Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautremont
-01- It would not be well that all men should read the pages that are to follow; a few only may savour their bitter fruit without danger. May it please heaven that the reader, emboldened and become of a sudden momentarily ferocious like what he is reading, may trace in softly his pathway through the desolate morass of these gloomy and poisonous pages.
-02- In a few lines I shall establish how Maldoror was virtuous during his first years, virtuous and happy. Later he became aware that he was born evil. Strange fatality! He concealed his character as best he could for many years; but in the end, because such concentration was unnatural to him, every day the blood would mount to his head until the strain reached a point where he could no longer bear to live such a life and he gave himself over resolutely to a career of evil.
-03- And he would have [committed atrocities] many times had he not been restrained by the thought of Justice with her long funereal procession of punishments. He was no liar, he acknowledged the truth and admitted that he was cruel. Humans, did you hear?
-04- Could a stone resist the laws of gravity? Impossible. Impossible that evil should form an alliance with good.
-05- I use my genius to depict the delights of cruelty.
-06- ‘…All my life I have seen narrow-shouldered men, without exception, perform innumerable stupid actions, brutalize his fellows and poison minds by every conceivable means. The motivation of such behaviour he calls, ‘Glory.’
-07- The child will not deceive you, knowing nothing yet of evil… [Satanic theory]
-08- It must be that man feels his imperfections strongly (three quarters of which, incidentally, are his own fault) to criticize himself thus!
-09- Tell me whether you are the dwelling-place of the Prince of Darkness. Tell me this, ocean, […] tell me (me alone, for fear of distressing those who have yet known nothing but illusion) whether the breath of Satan creates the tempests that fling your salty waters up to the clouds. You must tell me this because I should love to know that Hell is so close to man.
-10- The sleeper cries out like one condemned to die, until he awakens and discovers that reality is three times worse than dream.
-11- To accomplish an important task one should not do two things at once.
-12- I loathe you to the fullest extent of my power and would rather see a serpent coil around my neck from the dawn of time then I would see your eyes.
-13- Those who call themselves your friends gaze upon you with consternation whenever they encounter your pale and stooping figure at the theatre, in public places, at church, or crushing between your two muscular thighs that horse who gallops [???] night as he bears his ghostly master enveloped in a long black coat. Abandon these thoughts which empty your heart like a desert; they are more burning than fire.
-14- But everlasting strife has imposed his destructive empire upon the land and joyfully harvests his numberless victims.
-15- What has been the fate of the first lay of Maldoror since his mouth, filled with the leaves of nightshade, gave utterance to it in a moment of meditation and released it throughout the kingdoms of wrath?
-16- From the dawn of time [Man] had modestly believed that he was filled with goodness mingled with only a minute quantity of evil. By dragging out his heart and his life-thread into the light of day I taught him the rude lesson that, on the contrary, he is made up of evil mingled with only a minute quantity of good which the lawmakers have been hard put to it to conserve. I hope my bitter truths may not overcome him with ever-lasting shame, for nothing I teach him is new.
-17- What I have done in the final analysis, is to snatch the mask from his foul and treacherous face and hurl down one by one, like balls of ivory into a bowl of silver, the sublime untruths with which he deceives himself.
-18- But the fact is that he loves to injure you, legitimately convinced that you will become as evil as his and that you will accompany him, when his hour shall come, into the yawning gulf of Hell. His place there was long since reserved: a spot where you will find an iron gallows hung with chains and gyves. When he is borne thither by destiny the funereal pit will never have savoured a more delectable prey nor will he himself have contemplated a more appropriate home.
-19- I grasp the quill with which I shall execute the second canto.
-20- But what ails my fingers? Their points are paralysed from the moment I commence my labours. Yet I desire to write. It’s impossible! But I repeat: I desire to write down my thoughts. I have the same rights as another to submit myself to that law of nature. But no, no…the pen is motionless!
-22- But it matters little; I still have the strength to life my pen and the courage to set down my thoughts.
-23- I know him, the Omnipotent, and he should know me, too. If by chance we should be following the same pathway his piercing gaze singles me out from afar: he takes the opposite direction to avoid the triple dart of platinum that Nature gave me for a tongue!
-24- It would please me, O Creator, if you would let me pour out my feelings. Wielding terrible irony with a cold steady hand, I warn you that my heart holds enough to pit myself against you until the end of my existence. I shall strike your hollow carcass with such violence that I guarantee to beat out the fragments of an intelligence that you would not bestow upon man because you would have been jealous of making him equal to yourself, and that you have impudently kept hidden in your guts, cunning scoundrels, as if you had not known that some day I should ferret it out with my ever-open eye, filch it from you, and share it with my fellow man. All this I have done, and now men fear you no more; they deal with you as one power with another.
