Emily de Udolpho; or Agonisties
gothic tale (3,500 words)


There was once blackness in the form of an imagination found in the library of an ancient catholic family in Gloucester and printed in the fashion of Naples, in the black letter. The manuscript was written in 1805 and marked only by the decay of quiet fingers sewn tight. Its literary style is unadulterated GOTHIC, interspersed with archaic German ambiguities and vaguely, haunting Slavic rhetorical devices. If the story was written near the time when it is supposed to have happened, it was 1794, the era of the first GOTHIC uprising. Walpole was silent, Radcliffe, was already terrifying in her art, weaving the first threads of Udolpho and ÒMonkÓ Lewis whose nineteen years was dreaming of bleeding spectreÕs in the Hague.

    It is a solemn history attached to this genre, remnants are found in mouldering manuscripts, too long and intricate to relate in GOTHIC splendor. It is, however, contained in all absolute torrid, nay, horrid glory, in this humble manuscript of which I could, perhaps, procure you a sight if you are willing to proceed. A brother of our order, a descendant of that GOTHIC house, collected and recorded the most striking incidents relating to this genre, and the history thus formed, he left as a legacy to our convent.

    If you please, we will walk thither through the forgotten corridors of GOTHISM into what was known as the imagination.

    The pale flash of light illuminated the flowery turf which was crushed beneath EmilyÕs hastened step. The swaying branches swelled into a sweetened wind which rounded her figure. Crimson lightening yawned across the rugged sky. From whence she stood upon the prospect, the storm raged, engulfing the towering precipices and crags stretched below the surrounding atmosphere. Blackened clouds darkly stilled the trembling leaves cowering beneath luxuriant woods, stretched summit to the valley. Heavy ladened pine and larch descended the sides of the mountains, spreading toward thickets of orange and almond groves densely covering the valley. How horrid this starts, truth, reader?

    Bright lightening rendered the scene terrifying, bursting at intervals from the horrid firmament. The dismal edifice of the forest afforded little shelter, stinging her soul. She sighed, as one who draws a breath mingled with languished sighs. The expanse of heaven disclosed a horrid scene. The alps, stark and frigid. Masses of granite rocks marred by swirling blackness rose above the green recesses lost below in a gray mist. The rain began to descend in torrents, thunder pealed in the distance and echoed off the tempestuous promontories broken upon the twisted horizon. Murmurs of the thunder resounded mountain to mountain, till mingled sharp clashes and a sweet lament in the form of a dirge, boisterously floated up the waving ash high upon the lofty terrace.

    Amid the increasing furies of the elements, ascending the dark mountain slowly moved Emily. Her shaded breath mingled with the recesses of each cloaked crag. A devil nigh upon her. Its ghoulish face sighing sweetly. (A devil (or a modem) is always welcome here in regions where the element suits our passions, or is it our furies?)

    A high bower Emily passed beneath afforded a rude shelter. She gazed wildly upon the elements as she reclined upon a fallen tree providing a rude couch. From where she sat the recess widened into a view which demanded the force of the dirge that clung to her red lips, shadowed by her pale features and long blonde tresses that encircled her face. Shades of blood began to settle upon the horizon as leaves rose in ringlets about the horrid scene. A cry arose within her bosom which she stifled as the impenetrable beauty of kindled terror about her fell with splendor and fury. Raising her drooping locks, she cursed her destiny raising high, unto God, her distress.

    ÔWhere in thy sight, dear God, have I sinnedÕ(faith, remember that concept?) cried she, starting from piousness to desperation. Her hands fought the thick, wet red silk tatters that hung about her figure. She longed to strip the dress from her chest as a wind tossed her hair wide, a scream ascended the wind. (How lovely is the sight of hatred, spoke the devil, descending from a blackened cloud, disturbing the gray air.)

    ÔGrant this wretched soul death.Õ (ÔDeath, how gloriousÕ, a horrid smile spread over his cankerous mouth.) ÔStand out God, to receive this withered soul,Õ (How delicious your flesh tastes Emily, I shall taste of it again. Here the devil tried to touch her, though unsuccessfully.)

    ÔThis Emily whom thou hast chosen for tortured existence, resigns thy blessings for a swift release.Õ (I, my child will release you, my tongue stands ready, where is thy god? Does he not answer, wherefore child continue to cry, your tears stand as gold upon my withered soul that you invigorate?)

