Monday, May 30, 2011

You Will Be Devoured By Seven Horrible Demons

by Stephen J. Gertz

"...Seven horrible demons of cat-like appearance...
devour her heart, her entrails, and her tongue."

"I shoulda stood in bed"
 - Boxing manager Joe Jacobs, aka Yussel the Muscle, 1934.

And so, perhaps, should have poor Teresa, a servant in the household of a noble and pious priest and the tragic subject of Nueva Relacion, Y Curioso Romance, a Romancero (a popular Spanish folk ballad) from 1770. This classic moral tale recounts the sad, the sorry, and sanguinary end that Teresa (and all who transgress) meets when she fails in her Christian duty to bless the poor.

One day, God, dressed as a poor man seeking alms, knocks on the door. Teresa, not the most pleasant of servants at any time under any circumstance, is having a bad hair day and refuses His entreaty. We've all had experiences like that. Yesterday, you gave the homeless guy who hangs out at the end  of the freeway exit a buck. Today, I dunno, maybe the transient thought of an ex provoked acute  headache, neuritis, and neuralgia, and you drove by him.

Maybe it was as simple as John Huston's American in Tampico rebuffing Bogart's mooch in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with "From now on you have to make your way in life without my assistance" after being successfully hit-up by Bogie twice before and now panhandled a third time.

In any event (and it is quite an event), Teresa pays dearly for being too close with centavos for supplicants. She falls prey to "seven horrible demons of cat-like appearance who devour her heart, her entrails, and her tongue." Readers who follow the travails of those slogging through Hollywood will immediately recognize the typical result of a screenwriter's notes-meeting with studio execs but, difficult as it may be to believe, this is worse. Digested by external demons?  Raskolnikov had it easier. Ultimately, Teresa the disagreeable became demon-dung, a waste-disposal issue, a cruel wage for a hair up her heine at the wrong time.

And so we are left with the moral of the story. The next time you're in Tampico just give the persistent beggar a peso, and another, and another, no matter what. He might be God and as we've learned from the Old Testament:

"Ya don't monkey around with Fred C. Dobbs!"

Nueva Relacion, Y Curioso Romance, Donde se da Cuenta de la Amorosa Conversacion Que Tuvo un Sacerdote con Dios Nuestro SeƱor: Al qual se le Aparecio en Trage de Pobre a su Propia Puerta, Pidiendole una Limosna: Y el Desastrado Fin Que Tuvo una Criada Suya, con lo Demas Que Vera el Curioso Lector. Barcelona: en la Impremata de Bernardo Pia, en los Cotoners, n.d. [1770].

First edition of an extremely rare item with OCLC/KVK recording only four copies in libraries worldwide. Bifolium. 4 pp, large woodcut engraving at head of caption title, text in two columns.

Palau y Dulcet (2. ed.) 260112.

Engraving courtesy of James Eaton of Alastor Rare Books, with our thanks, who is currently offering this rarity.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe to BOOKTRYST by Email