The other collection of writings donated by Martino Zanetti is made up of 228 letters written by d’Annunzio and addressed to Countess Evelina Scapinelli Morasso (whom the poet nicknamed Manah, Maya or Titti). When she was not yet thirty, Evelina was a habitual guest at Il Vittoriale between 1936 and 1938 – the protagonist of a very intense erotic and sentimental relationship. She was the last love of the Commander, who was about to turn 75. Erudite and witty, Evelina was not one of the anonymous admirers and sex workers who crowded in front of the Poet’s door in recent years. She was the wife of Count Scapinelli, with whom she had a daughter; more importantly, she was the daughter of Mario Morasso, a friend of d’Annunzio and ideologist who influenced many avant-garde movements – beginning with Futurism. She was introduced to him by Antonietta Treves, nicknamed “la Comarella”: “You wanted to and succeeded in giving me a final living gift”, d’Annunzio wrote to Antonietta on 4 June 1936. “No one could recognize its value better than myself”. She was elegant, slender, tapered in her long tailor-made gowns; she was fond of being photographed in profile, with a stern expression on her face, her gaze lost in the distance at times and at others looking straight into the camera with a hint of satisfied naivety. In her Milan home located in Via della Spiga, she surrounded herself with elegantly bound books, plants, flowers, paintings and sculptures. She “has her flaws”, as Gabriele confided to Luisa Bàccara on 31 May 1936, but she “is a high-class woman”. “Finally”, he concluded, “after so many tame women”.
It seemed to him like the last chance at some hedonistic youth, but their relationship would soon become a long fallout of happiness and torment. In the aftermath of all those emotional upheavals, the Poet’s temperament (already worn out by tediousness and weary) was in pieces. All that was left of their affair was a ghost, one that could not suppress the only looming reality – death itself. D’Annunzio was aware of this, even when he sought refuge in words, in the game of poetic creativity that no longer offered him any solace. It was as if his talent and his art had become a crumbling mask. Perhaps poetry itself was condemning him: “Old age makes even a hero vapid and base”, he wrote to Evelina, the involuntary revealer of truth. “I want to die”, he confessed. “You cannot love me. And I am so decrepit that I do not remember, in a prediction of many years ago, having chosen to love without being loved.” He did not lie, he did not pretend, his letters were seeped in eroticism, pornography (complete with drawings), fear and death wishes. In her replies already preserved at Il Vittoriale – enabling the reconstruction of some extraordinary correspondence – the young woman attempted to reassure him, but in vain: “I beg you not to speak to me of old age. If you only knew how much I have thought of you and desired you in these two days apart, it is I who feel old and useless and stupid. You are my youth, my love, my breath”. Evelina knew how to arouse Gabriele’s passion, flaunting carefully contrived outfits, dressing up as a perfect femme fatale. “I am wearing a soft dress, full of flowers like your garden”, she wrote to him in July 1937. And then again: “My legs sheathed in the brand-new stockings match the greatly praised perfection of Mistinguette’s legs”. Elsewhere she also promised to dress up “in turtle to make the caresses slower”. D’Annunzio immediately gave her gifts of clothes, fabrics, silver foxes and perfumes: she then was satisfied with a less experimental, and less demanding, Chanel n. 5: “Because it smells like you”, he lied. “I did not need the dresses, I made myself beautiful for you, I was beautiful for you”, she wrote to him in October 1937, when the Poet had rid himself of her. Evelina was suddenly and inexplicably overshadowed. The only plausible explanation one can resort to is that he was escaping the threat that lengthened one’s shadow, old age that dictated unknown modesty, the shame of being seen, proudly searching to leave no trace of his decrepitude behind. Best to make a clean break and avoid (even with himself) embarrassing comparisons with the past, with the vigour of youth that would have faded forever. The aesthete who had lived for beauty no longer felt in harmony with the dream he had embodied and that had guided his entire life. As if his shameful senility forced him into declaring himself incoherent: he could no longer accept himself, so Evelina was thrown out without notice or any sort of explanation. She was allowed to return, and willingly so, but only as a friend.
Giordano Bruno Guerri
Maia, I really do not know how I live any more. I live lost in reverie. Lost in reverie I live. Now I remember that I wrote a few pages about this way of living, in a foreign land, in Zurich, where I was resting after having written a substantial book.
Lost in reverie in Maia.
I am facing the most atrocious – ferocious – hour of the day. I have to shave myself [phallic drawing]!!!
Remind sweet and surly Aelis that I have been invited to an evening of Disssssks
Manah, after that wild fever of last night, after that voracious voluptuousness between two precipices, I took refuge in the Workshop feeling melancholy but no longer trembling. I knew that you fortunately and wisely had gone to lunch with Luisa. So I went down to our room, to that of the Prison. I had given you everything, with all my caresses. I had not slept for three days and had gone without food for two. After devouring your scented flesh, I had no desire of losing the taste of you with the concoctions of common food. But I was overcome by a kind of lethargy, and I did not wake until after midnight.
I did not come to look for you, out of mercy for you. I hoped that you received from the carnal God the sleep you deserved. To let you rest I had the lamps put out.
But the Goddess Voluptuousness, in the shape of you, lay down with me.
I had never enjoyed you so much. Even your Ligurian peaches tasted insipid in comparison.
“Three + three + three and a woman.” The woman amounted to a hundred + a hundred + a hundred fruits.
May you be praised.
I have been awake since seven, because I wanted to say goodbye to Luisa who is leaving for her painful treatment.
Now I have been told that you are awake too, and that you first had a coffee, and now some milk!
When may I kiss your beautiful paws?
Here there is another problem.
The chimney of my Bathroom was about to fall down. The builders are working on the roof.
