Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

“But the next moment he drew ed the fifteenth century and was back terrified, attempting to fly before an adept in the black mysteries of the decision which it was his duty to the worshippers of the Devil —now make, exhausting himself in efforts to excuse himself, with arguments

turns to the opposite extreme, and that lasted for hours, invoking the determines to devote himself to most miserable reasons for remaining the elucidation of the life and as he was.

writings of the Blessed Lidwine, a “* What shall I do? If I obey the Dutch saint and mystic of still command which becomes more and earlier date. In searching for inmore imperious in me, I am prepar; formation on this subject he ening myself a life of remorse and revolts: for I know very well that I counters in a bookseller's shop the ought not to pause for ever on the Abbé Gévresin, with whom he has threshold, but enter into the sanctu- many walks and talks upon the ary and remain there. And if I de- subject of this saint and others, cide--ah no, how can I ?--for then I and finally on the whole mystic should have to bind myself to a mass world of the cloister, and on the of observances, submit to a succession Reparation to which many conof exercises, go to Mass on Sunday, fast on Friday, live like a bigot, look law of the substitution, that mar

verts dedicate themselves —"that like a fool.""

vel of absolute Charity, that superThese reflections are embittered human victory of Mysticism." It by his recollections of people who is to this priest that Durtal adfollow these rulesdes gens assidus dresses himself when his troubles dans les églises, the pécores pieuses, prove too great to be borne, and whom he holds in contempt; and in whom he finds the most gentle the priests, mediocre and luke- and tolerant of guides. At one warm, who form the common stock bitter moment, when the penitent of the servants of the Church. “I is almost overwhelmed by fierce see myself telling all this to the temptations, chiefly of the wellpriests !” he cried.

known ancient kind which drove " They will tell me that it is not to frenzy the fathers in the desert, my business to occupy myself with

—the dancing nudités and carnal questions of mysticism, and in ex- fascinations which not only the change they will present me with a French mind, but the Catholic little religion, une religionette, fit for Church in general, reckons as the a sick woman : they will endeavour great and continually repeated to mix themselves up in my life, to ordeal through which the saints press me concerning my soul, and in- have to pass, — the Abbé, when sinuate their tastes ; they will try to convince me that Art is a danger ;

everything else fails, delivers they will force imbecile books upon Durtal by transmitting his case me; they will feed me with their to some of the communities of the veal - broth of piety. And I know Reparation, who suffer, do penance, myself : at the end of two interviews and pray for him, till he is for the I will revolt, and return to my for- time delivered from these terrible mer fare."

obsessions. While he is thus painfully en Finally, the Abbé sends his penigaged in discovering what he must tent to a monastery of La Trappe, do to reach the higher life, Dur- whither the Parisian, with all his tal — who had completed in the hesitations and revolts of intelliearlier part of his history the life gence, goes unwillingly and with of a certain Maréchal des Rais, a much alarm, lest the stern régime monster of iniquity, who illustrat- should crush his agitated mind

66

and body altogether. The picture massacre of monks. A ray of light of the monastery thus placed now fell from a lamp which the sacbefore us from within is very

ristan had placed in the choir, and, curious. It is divided into a

traversing the building, lighted up a small band of fathers, in the dedicated to the Virgin.

monk on his knees before the altar white robes of their Cistercian

He was an old man above eighty, order, men of culture and intelli- immovable as a statue, his eyes fixed, gence as well as of the most ab- leaning forward in such a rapture of sorbed devotion, and a larger body adoration as eclipsed all the pictured of frères converses, who do the saints of the Old Masters, who near hard work of the farm and house

him would have seemed cold and pale.

“ Yet the head was common and hold, silent figures filling the body unrefined: close shaven, without even of the chapel in kneeling lines, the circle of hair round the tonsure, half distinguishable in its dimness, weatherbeaten by sun and rain, to the through the dark hours of the colour of brick : the eye veiled by the night from two o'clock in the mist of age : the face wrinkled, furmorning, when these heroic wor

rowed like an old tree, half-buried in shippers begin their day of prayer nose broad, completing the insigniti

an underground of white hairs : the and toil. Nevertheless, though

cance of the features. Yet there the lay brothers are without privi- issued forth-not from the eyes, not lege or enlightenment, it is among from the lips, yet everywhere, and them that the highest examples of from no special part-a sort of angelic devotion, and the most touching sentiment which diffused itself upon pity, are found by the stranger.

that head, which enveloped all the lowly form.

