Negosanu and the Countess September 7, 2012Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback
The following story relates to events in the late nineteenth century. It is about a place that Beach has visited from time to time; though no one, he is sad to report, has ever asked to feel his muscles there. The hero is a huge gypsy from Romania: Negosanu. Let’s hope that the tale is true: but it has the feel of an urban legend or the fantasy of a lonely young man who has read too much Boccaccio while in Florence.
When [Negosanu] was a young man working in [Florence] he went one day up to the Piazza Michelangelo [actually piazzale] to gaze upon the view over the Arno. While he was leaning on the parapet deeply buried in his dream he felt a nudge at his elbow. Turning round he saw standing beside him a little old man with a white beard. The little fellow, looking up at him admiringly, said: ‘Oh, sir, you are a god in strength and beauty! May I beg a great favour from you? Do not deny me, for it is not on my account I ask the boon.’ Negosanu, surprised, asked what he could do to help him. ‘Sir, you are young and strong: strip off your coat and let me feel the muscles of your arm.’ The old man at the sight of the painter’s Herculean limbs uttered exclamations of satisfaction. He then became restless and asked Negasanu to follow him to a place where a surprise was awaiting for him.
The two pass down into a rich quarter of Florence ‘in a street behind the Duomo’ and a ‘luxurious palazzo.’
After passing through a long corridor they entered a beautiful apartment furnished in Renaissance style. After waiting for a while, suddenly the door opened and a lady entered dressed in a black velvet cloak. Negosannu was young, but among the art students he was considered a connoisseur of female beauty in spite of his Gargantuan height. He had never seen anyone so beautiful: she was pale, with classical features and very black pulled back from her brow. The little old man said ‘Oh, Flora, my beloved, I have brought you a hero, a paragon of men, one whose equal you have never seen before.’ The lady then gravely came up to our artists and putting her arms around his neck kissed him on the lips. Then she opened her cloak, and the painter saw that she was stark naked. The little old man could not contain his excitement, but hopped around them gurgling with delight. To Negosanu the whole adventure seemed fantastically unreal and he expected to see at any moment a black slave appear armed with a scimitar.’… The old man then clapped his hands and cried out to him: ‘Dale, dale, dale!’ [give it to her!].
Many times afterwards Negosanu ventured back to the house but he was always turned away at the door by an imperious butler. He learnt though that his once-lover was a countess and that the little old man was a general. Beach feels he has heard this story many times before in many places, but can’t think of a single instance while typing this out: can anyone help, drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
7 Sept 2012: Ricardo R is quick off the blocks remembering Orson Welles’ The Immortal Story. Thanks Ricardo!
8 Sept 2012: KB writes ‘Perhaps you might find the original to this story in ancient mythology? This story seems to reference ancient myths. It occurs in Florence, named after Flora. It speaks of an extremely beautiful ‘Flora’. Flora, the goddess of flowers, spring, and fertility (who later also became the chosen goddess of prostitutes) and may have been mother of nymphs/Lympha(clear water Goddess) had flamen/priests, Flamen Flora. Lypha goddess of clear moisture was associated with Fons, god of fountains: the sexual/fertility implications are clear enough. One legend of Flora is that she gave Juno the ability to bear Mars without male assistance, who later was father of Romulus and Remus, who were nursed by a she-wolf (fauna) and thus was Flora an important goddess to Rome. Apart from this legend, without flowers there are no fruits and vegetables, no spring so Flora was important for fertility of the food sources and not merely for the sweet smell and beauty of flowers. The male character, young, large, muscular and strong, seems to be chosen for these attributes and led (by the Flamen?) to fertilize (the representative of?)the Goddess Flora. Once this purpose is accomplished, the young man is no longer welcome. He has been seduced and cast aside. That the male character is called Negosanu, a Romanian, and occurred in the late 19th century hints at an interesting possibility: Is this a tale about Grigore Negosanu, the Romanian artist? The Romanian goddess(?)of spring, Dochia, is associated with Baba Dochia (possibly becoming old and not-nice with the advent of Christianity(?) There is a legend of a beautiful Dacian named Dochia, disguised as a shepherd, running from Trajan and his invading soldiers into the mountains where she, upon realizing she will be captured, begs her own deities to save her, and is transformed into a stream, whilst her sheep are transformed into rocks. A different version has her transformed into a white stone/mountain whilst her sheep become flowers. Interesting that both Dochia and Flora are related to spring and to flowers. Interesting also that Dochia transformed to a spring related her to lymphae/nymphae while her (fauna) sheep become stones. (Is there a linguistic link Dochia/Docia/Dacia?) In either case, becoming stone symbolically links the living, (Dacians/Dochia, nomadic life/sheep) to becoming one with Earth (most often named as a Mother Goddess) and also to the monuments/memorials of death. KJ writes: The story sounds much like one of the ‘Sam Small’ tales I read when I was younger. IIRC, Sam Small was a fantastically heroic Yorkshireman and one of the stories was about the mysterious, supernatural almost, origins of a local strongman’ Thanks KB and KJ!