Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dunsany IV

And here's another of Lord Dunsany's little parables, once again from FIFTY-ONE TALES [1915]. It was tales such as this one, I think, that won him the admiration of Mencken, who thought of him more as a satirist than a fantasist. People always write about Dunsany's elevated style, as if he had only one note in his repertoire, not realizing how good he was at plainspeech when he wanted to be; his best plays often juxtapose the two to good effect, as here.

A note on the title: in American English, the equivalent title would be "The Politician & the Prostitute". The Saint is of course St. Peter, traditionally the Keeper of the Keys to the Gate of Heaven.*

"The Demagogue and the Demi-Monde"

A demagogue and a demi-mondaine chanced to arrive together at the gate of Paradise. And the Saint looked sorrowfully at them both.

"Why were you a demagogue?" he said to the first.

"Because," said the demagogue, "I stood for those principles that have made us what we are and have endeared our Party to the great heart of the people. In a word I stood unflinchingly on the plank of popular representation."

"And you?" said the Saint to her of the demimonde.

"I wanted money," said the demi-mondaine.

And after some moments' thought the Saint said: "Well, come in; though you don't deserve to."

But to the demagogue he said: "We genuinely regret that the limited space at our disposal and our unfortunate lack of interest in those Questions that you have gone sso far to inculcate and have so able upheld in the past, prevent us from giving you the support for which you seek."

And he shut the golden door.

*an image still alive & well today in a thousand cartoon, not to mention most recently in Coldplay's "When I Ruled the World" from VIDA LA VIVA: 'For some reason I can't explain/I know St. Peter won't call my name'

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