Of Clowns, Betrayal and Wine... 

[Image: Le Mime Debureau : 'Pierrot Voleur', par Nadar, 1854] 

The character of Pierrot comes to us from antiquity. Some sources trace his existence back 4000 years to present day Turkey in Asia Minor. He is, perhaps, most well-known as a stock character from the Italian Commedia dell’arte. He is the ‘son of the moon’; a white-faced, sad clown, eternally hopeful, but doomed by Love and Fate. Among the various characters of the Commedia dell’arte, he is the only monochrome character, while all the others have all of the full and radiant colors of Life, he remains garbed only in black and white. Night has no use for colors. Night’s goddess, the Moon, is a jealous empress, and will admit no other colors, save her own silvery white beams. 

Pierrot adores the character Columbine, which he eventually loses to boastful, showy Harlequin, because he has not declared his love to Columbine overtly enough. As so many women of our own era, Columbine would rather give her heart (however briefly and capriciously) to the ‘bad boy’ Harlequin, than the attentive, patient, and respectful gentleman Pierrot on whom she may unconditionally depend. There is much here that anticipates ‘Ladder Theory’ in our own era. 

Ladder Theory: English: 

Théorie de l’échelle (Ladder Theory) Français: 

Pierrot is the ‘eternal innocent’; intellectually ‘interior’, introspective, pursuing his dreams, hopes and desires, but as abstractions struggling to become the tangible ‘flesh’ of reality. He worships Beauty and Romantic Love, but always suffers their wrath and scorn. Nonetheless, he continues to worship them forever. They are his sole deities, and their temples are his only sanctuary. 

The simplest metaphor for Pierrot is the moth with its ghostly white pallor; its powdery wings catching fire as it enters the flame of Love’s promise, consuming it utterly. It has perished, all for having pursued its Ideal. 

In the case below, however, Pierrot must still ‘live’; even though the sole object of his deepest affections, Columbine, is lost to him. He must seek some way to find solace until Death overtakes him, ending his misery. 

Perhaps he might find a short respite in wine, but here, too, lies treachery…  

Pierrot Voleur' 

Les rouges rubis souverains, 
Injectés de meurtre et de gloire, 
Sommeillent au creux d’une armoire 
Dans l’horreur des longs souterrains. 

Pierrot, avec des malandrins, 
Veut ravir un jour, après boire, 
Les rouges rubis souverains 
Injectés de meurtre et de gloire. 

Mais la peur hérisse leurs crins : 
Parmi le velours et la moire, 
Comme des yeux dans l’ombre noire, 
S’enflamment du fond des écrins 
Les rouges rubis souverains ! 

'Pierrot the Thief' 

The sovereign ruby reds, 
Shot through with murder and glory, 
Slumber in the hollow of a cabinet 
In the horror of caverns long. 

Pierrot, thick as thieves, 
Wants to delight one day, after drinking, 
The sovereign ruby reds 
Shot through with murder and glory. 

But fear bristles its horsehairs: 
Among the velvet and moiré, 
Like eyes within black shadows, 
Igniting the bottom of the cases of 
The sovereign ruby reds ! 

Albert Giraud, ‘Pierrot Lunaire : Rondels Bergamasques’, 1883. 
[Traduction Anglaise: Dr .Bathybius/Sardonique Schadenfreude Rictus/ R.E.André III] 
[Avril 2009]