The Erotic Études Opus VI
Étude XIII - Late Revisions 1851 - Liszt
I found myself unaccountably excited at the presence of my guest. This was the first time I had met Liszt personally, though we had corresponded frequently, and I had reviewed several of his works including the latest Hungarian Rhapsodies. His letters were flattering, intriguing, and his reputation, throughout Europe, enormous. I nurtured a hope I dared not speak about, that he would find me worthwhile to mention to his relatives in Eisenstadt, who were connected intimately with the former employers of Schubert, the Esterhàzy de Galanthas.
I tried to put this notion out of my mind. It was his grandfather, after all, who had served them. I had no idea if Liszt had such connexions, and to mention it seemed gauche. He was courteous enough to write, and that was good enough for me. He could not be coming to me for a review in my little magazine - I thought. The Empire was far larger than Sachsen, his connections, far wider than I could hope to reach myself, or even with Ludwig's family and influence. I sent a confirmatory letter to him inviting him to meet me at the Coffé Baum, and to have a session in the Gewandthaus after my lessons were concluded, the week of his arrival in June.
To my shock, his letter by return mail asked for hospitality. In my house. No, this must not be. I will be sick. I will have a headache, I will... something... but there was no time to reply. He knew this - he would be arriving at week end and I could not stop him, not even by one of Felix's fast carriages, or by carrier pigeon from the banks. No.
I spent long hours pacing, I arranged for Henriette to send her housekeeper and laundress -- and had everything polished, and did not sleep for two nights, waiting. I had lurid dreams, and reread all of his letters again, and reviewed his manuscripts, and then stalked out to the Coffé Baum and drank champagne until they sent me home in a carriage, nearly unconscious. I was beside myself with anxiety.
And the knock came on the door. By the time it did I was ill, and I am sure I looked it. Nauseous and headachy, and not at all grand enough to entertain him. I was attended by Frau Stenzl, who had come with me from Heidelberg, and she took his card and brought it to me. I held it numbly in my hand. I could not turn him and his baggage away... but had I known what would unfold, I might have done, and ended what little career I had, with more dignity and less desperation -- for there he came.
He took my hand as though seducing it with his restless fingers, and placed a kiss on my cheek - oh, he was not shy, this Hungarian. And reeked of pomade, and sweat, and travel, yet strangely disarrayed, like my father after a long fever. Febrile, avid. Like the impression I had of Wagner when I first met him. And I regretted instantly his presence on my door step, intimidated utterly by his severe beauty, the contemptuous curl of his lip. He regarded me as boldly as a lover would after long acquaintance and longer intimacy, and stared me down in my own hall.
"Schumann!" he ordered, the crackling lisp of his accent catching the name and turning it into a foreign thing. "I hope I am not surprising you. At least, you are dressed. I need a smoke. Come."
And that is how it began. There was something resistless, and irresistible, about all he said and did. He sat idly by, rarely. He smoked constantly, moved constantly -- a narrow, compact wolf of a man, fascinating me with his every movement.
We had a flurry of activity that first night, where he smoked one cigar after the other and filled my ears with news of his concerts and his acquaintances. I ached to take notes on his conversation with me, so that I could remember the endless string of wealthy and important people he knew and whose attention he commanded. It was - glamour.
I soon tired and flagged, but he held me up with the almost ceaseless energy of his charm, and well after midnight proposed the impossible feat of performing my latest published work, for me: the Carnaval. I could not say no.
Grabbing my last bottle of chilled Merlot, he poured for himself, drank deeply, and set the glass down on the newly polished Stein I had bought with my latest publication money. I winced. Then, with a volume I did not believe possible, he pounced upon the Introducio so as to make me gasp, and I nearly spluttered up my wine. I sat in a horrified fascination as this virtuoso with his aggressive style, destroyed with exactitude and grace, my greatest work to date, and yet - I could not speak. The not-yet-empty wine glass danced across the top of the instrument and I looked on with horror, imagining it spilling, until he seized it in his rising left hand, gulped down the remainder, and cast the glass into the settee behind him, pausing hardly at all between pieces. I was astonished, I was disgusted. I was - transfixed.
He finished the piece with aplomb, crashing to a conclusion, and my ears buzzed in the silence. I did not move for some time. And to my shock, as if the other insults were not enough, he advanced on me and seized my collar in those same hands, and pressed his lips to mine and broke off, standing back, before I could reply, and returned to sit down. "I do like that. Thank you. I shall make much money on that. Now where are the rest of them? You are hiding them somewhere. Sonatas, concerti... " He cast his eyes around as though to scare a sonata out of the shadows.