-25- I have seen the Creator, spurring on his senseless cruelty, setting great fires in which children and old people perished! It is not I who open the attack; it is he who forces me to spin him like a top and a steel-lashed whip. Is it not he himself who furnishes me with accusations against him? My appalling zest will never be assuaged! It feeds upon insane nightmares that torture my sleeplessness.
-26- He does not suspect that his life was in danger for fifteen minutes. All was ready and the knife had been bought. It was a slender stiletto, for I love grace and elegance even in the appurtenances of death; but it was long and sharp.
-27- Yes, it is still good to give one’s life for a human being and thus to preserve the hope that all men are not evil, since there was one at least who could forcibly attract the contemptuous disgust of my bitter sympathy!
-28- A handful of belated wayfarers examines it attentively, for it seems to resemble no other omnibus. Men are seated on the upper deck, men with the motionless eyes of dead fish. They are leaning together and seem to be lifeless, but the omnibus contains no more regulation numbers of passengers. When the coachman whips up his horses you would say that it was the whip that activated his arm rather then his arm the whip. What is this carload of weird and mute beings? Are they dwellers on the moon? From time to time one is tempted to believe so; but rather they resemble corpses.
-29- Worlds shall crash in ruins, granite rocks shall float like cormorants upon the surface of the waves, before I shall touch the infamous hand of a human being!
-30- He could not be more than eight years old, yet he does not amuse himself as he should. At least he should be laughing and walking with some playmate instead of being alone. But this is not his character.
-31- pp65-68 ‘What are you thinking about, my child?’
‘I was thinking of heaven.’
‘It is not necessary to think about heaven. There is already enough to think about here on earth. Are you tired of life, you who were so recently born?’
‘No, but everybody prefers heaven to earth.’
‘Well, not I. For since God made heaven as well as earth you may be sure that you will find up there the same evils as down here. After your death you will not be rewarded according to your deserts,for if they do you injustice here on this earth (as you will find out by experience later) there is no reason why they should not do you further injustice up there. It would be much better for you to give up thinking of God and to create your own justice, since it is refused you. If one of your playmates harmed you would you not be happy to kill him?’
‘But that is forbidden.’
‘It is not as forbidden as you think. All that is necessary is to avoid being caught. The justice offered by law is worthless. It is the legal knowledge of the injured party that counts. If you hated one of your playmates wouldn’t you be unhappy at the reflection that you would have thought of him constantly before your mind?’
‘That is true.’
‘That playmate of yours would make you unhappy all your life. For seeing that your hatred of him was passive he would continue to harm and flout you with impunity. There is only one way to put a stop to the situation: to get rid of the enemy. This is the point I wanted to establish in order to make you understand upon what foundations present society is based. Each man should create his own justice, and if he does not he is nothing more than an imbecile. He who gains the victory over his fellow man is the most cunning and the strongest. Would you not love to dominate your fellow men some day?’
‘Then be the strongest and the most cunning. You are still too young to be the strongest. But from today on you can employ cunning, the greatest weapon of men of genius. When the shepherd David struck the giant Goliath in the forehead with a stone from a catapult, is it not wonderful to observe that it was solely by cunning that David overcame his adversary, and if on the contrary they had wrestled together the giant would have crushed him like a fly? For you it is the same thing. In open warfare you could never dominate men, over whom you are desirous of imposing your will; but with cunning you can battle alone against everyone/ You desire wealth, fine palaces, and glory? Or did you deceive me when you assured me you had such noble pretentions?’
‘No, no, I didn’t deceive you. But I would rather obtain what I desire by other means.’
‘In that case you will get nothing at all. Good and virtuous methods lead nowhere. You must employ more powerful levers and more subtle webs. Before you have become famous by your virtue and have reached your goal, a hundred others will have had time to scamper over your back and arrive at the height of their careers before you, so that there will be no room for your narrow ideas. You must know how to embrace the horizon of the present time more largely. Have you never heard, for example, of the great glory gained by victories? Yet victories do not make themselves. Blood must be spilled, much blood, to accomplish them and lay them at the feet of the conquerors. Without the bodies and the broken limbs that you may see in the field where the carnage raged so sensibly, there would be no war, and without war there would be no victories. You see that when one wants to become famous one must plunge one’s self gracefully into rivers of blood fed by cannon-fodder. The end justifies the means. The first thing in becoming famous is to have money. Since you have none you must commit murder to get it. But, as you are not strong enough to wield a dagger, be a thief while waiting until your limbs shall have developed. And in order that they shall develop more rapidly I advise you to exercise twice daily, one hour in the morning, one hour in the evening. In this manner you may attempt crime with some chance of success as soon as you are fifteen, instead of waiting until you are twenty. The love of glory excuses all, and perhaps later on when you are master of your fellow men you will do them almost as much good then as you did them harm in the beginning. [EV?]
