[Image: ‘A Visit to the Slaughterhouse’, circa 1880: artist unknown.]
It has been said that the only difference between a parasite and a predator is its scale. The objective of either organism is the same: each must profit from consuming the host/prey; whole, or in part. In this way, the leech and the vampire are essentially ‘siblings’ (hats off to Isidore Lucien Ducasse, of course, for pointing the way in this matter in multiple instances); each creature is prodigious in its own way. But parasitism and vampirism are both banal and purely functional at a certain level. Each organism is merely snacking upon, where available, its favorite treat. To reduce the matter even further, away from over-romanticized images of Nosferatu (who certainly evokes both parasite and vampire, visually) and Béla Lugosi, we come now to the realm of homeopathic medicine and diet, as conducted in Victorian times, by a happy junket to the nearest slaughterhouse, where the drinking of blood from freshly killed cows and steers was offered for its ‘obvious health benefits’; fresh, hot and served by the glassful to the public at large. The fad lasted some years. Truly, the ‘smoothie’ of more recent times with its ‘protein boost’ is but a pale imitation of the ‘genuine article’ as described below. So… sidle up to the nearest meat-hook and pick your ‘poison’, Slim…
De St. Lazare aux abattoirs,
En blouse et la mine *fleuri
Les beaux gars de la boucherie
Sont les grands seigneurs des trottoirs.
Blême en bonnet de lingerie,
L’ambulante, en caraco noir,
Qui rôde autour de l’assommoir
Aime un gars dans la boucherie.
L’artiste phtisique, amaigrie,
Qui vient boire à minuit le soir
Le sang de bœuf à l’abattoir,
Sent dans sa poitrine flétrie
Renaître la vie et l’espoir,
Quand, tout fumant de la tuerie,
Le beau gars de la boucherie
Lui tend la tasse de sang noir ;
Et les longs jours de flânerie
Le p’tit homme aimé, que vont voir,
Somptueuses, en satin noir,
Les servantes de brasserie,
C’est, la mine rose et fleurie,
Un assommeur de l’abattoir.
Jean Lorrain, Modernités (section ‘Parisiens’), 1885.
From St. Lazare to the abattoirs,
The pretty-boys of butchery
Are the great lords of city sidewalks.
Pallid beneath a linen bonnet,
She strolls, in a loose, short black jacket,
The one who prowls about the killing floor,
For she fancies one of the butcher-boys.
The consumptive artist, emaciated,
Who comes each midnight to drink
The blood of cattle in the slaughterhouse,
Senses within his withered breast
Life and Hope reborn
When, still steaming from the carnage,
The pretty butcher-boys
Have brought the glassful of black blood to him.
And during long days of strolling
Lil’ ‘Lover Boy’, who is going to see,
Sumptuous, in black satin,
Beer hall waitresses,
This, the pink, florid face
Of a killer from the slaughterhouse.
Jean Lorrain, Modern Times, (section: ‘Parisians’), 1885.
[Traduction Anglaise: Sardonique Schadenfreude Rictus / Dr. Bathybius, 2008].
[This translation is dedicated to Monsieur Gregory Seeley; with whom I have shared many a piece of red meat (as prepared by the gracious Mlle. Shannon Valerian!)].
* The word fleuri has three particular meanings within the context of this poem: it is meant to evoke the pink ruddiness of youth, the acne of adolescence, and the rosaceous complexion of chronic alcoholics. It is quite certain that Monsieur Lorrain meant to evoke all three, since he was an avid amateur of ‘Rough Trade’, and cruising for butcher-boys in Les Halles (that district of Paris once consecrated almost exclusively to ‘meat-markets’ (which is to say both butcher-shops and prostitutes), for a bit of rough sex was a well-documented favorite past-time of his. One can almost evoke the image of our dear Jean, raising his bejeweled hand (every finger had a nice, gaudy ring upon it) to his face the morning after, and watching a wry smile creep across the face in the mirror like a gentle zephyr sweeping a virgin prairie, as he admired his new ‘shiner’; this lurid, yet prized trophy from the previous night’s ‘tease-and-tussle’.