"What?" I finally managed to say. I felt stung in a thousand places, as though assailed by bees.
"Your other work."
I chafed my hands. "Herr Liszt...." I began, formally. "Thank you for your interest in my compositions. But I did not know you wanted to perform them..." Quite to the contrary, I had thought he wanted me to perform, or to critique, his.
"Of course I want to perform them. I will make you great. I know just the people. But you have to write, and you have to write with the passion you have in this." He waved his hands at my manuscript as if it were a piece of clothing he had picked out. "I want to provoke that passion, to wrestle it out of you."
I stared at him. "You want to what?" I began to feel quite uncomfortable, as his hawklike, severe visage bore down on me. What would he do? What could I do? I did not know.
"To make you great, Robert. I can call you Robert, after all, we have known one another for some months already..." he smiled toothily and rose, retrieved the wine glass he had tossed (leaving a stain,) and picked it up, filled it, and plopped down on the bench beside me.
With all of the politeness drilled into me by my mother I murmured a thank you for his kind attention and moved to call for Frau Stenzl to come and show him to my very modest and recently dusted guest room, which he would most likely be disgusted by. I was mortified, but flattered, but his hand arrested me by gripping my arm. "Robert."
I stared at his hand. I could not believe this. Was he this rude to detain me by force? I froze as his hand closed upon my arm with a greater violence. My heart pounded with confusion, and no small element of fear. Was he a madman?
He turned, not loosening his hand, and gripped my other arm, nearly touching his forehead to my own as he faced me with an intense look I shall never forget. What would he do? What could I do?
"What?" I cried at last. "What do you want of me?"
"What I want," he said, staring, "is all of you." I stared back, like a rabbit staring at an eagle who holds it in its claws.
"But - why?" I clamored, asking the most idiotic question I could construct.
"Because you are He." He stared into my eyes for long moments. Yes, I decided. He is mad.
"Herr Liszt, please unhand me."
"No. Not until you consent."
I was stopped again. Consent? Consent to what? "Very well," I said, thinking of nothing more to say. "I consent." I had no idea what he was about, and did not care to know, just that he stopped staring in that arrogant way, so that my heart would still. And that he would let me go.
He finally released me. "Good. I knew you would see reason."
He rose, took his wine glass, and took it upon himself to ring the bell for Frau Stenzl. "She is still about? I smell like a cattle barn. First, to the bath. Then we will have time."
He rang, and in due course the weary matron appeared, probably waiting all this time so that she could retire. I was still confused, but momentarily relieved at his retreat. I got up to get ready for bed, for I was now exhausted.
I went to my bed, still puzzling over his bizarre behavior, when a knock came on the door, and I thought it was the housekeeper, reminding me that I had left a candle burning in the parlor. I got up and went to the door. Again, my arm was gripped, and this time he drew me to himself with such rapidity I did not know to resist, and began to kiss me roughly. I tried to draw away, which intensified his efforts, and I staggered back. To my own disgust, I felt a thrill at this unexpected assault which reminded me uncannily of Ludwig in the heat of his passion. Even the aggression of his piano technique, reminded me of Ludwig. For the crucial moment, I felt my lost lover had materialized in the darkness, and in my exhaustion and confusion, responded to him as though it were he. Liszt did not slow, and drew me toward the bed inexorably, reaching roughly beneath my gown, to free me from it. I had never been assaulted so swiftly or violently, and was passive in his arms as he undressed me, and did not push him away as his hard and powerful arms enclosed me, subduing me. I gasped then, but could not, in my astonishment, struggle. He was atop me, striving to gain purchase on me, grasping with a roughness I had not known in my whole life, and when his hard nails dug into the flesh of my shoulders, the spell broke and I began to struggle. He released me, withdrawing, and sat up.
He withdrew from somewhere, perhaps a pocket of his gown, a cigar, and lighted it from the candle that still burned beside my bed. "So you wish to wrestle first do you?" He inhaled in the darkness, and exhaled, breathing somewhat heavily. He did not offer me the cigar.
"Call me Yanosz, it is my Hungarian name," he replied tersely.