-32- Sometimes he is glad to converse with sensitive persons, without touching their hands and holding himself at a distance in the fear of an imaginary danger. If they ask him why he has chosen solitude for a companion he raises his eyes towards heaven and represses painfully a tear of reproach against Providence; but he does not reply to that imprudent question that brings to snow-white eyelids the blush of a morning rose.
-33- His pride repeats to him this axiom: ‘Let each one be sufficient unto himself.’ [EV]
-34- Not finding what I was seeking I raised my staring eyes higher…higher yet…until at last I perceived a throne built of human excrement and gold upon which was enthroned with idiot pride and robed in a shroud made from unlaundered hospital sheets, that one who calls himself and Creator!
-35- pp76-77 In his hand he held the decaying trunk of a man and he lifted it successively from his eyes to his nose and from his nose to his mouth,where one may guess what he did with it. His feet were bathed in a vast morass of boiling blood to the surface of which there suddenly arose like tapeworms in the contents of a chamber-pot, two of three cautious heads which disappeared instantly with the speed of arrows; for an accurate kick on the name was a well-known reward for such a revolt against the law,caused by a need to breathe the air, for men are not, after all, fish!
Like amphibians they swam between two waters in that unclean juice! And when the Creator had nothing left in his hands he would seize another swimmer by the neck with the two first claws of his foot as in a pincers and raise him up out of that ruddy slime (delicious sauce!) This victim would receive the same treatment as the preceding ones. First he would devour the head,the legs, and the arms and finally the trunk until there was not a morsel left, for he crunched up the bones. And so on throughout the rest of his everlasting life. From time to time he would cry out: ‘I created you. Hence, I have the right to do what I will with you. You have done me no harm, I admit. I make you suffer for my own pleasure.’ And he would resume the cruel repast, his moving jaw agitating his beard, which was full of brains.
-36- I have spoken to no one for a long time. O, you, whoever you are, when you are near me let your vocal chords utter no sound; let your motionless larynx try not to rival the nightingale; and never venture to acquaint me with your soul by means of language. Preserve a religious silence interrupted by nothing. Cross your hands humbly upon your breast and cast down your eyes.. I have told you that since the vision that made known to me the supreme truth, enough nightmares have avidly sucked at my throat day and night that I should still have the courage to renew even in my thoughts the sufferings I underwent in that infernal hour, the memory of which pursues me relentlessly.
-37- When will you abandon this wormeaten worship of a deity who is insensible of the prayers and generous sacrifices you offer up to him in expiatory holocaust? Look you: he is not in the least appreciative of all those great goblets of blood and brains you spread out on your piously flower-bedecked altars before him. He does not appreciate them for earthquakes and tempests have continued to rage since the dawn of time. And yet (spectacle worthy of note!) the more indifferent he is the more you admire him. It is apparent that you mistrust his hidden attributes; and you argue that only a deity of extreme power could demonstrate such contempt towards the faithful who submit to his religion. It is for this reason that in different countries exist different gods; here a crocodile, there a whore…
-38- There used to be a vacuum in my soul, a something, I know not what, dense as smoke; but wisely and religiously I mounted the steps that lead to your altar, and you dispelled that gloomy shroud as the wind blows a butterfly. In its place you set an extreme coldness, a consummate prudence and an implacable logic. With the aid of your invigorating milk my intelligence developed rapidly and assumed immense proportions in the midst of the ravishing illumination that you bestow prodigally upon those who love you with a sincere love.
Arithmetic! Algebra! Geometry! Imposing trinity! Luminous triangle! He who has never known you is without sense! He merits the ordeal of the most cruel tortures for in his ignorant carelessness there is a blind contempt. But he who knows you and appreciates your desires nothing more of this world’s good.
-39- …he demands how it can be that mathematics contains so much imposing grandeur and so much incontestable truth, while man is filled with nothing but pride and deceit. Then this superior being, saddened and feeling even more strongly through his familiarity with your counsels, the pettiness and incomparable folly of humanity, rests his blanched head upon his emaciated hand and remains absorbed in supernatural meditations.
-40- He bends down and applies his salivated tongue to that angelic cheek despite the imploring glances of his victim. For several moments he passes his tongue over that cheek. Oh! Look! Look there! The pink and white cheek has turned black as coal! It exhales a miasma of putrefaction. This is gangrene, no further room for doubt. The gnawing disease extends over the whole face and from there continues its ravages until soon the whole body is reduced to a great loathsome wound. Maldoror himself appalled (for he did not realise his tongue contained so virulent a poison) snatches up the lamp and flees from the church.
