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LUCILE was tall, and her beauty was remarkable, but grave. Her face was pale, and shaded by long black hair. She often fixed her eyes upon heaven, or whilst walking, cast around glances full of sadness or fire. Her gait, her voice, her smile, her physiognomy, gave the impression of a dreamy, suffering mind.
Lucile and I were mutually useless. When we spoke of the world, it was of the world within us—and which bore but a very small resemblance to the reality. She looked upon me as her protector, and I upon her as my friend. Gloomy thoughts often found access to her mind, which I found it difficult to drive away. At seventeen, she deplored the loss of her early years; she wished to bury herself in a cloister ; everything became a source of anxiety, vexation, and pain ; a expression which she sought, or a chimera which she had formed, tormented her for whole months. I have often seen her in a reverie, motionless, and apparently lifeless, with one arm flung over her head ; withdrawn towards her heart, life exhibited no outward manifestation and even her bosom ceased to heave. In her attitude, her melancholy, and her gracefulness, she resembled a funereal genius. In such cases, I endeavoured to console her, and a moment after I myself fell into the depths of inexplicable despair. Lucile, towards the evening, loved to indulge alone in some pious reading; the oratory of her predilection was the branching of two country roads, marked by a stone cross, and by a poplar, whose lofty stem shot up to heaven. My pious mother, charmed with her daughter, said that she reminded her of a Christian of the Primitive Church, performing her devotions at the station, called Laura.
This concentration of soul produced extraordinary effects in my sister's mind : whilst asleep, she had prophetic dreams ; and when awake she appeared to read the future. On a landing place of the stairs of the great tower, there hung a clock, which beat time to silence. In her visionary moods, Lucile was accustomed to sit down on a step opposite to this
clock; she looked at the dial by the light of her lamp placed on the ground. When the two hands came together at midnight, and by their formidable conjunction gave birth to the hour of disorder and crime, Lucile heard noises which revealed to her distant enormities. Being in Paris some days after the 10th of August, and residing with my other sisters in the neighbourhood of the Carmelite Convent, she cast her eyes upon a looking-glass, uttered a cry and said, “I have just seen death entering.” In the wilds of Scotland, she would have been such a gifted woman as is described by Walter Scott-endowed with second sight; in the fastnesses of Bretagne, she was only a female hermit, possessing beauty and genius, and afflicted by misfortune.
FIRST BREATH OF THE MUSE.
The life which was led by my sister and myself at Combourg promoted the advancement of our age and our characters. Our principal recreation consisted in walking, side by side, on the great Mall, in spring, on a carpet of primroses ; in autumn, on beds of withered foliage ; and in winter, on a covering of snow, ornamented by the tracks of birds, squirrels, and ermines. Young like the primroses, sad like the dry leaves, and pure as the new-fallen snow, there was a harmony between our recreations and ourselves.
During one of these walks, Lucile heard me speak with enthusiasm of solitude, and said, “ You should describe all that.” This word revealed to me the muse; a divine breathing fell upon me
I began to lisp verses, as if poetry was my natural language. By day and by night, I sang about my pleasures ; that is, my woods and my dales. I composed a multitude of short idylls, or pictures of nature.* I wrote a long time in verse, before I began to write in prose : M. de Fontanes maintained that I had received both gifts.
Has this talent, which friendship foresaw for me, been ever
* See complete Works, Paris 1837.
really mine? What things have I vainly expected! In the Agamemnon of Æschylus, a slave is placed as sentinel on the top of the palace at Argos ; his eyes are strained to discover the concerted signal of the return of the ships : he sang, to solace the weariness of his watch ; but the hours flew on, and the stars set, and no signal-torch blazed. When, after many years, its tardy light appeared over the waves, the slave was bent under the weight of years, and the chorus said to him, that “ an old man is like a shadow wandering about in the light of day."
LUCILE'S MANUSCRIPT. In the first enchantment of inspiration, I invited Lucile to imitate me.
