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Navarth, generally referred to as 'the mad poet', is a character in The Palace of Love (pub. 1967), the third of the Demon Princes novels by Jack Vance, though his writings are occasionally referred to in other, unrelated novels by Vance (e.g. Araminta Station). Navarth in person appears more eccentric than mad, a Salvador Dalí-ish petulant extrovert and creator of 'happenings', one of the more amiable in a long line of Vance's self-absorbed egotists. We first encounter him on Earth, old and forgotten, living in reduced circumstances on a canal-boat in the ancient (but fictitious) city of Rollingshaven: apparently a Vanceian conflation of Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg. The chief protagonist of the novel-sequence, Kirth Gersen, induces Navarth to help him in his quest to find the galactic master criminal Viole Falushe (with whom Navarth was long ago involved when the criminal was merely the schoolboy Vogel Filschner), and the pair eventually travel through space to Falushe’s notorious Palace of Love in the far Beyond.
Navarth published a volume of poetry called Pullulations (cf Throy, Chapter 6); another (presumably posthumous) volume in circulation was The Lyrics of Mad Navarth (cf Araminta Station, Chapter 9). The most extended example of his verse that is presented to the reader, the bouncily sinister ballad 'Tim R. Mortiss', appears as an epigraph to Chapter 5 of The Palace of Love and is a rather fetching absurdist reworking of the 'Lament for the Makars' by the 15th-century Scottish poet William Dunbar. Other complete poems quoted are ‘The Girl I met in Eridu’ (POL Chapter 7) and ‘Avis rara, black mascara’ (POL Ch.12). Some titles of other poems are given in POL Ch.7: ‘A Growl for Gruel’, ‘The Juices I have Tramped’, ‘I am a Darting Minstrel’, ‘They Pass!’, ‘Drusilla’s Dream’, and ‘Castles in the Clouds and the Anxieties of Those Who Live Directly Below by Reason of Falling Objects and Wastes’.
A sample of his verse:
- This dainty tray of cloisonné
- Contains my finest patchouli.
- Aha, my dear! What have we here?
- A dead mouse in the potpourri.
(from Navarth, ‘Avis rara, black mascara’)
According to The Book of Dreams, Chapter 19, one Carol Lewis (the reference is obvious) wrote a book of Chronicles of Navarth, from which two anecdotes are quoted.
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