    Emily struggled to stand, faintness rose amongst her waving tresses, as she grasped for a fallen tree. The dark scene penetrated her being. Her weak legs gave, she collapsed to her knees; she continued to call upon her God.

    ÔTake this soul,Õ (I will, I will.) ÔTo thy bosom. What, hast thou forsaken me?Õ (Yes he has, but I have not, come unto me.) ÔMy words fall senseless before thy altar which I had built to serve thee. Well stand aside God, deem this lot bearable?Õ (Press your body upon mine, Emily.) ÔThen receive this soul at once, for I take this soul and end it thus upon these rude scenes, which thy sister, nature hast made.Õ (Now Emily bare thy breast, place it upon mine, the heat of the water swells.)

    A scream passed her lips, at once she started from her rude seat and rushed impetuously to the edge of the precipice. Sheets of lightening broke with violence upon the scene, thunder collected strength, swelling, bursting the air with severe darkness. A fitful wind tossed her dangerously close to the edge. (Emily, my arms are wide to receive you, how wide your tresses blow, your arms stretched forth to receive me, take the steps Emily, I am here beneath this ledge, step forward, let your beauty become one with me. Look about you, the horror of death upon your fatherÕs face, did the banditti show mercy? Did God? I will, and this rain that descends upon this valley, will wash you clean. There, that is resignation upon your features. I need your flesh Emily, let our flesh become one. Now, take those feeble steps toward my endless soul.) ÔGod,Õ she shrieked, her face livid and white, mingled with anger and fear, Ôtake my life here upon this precipice or I shall discard your words for the taste of worms and the scent of decay.Õ (Yes, yes, Emily.)

    Impregnable darkness hung about her face horrid lightening lit the valley below, revealing the jagged rocks beneath the ledge on which she stood. Her soul sank in waves of insensibility. The passion of her body gave way. Her frame falling to the ground as the earth resounded in terrible swelling of the devilÕs voice.

    The dismal edifice which she now haunted ran with blood about her soul. The bandittiÕs voices echoed throughout the forest. A tree wet with rain, crushed roughly against her cheek. Her body was unable to move, the rain fell washing about her face. Motionless she lay upon the fallen tree. The voices drew nearer yet no sounds found their ways to her lips, then slowly the voices faded till the remaining sounds were only that of the howling wind and the falling of the rain. She drew her hand over the cut she had placed in her wrist. Pale light illuminated shades of blood rising as leaves in ringlets, mortal and soul loosened. The face of her father etched itself upon her features in the blinding rain. She closed her eyes as that fatal arm of the banditti raised his carbine toward the face of the Marquis, discharging the weapon. A cry rose in her bosom the fume of lightened death rose sublimely around a pool of blood mangled upon the hoary damp dirt. The eyes of the laughing murderer echoed the gaiety caused by her misfortune. Death fell upon her fatherÕs face mingling with the screams of the servants and the laughter of the banditti. There lightening illuminated the beauty of kindled terror fell upon Emily. Shades of repugnance, rose in a sublime effigy against natureÕs delicate caresses. She shook as the moon waned in the firmament. Shadows danced violently amid heaven as she the felt the devil calling unto hell which lay in gleaming pale mist about her. The growth of scentless sins stank like burning leaves. There in that mist, between the bosom and the wealth of Emily, lay the blackened feast, a cold temple of shame. She lay pleading in that garden of blood which ran as rivulets between corporeal flowers and the grotesque edge of the brook, her Radcliffean dream. Romance of the Forest lay tightly closed in her hands. At once EmilyÕs countenance fell black edged with filtered light. The dew upon her lips smelled as decaying leaves. Something pushed aside her hair, rapture shook her body, leaving beauty decomposing as a whisper between lovers. Emily felt as if she awoke upon a funeral pyre, the flames licking at her face. The passion of flesh smelled as the glory of resplendent dawn. A thousand flames danced about her body, consuming her and dismissing her soul. The twisting sinews of EmilyÕs breast shackled the starry expanse to the bosom of death.

    How is it that she who is close to God, dreams of the Devil?

    Now dear readers, stay, move not from your seat upon the banks of this brook. Hear it babble from sense to scene let its sound sooth your wearied spirit. Now where have we left Emily? Poets do have vast shortcomings, but we must continue, God forbid my tale cut at its breath. For it was upon that precipice, yonder, that Emily wandered, until fatigue warmed her chilled soul with horror. Now what was that circumstance? A pool of blood beneath her? The slain figure of her father far removed from his coach, his body stripped by the banditti which frequents these mountains? Yes, yes, oh such is the mind, lost on vast fields of glories. Poppies, here, roses there, a forest of this and that, pine, and larch, common vile.

