle too.

***

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~ by reverendhellfire on May 20, 2012.

5 Responses to “THE THREE DEMONS”

  1. Who can resist temptation for ever? I sympathise with the poor guy, but he made the right decision. ‘Gifts’ are not all that they seem, and it’s always better to give than to receive.

    • I love this story, its lyrical charm, its wry humour. Baudelaire takes the archtypal “three wishes” fable and gives it a new dimension. It follows also in the tradition of cautionary “be careful what you wish for” stories like “The Fishermans Wife” though with a twist.
      I guess anyone who at some stage has sacrificed material rewards in the name of Idealism will be able to identify with the authors regrets.

  2. Wait I had that same dream…or was it a dream? No wonder fame, fortune and love have remained elusive… 🙂

    • oh well, it was probably just “false” fortune, fame and love they offered. You know, like that “false euphoria” you’re supposed to get from drugs.

  3. It’s so lucky for me to find your blog! So great! Just one suggestion: It will be better and easier to follow if your blog can offer rrs subscription service.

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