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

No comments:

Post a Comment