May I come up to ask your advice? How I would like to find the voluptuousness of last night in your narrow bed, like the deliriousness of a faun and a goddess-like nymph on the edge of a terrible cliff!
My bed is cool. The blows on the roof warn of the danger. It is wonderful to be delirious with the threat of tiles above your head.
I am thirsty and hungry for your breast.
Manah, where are you? what are you doing?
are you lost in the labyrinths of the Vittoriale?
are you waiting in ambush in the Garden?
Manah, I have slept, in my dreams I was weaving this black dress for you which falls from your white shoulders without offending them.
I alone will be able to open it and lift it to touch your brown triangle where your skin is even softer.
Now I shall enter the blue water. Then I will go up to the Workshop. And I will shout without music until you come running.
I offer you my arcane book, and I leave my bookmark among the pages as I would like to put one between your two caresses or between the two folds of your soul which is unreadable.
Lying next to you I could not sleep, because I still suffered all the burning of your speaking kisses. You were breathing like an innocent child.
The golden helmet shone on the pillow even after I had switched the light off.
Every now and then I brushed against your feet and your legs with the excuse of covering you with the veil of Agra.
Towards eight o’clock Fessonia’s sleep hit me like a blow on the nape of my neck. I awoke after midday, and I looked for my companion of the night. The veil of Agra still held your shape, but you had fled with the silent art of Dreams.
I was bewildered, because I feared you were hiding and wanted to scare me. After careful exploration, I guessed that you had fled down the short corridor; but through which door?
When you flee, you know all the passages and openings; but you do not when I call you. Peppery cat!
Titti, I lingered in your bed for a long time: in your smell, in the pale, dry flower of your magical body, always with my mouth pressed against your brown bush, sometimes playing the double flute on your fabulous runner’s legs.
I was intoxicated with you, and I suffered because of you.
Now I am suffering for you. My jealousy tortures me endlessly.
You have to come back to your house of the seductress, and let me die of consumption.
I was free and impatient.
Now the only thing I can do is die.
You keep my blood feverish, a fever which ghosts arouse.
And I do not have the strength to kill you if you do not have the time to look at me.
I am made of you.
My dear, my dear, I have been very sick up to now.
But worse, even worse, thinking that you are here and that you cannot – must not – come here next to me.
My sickness is incurable. I had never felt until today, so deeply, the horror of old age. It is that I am lacking the courage: I mean the courage to fight.
I have death in my bones: “the corporal sister death.”
If you were not here, if I did not have to accept your sacrifice – I who in all my life have never accepted the sacrifice of anyone, always ready to sacrifice myself with a smile in times of peace and in times of war – maybe I could make the effort to cure myself, to consult the good doctor, with the hope of the miracle of seeing you again, of holding you tight for an hour. Maybe.
Little one, be indulgent and merciful with me. It is not my fault that the years oppress me, and that I love you so much.
Manah, now you are a beautiful smooth stone in the rain. You cannot you cannot leave. It was written that you should stay with me today as well. You will not be able to have your car back unless you have an order written and signed by me. You are my prisoner. On the third day I love you more than on the first and on the second. It seems that I am bound by your skin; nor do I wish to shed it.
I could not sleep, burnt and burnt once again by your triangle.
When will I be able to look for you and find you?
Now I bathe not in rainwater but in blue water. How happy I was in your closed room, in your narrow bed! This dismal day was made for the experiences that I proposed to you when your face was transparent and shining bright and your mouth a little convulsed. I know the way to kiss your hands to perturb you…
Last night I had these pastilles for you which would be useful for your throat which is sore from too much smoking.
I think of the Auparishtaka, which is now our caress.
Little one – carnal and celestial – I have eaten like “an Apennine wolf”. You will eat alone!
I am lying down. Then I will shave myself, oh! Your last caress, on your knees, was more than divine. The taste of your Rose on my mouth was more than nectar. Your bush is my eternal beard.
I adore you without knowing why. I kiss what you deny me.
Friend enemy; Delight of delights, Tormentress beyond all torments,
at the end of your sheet of paper you portray your superhuman mouth as you make it redder with the red lead of hell … Did you want to burn me? Did you know you were burning me?
Little one, my little one, I am bewitched, I am intoxicated. I cannot wait until tomorrow. I ask you for the caress of your mouth, that of the other night, with Snow: in the small room of the enchantment and of the precipice, or in the Workshop, or in the Prison bed, where you want.
If I could be so bold as to tell you my choice, I would say to you: “in the enchanted Room.”
If you do not want to, send me a card with a bloody insult (ouch!)
But, if you have memory and mercy, let me hear your voice agree with a simple “Yes”.
Forgive me. I have found your nielli box in front of your portrait standing by the Column.
I kiss your cunt before the irremediable disaster, before tomorrow. Tomorrow is always uncertain.
Sweet little one, I wanted to come up to bring you the medal of Africa; but I feel ill.
Certainly, it is beautiful – after having so loved one’s beloved – to hear that love goes beyond the relationship. I cannot convince myself that tomorrow you will not be here beside me – that this deeply blessed October is finishing, is over.
All your signs, all mine, are next to our bed. I had started to remove the dear things from the two shelves of red marble and gilded bronze, which made me tremble for your mad golden head. My throat felt tight; and I had to stop, leave everything there.
Never before, little one, never have I felt so tied to another creature. Believe me: never.
Just think back over these last weeks: of our last sleeps after such extenuating voluptuousness.
Later I will come to see our Hideaway and the precipices, where we have been intoxicated and insatiated.
I would say, almost as a joke: “Now I am going to cry.” And today I have to make continual efforts to send the lump rising in my throat back down to my heart.
What name can I give you, my friend?
You are nameless like every infinite thing.