-41- They look upon one another while the angel ascends towards the serene heights of virtue and Maldoror, on the contrary, descends into the vertiginous abyss of evil.
-42- ‘O, Creator of the Universe, I shall not fail to offer you this morning the incense of my childish prayers. Sometimes I forget it and I have noticed that on such days I have felt happier than usual. My breast swells free of all constraint and I breathe more easily the spiced air of the fields. While when I perform the wearisome duty commanded by my parents of addressing you daily with a canticle of praises accompanied by the inseparable boredom that the task of inventing them causes me, then I am sad and irritable the rest of the day because it seems to me illogical and unnatural to say what I do not think and I seek to retreat into the vast solitude.’
-43- ‘I want to love you and worship you but you are too powerful and there is fear is my praises. If you can destroy or create worlds by a mere manifestation of thought, my feeble prayers could serve you no useful purpose. If when it pleases you, too can send cholera to ravage cities, or death to bear away in his talons without distinction the four ages of life, I wish to form no alliance with a friend so formidable.
‘Not that hatred directs the thread of my argument; but on the contrary I fear your known hatred which, by a capricious command, may emerge from your heart and become vast as the wings of the Andean condor. Your questionable amusements are not within my scope and I should probably be their first victim. You are the Omnipotent. I do not contest that title since you alone have the right to bear it, and since your desires with their consequences disastrous or auspicious have no limit except with yourself. And this is precisely why it would be painful to me to walk beside you in your cruel garment of sapphire, not as your slave, but liable to become so from one minute to another.’
-44- But I know too that constancy has not planted the harpoon of its eternal permanence in your bones like a tenacious marrow, and that you fall again often enough, you and your thoughts both covered with the black leprosy of error, into the funereal lake of gloomy curses.
-45- ‘I have seen too often your filthy teeth snap with rage and your august countenance, covered with the fungus of time, blush like a flaming coal because of some microscopic futility that man had committed.
-46- ‘Apart from these reservations placed upon the kind of relationship more or less intimate that I should maintain with you, my mouth is ready at no matter what hour of the day to exhale like an artificial gale the flood of lies exacted strictly from each human by your vainglory…
-47- My years are few, yet I feel already that virtue is nothing but a collection of sonorous verbiage.
-48- I sought a soul that might resemble mine and I could not find it. I rummaged in all the corners of the earth: my perseverance was useless. Yet I could not remain alone. There must be someone who approved of my character; there must be someone who had the same ideas as myself.
-49- ‘I perceive that goodness and justice dwell in your heart. We could not live together. Now you are admiring my beauty, which has distracted more than one women. But sooner or later you would regret having consecrated your love to me, for you do not know my soul. Not that I would ever be unfaithful to you: she who delivers herself to me with so much abandon and confidence, with the same confidence and abandon I give myself to her. But remember this and never forget it: wolves and lambs do not look upon one another with friendly eyes.’
What then did I desire, I who rejected with such disgust all that was most beautiful in humanity! I know not. I was not yet accustomed rigorously to take stock of the phenomena of my mind by means of the methods recommended by philosophy.
-50- Whoever has not witnessed the foundering of a ship in the midst of a hurricane while the brilliance of lighting alternates with the most profound darkness and the souls on board are overcome with that despair you know so well, knows nothing of the tragedy of life.
-51- I did not relish this murder as much as one might think. And it was precisely because I was sated with perpetual killing that thencefoward I did it simply from a habit impossible to relinquish but yielding only the slightest pleasure.
-52- At last I had found someone who resembled me! Henceforth I should not be alone in life! She had the same ideas as I ! I was face to face with my first love!
-53- …have you not seen by your own example how hard it is during an access of despair to preserve the sang-froid of which you brag?
-54- Sometimes on a stormy night while legions of winged octopi, in the distance resembling crows, hover above the clouds and fly stiffly towards the cities of men on a mission to warn them to alter their conduct.
-55- Conscience judges our thoughts and our most secret actions severely and makes no mistakes.
-56- As conscience was sent by the Creator I thought it proper not to permit my passage to be obstructed by it. If it had approached me with the modesty and humility proper to its rank, and from which it should never have departed, I would have listened to it. I did not like its pride. I held out my hand and crushed the talons between my fingers. They fell into dust beneath the increasing pressure of this new kind of mortar. I stretched out my other hand and tore off its head. Then I chased that female conscience out of my house at the end of a whip and I have not seen her since. I kept her head as a souvenir of my victory…
-57- With a head in my hand, gnawing the skull…
-58- I was seen to descend with the leisure of a bird, borne upon an invisible cloud, and pick up the head in order to force it to be witness of a triple crime that I was to commit that same day, while the flesh of my bosom was still and calm as the lid of a tomb!