    But this forest is laden with oak, pine, birch, and this dead yew tree Here I sit in what use to be the deep recesses of GOTHIC tendencies, dreaming of the GOTHIC simplicities that so escapes the rational deified literature of today, in this the most prized species in the quiet splendor of GOTHIC nature, that of the luxuriant garden. In my hands I hold what remains of a manuscript from which I read. Though now this paper, decayed and crushed, even nature is dead even as the ruins of the Udolpho, that which here remains, present a chilling reminder surrounding Emily and the fiendish death which arose about her childish hands.

    It is written, albeit not here in this manuscript, though, but here in this garden, there beyond that small grotto, in this very pond, it was once said that nymphs, did gather and played about Lilith. (Remember her from her torrid days with Adam, poor soul, obviously a man engrossed in fear of women, but who can blame him, donÕt we all fear what we cannot possess?) Yes, you women have what we want, that cannot be denied, but here I speak the truth; there is speed in motion and motion in poetry. Anyhow, beyond that which I cannot understand. . .

    The GOTHIC settles into its own capacity in this, our generation. For here images present themselves as demons, virgins, fauna, and death in a quick secession of ideas. Blatant and pounding. Fast, one right after a decaying image, often before the mist has settled from our eyes and we there behold if not God, a deamon, strung out majestically by silk threads of activism and slack. Now as I was saying about Lilth, first there was a low thundering gathering about the wild pines, the sky collected black silk draping it oÕer the center of the sky, lightening broke the ground, allowing devils to escape and then, slowly, methodically Lilith copulated with the devil creating what sexual problems we inherit from the night, anyhow . .

    It was she, who sat there, embedded with roses upon a bed of hyacinths decaying in the light of a new era, another generation X type, (emotionally crippled individual), shall we say a quasi-techno-punk-inept-scholar? With her outstretched bleached limbs that could encircle your mouth, draw your blood and whisper about your lips, death. Her eyes danced violet which broke bread on her white flesh and her ravenesque tresses were twisted, pulled by playful nymphs whose bodies glistened in the draping water. There, beside that pond her parted blood stained lips sang of days past in glory and in agony. Beneath that giant oak they buried her, half robed in pagan splendor, half in Christian modesty. Emily ( yes Emily was there, insisted upon dropping handfuls of hyacinths upon her flesh before settling the soil about her closed eyes.

    The nymphs circled about her grave, screaming as the first handful of dirt played upon LilithÕs face. DonÕt we all want to know what it is like to live forever? That night they disappeared and from that day forth they became tormented succubi, flying at the sight of approaching dawn, whose rays, talons become, tearing the supple flesh to pieces of wilting violets and poppies. The water quivers not now for the wind has fled, and so has the dead, all except me. The days of nymphÕs laughter floating beneath the robins wings are dead. Dead and have all fled now, but pause, can you not hear their screams that night when first they took their flight from pond to beds? Emily, when the pond they left, silently turned to holy images which forcibly fell silent with dread.

    Hush, and listen to my continuing tale which I have heard. Listen. Lo the wind has many tongues, dancing upon this flesh. Dreams that I exist alone, dreams of Shelley and dead Prometheus torment this wrinkled orb. Make no objections to the truth written upon my soul. Listen to my words between the rustling leaves and the nightingales dance. Taste of the smell which I have licked. Reverberate the sights which I have touched in the passions of EmilyÕs GOTHIC limbs.

    This sounds very much like the Bosnian crisis, a flash in the pan, a Television wonder, MTV perhaps. We wander about our lives, disturbed through the city streets, listening to the machines in our heads. What do they say, what can they say? Our heads are like holes, Òblack as our souls,Ó wearing crimes pinned to our shirts, pressed badges of honor, glory to this great country shaped by our parents, and we still do nothing, nothing in their eyes. Stop, let us pray to decay.