We passed days in mutual consultation, in communicating to each other what we had done, and what we purposed to do. We undertook works in common : guided by our instincts, we translated the most beautiful and most sorrowful passages
of Job, and of Lucretius on Life; as the Tædet animum meum vita meæ*, the Homo natus de mulieret, the Tum porro puer ut sævis projectus ab undis navita, &c. Lucile's thoughts were all sentiments ; she stepped beyond the bounds of her own soul with difficulty ; but, when she succeeded in expressing her thoughts, they were incomparable. She left behind her about thirty pages of manuscript ; it is impossible to read them without deep emotion. The elegance, sweetness, imaginativeness, and impassioned sensibility of these pages, present a combination of Greek and German genius.
“What a mild radiance has just lighted up the East ! Is it the young morning which is opening upon the world her beautiful eyes, heavy with the langour of sleep? Haste, charming goddess ! leave the nuptial couch, -assume thy purple robe ; let a soft girdle confine its folds : let no sandals press thy
* “My soul is weary of my life.”—Job x. 1.
delicate feet ; let no ornament profane thy beautiful hands, made to open the portals of day. But thou art even now rising over the shady hills. Thy golden hair falls in humid ringlets on thy rosy neck. A pure and perfumed breath is exhaled from thy mouth. Tender deity, all nature smiles at thy presence ; thou only sheddest tears, and flowers spring forth.”
“ Chaste goddess ! goddess so pure, that not even the roses of modesty mingle with thy tender light. I venture to make thee the confidante of my sentiments. I have no cause, any more than thou, to blush for my own heart. But sometimes the remembrance of the unjust and blind judgments of men obscure my brow with clouds, even like thine; and on the errors and miseries of this world my thoughts turn, as on thee. But happier than I, thou, dweller in the Heavens, always preservest thy serenity; the tempests and storms which spring up from this globe of ours, glide over thy peaceful disc.
O goddess ! indulgent to my sadness, pour thy cold repose into my soul.”
“Daughter of heaven, lovely innocence! if I might dare to attempt feebly to pourtray some of thy features, I would say, that thou occupiest the place of virtue to youth, of wisdom to manhood, of beauty to old age, and of happiness to misfortune ; that, a stranger to our errors, thou sheddest only pure tears, and that thy smile is all heavenly. Beautiful innocence! What dangers surround thee! Envy aims at thee all her darts ! Wilt thou tremble with fear, modest innocence ? Wilt thou try to shelter thyself from the dangers which threaten thee? No: I see thee quite calm, asleep, thy head supported on an altar."
My brother sometimes devoted a few brief moments to the hermits of Combourg; he was accustomed to bring with him
a young councillor of the Parliament of Bretagne, named M. de Malfilatre, cousin to the unfortunate poet of the same
I believe Lucile had unconsciously contracted a secret passion for my brother's friend, and that this passion, stifled in her heart, was at the bottom of her melancholy. besides, subject to Rousseau's mania, without his pride. She believed that all the world had conspired against her. She came to Paris in 1789, accompanied by that sister Julia, whose loss she deplored with a sadness, bearing the impress of sublimity. She was admired by all who knew her, from M. de Malesherbes to Champfort. Having been thrown into the revolutionary crypts at Rennes, she was on the point of being again shut up in the Castle of Combourg, which had been used as a prison during the reign of terror. Being delivered from prison, she married M. de Caud, who left her a widow at the end of a year. On my return from my emigration, I again saw the friend of my youth ; and I shall relate how she disappeared when it pleased God to afflict me.
Vallée-aux-Loups, November, 1817.
LAST LINES WRITTEN AT THE VALLEE-AUX-LOUPS-A REVELATION OF
THE MYSTERY OF MY LIFE.
Having returned from Montboissier, these are the last lines which I trace in my
hermitage. Must I abandon it, filled as it is with the beautiful plants, which had already begun to conceal and to crown their father by their thronging rows. I shall no more see the magnolia, which promised its rose for the tomb of my Floridienne, the Jerusalem pine and the cedar of Lebanon, consecrated to the memory of Jerome, the Grenada laurel, the platanus of Greece, and the oak of Armorica, at the foot of which I drew the image of Bianca, sang Cymodocea, and invented Valléda. Those trees sprang up,
reveries. They were their Hamadryads. They are about to pass into the care of another. Will their new master love them as I have always loved them ? He will