Sunday, 31 March 2013

Saint George - 17. The Dragon's Dance

But history must take its course and after six days the moment had come when all of the people, in great excitement, had taken their places on the now flower-decked stands and other equally adorned lookouts.
Down there, the princess, fettered to her stake, deadly pale and trembling with fear.
That did not bode well.
The people felt disappointed.
Had they been doing their utmost to brighten the place to this end? Had they enjoyed themselves so much, all week, in anticipation of this? Of a spectacle this poor?
Was that, supposedly, the bloom of the royal blood? They recalled others who had stayed the course magnificently unto the bitter end, daughters of shepherds, bakers and butchers. And how their families on the grandstand had sympathized, an example for all.
And now, behold this family sitting over there. Heads all down. Bet they will not even watch, presently.
The people were getting annoyed.
The start of the music and, within moments, the monster’s appearance in the distance were barely able to dent their irritation.
How is it ever going to engage with such a bundle of nerves? they wondered.
On its approach, however, it became apparent that to him this offering was indeed something special. It had preened itself to perfection, its colours brighter and its shine more radiant than ever.
Coming closer, it raised itself, standing erect, and was now walking on its hind legs like a human. Once in front of the princess it made a courtly bow, almost to the ground.
By doing so, was it bent on teaching the people a lesson? That they should continue to respect their royal family?
After its bow, which failed to stir any reaction from the princess, the monster cast a searching glance around and then it did something it had never done before. Raised on its hind legs it made a couple of dancing-steps. At once, any remaining vestiges of annoyance disappeared. Expectation had been roused afresh.
And it went on. In the direction of the orchestra it made the telling gesture of gladiators which was promptly understood. A slowly stepping melody commenced and what the people were now to watch was the Dizzy Dance of the Dragon. Its tail it draped on its left foreleg to give an impression of a partner, the grin never leaving its jaws. Back and forth and then around it went. Gradually, it increased the pace - or was it on the director’s behalf? - and lo, now it was even making figures! It let go of its tail and reeling around, it made it whirl about him in a wide circle. Now and then, it curled it over its head and danced right underneath. And how its colours sparkled with all its scales ashine.
When, at last, it blew the final whistle, the exalted public gave it a standing ovation. Only the princess and the VIP box for whom this performance was apparently meant, too, remained still.
The beast, now again on all fours, seemed unprepared for this, shook its head dejectedly and slowly approached the girl. No shrinking away or resistance was to come from her, paralysed as she was by fear and terror.
Once upon her, it began to undress her with ever so soft a claw. A modiste couldn’t have taken off a garment from a noble client more carefully than it was disrobing her now.

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2013
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Saint George - 16. The Princess

Into this state the nation had now come and one is to wonder what would jolt this already over-excited people with a still heavier excitation. What on earth might thereto still happen?
And yet it happened. One day, the whole nation was immersed into a daze of great rejoicing. All around was singing, dancing, drinking and kissing. What could be the cause of this common bliss?
The lot had befallen the king’s daughter!
It was as if everyone had hit the jackpot; as if the envy of ages, at once, had met with full satisfaction.
For the whole week, the revelling never ended.

The king who had presided at every council meeting where decisions to this end had been taken, including this latest one, now could hit himself over it. Never for a single moment, had he considered his little daughter and even if he had, he would have brushed aside the very thought, instantly, in the firm conviction that the people would never allow his princess to be eaten.
In this, how wrong he would have been. Every street had been festooned. From every dwelling, there was music and singing. Nobody was working. The stands had been turned into the likeness of flower gardens.

And the young princess herself?
To her, the role of a prima donna had nothing special to offer. The most gorgeous dresses and the most sumptuous meals, they had been her birthright. And the attention, everywhere, had been more of a nuisance to her than a joy.
She felt utterly miserable. Although she and her family were as much moved by the emotions on the stands as everybody else, never had she, like her father, entertained the idea that it could happen to her personally.

Aside from being highest in station, she also was one of the most beautiful girls in the land. To think of these slender arms, this slim neck, these newly budded breasts, soon to become feed for that horrible monster; that by next week, it would be lying at the bottom of its lake digesting them, she couldn’t bear it. But she was unable to think of anything else; she simply had to, caressing every part of her young body as if bidding them a farewell and giving them solace for what lay in store for them.

The daze got no hold on her. On the contrary, she was all but overwhelmed with sorrow, onto the brink of insanity.
Her family was crying all the time.

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2013
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983