605: A Soundless World.

It is curious to remark that Dante’s Paradise — the farthest reach of the human imagination in picturing the unknown — is a soundless world. There are no harps or citherns or orchestras there. There is nothing but light, dancing, and philosophical discourses. Critics there have been who thought it grotesque; and unquestionably the spectacle of grave Doctors of the Church gyrating on one toe, or wheeling three times about Dante and his guide, or flocking together like cranes and writing out symbolical letters on the sky, might make a thoughtless reader smile. But philosophically speaking, Dante was quite right.

(Charles Leonard Moore, “Literature, Music and Morals,” The Dial, Vol. XXVII, 1899, p. 166).

605: A Soundless World.

594: The Last Revolution.

“It is inconceivable! It is absurd! It is not clear to you that what you are planning is a revolution? Absurd, because a revolution is impossible! Because our — I speak for myself and for you — our revolution was the last one. No other revolutions may occur. Everybody knows that.”

A mocking, sharp triangle of brows.

“My dear, you are a mathematician, are you not! More than that, a philosopher-mathematician. Well, then, name the last number.”

“What is… I… I cannot understand, which last?”

“The last one, the highest, the largest.”

“But I-330, that’s absurd! Since the number of numbers is infinite, how can there be a last one?”

“And why then do you think there is a last revolution… their number is infinite… The ‘last one’ is a child’s story. Children are afraid of the infinite, and it is necessary that children should not be frightened, so they may sleep through the night.”

(Yevgeny Zamyatin, We. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1952, p. 162).

594: The Last Revolution.

593: Life Has Copied the Romance.

My attention was called one day to Balzac the provincial, disclosing the great Parisian world, describing with the imagination of a dazzled country squire, a world he had never seen. Possibly this world is real to-day, in which case life has copied the romance. Such things are not so rare as is supposed.

In the present case, this is probably what happened: Russia, where the novels of Balzac had their first great success, imitated the manners of Parisian high life in his books; then these manners, applied there, and believed to be authentic, came back to us (as in the comedies of Musset), and we have now welcomed and adopted them. This is life in circulation.

(Alphonse Daudet, “Notes on Life.” In: The Novels, Romances, and Memoirs of Alphonse Daudet, Vol. 14. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1904, p. 188).

593: Life Has Copied the Romance.

592: Ruins.

How is it that men can never behold any ruins, even of the humblest kind, without feeling deeply stirred? Doubtless it is because they seem to be a typical representation of evil fortune whose weight is felt so differently by different natures. The thought of death is called up by a churchyard, but a deserted village puts us in mind of the sorrows of life; death is but one misfortune always foreseen, but the sorrows of life are infinite. Does not the thought of the infinite underlie all great melancholy?

(Honoré de Balzac, The Country Doctor. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1911, pp. 19–20).

592: Ruins.

591: Os Meus Mortos.

O pequeno cão preto foi presente de um caro amigo, muito infeliz hoje — lembrança de dias em que o meu grande salão em Viena parecia muito bem estabilizado. O bichinho era ainda muito jovem, muito pequeno, quando a fuga precipitada de Viena me forçou a abandoná-lo (só muitos meses depois foi possível mandá-lo de avião para a Bélgica). No dia em que o abandonei, não tive consciência clara. Foi num dos quatro dias (e quatro noites) em que andei escondido em moradas alheias, com a morte sempre presente. Não senti que tudo estava perdido.

Enfim, conseguimos o necessário para fugir. No vagão da estrada de ferro, ainda nos subúrbios de Viena, o trem atravessa uma ponte de onde toda a minha cidade natal pôde ser abrangida. Era noite, só havia luzes esparsas. Mas eu sabia tudo de cor: sabia muito perto o lar perdido, depois todas as torres e telhados, depois o grande rio e outra ponte; do outro lado do Danúbio, a casa onde nasci, o canto onde escondia os brinquedos, o quarto de uma adolescência atormentada; a estátua da deusa no recinto da Universidade, as mesas boêmias no sombrio café dos literatos, o querido museu com os quadros de camponeses flamengos e infantas espanholas, últimas lembranças da grande pátria austríaca que morria nesse momento comigo; a minúscula capela imperial no grande Paço onde, aos domingos, o último capelão imperial dizia missa, com luzes acesas e órgãos retumbantes (eu sempre assistia lá, exceto nesse último domingo em que a missa foi rezada). Agora, sabia apagadas as luzes, calados os órgãos, é nos últimos limites da cidade que fica o imenso cemitério onde dormem os meus mortos. Passada desde muito aquela ponte, o trem noturno, ritmado, transformou-se num trem de sombras, trem macabro de mortos e trem lúgubre dos vivos que eu deixava para sempre, transformados, eles também, em sombras inacessíveis; e no fim desses sinistro cortejo trotava, de cabeça baixa como sempre, um pequenino cão preto. E eu sabia perdida a minha vida.

(Otto Maria Carpeaux; citado em Carlos Drummond de Andrade, “Lembrança de Viena“, Jornal do Brasil, 14 de Fevereiro de 1978, p. 10).