   Was it so for Emily? Draped, no drenched in her GOTHIC splendor. What pervasive thoughts permeated her mind? ÒDamn these hideous scenes, what awful splendor spreads itself about this tragic baggage of nature. Such conformity, where are my cigarettes?Ó What nonsense would that have accomplished? None. No strength would lie in her words, no self righteous ÒGod save the unfortunateÓ would, or did escape her lips and again, was that not a blessing? Has the GOTHIC ideology died out in society? Has the speed of this time, so encompassed our minds, polluting the earth, but polluting nonetheless our minds? GOTHIC sensibility is where our innocence lies. Far removed from the rhetoric of todayÕs justice, where the vamp flaying Marxist is dreaming of becoming a Nazi and the world outside of the imagination is transparent. We are removed, yes removed from the imagination, as was Emily. What did you think, readers, remember her? It was she upon the ledge, one step beyond reality, and one step removed from the imagination when we came upon her. Did a true picture of her emerge from the mere words? What color was her hair as it fell disheveled about her face? Did the deep red dress keep your mind fixed upon her, or did you undress her with the vileness of a forlorn Slacker, remembering the shadows of the Hollywood sign as it shakes during an earthquake? High GOTHIC literature, remember that genre? Introduction to English Literature, Oh thatÕs right, the scholarly community still fails to see the value of that Genre. Anyhow, high GOTHIC consciousness is the plane on which Emily arrives. Distant castles, darkened by thunderous clouds. Do we today forget the cold wind of terror, do we not thrill at the stirring of clouds above, the rolling of sounds, culminating in a settled roof of melancholy and the warm wind which compels us to scramble for an espresso. Or do images of the tiny ship that so tragically lost, if not for the blatant ideology that so many adhere to, is that, the courage? The courage to stand alone? To write a style that has since died? To become outraged at the atrocities in Bosnia? Where do we draw the line, war crimes are war crimes? It has no direct effect on our lives, therefore, the pictures on the television screen appear beyond our comfort zone. Beyond what? Our touch, or our understanding. Horror of war, the horror of death. Did Emily experience horror enough, hearing religion pierce her soul with a loud Soundgarden? Or was that too removed for you, dear reader. I am at a loss. The GOTHIC serves as a vehicle which speaks to a generation, lost in a definition of itself. Who are we? Our age defines the magnitude of our senses and here we fail. It is our very age which defies our senses, constricting our imaginations, approaching the empty icons we associate with limited success. We have become diminutive figures, educated, but naive. However, Emily knows the GOTHIC matins that we now pray to, that we now bow our heads before, empty and colored. It is that which lies ahead? Trapped with its roots in the shallow graves of dead poets and distinction? We shall become the icons?

    O that I had imagination that would cry unto Hecate for assistance whilst that dank fortitude of patience lingers on your brow bemoaning that which is sacred, that which is still.

    Such corruptible flesh, feeding on the mind, where the hours pull the dark air toward complacency and ruin, or where vile servitude dismisses the imagination, corporate vileness heaped on income. Heed not the cantankerous trees, whose aged roots twisted with sins, in whose breath declare enslavement and yet who branches push heavenward and free.

    No, wrong GOTHIC elements, not enough suspense, or is not enough supernatural for the American reader. You, dear reader, what elements do you demand? Are you demanding literature, or escape-ism, drug-ism, sex-ism, blatant literature-ism. Like GOTHIC literature satisfies you. The U.N. is easier to move then the ignorance of this people. It is that ignorance, that inability of the world to exculpate the immoral actions of despotism and there within themselves, within the U.N., lies the truth, that inability to do something too moral, too humane to touch, and because of that I condemn them, outright and forthright, for their inability to save civilians who want to defend themselves. The right of the individual is in the mind, trapped between their abilities and their paycheck. What Emily does doesnÕt matter. But let us once more visit Emily, whilst her blood mingles with the ground. And there I shall leave you reader, forlorn, but not angry, just fearful. Fearful of the future of literature, the world and my mind.

    Now hush, dear reader, for there she lies, her blonde tress twisted nigh upon her back, she moves not, her limbs reflect the blackened visage of death. Be ye dead Emily! Cease to draw what breath you can from between those crushed lips, rose red, with blood speaking to your pale skin. I can hear you, stirring slowly from that awful sleep that accompanies horror, even if it thrills. To that which summons up the melancholy blackness and still strangles the steepened horrors of mounting morn give all homage. For upon the wings of that mournful swell descends with crimson fierceness solitude which floats athwart the midnight expanse, widening into the lengthening shadows dissolving towards thunderous echoes of silent precipices, There solitude enlivens impetuous glades stretched wide with dreadful tunes.


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