The soul in this case His first night in his cell is a

did not even give itself the trouble terrible one, defiled and tortured of reforming and ennobling the phy, by the images most foreign to such siognomy, but contented itself with a house of purity and prayer. annihilating the outward part as with Waking from his troubled sleep a radiance of heaven : it was as if the before the hour (four

o'clock) nimbus of the ancient saints, dwellwhich is granted to the unaccus

ing no longer round the head, but tomed penitents, he makes his way whole being in a pale, almost invis

extending over every line, bathed his to the chapel in the middle of the ible glory. wintry night :

This old man turns out to be "It was quite dark; high up in the

the swineherd of the house, at wall a round window (ail-de-bauf) broke through the darkness like a

the same time the only one among

them who, when an instance of “He made a step in advance, then Satanic possession (not reckoned crossed himself and drew back, for extraordinary at La Trappe) ochis foot had struck a human body. curred, was able to cast out the He looked down at his feet; he was demon. Durtal, coming suddenentering upon a battlefield. Human forms lay on the floor in the attitude ly into this atmosphere of prayer of combatants swept down by artil

from the horrors of his troubled lery, some lying flat, some on their night, falls upon the floor amid knees, some with their hand on the all these rapt and noiseless worground as if struck in the back, others shippers, and for the first time with their fingers crossed on the feels himself capable of opening breast, holding their head in their

his heart to God. hands, or stretching out their arms ;

The other lay brother who glides but from this group of sufferers there arose no groan, no cry.

through this extraordinary scene, "Durtal gazed stupefied at this silent, not a word in his mouth,

red moon.

comes and goes like a spirit in the assails him. There are a number very skilful, very tender picture. of them, one more resourceful Durtal has strayed out into the than the other, ministering to the woods, still rent and torn with his mind diseased, with the certainty temptations, and unable to raise of surgeons performing operations his thoughts from the earth. in which they have all the force

of experience as well as knowledge. “He strayed slowly along till he came to the little pond, and then They are all somewhat too great pausing, raised supplicating, eyes to

and good for human nature's the cross.

When he withdrew his daily food, of which, by the way, gaze he suddenly met a look so full they have so little that it scarcely of emotion, so full of pity and sweet counts. Durtal too has very little, ness, that he stopped short, and the but yet noble fare beside that of look disappeared with the silent sal, the professed—a greasy little mess utation of the lay brother who passed of vegetables cooked à l'huile

, him by.

“ He has read my soul,' said Dur- being their only provisions, and tal to himself, “and oh, how much these at certain seasons only once reason has the charitable monk to a-day; while Durtal has an egg, a pity me!' He remembered to have little cheese, a little wine. He is remarked in the morning this tall offered milk for his breakfast, but youth praying in the chapel with great very injudiciously prefers wine, fervour."

which shows he has not profited Later, he perceives again in this much by his friendship with the chapel

doctor who appears in the first part " the young man whose look of of his life. However, the more pity had strengthened him. He was than frugal menu and the terrible about twenty, robust and tall, his face spiritual sufferings to which he has a little worn, but at once masculine been subjected at La Trappe notand tender, with emaciated features, withstanding, he leaves the monand a fair beard which descended on astery almost in despair, feeling his breast."

that there alone can he be sure of The eyes of this gentle young maintaining the devotion without brother console the penitent, his which his soul will lose again all look of pity and interest seem to the elevation, the peace, the occashine upon us from the dark back- sional impulses of joy which he had ground. When Durtal is taking attained to in that abode of prayer. his leave at the end of his retreat, This is a sufficiently discouragdeparting as unwillingly as he ing end to all the struggles of the came, he sees at the bottom of soul, since if every penitent were the court “two eyes gazing at to bury himself in a cloister, that him, the eyes of Brother Anoclet, would be a sad interruption of which bade him from afar, with- all the traditions of Christianity. out a gesture, adieu.” We con- However, the existence of this fess that this suggestion of humble book is more remarkable than its and natural liking, full of human conclusions. Here is a lengthy feeling, touches us more than the and close - printed volume in the suave and gentlemanly monks, well - known form of French always ready with an answer to romance, in which the sole theme, every difficulty, never startled by never dropped for a moment, is, the struggles which convulse their in the terms of an older generapenitent, sure of conquering in tion, the saving of a soul: and we one way or other the devil who avow that the saving of Durtal's soul

has held our interest as strongly as directed him to say (but that was any breathless narrative of adven- a false debate created by Satan ture or story of love.

It is a sign himself to confuse the sinner's of the times which we do not soul), are all very strange to us. know how to interpret, or whether To do him justice, however, Durtal to consider it accidental, depend- is more confused than edified by ing merely upon the genius or the chapelet : and the occasional popularity of the writer who sets bursts of personal address to God it before us. But M. Huysmans and the Redeemer which come is not, so far as we know, more from his lips are very unconven. popular or more remarkable than tional, full of that simplicity of many others, while his book is, so appeal from one intelligent being far as we are aware, unique. We (be it said with reverence) to know no English writer who would another infinitely above him, which dare to produce a corresponding all the organisations of prayer work. There used to be, forty or tend to suppress, but which on the fifty years ago, pious biographies whole seem to indicate the most which were, perhaps, as completely close rapprochement possible beoccupied with the process of re

tween God and man. On the ligion in the soul ; but, as they whole, the book is very remarkable were authentic lives, they were and well worthy of consideration. naturally reticent, and kept the We hope it may be received at secrets of their heroes or heroines. least as an indication that French Nothing in English that we know writers are beginning to discern of since Bunyan has been so open that there are things in heaven as this.