"Herr Liszt," I pleaded, ignoring his instruction, and sat up. I was aroused, and that must be obvious to him. "What in god's name are you doing?"
"You consented. I am enjoying your hospitality, and taking you for the trouble." I hoped the candle's shadow obscured my gape of astonishment.
"I - what?"
"You consented. Now are you going to hold still or do you want to struggle some more? I'm going to get sweaty again if I have to hold you down. You are slightly too tall for me."
At last I understood. He thought I was playing some erotic game of domination with him. "Listen to me, I did not consent to anything. You asked for rooms in Leipzig. You have rooms in Leipzig. I did not tell you that you could be free with my person."
"Yes you did." His voice was coy, and its tone made it clear, he was not in the least convinced of my sincerity. "Now are you holding still or are you struggling? If you change your mind I might bruise you."
"You are mad!"
"Yes, isn't it fun? Do you want some of this cigar? If not I'll put it out and we can have it later."
I shook my head.
"Now where were we? Oh yes. I believe you had decided to struggle." He rose and let his robe fall to the floor, revealing him both naked and erect, his hair splayed out from him like a Fury's, loosed from its ribbon. He was, in the half-darkness, a virtual double of my Geliebt. And as he approached me once again and I held up my hands to defend, I felt the will to do so flee me, so possessed was I by the spirit of my dead beloved. My pleasure was provoked by this double, as he took me in his mouth and hoisted my knees to immobilize me helpless. I did not beat upon his shoulders... I was slain. My will was one with that of my assailant, and I found his violence reassuring, even when he hurt me, the shock of it was a realization. He withdrew, slightly, when he had drawn my climax from me with his mouth, and reached for a glass that I had not seen placed beside the bed. "You changed your mind I see. No matter." His voice was low, flat, but slightly hoarse. I lay helplessly on the bed, less satisfied than stirred by the thrill of wondering what he would next do, and not knowing what.
He sipped from the glass, offering it to me. I took it, sipping briefly. It was absinthe. My throat burned and I choked.
"Drink some more, it will help you rise more quickly after you're spent." I raised the glass again. Again, choked on the bitter liquid. He took the glass from me, businesslike. "Now, are you ready for me?"
"What?" Again with my wonderful, stupid questions. I could see he was intent upon taking me, and I knew he had not the patience or caring in him of my beloved, whom I dreamed about nightly. What, then?
"No, you silly naif, you aren't ready," he laughed humorlessly, and knelt between my knees. I felt a cold finger touch, and then enter me, a sudden sensation of burning and fading to warmth, and then, a jolt of pleasure as he smeared some morphia paste liberally with his probing fingers, testing professionally, dabbing some here and there around my now slightly aching scrotum. And where he touched, a tingling heat, a pervading warmth, and a sudden rush of mad and pleasured sensation. I sighed both with surprise and pleasure, for I realized, if he would hurt me, I would not feel it. He waited, with the patience of an eagle spying the rabbit far below his aerie, and sipped once again from the glass of absinthe. "This will take a few minutes," he intoned, dabbing the tip of his own organ with the same paste, and when finished, rubbing it into his nostrils. He reached forward and touched the end of my nose, and squeezed the nostrils shut, his fingers still containing a residue of the paste, which where it touched, lighted everything with flame, as it did my nose as I inhaled. I sneezed, violently, and my head buzzed with dizziness.
"Gesundheit," he said quietly. I swooned. Interminably later, however, I felt a movement as a bird of prey swooped upon me, and the claws of his desire bit into the center of pleasure he had created inside me, and while he ravished my body, I disappeared into a curious dream of being carried aloft, a small, helpless rabbit, in the biting claws of an eagle.
Some hours later I stirred, and he lay atop me still, and the numbness induced by the drug had faded definitely. I shifted beneath him to try to get comfortable, to escape from under the weight of his body, and he woke. "How do you feel?" he asked, some slight warmth creeping into his voice.
"Strange, I feel strange..." my voice came from far away still.
"That is how it feels, Robert, to be famous."
Download The Erotic Études in PDF format.
Requires Adobe Reader.
The Erotic Etudes Index
[ I ]
[ II ]
[ III ]
[ IV ]
[ V ]
[ VI ]
[ VII ]
[ VIII ]
[ IX ]
[ X ]
[ XI ]
[ XII ]
[ XIII ]
[ XIV ]
[ XV ]
[ XVI ]
[ XVII ]
[ XVIII ]