Samsara: Chapter 10 – Algernon and Dante (excerpt)

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Algernon Swinburne
Algernon Swinburne, in his 20s.

Algernon was high. He sat on his chaise listening to Dante read lines from his latest poem. Algernon looked around the room he that he considered as his “creative” space. The walls were covered in gold and silver Fleur de Lys lining that added a certain warmth to a room filled with books, and chaises carved out of mahogany wood with velvet cushions—which provides comfort to a restless mind or a restless lover who became tired of Algernon’s ways.

“My friend, the lines–they must invoke and add to an entire stanza, but I am lost,” Dante stood in the middle of the room, one sheaf of paper on his right hand, and pulling his hair in agitation with his left hand.

“Why don’t you smoke a bit of this? It will help your mind to clear itself,” Algernon offered him the pipe. Dante looked at his friend and the state that he’s in and decided against the kind offer, “No, thank you. I have great clarity—I just cannot grasp or invoke words. Must you always be this way?” As much as Dante wanted to express grave concerns for his dear friend, he could not allow himself to devote his time to save his soul. His dear friend’s state was frail, and on any given day, Algernon looked as though he would simply disappear into thin air.

“What is this poem supposed to invoke, Dante? I do not understand why you are so obsessed with such a thing, and it sounds as though the poem will not reveal itself to you, and you are forcing it do so,” Algernon inhaled the essence lingering in his pipe. He welcomed the escape it brought him.

He had been ill for quite some time, but he had found a way somehow to preserve his time. His poetry and his writing have given him the luxury of time. For some odd reason, unknown to Algernon, his work was keeping him alive—while his obsession with opium, and lurid intimate acts contributed to sabotaging his being. Algernon did not care. He intended to live his life in this manner: filled with decadence, and self-serving ways—everyone and everything was a means to an end. That is, except for those friends who he considered close.

As for love, Algernon new that his love in this lifetime existed—she was near, but she cannot quench his thirst for the lust that his soul craves—such hedonistic lust. He would only hurt her, and she’d find that she could never forgive him—not only in this lifetime, but all the others.

“My friend, my dear, dear friend—your obsession with this poem is going to hinder it from ever letting you decipher its beauty, I tell you,” Algernon said.

“I wish that such obsessions choose to refrain from ever surfacing sometimes. I am exhausted from its constant demonstrations consuming me at my very core,” Dante answered.

“This was the life that was chosen—whether it is by us, or by God. We are here. Here, in this disgusting, lurid, ever so dark of a world. And, why not make the most of such cruelty? We might as well find the dark, the evil, the rejected and do what we can with them,” Algernon inhaled his pipe.

“You have a darker view of this life, Algernon. I want to find that meaning of love—whether it is through our art, or words. It exists,” Dante answered.

“Hmmm.. did you not realize that you thought of love in things created by men—instead of love between humanity? Between two people who live such life through love? Does that mean that you cannot find such love in another and yet you are writing this poem based on love?” Algernon asked.

Dante looked at his friend and realized what he had known all along. He was consumed by the poem and what it was attempting to convey that he failed to realize the meaning behind the poem. It was not the poem and its stanza—it was love. His love for her.

“Algernon, my friend—you, or rather you and your pipe—have just helped me uncover this delicate understanding. I must go see Lizzie,” Dante grabbed his coat, waved goodbye at Algernon, and in a hurry was out of the door into the London’s streets.

Algernon inhaled his pipe once more, and looked up at his ceiling. His eyes began to water, and as he closed it—a single tear fell–another indication of the loss of his humanity.

Dante Rosetti, 22 years old.
Dante Rosetti, 22 years old. 

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