And even in Bunyan and earth more interesting as well there are bursts of story which as more important than the records soften the strain. Perhaps a of illicit and filthy amours.

We severe critic would say that the use the French word in preference, perverse mind might pick out a not to sully the divine name of certain thread of evil suggestion love with any such suggestions. even from the records of Durtal's Durtal's possession, in the midst temptations : but this certainly of the new life struggling in his would not tell with any worthy heart, by the hideous recollections reader, while the unworthy would and images of vice which he abhors find the thread much too slender yet cannot banish from his imaginto support their interest.

ation, conveys a shuddering idea of On the other hand, the curious the weight which a licentious man machinery of penitence in which binds upon his own shoulders, and the sufferer is placed as in a some conception of the condition strait-jacket, the prescribed routine of those in whom the worm dieth through which he has to go,--the not and the fire is not quenched. Petit Office de la Sainte Vierge which he is recommended to say M. Anatole Francel may almost before her altar when there is be said to abuse the franchise of nothing else going on; the tor- this new impulse (if there is any. menting question whether it is ten thing so general as a new impulse) chapelets, or only ten beads of in his last work. It is true that the chapelet, which his confessor his previous books have contained

1

1 L'Orme du Mail. Levy, éditeur.

Par Anatole France, de l'Académie Française. Calman

much more thought and specula- skill of the Cardinal Archbishop tion than romance or story; but in foiling all attempts on the part even Les Opinions de M. Jerome of one of the candidates to secure Coignard have a strong thread of an opinion from hin, is very amuscharacter which keeps up an inter- ingly told; and each of the interest less severe than that of phil- locutors, though some are dragged osophy and discussion of general in by the head and shoulders to questions. L'Orme du Mail is, contribute their (often) quite as it calls itself, a chapter of His- irrelevant contributions to the toire Contemporaine, but it is one talk, is as distinct to the reader in which every suggestion of human as if he himself had been in the interest is confined to the contrast habit of meeting them day by day of character in the talk of the not- in le coin des bouquins, the corner ables of a small town,—from the of Paillot's bookshop in which he skilful and suave Cardinal Arch- keeps a collection of old books, bishop to the bookseller in whose among which a treasure is someshop several of these worthies find times discovered by the keen eyes a place of meeting, besides that of of M. de Terremondre, the squire the bench under the great elm in of the district, so to speak, who is the Mall, or public promenade, & great collector and antiquary. which gives the book its title. The other habitual frequenters of Not a female figure—except for a this spot are M. Bergeret, & propage or two, those inevitable to a fessor at the college, a sad but dinner - party — crosses the busy philosophical scholar, and the docstreet or airy terrace upon which tor, always full of stories of his ces Messieurs discuss their differ patients, which give a momentary ent interests : which perhaps is a digression to the talk, as when not unnatural reaction against the he announces the birth which he reign of women, generally improper, has just accomplished of a baby in previous French fiction ; or per with the mark of a strawberry on haps the reaction is specially strong its breast, when they all immediin M. Anatole France himself after ately discuss the true origin of his late profound descent into the birth-marks. To show the twists boiling mud of the 'Lys Rouge.' and turns of this conversation, an

In the little town of Three Stars, old gentleman passing is brought which we are not sufficiently ac- in, on another occasion, to save quainted with French towns to him from the pressure of a crowd identify, though there are many outside, and immediately, à propos exactly like it, there is a kind des bottes, tells a story of his old of intrigue going on between two experiences as an advocate, nobody priests, both of the Seminary,—the listening to him the while, so far as Abbé Lantaigne, who is at its the reader can perceive. Nothing head, and an Abbé Giutral, who is more like the ordinary course of one of the professors,—each striv- conversation, with its careless ining to secure the appointment of terruptions and quite fantastic sucbishop to a neighbouring see ; but cession of ideas, could well be. this is the sole thread of story, The post under the Orme du and it is a feeble one, breaking off Mail is the special meeting-place of fantastically at the end without the Abbé Lantaigne and Bergeret, any attempt to satisfy our natural whose conversation is better regucuriosity as to which won in the lated but not so amusing. Here, struggle. The fat and unctuous however, is the professor's opinion

« PoprzedniaDalej »