-59- Mario and I were riding along the beach. Our horses, necks outstretched, clove through the membranes of space and struck sparks from the pebbles on the beach. An icy blast struck us full in the face, penetrated our cloaks, and swept back our hair on our twin heads. The sea-gull tried in vain to warn us by his outcries and the agitation of his wings of the possible proximity of the storm, and cried out: ‘Where are they off to at that mad gallop?’ We said nothing; plunged in meditation we let ourselves be carried away by that furious race. The fisherman, seeing us pass by swift as an albatross, and realising that he was seeing before him the two mysterious brothers as we had been called because we were always together, hastened to cross himself and hide with his paralysed dog in the deep shadows of a rock.
The inhabitants of the coast had heard tell of many strange things concerning these two persons, who appeared on earth amid clouds during periods of great disaster, when a frightful war threatened to plant its harpoon in the breasts of two enemy countries, or when cholera was preparing to hurl out from its sling putrefaction and death through entire cities. The older beachcombers frowned gravely, affirming that the two phantoms, whose vast black wingspread every one had noticed during hurricanes above the sandbanks and reefs, were the evil genius of the land and the genius of the sea, who promenade their majesty up in the air during great natural revolutions, united by an eternal friendship the rarity and glory of which have given birth to the astonishment of unlimited chains of generations.
It was said that, flying side by side like two Andean condors, they loved to soar in concentric circles amid the layers of atmosphere close to the sun; that in these places they fed upon the pure essence of light; but that they resigned themselves only reluctantly to reversing the inclination of their vertical flight towards the dismayed orbit where the human globe turns deliriously, inhabited by cruel spirits who massacre one another on battlefields (when they are not killing one another secretly in their cities wit the dagger of hatred or ambition) and who feed upon beings as full of life as themselves and placed a few degrees lower in the scale of existence.
Or again, when the pair firmly resolved, in order to excite men to repentance by the verses of prophecy, to sim in great stroke towards the sidereal regions where the planet stirs in the midst of the dense exhalations of avarice, pride, curses and mockery. Given off like pestilential vapours from the loathsome surface, seeming no large than a ball and almost invisible because of the distance, they did not fail to find occasions on which they repented bitterly of their benevolence, misunderstood and spurned, and hid themselves in the depths of volcanoes to converse with the tenacious fire that boils in the vats of the central vaults, or at the bottom of the sea to rest their disillusioned eyes in the contemplation of the most ferocious monster of the deep, which to them appeared as models of gentleness compared with the bastards of humanity.
When night fell with the propitious gloom they rushed from the porphyry-crested craters and from the subaqueous currents, and left well behind them the craggy chamber-pot where the constipated anus of the human cockatoo wriggles: left it so far behind that they could no longer distinguish the suspended silhouette of the filthy planet. Then, aggrieved by their fruitless attempt, the angel of the land and the angel of the sea kissed, weeping, amid the compassionate stars and under the eye of God! …
-60- We did not speak. What do two hearts that love say to each other? Nothing. But our eyes expressed all. I warn him to wrap himself more closely in his cloak, and he points out to me that my horse goes too far ahead of his. Each takes as much interest in the life of the other as in his own life. We do not laugh. He tries to smile at me, but I perceive that his countenance bears the weight of terrible impressions engraved there by meditation, constantly inclined towards the sphynxes that lead astray, with oblique glances, the great anguish of mortal intelligence. Seeing that his attempts is useless he turns aside his gaze, gnaws his earthly chains with the saliva of rage and stares into the horizon that flees at our approach.
-61- Our horses gallop along the coast as if they were fleeing the human eye.
-62- Everything was working towards its destiny: …
-63- Let my war against mankind endure through eternity
-64- …criminal, by placing one’s self momentarily and spontaneously at the point of view of the higher power)
-65- I can acknowledge my faults; but not increase their gravity by my cowardice.
-66- (although, according to certain philosophers, it were somewhat difficult to distinguish between buffoonery and melancholy, life itself being a comedy-dram or a drama-comedy)
-67- I based my observation upon the laws of optics which have established that the more the vision is separated from an object, the more the image diminishes upon the retina.
-68- An yet I did not laugh: frankly there was no movement of any buccal portion.
-69- At least for a passable excuse I should have mentioned promptly (and I did not do it) that unpremeditated omission, which will astonish no one who has delved deep into the contradictions real and inexplicable that inhabit the lobes of the human brain.
-70- Nothing is unworthy of a simply and dignified intelligence: the least phenomenon of nature,it is contain mystery, becomes for the sage inexhaustible material for reflection.
