Poetry: Only the Immortal Need Apply | clivejames.com
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Only the Immortal Need Apply

‘I am as the demon of the tumult’
— Gabriele d’Annunzio, quoted by
Lucy Hughes-Hallett in The Pike

In Paris, at Diaghilev’s Cleopatra
Décor by Bakst, choreography by Fokine,
Ida Rubinstein in the title role —
D’Annunzio and his powerful halitosis
Sat beside Robert de Montesquieu,
The model for Proust’s Baron de Charlus.

Rubinstein, who could not dance a step,
Merely stood there looking beautiful
Or adopted the occasional Egyptian pose,
While d’Annunzio laid his plans.

Backstage in her crowded dressing-room
The Nile-nymph recovered from her exertions
By lying back in her couch.
D’Annunzio was six inches shorter than she was
But her posture put him within range.

He fell to his knees and kissed her lovely legs
Upward from toes to crotch.
As he plunged his face into the tarte tatin,
Barrès and Rostand bowed their heads in awe
And Montesquieu adjusted his moustache.

Later on a man in the street was arrested
And charged with not being famous.
He remains nameless to this day.

Note (from Collected Poems)

The scene at the Russian Ballet (‘Tableau! Scandale!’ as the central figure might have said) is taken from Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s biography of Gabriele d’Annunzio, The Pike.