French Symbolist Poet, Novelist, and Influential Critic
Remy de Gourmont
French Symbolist Poet, Novelist, and Influential Critic
Those men who live with the greatest intensity are often the ones who seem to take least interest in life.
Those who do not carry within them the soul of everything the world can show them, will do well to watch it: they will not recognize it, each thing being beautiful only according to the thought of him who gazes at it and reflects it in himself. Faith is essential in poetry as in religion, and faith has no need of seeing with corporeal eyes to contemplate that which it recognizes much better in itself.
To acquire the full consciousness of self is to know oneself so different from others that no longer feels allied with men except by purely animal contacts: nevertheless, among souls of this degree, there is an ideal fraternity based on differences,--while society fraternity is based on resemblances.
To ameliorate and raise the standard of the workingmen to the bourgeois level, is perhaps to create a race of slaves content with their lot,-a cast of comfortable Pariahs.
To have a solid foundation of skepticism, -that is to say, the faculty of changing at any moment, of turning back, of facing successively the metamorphoses of life.
To write well, to have style ... is to paint. The master faculty of style is therefore the visual memory. If a writer does not see what he describes?countrysides and figures, movements and gestures?how could he have a style, that is originality?
Well, suppose we remain upon earth, after all? Suppose we bravely accept the death of our dreams at the same time as the death of our bodies? This beyond is decidedly uncertain, quite vague and mobile. I do not believe that it exists everywhere; I believe that it is nowhere except in our infantile imaginations. Born with us, it will end at the same moment that we do, to be born anew in our posterity. The beyond is the earthly tomorrow, as we bequeath it to our heirs and as they modify it by their efforts and in accordance with their tastes.
The only excuse a man has for writing is that he express himself, that he reveal to others the kind of world reflected in the mirror of his soul; his only excuse is that he be original.
The snow kept on falling, and penetrated so deeply into her prone body that she had no other feeling than that of wanting to die, buried under these adorable snow kisses, to be embalmed in the snow - and then to be swept off, in a final gust, to the land of eternal snow, to the fabled infinite mountains where the darling little adultresses lie in a perpetual swoon, ceaselessly and firmly caressed by all the perverse angels.
The woman who loves always smells good.
Such ideas were many times, under multiple forms, always new, expressed by Villiers de L'Isle-Adam in his works. Without going as far as Berkley's pure negations, which nevertheless are but the extreme logic of subjective idealism, he admitted in his conception of life, on the same plan, the Interior and the Exterior, Spirit and Matter, with a very visible tendency to give the first term domination over the second. For him the idea of progress was never anything but a subject for jest, together with the nonsense of the humanitarian positivists who teach, reversed mythology, that terrestrial paradise, a superstition if we assign it the past, becomes the sole legitimate hope if we place it in the future.
Tears flow and smiles fade to the same rhythm of life, to disappear together in the bottomless abyss.
The full consciousness of self can be called originality of soul, -and all this is said only to point out the group of rare beings to which Andre Gide belongs.
The greater part of a men who speak ill of women are speaking of a certain woman.
The little girl expects no declaration of tenderness from her doll. She loves it, and that's all. It is thus that we should love.
The man of genius may dwell unknown, but one always may recognize the path he has followed into the forest. It was a giant who passed that way. The branches are broken at a height that other men cannot reach.
The misfortune of these beings, when they express themselves, is that they do it with such odd gestures that men fear to approach them; their life of social contacts must often revolve in the brief circle of ideal fraternities; or, when the mob consents to admit such souls, it is as curiosities or museum objects. Their glory is, finally, to be loved from afar and almost understood, as parchments are seen and read above sealed cases.
Deprived of the infinite, man has become what he always was: a supernumerary.
Man is an animal that arrived; that is all.
Each one, then, should love his life, even though it be not very attractive, for it is the only life. It is a boon that will never return and that each person should tend and enjoy with care; it is one's capital, large or small, and cannot be treated as an investment like those whose dividends are payable through eternity. Life is an annuity; nothing is more certain than that. So that all efforts are to be respected that tend to ameliorate the tenure of this perishable possession which, at the end of every day, has already lost a little of its value. Eternity, the bait by which simple folk are still lured, is not situated beyond life, but in life itself, and is divided among all men, all creatures. Each of us holds but a small portion of it, but that share is so precious that it suffices to enrich the poorest. Let us then take the bitter and the sweet in confidence, and when the fall of the days seems to whirl about us, let us remember that dusk is also dawn.
Man is the inventor of stupidity.
Everything, indeed, in a work of art should be unedited,--and even the words, by the manner of grouping them, of shaping them to new meanings,--and one often regrets having an alphabet familiar to too many half-lettered persons.
Man, in spite of his tendency towards mendacity, has a great respect for what he calls the truth. Truth is his staff in his voyage through life; commonplaces are the bread in his bag and the wine in his jug.
He hardly counts; he forms part of the troupe called Humanity; if he misses a cue, he is hissed; and if he drops through the trapdoor another puppet is in readiness to take his place.
Modesty is the delicate form of hypocrisy.