‘You’re not alone. You haven’t died’ by Osip Mandelstam

You're not alone. You haven't died,
while you still,beggar-woman at your side,
take pleasure in the grandeur of the plain,
the gloom, the cold,the whirlwinds of snow.


In sumptuous penury, in mighty poverty
live comforted and at rest -
your days and nights are blest,
your sweet-voiced labour without sin.


Unhappy he, a shadow of himself,
whom a bark astounds and the wind mows down,
and to be pitied he, more dead than alive,
who begs handouts from a ghost.


by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)
His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
(1937)
translated by Andrew Davis

‘It’s time my friends, it’s time. We long for peace’ by Alexander Pushkin

It’s time my friends, it’s time. We long for peace

of heart. But days chase days and every hour

gone by means one less hour to come. We live

our lives, dear friend, in hope of life, then die.

There is no happiness on earth, but peace

exists, and freedom too. Tired slave, I dream

of flight, of taking refuge in some far-

off home of quiet joys and honest labour.

 

by Александр Сергеевич Пушкин (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)

a.k.a. Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin

(1834)

translated by Robert Chandler

To Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

 

By John Keats (1795-1821)

First published in 1820

A Working Homunculus Heart

I walked to work in the early morning and the air seemed to be on fire burning my nostrils with every breath made visible by expelled water vapour. I can still taste the dull mint of the toothpaste from twenty minutes ago as the ground beneath me seems to ripple, on the verge of perception, undulating beneath the frost of mid-Winter. I arrive at work and hear no one speaking while we wait to be let in. I feel my homunculus heart sink. I touch the machine switching it on and the static electricity stings me as it has done every day but I do not react.

Our marionette minds are not taxed by the labour. It is a simple, repetitive, task and in the dying days of this year it is only we who are expected to work though there is no urgency in the completion of our task. They are, however, more than willing to find us more to do so we are not ‘just sitting there twiddling our thumbs’ vacantly.

I recall being unemployed years ago and being told I should not pursue a job in publishing or any creative industry even as behind-the-scenes office staff. I was told this by an advisor in a government funded recruitment agency who would soon be fired but regain his job when the company that won the contact subcontracted it to their failing predecessors. It was two years later I finally got a job having to live with that comment. My heart was replaced by this homunculus sometime back then.

I do not work the whole day. I leave after six hours though I am told we can do just five in order to get a full day’s pay. It is the only act of defiance I can muster without cutting the red strings that bind me to this society down the road.

I had once been skilled in drawing but, with time preoccupied fulfilling others agendas for low pay, I found I had no time to do this and my marionette mind was enslaved by the puppet masters whose lives are their careers. I attempt to doodle occasionally but find where once there was scale and texture there is only a caricature line art not even worthy of being crossed out. My mind is plagued by the demons and dark thoughts accumulated through the passage of time. Nothing is done once work is finished. I lie rotting on the floor sheathed in the blue glow of the television in power saving mode as it rests.

I feel nothing. I care for nothing.

I am not living but merely existing nowadays.I am not human. I am not even humane. I am a homunculus.

A little man made less by society’s demands.

My homunculus heart is incomplete.

And yet it moves.


There is a PS2 game called ‘Haunting Ground‘ (‘Demento‘ in Japan) and a character in it called Daniella who is an artificially created servant (everyone else seems to be some sort of homunculus made by the alchemist, Lorenzo, so I assume she is too) who goes crazy and chases the main character around as the second stalker ‘boss’ of the ‘Clock Tower’ style game (Which it was initially going to be part of the series of before being made a stand alone title). It’s based on the sort of Gothic Romanticism in novels written by Anne Radcliffe (1764 – 1823) amongst others. Long story short the alchemist, Lorenzo, has kept himself alive via cloning/homunculus creation and wants to be reborn in the womb of the main Character Fiona. (Who he kidnapped and is his last living descendant so there is a bit of a creepy incest aspect to it too in thhe grand tradition of Gothic literature). In one of the bad endings one of his clones, Riccardo actually achieves it and you see Fiona sat docile in a chair about 8 months pregnant having apparently lost her will to resist…

People really liked the character of Daniella as a sort of tragic villian because although she was insane and trying to kill Fiona it was Lorenzo’s fault due to her maltreatment in his service by Riccardo. Unfortunately I can’t find a comprehensive video of all the scenes of dialogue but this one has a few of the key ones before Daniella starts chasing the main character around the castle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nkhy16_zsAQ

Oddly I have watched play throughs of it a few times but never played it myself. Sometimes I feel the urge to get an old copy and do so but I just don’t have time.

… and that is what inspired this vignette as silly as it may seem.