Tulpenwoede by Craig Kurtz

“The flowers greatly surpass gold and silver.”
— Adriaen Roma, Second Dialogue between Waermondt and Gaergoedt.

It was photosynthesis at first sight, Tulpenwoede;1
My thermometer is at your service, my Tulpenwoede.

As a man of the world and the leisure class
my recessive genes signify me as an aesthete;
The vicissitudes of love have I peregrinated:
I’m too awfully clever to succumb to success.
Life, as I see it, is charivari impassioned,
infused with enchantment that is gallimaufry;
And I stand accused of trifles with the damsels:
It’s my sacrifice to science, this refinèd montebankery.
But this time it’s different, I plant my flag on the sun
and make arete with proposals and contracts;
I’ll sign anything, a parchment or a vein
because I concede the birthday of a new leaf.
Sybarites and sprites are children of the carnival
but too much vice emasculates a rarity of breed;
I’ll sell my land to kiss her hand,
I’ll lease my house to taste her lips,
I’ll mortgage my corpuscles as collateral for marriage,
even; anything for Tulpenwoede!

Is that your hand offered, or is it presdigitation?
Asseverations in passion evaporate with motion;
Will you swindle me with windhandel?2

Pay homage to an honor, a lass has but one:
Promissary, provisory, and alas most perishable,
But what rarely ablates is a maiden’s vermoeden.3

I’ll accept no alchymists, I’ll receive no metaphysicists,
I’ve got my doubts about the poets, jongleurs and balladeers;
But worse than all is drained blue blood
that fertilize the merchant class.
Sir, thou art a monster of false charm
and I refell your counterfeit advance.

Jest not such surgical scorn!
Admit I shall my formers loves occupy ossuarium;
but now my blood courses true, reverse intent,
bringing to birth an untensible oath:
‘Tis yours to nurse.
My clocks stop for you, my heart hovers north
and my pulse, from now to last, is yours to command.
I cosset you as family, my future issue and next breath
I give to you to captain across fathoms of your earth.
May thine face be mine map.
Let us be affied, chroma upon a canvas
with a brush to vivify heredity halcyon.

Sir, thou art a goblin, a virgin-violator,
a déclassé speculator, a petit-bourgeois miscegenator!
Should I be rich with fairies, fed by fancies,
housed in dance halls — transplanted from garden marl
to a plot of clouds? Would I bloom
in a tube of air, a parlor toy, a chord displayed
of silver wings or, augur me, a rainbow in a jar?
Sir, you sing as a suitor but your composition
touts you as a connoisseur.
You cannot levy love or barter ardor
with notarial deeds or juridical scrolls:
You must unbottle trust with unrecompensed repute.

[Aside.] This wench inflates the effort.
Gaining her will polish gold and publish
my improved ostent. Thus all maidens
whom but yesterday preceived me as a blade
of grass shall know new mart, replenished eyes

and supplicating revenue. For nothing
corruscates esteem as treasures proved by
peers’ receipts. Engagement is not wedding vows;
a sales pitch, not a profit lost. — Tulpenwoede,
I offer you the aegis of security; ophan not my
furnishings bestowed by Cupid’s exorbitance.
For you, my heart stops all defaults!

[Aside.] The more he wants, he invents;
first he feigns, contrives, designs until his guiles
infect his eyes. His cozenage, his theater
has grown so lush, enrapturing me captured
him withal. Unprizable estimations overpurchased
his sentience. The more obscure the goal,
the more fantastic the craft; thus the curator
favor desire o’er the engenderer. If he gives so much,
what is his worth? I’ll fleece his fame, impeach his suit
and raise my policy past prior bounds.
Be not a lover, be mine debtor. — Sir,
your verbalizations sway me. Have me yield.

I must have thee! I must have thee! [Aside.] A ladies’ bait!

You must wed me! You must wed me! [Aside.] A faith waylaid!

Leave your fortunes in the earth; paper worth is now wind.
Legislated tempests stilled; indentured harvests do prevail.

[Aside.] She’ll back out before I do; the closing fees I’ll keep.

[Aside.] He’ll renege his signature; the quitclaim owed to me.

Leave your fortunes in the earth; paper worth has defervesced.
Legislated fevers chilled; rescinded harvests now prevail.

Woe is me! The termagant or the magistrate to mate!

Alas! Alack! ‘Tis either him in bed, or the bailiff man!

It was fiasco at first sight, Tulpenwoede;
Process-servers serve us right, my Tulpenwode.

How loved and the loved combine is abstruse reckoning
and conjurers from Cupid’s school exercise malicious wit;
Potions and powders physic the blood; spices of vices
transmogrify one’s mind; delusions will polka and
follies do waltz — there’s few spheres so fragile
as star-crossed eyeballs. I have dined to dizziness
on flowers and busied insensibility with petitions;
caressing clouds is certain ruin.
Hence this convalescent screed: immoderation infatuates
imperseverant arrearages, guaranteeing sorrowed marriages.

— So we lived unhappily together ever after, Tulpenwoede
and this knave; a tale too tawdry for me to browse.

@2014 Craig Kurtz


1Tulip madness, or “Tulipmania,” a Dutch economic phenomena in the 1630s, in which a speculative market for tulips, especially rare and fragile strains, resulted in futures contracts’ profitability reaching margins so high that a single bulb sold, at least on paper, for the price of a luxury house, several tons of food, or the annual income of a wealthy merchant. As Charles Mackay noted in Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841), “Until the year 1634 the tulip annually increased in reputation, until it was deemed a proof of bad taste in any man of fortune to be without a collection of them. […] The rage for possessing them soon caught the middle classes of society, and merchants and shopkeepers, even of moderate means, began to vie with each other in the rarity of these flowers and the preposterous prices they paid for them. A trader at [financial center] Harlaem was
known to pay one-half of his fortune for a single root, not with the design of selling it again at a profit, but to keep in his own conservatory for the admiration of his acquaintances.” The market abruptly collapsed in February 1637, concomitant to economic legislation changing contract futures to options (thus attenuating legal obligation) — and the national outbreak of bubonic plague spreading to the business district of the capital.
2“Trading in the wind,” speculation, traffic in worthless goods.
3Suspicion, presumption.

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