591: Os Meus Mortos.

589: Panther Against Panther.

The day was one of those bright, clear autumn days which prevent the swallows from leaving. Noon had just sounded from Notre-Dame, and the deep boom of the bell sounded in long thrills over the river. The red foliage of the trees had shaken off the blue fog which envelops them in the October mornings, and the sun was agreeably warm on our backs, as the Doctor and I stopped to look at tha famous black panther, which died the following winter of lung disease — just as though it had been a young girl.

All round us was the usual public of the Jardin des Plantes, soldiers and nursemaids, who love to stroll round the cages and throw nut-shells and orange peel at the sleepy animals. The panther, before whose cage we had arrived, was of that particular species which comes from the island of Java, the country where nature is most luxuriant, and seems itself like some great tigress untameable by man. At Java, the flowers have more brilliancy and perfume, the fruits more taste, the animals more beauty and strength, than in any other country in the world.

Lying gracefully with its paws stretched out in front, its head up, and its emerald eyes motionless, the panther was a splendid specimen of the savage productions of the country. Not a touch of yellow sullied its black velvet skin — of a blackness so deep and dull that the sunlight was absorbed by it as water is absorbed by a sponge. When you turned from this ideal form of supple beauty, — of terrific force in repose — of silent and royal disdain — to the human creatures who were timidly gazing at it, open-eyed and open-mouthed, it was not the human beings who had the superiority over the animal. It was so much the superior that the comparison was humiliating.

I had just whispered this remark to the Doctor, when two persons made their way through the group, and planted themselves just in front of the panther.

“Yes,” said the Doctor, “but look now, and you will see that the equilibrium between the species is restored.”

They were a man and a woman, both tall, and I guessed at a glance that they both belonged to the upper ranks of society. Neither was young, but both were handsome. The man might have been forty seven or more, and the woman upwards of forty. They had therefore, as sailors say, “crossed the line;” that fatal line more terrible than the equator. But they appeared to care very little, and showed no signs of melancholy.

The man, in a tightly-fitting black coat, resembled in his haughty but effeminate bearing, one of the mignons of Henri III, and to make the resemblance more complete, he wore his hair short, and in his ears were dark blue sapphire earrings, which reminded one of the two emeralds which Sbogar wore in the same place. Except for this ridiculous detail — as the world would have called it — and which showed disdain for the tastes and opinions of the time, he was simply a “dandy” in the sense in which Brummell understood the word, that is to “be not remarkable,” and he would have passed unnoticed had it not been for the woman he had on his arm.

In fact, this woman attracted more attention than the man who accompanied her, and held it longer. She was as tall as he was. Her head was nearly on a level with his. And as she was dressed entirely in black, she made one think of the black Isis of the Egyptian Museum, by her shape, her mysterious pride, and her strength. For, strange to say! in this handsome couple it was the woman who had the muscles, and the man who possessed the nerves.

I could only see her profile, but the profile is either the greatest peril of beauty or its most astonishing manifestation. Never had I seen a purer or more noble outline. Of her eyes, I could not judge, fixed as they were upon the panther, which, no doubt, received therefrom a magnetic and disagreeable impression, for though motionless before, it became yet more rigid, and without moving its head or even its whiskers, it slowly dropped its eyelids over its emerald eyes — as a cat will do when dazzled by a strong light — and seemed unable to meet the fixed glance of the woman.

“Ah, ah! Panther against panther,” the doctor murmured in my ear, — “but the satin is stronger than the velvet.”

The satin was the woman, who wore a dress of that gleaming material — a dress with a long train. The doctor was right. Black, supple, as powerfully muscular, and as royal in bearing — quite as beautiful in her own way, and with a charm still more disquieting — this woman, this unknown person, resembled a human panther opposed to the brute panther whom she had conquered; and the animal no doubt felt it when it had closed its eyes.

But the woman — if she were one — was not content with her triumph. She was wanting in generosity. She wished that her rival should see that it was humiliated, and should open its eyes on purpose to see it. Without saying a word, she undid the twelve buttons of the violet glove which fitted so closely her magnificent arm, took off the glove, and daringly putting her hand between the bars of the cage, flicked the panther’s muzzle with it. The panther made but one movement — but such a movement! — and snapped its teeth like lightning. A cry went up from the little group around. We thought her hand must be bitten off at the wrist. But it was only the glove. The panther had swallowed it. The terrible beast, deeply insulted, had opened its eyes to their full size, and its nostrils quivered with anger.

“Foolish!” said the man, seizing the beautiful hand which had just escaped this terrible bite.

You know how that word “Foolish” is sometimes said. That was how he said it, as he passionately kissed her hand.

And as he was on the same side as we were, she turned slightly to look at him and I saw her eyes — eyes which fascinated tigers, and were at present fascinated by eyes which were two large black diamonds expressing all the pride of life, and adoration of love.

(Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, Weird Women, Vol. 1. London and Paris: Lutetian Bibliophiles’ Society, 1900, pp. 197–202).

589: Panther Against Panther.