Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 4. MONTE CARLO, by EDWARD CARPENTER



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TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 4. MONTE CARLO, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: All the long afternoon in a cloudless sky
Last Line: Telegrams flash to vienna or london or paris.
Subject(s): Monte Carlo


ALL the long afternoon in a cloudless sky, slowly towards its setting the
sinking sun
Looks on a scene of wonderful beauty.
Deep below over the rocks, through luscious tangles of geranium and rose
and heliotrope in flower, the sea sparkles a rich turquoise blue;
Palms mingle with mimosa and myrtle amid the gardens;
The little cape of Monaco stands out, a stone's-throw across the
harbour—the mountains of Mentone run down to the sea—and overhead in
the clear air rise (two thousand feet) the great frowning rocks of Turbia, with
their ancient Roman tower.

In front of the Casino, on a gravelled space, dazzling in light, a throng
of all nationalities—Germans, Russians, French, Italians, English,
Americans—goes to and fro,
Or sits at the Café tables, sipping coffee and cognac and
maraschino—
The puffy fussy Germans, the dull-eyed English, the feverish Russians and
French.
The band, beneath its awning, plays; carriages drive up, and automatic cars
with dusty occupants arrive; the newcomers alight and ascend the steps of the
Casino; fashionable women are in evidence, some carrying long roulette-purses
with chains;
Girls walk about singly or in pairs—pale, with carefully set profiles,
lips, hair, and with immense hats and choice-colored costumes, orange-red or
primrose or lavender or dead-white;
The knots, the groups, form and re-form; the waiters hurry to and fro;
while in a corner with easel and palette an artist takes a sketch of the whole
scene.

And still the sun nears its setting.
The air floats over, with the delicious scent of orange-blossom and mimosa
from the gardens; the shadows form in blue folds on the distant mountains, the
rocks overhead stand sturdier, more and more bastion-like, as though an
earth-shock might tumble them on the crowd;
In the little harbour the wharf-men, with dusty sashes round their waists,
are coaling a great white yacht, already half lost in shadow;
Along the shore in a green high-prowed boat some fishermen row and drop
their seine net in the same old fashion of centuries;
The peasant climbs his terraces of olive, the goatherd looks down from his
high perch among the rocks, and hears the faint strains of the band and catches
the glance of the dresses.
And still the sun nears its setting.
And still, within, as all day since noon, the feverish crowd sits or stands
round the tables;
Nigh twenty tables—well nigh a thousand people, for the most part bent
on business—all but a few by the glitter dazed of the eyes of the great god
Chance.
Hats doffed, a hush reigns; tiptoe they move about that huge saloon, as in
some Temple.

And now the great shaded lamps are lighted, hanging close over the green
cloth.
See! how beautiful is the face of this little old lady, with tiny shrunken
body and trembling mittened hands—the deep eyes, and dark shades in the eye
sockets, and pitiful tender mouth!
Each round she carefully places a gold piece on some compartment, and
watches for the result—nor seems to doubt her occupation for a moment.
Next her a young girl of eighteen or nineteen, aristocratic-featured, sits
intent, and hides her hot eyes and straight somewhat pinched mouth under the
brim of a broad white hat.
Close by again, see, a woman in black, of clear frank simple-minded type,
almost a rustic, standing behind a chair and trying one or two throws;
And here a man, faultlessly attired and with absurdly unconcerned manner,
sitting close by a croupier, and every now and then changing a thousand-franc
note for gold—which he dots about the board in the most casual way, and
apparently with complete want of success;
And there, an old man with bald hot-veined forehead and grey hair, deeply
thinking, pencilling, computing, doubles his stakes with determination as he
steadily loses.
Two demi-mondaines in waved and fretted hair, with long kid gloves covered
with bracelets, push somewhat petulantly a little pile of gold across the
board—then rake together their winnings and walk away.
There again, in the shade of many standing behind her, sits a strange
Sibyll-like woman, with bat-wing trimmings in her hat. A half-formed smile
dwells on her impassive face. She always wins, they say; and not a few furtively
follow her lead in the chances.
Here is a young German student with old scars across his face; there, a
Dundreary-whiskered yellow-haired Englishman of a type almost extinct at home;
there, a business-like woman in mourning, with sharp nose and decided manner,
evidently retrieving the fortunes of her family;
And there behind her an elderly respectable English matron, most anxious to
speculate, but looking carefully round first to see if anyone recognises her;
And here again a big-chinned, flabby French youth with a suppressed boil on
his neck.

Curious, the suppressed feverish sentiment of the whole scene, the quiet,
the politeness; the occasional sharp glances, or hurried retirement from the
table, the swift self-satisfactions, and the inward gnashings of teeth;
The many faces seamed with wrinkles spreading fan-shaped upwards from the
bridge of the nose, or with twirled goat's-horn mustachios;
The little bald director on his high chair, white-skinned and white-haired,
with big head, and quick beady eyes glancing through strong spectacles, watching
closely the croupiers and the public;
The detectives among the throng;
The arrival at one of the tables of a roll of notes for a hundred thousand
francs, to support the failing bank—the little stir of excitement among the
gamblers, and the added stakes in consequence.

And now, outside, the sun has sunk.
Light-blue and white the calm sea lies beyond the palm-fronds, white sails
speck the horizon, and the blue shadows on the silent hills are beautiful.
The fishermen have finished their haul, and stand chatting on the beach as
they thumb from the meshes of the net and store in baskets the fish, which bring
them a few pence for their day's labor, presently to be served up at fabulous
prices in the restaurants.
The goatherds drive their goats homeward, with tinkling bells, and peering
over the rocks look downward on the Eden which they may not enter.
The primitive peasant-woman, with great mouth and ears unlearned of aught
so modern as French or Italian, returns to the arched streets of her hill-top
village—Roccabruna or Eza or Turbia—and ere the glow of sunset dies
from the sky is fast asleep.
But the lights of the Casino shine reflected in the water, and the strains
of the band, through the scented air, vibrate and from the gaming-tables the
crowd drifts to its supper tables—while late through the night the
telegrams flash to Vienna or London or Paris.





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