-71- As for me, I shall not permit myself to be abashed by the impudent clucking and original bellowing of those who always find fault with a character not resembling their own, because this is one of the countless intellectual modifications that God, without abandoning a primordial type, created to control the bony structures.
-072- pp190-1: I was asleep on a cliff. He who has chased an ostrich all day through the desert without being able to catch it has had no time to take nourishment or close his eyes. If this man is reading me now he is, strictly speaking, able to guess what a slumber was weighing down. But when the storm has thrust a vessel with the palm of its hand vertically to the bottom of the ocean; if, on the raft, there remains only one man of the entire crew, broken by weariness and every kind of privation; if the billows toss him around like a blur of flotsam for hours longer than the life of a man; and, if a frigate, ploughing later on through these desolate waters of a foundered keel, catches sight of the unfortunate who parades his emaciated carcase upon the ocean, and brings him assistance that is almost too late; I think this drowned man would understand even better the degree to which the heaviness of my senses was carried. Hypnotism and chloroform, when they take the trouble, can also sometimes bring about similar lethargic catalepsies. They bear no resemblance to death: it would be a great lie to say so. But let us get on with the dream, in order that those impatient persons who are starving for this kind of reading do not commence to bellow like a school of macrocephalic whales fighting over a pregnant female.
-073- pp192-3: No more constraint. When I wanted to kill, I killed; it even happened often and non restrained me from it. Human laws still pursued me with their vengeance, although I did not attack the race that I had abandoned so calmly. But my conscience made me no reproaches. During the day I fought with my new fellow creatures, and the earth was saturated with countless layers of clotted blood. I was the strongest and I bore away all the victoria. Agonising wounds covered my whole body but I pretended not to notice them. Earthly animals avoided me, and I remained alone in my resplendent grandeur. How great was my astonishment when, after having swum across a river in order to leave behind me the countries depopulated by my rage and to reach other territories in which to install my customs of murder and carnage, I tried to walk upon that flowery shore!
-074- p211: You know how to unite enthusiasm with an internal coldness…
-075- p213: I cannot help but deplore her fate, and I am not one of those in whom a cold enthusiasm only makes a pretence of goodness. You and I will shed for her, for that beloved virgin (though I have no proof of her virginity), two irrepressible tears, two tears of lead. That will be all.
-076- p218: While I, who am a man, do not know whether I should be able in the presence of a dram no less striking, to maintain sufficient command over myself to immobilize the muscles of my face!
-077- pp223-4: Although insomnia bears towards the depths of the grave these muscles which already exhale the odor of cypress, never will the white catacomb of my intelligence oprn its sanctuary to the eyes of the Creator. A secret and noble justice, towards the open arms of which I instinctively fling myself, commands me to hunt down without quarter that ignoble punishment. Fearful enemy of my imprudent soul, I forbid my unhappy loins to repose upon the dewy grass at the hour when they light up the lantern on the coast. Conqueror, I reject the ambush of your hypocritical opium. Consequently it is certain that my heart, that starving thing that feeds upon itself, has matured its plans by that weird struggle. As impenetrable as a giant, I have lived ceaselessly with the sockets of my eyes gaping.
-078- p225: Eternity rumbles like a distant sea and approaches rapidly.
-079- p225: ‘To leave this bed is a problem more difficult than one would think.’
-080- p230: In any case hurry onward through the silent and deserted halls with their emerald panelling and faded armorial bearings, where the glorious statues of my ancestors stand. Those marble bodies are full of wrath against you: avoid their vitriolic gaze. This is a piece of advice offered you by their last and only descendant. See how their arms are raised in attitudes of provocative defence, their heads thrown proudly back. Surely they have guessed the evil you have done me. And if you pass within reach of the frozen pedestals that bear these sculptured blocks, vengeance awaits you. If there is anything to be said in your defence, speak. It is too late now for weeping. You could have wept at a more appropriate moment, when the occasion was more propitious. If your eyes are at last opened, judge for yourself what have been the consequences of your conduct. Farewell! I go to breathe the sea-wind from a cliff; for my lungs, half stifled, demand with loud cries a sight more peaceful and more virtuous than you!
-081- p234: …it is due to the fact that I contract the tissues down to the last possible reduction in order to make the world believe I have a cold nature.
-082- p237: The priest of religions is the first to lead the way, holding a white flag in one hand as a sign of peace, and in the other a golden emblem representing the private parts of men and women, as if to indicate that these carnal members are most of the time, omitting all metaphor, very dangerous weapons in the hands of those who employ them, when they manipulate them blindly to various and conflicting ends, instead of engendering an opportune reaction against the notorious passion that causes most of our ills. To the lower part of his back is attached (artificially, of course) a horse’s tail with bushy hairs sweeping the dust of the earth. This means to beware of debasing ourselves through our conduct to the level of animals.
