How lordly indeed you are, my friend,
In the new suit from La Confection des Élysées.
How you honour them
By condescending to wear it.
When I was in the jungle
With you, at your mercy,
I was afraid of you.
Now here in La Ville-Lumière,
Where no man like you has walked for 10,000 years, now you are afraid.
You showed yourself to me, naked in your jungle – the only fearless man in all the world.
And now I see you, hackles up,
Moving from stillness to stillness like an unquiet animal.
When the marquise shakes your hand and says “Honored. Honored,”
You smell the blood on his
Breath, and you chill and wonder why no one else does. Are they all in league?
When the girl in service curtsies, says “Bonjour, monsieur,”
You hear her heart breaking, and you wonder why no one else does.
Return to the jungle my friend, out of this dangerous place.
Return to the tranquil jungle, under your mother’s canopy,
Where the names of things come easily to your mouth, where things are called what they are.
Every word of French I taught you – like ashes in my mouth.
I said “God made you a gentleman at heart, my friend”!
I feared you so.
I hoped to make you into something more like me. How could I know that I was making you
More dangerous with every word? Injecting you slowly with urbane distemper,
Pasteurizing you with good intentions.
When tantor became l’éléphant,
Numa, le lion,
Hista, le serpent – per Académie! -
I turned the sweet opera of your world
into the jeers of packs of lunatics, the whoops and hoots of cannibals.
That you would save my life and mother me back to health and I in repayment, would set the dogs on you.
Forgive me, Tarzan.
There was a moment, mon ami, when you were almost saved.
Do you remember? Did you know?
I put on my helmet, ready to go,
Picked up my revolver from that wide table stump, the one I’d made my toilet table.
And – perhaps in fever still? – abruptly threw it into the brush.
I didn’t know why then.
But I know now. After that month with you, I felt so naked, vulnerable, like a baby cleaving to his rattle. I had to throw it away or lose all courage forever.
But you retrieved it for me.
You dived after it.
You put it back in my hand.
“Tu, tu, tu, tu, tu!” you chirped like a jungle bird, pressing the revolver on me.
And I accepted it.
I shouldn’t have accepted it, should I?
I ought to have thrown it again, farther still, and turned my back on you.
Should have run away down to the river and never seen you again,
Emerged from the jungle a better, braver man.
I waited for you to run away,
While hoping you’d stay
To lead me home.
Hoping – again, yes – that you’d do my work for me. Poor slave.
By nightfall, you had brought me to the Solomougou Post
Where the men smelled like bloody earth
And more vermin creeped than in the deepest jungle.
I held your arm.
Together we found a one who would take us down river next day.
All night you perched in a tree – do you remember? -
Watching the coolies, after hours, stagger and sing below.
On the river the pilot asked many many questions about the strange white man out of the jungle -
Not about me, one more European out of his depth – about you.
I answered them. I answered all his questions!
What a villain!
The gall I had to answer his questions about you!
Maybe I was fevered still. Not in my right mind. Not in my right mind.
Forgive me, Tarzan, my White Skin. Forgive me.
C’est une drôle d’idée – that you should be “White Skin”.
Among my shallow, colorless people, you are deep and black as your rivers, deep and black as your night,
Deep, black as the great expanse that cradled and suckled the world before the mind of Le Dieu blasted away all that was peaceful, wiped away all that made sense and was sweet and perfect.
I have a black top hat and a black coat. And in Belgium the winters are white and wide and cold.
The Africans, in those hell-squalors we saw along the river,
I swear I saw them shed tears at the sight of you.
I swear I heard them sing:
“Oh there goes an African. Africa has made that man. And only Africa made him. He was not deprived of his lordly heritage, no. No. He was rescued and exalted. Exalted by the land. Saved by Africa. Taught by Africa to be strong and wise and to hear all the knowledge pouring in like cataracts from within, from without. Oh, Africa, that unites spirit and mind. Oh, Africa, that unites heaven and hell. And, look, they are taking him away! And they are taking him away!”
Mon Dieu, my white ape.
I have returned you to the hands of your captors.
I have delivered you back into the clutches of the slavers.
Forgive me, Tarzan.
Forgive me, Tarzan.
TARZAN, MON AMI
(from his faithful friend Paul d’Arnot, Capt.)