French Symbolist Poet, Novelist, and Influential Critic
Remy de Gourmont
French Symbolist Poet, Novelist, and Influential Critic
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.
He was a young man of savage and unexpected originality, a diseased genius and quite frankly, a mad genius. Imbeciles grow insane and in their insanity the imbecility remains stagnant or agitated; in the madness of a man of genius some genius often remains: the form and not the quality of intelligence has been affected; the fruit has been bruised in the fall, but has preserved all its perfume and all the savor of its pulp, hardly too ripe.
Money which is liberty, is also fecundation. It is the universal sperm without which human societies would remain but barren wombs. Paganism, which knew and understood everything, opens to a shower of gold from on high the conquered thighs of Danae. That is what we should see on our coins, instead of a meaningless head, if we were capable of contemplating without embarrassment that religious tableau.
How many contradictions! Eh! If I loaded my wagon all on the same side, I'd tumble it over.
Nothing is better for spiritual advancement and the detachment of the flesh than a close reading of the Erotic Dictionary.
Intelligence is perhaps but a malady,-a beautiful malady; the oyster's pearl.
Nothing returns, nothing begins anew; it is never the same thing, and yet it seems always the same. For, if the days never return, every moment brings forth new beings whose destiny it will be to create for themselves, in the course of their lives, the same illusions that have companioned and at times illuminated ours. The fabric is eternal; eternal, the embroidery. A universe dies when we die; another is born when a new creature comes to earth with a new sensibility. If, then, it is very true that nothing begins all over again, it is very just to say, too, that everything continues. One may fearlessly advance the latter statement or the former, according to whether one considers the individual or the blending of generations. From this second point of view, everything is coexistent; the same cause produces contradictory, yet logical effects. All the colors and their shades are printed at a single impression, to form the wonderful image we call life.
It appears, from all this, that our eyes are uncertain. Two persons look at the same clock and there is a difference of two or three minutes in their reading of the time. One has a tendency to put back the hands, the other to advance them. Let us not too confidently try to play the part of the third person who wishes to set the first two aright; it may well happen that we are mistaken in turn. Besides, in our daily life, we have less need of certainty than of a certain approximation to certainty. Let us learn how to see, but without looking too closely at things and men: they look better from a distance.
On the contrary, he makes a protagonist (Edison doubtless) say in a short fragment of an old manuscript of l'Eve future: We are in the ripe age of Humanity, that is all! Soon will come the senility and decrepitude of this strange polyp, and the evolution accomplished, his mortal return to the mysterious laboratory where all the Ghosts eternally work their experiments, by grace of some unquestionable necessity.
It is a communion at once mystic and real, in the guise of metal.
She lit the candelabras which stood on the mantelpiece. Placed at the head of the bead, on a side-table, they looked like two burning bushes, their flames solemn and inextinguishable. But beneath that avalanche of light the dead man became hideous: the pale head displayed a whiteness more livid than the bedsheet, ghastly against the cambric of the pillow; pits of shadow were hollowed out under the eyes and his nose was villainously elongated, and even the mouth seemed wicked ? his mouth, which was so very gentle!
It is fairly obvious that those who are in favor of the death penalty have more affinity with assassins than those who are not.
It is not perhaps a question of truthfulness; it is rather a natural incapacity to think for herself, to take cognizance of herself in her own brain, and not in the eyes and in the lips of others; even when the ingenuously write into little secret diaries, women think of the unknown god reading--perhaps--over their shoulders. With a similar nature, a woman, to be placed in the first ranks of men, would require even higher genius than that of the highest man; that is why, if the conspicuous works of men themselves, the finest works of women are always inferior to the worth of the women who produced them.
It is undefinable; and moreover, if it were defined it would lose all its value. God is not all that exists; God is all that does not exist. Therein resides the power and the charm of that mysterious word. God is tradition, God is legend, God is folklore, God is a fairy-tale, God is romance, God is a lie, God is a bell, God is a church window, God is religion, God is all that is absurd, useless, invisible, intangible, all that is nothingness and that symbolizes nothingness. God is the nihil in tenebris-(nothing in the darkness) -men have made of him light, life and love.
As a matter of fact, when it comes to seeing, men display two tendencies: they see what they wish to see, what is useful to them, what is agreeable. The second is the tendency toward inhibition; they do not see what they do not wish to see, what is useless to them, or disagreeable.
Autumn is as joyful and sweet as an untimely end.
A definition is a sack of flour compressed into a thimble
Abstractions do us much harm by impelling us to the quest of the absolute in all things. Joy does not exist, but there are joys: and these joys may not be folly felt unless they are detached from neutral or even painful conditions. The idea of continuity is almost self-negating. Nature makes no leaps; but life makes only bounds. It is measured by our heartbeats and these may be counted. That there should be, amid the number of deep pulsations that scan the line of our existence, some grievous ones, does not permit the affirmation that life is therefore evil. Moreover, neither a continuous joy would be perceived by consciousness.
Ah! I wish I had the courage to work for the debasement of my contemporaries. What good work it would be to defile their daughters: to insinuate something obscene into the infantile hands which caress each paternal beard and cheek; to poison them, even at the risk of perishing ourselves; to do as those Spanish monks did, who drank death in order that they might persuade the French rabble which had violated their monastery to do likewise.
An imbecile is never bored: he contemplates himself.