-083- p259: Consequently he decided to involve himself with human agglomerations, convinced that among so many ready-made victims his various passions would easily find material for their satisfaction. He knew the police, that shield of civilisation, had been looking for him perseveringly for a number of years and that a veritable army of agents and spies were eternally on his trail. Without, however, succeeding in finding him.
-084- p260: It is not easy to bring about the death of the entire race of men, and the law is there; but one may, with patience, exterminate the human ants one by one.
-085- p260: Indeed, since the day of my birth, when I lived with the first ancestors of our race who were as yet inexperienced in the tension of my traps; since prehistoric times long gone by, when, under divers subtle metamorphoses, I ravaged, at different epochs, the countries of the globe by conquest and carnage and spread civil war among the citizens, have I not already crushed beneath my heel, individual by individual or collectively, entire generations of which it would not be difficult to conceive the unmentionable number?
-086- p260: The brilliant past has made brilliant promises to the future: it will keep them.
-087- p261: By that very fact, depriving myself of the light and sceptical mannerisms of ordinary conversations, and sufficiently prudent not to ask…I no longer recall what I was intending to say, for I do not remember the beginning of the sentence.
-088- p263: From a distance indeed one would have taken him for a mature man. The number of days no longer counts when it is a question of appreciating the intellectual capacity of a serious face.
-089- p277: …we are living in too strange a time to be in the least surprised at whatever may happen…
-090- p278: The fish’s tail will fly only three days, it is true; but alas! the beam will be burned just the same; and a cylindro-conical bullet will pierce the rhinoceros’s skin, despite the daughter of the snow and the beggar! It is that the crowned fool has uttered the truth concerning the fidelity of the fourteen daggers.
-091- p282: May the death of the three Marguerites fall upon his head and the canary’s beak ever-lastingly gnaw the axis of his ocular bulb!
-092- p310: …the good exclusively is declared by the voice of everyone alone worthy of appropriating our esteem.
-093- p310: One was so much filled with wonder and uneasiness, rather than considered admiration, before works written by a treacherous hand—works, however, which revealed the imposing manifestations of a mind which did not belong to the common run of men, and which found itself at ease amid the ultimate consequences of one of the less obscure problems which interest non-solitary hearts: good and evil. To no one is it given to approach extremes except either in one direction or another. This explains why it is that, while forever praising without mental reservation that marvelous intelligence which at every moment he manifests, he, one of the four or five beacons of humanity, has silently made his numerous reserves concerning application and the unjustifiable use he has knowingly made of them. He should not have encroached upon the kingdoms of Satan.
-094- p311: The savage revolt of the Tropmanns, the Napoleons I, the Papavoines, the Byrons, the Victor Noirs, and the Charlotte Cordays, shall be held at a distance in my stern regard. These great criminals with their diverse titles I brush aside with a gesture. Whom are they thinking to fool here, I ask, with an interposing slowness? O, hobby-horses of the hulks! Soap bubbles! Puppets in gold leaf! Worn-out strings! Let them draw near, the Conrads, the Manfreds, the Laras, the sailors who resemble the Corsair, the Mephistopheles, the Werthers, the Don Juans, the Fausts, the Iagos, the Rodins, the Caligulas, the Cains, the Iridions, the shrews in the manner of Colomba, the Ahrimans, the addle-brained heretical earth-spirits who ferment the blood of their victims in the sacred pagodas of Hindustan, the snake, the toad and the crocodile, gods considered abnormal in ancient Egypt, the sorcerers and the demoniac powers of the Middle Ages, the Prometheuses, the mythological Titans destroyed by the thunderbolts of Jupiter, the Evil Gods spewed out by the primitive imagination of savages—the whole clamorous series of pasteboard devils. With the certainty of overwhelming them, I seize and balance the lash of indignation and concentration, and I await these monsters firm-footed as their predestined conqueror.
-095- p313: I state with bitterness that there remain only a few drops of blood in the arteries of our consumptive epoch. Since the odious and particular whimperings, patented without guarantee of a trademark, of your Jean-Jacques Rousseaus, your Chateaubriands, your nurses in babies’ panties like Obermann, through the other poets who have wallowed in corrupt slime, up to the dream of Jean-Paul, the suicie of Dolores of Ventimiglia, the Raven of Allan, the Infernal Comedy of the Pole, the bloody eyes of Zorilla, and the immortal cancer, the Carrion, once lovingly painted by the morbid lover of the Hottentot Venus, the improbably sorrows created for itself by this century, in their monotonous and disgusting insistence, have made it consumptive.
-096- pp313-4: Despair, feeding upon the foregone conclusion of its phantasmagoria, imperturbably guides the literary man to the mass abrogation of divine and social laws, and to theoretical and practical wickedness. In a word, causes the human backside to predominate in reasoning.
-097- p314: The poetry that disputes the necessary truths is less beautiful than that which does not dispute them.
-098- p314: Do not behave as do these unchaste (in their eyes magnificent) explorers of melancholy, who find unknown things in their souls and their bodies!
-099- pp314-5: Melancholy and sadness are already the beginnings of doubt; doubt is the beginning of despair is the cruel beginning of varying degrees of wickedness. To convince yourself of this, read “Confessions of a Child of the Century.” The slope is fatal once we are launched upon it. We are sure to arrive at wickedness.
-100- pp317-8: Since Racine, poetry has not progressed one millimeter. It has fallen backwards. Thanks to whom? To the Great Softheads of our epoch. Thanks to the Sissies—Chateaubriand, the Melancholy-Mohican; Senancourt, the Man-in-the-Petticoat; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the Sulky-Socialist; Edgar Poe, the Muckamuck-of-Alcoholic-Dreams; Mathurin, the Godfather-of-Shadows; Georges Sand, the Circumcised-Hermaphrodite; Theophile Gautier, the Incomparable-Grocer; Leconte, the Devil’s-Captive; Goethe, the Weeping-Suicide; Sainte-Beuve, the Laughing-Suicide; Lamartine, the Tearful-Stork; Lermontoff, the Bellowing-Tiger; Victor Hugo, the Funereal-Greenstick; Mickiewicz, Satan’s Imitator; Musst, the Intellectual-Shirtless-Dandy; and Byron, the Hippopotamus-of-the-Infernal-Jungles.
-101- p319: Criticism must attack form, never the content of your ideas, of your phrases. Do as you please.
Sentiment is the most incomplete imaginable form of reasoning.
All the waters of the ocean would be insufficient to wash away one intellectual blood-stain.
-102- p320: Dante, Milton, describing hypothetically the infernal regions, have proved that they were first-class hyenas. The proof is excellent. The result is bad. Nobody buys their works.
-103- p322: Sleep is a blessing for some, a punishment for others. For all, it is a sanction.
-104- p331: The writer who permits himself to be taken in by feelings should not be considered in the same category as the writer who is taken in neither by feelings nor himself.
-105- p336: Those who are in disorder tell those who are in order that it is they who depart from nature. They believe they themselves follow it. There must be an established point for judgment. Where shall we not find that point in morality?
-106- pp336-7: Men, having been able to recover from death, from misery, from ignorance, have decided, in order to gain happiness, not to think about them. This is all they have been able to discover as consolation for so few evils. A super-rich consolation! It does not go as far as curing evil. It conceals it for a little while. By concealing evil, it makes us think about remedying it. By a legitimate reversal of man’s nature, we do not find boredom, which is the most pronounced of his evils, to be his greatest good. More than anything else, it can contribute most to the discovery of his rehabilitation. This is all. Amusement, which he looks upon as his greatest benefit, is the very least of his evils. More than anything else, he employs it in the search for a remedy for his ills. Each is a counter-proof of misery, of man’s corruption, with the exception of his greatness. Man is bored, he seeks a multitude of occupations. He has an idea of happiness won; which, finding itself within him, he seeks in exterior things. He is happy. Unhappiness is neither within us nor within other creatures.
-107- p337: We are so little presumptuous that we would desire to be known upon the earth even by those who will come when we are no more. We are so little vain that the respect of five persons, or say six, amuses us, honours us.
-108- p337: Few things console us. Many things afflict us.
-109- p338: The object of these people who play tennis with such concentration of mind, such bodily activity, is to boast before their friends that they have played better than someone else. Some sweat in their studies to show the erudite that they have resolved an algebraic equation hitherto unsolvable. Others expose themselves to dangers in order to brag of a place that they would have taken less spiritually, to my mind. These latter destroy themselves t observe these things. It is not in order to become less wise through them. It is about all to show what they understand the solidity of them. These are the least stupid of the bunch; and they are conscious of it. One may think of others who would not be, lacking this consciousness.
-110- p339: When a thought offers itself to us like a truth running through the streets, when we take the trouble to develop it, we find that it is a discovery.
-111- p339: One may be just, if one is not human.
-112- p339: Everything should be expected, nothing feared, from time and men.
-113- p340: We must not believe that what Nature has made friendly should be vicious. There has not been a century or a people that has not established imaginary virtues and vices.
-114- p341: We can love with all our hearts those in whom we recognize great faults. It would be impertinent to believe that imperfection alone has the right to please us. Out weaknesses draw us together as much as that which is not virtue may do.