Page images
PDF
EPUB

months have pinned me so closely to my own individual existence, shall I ever be able to reascend into the region of pure intelligence, to enter again upon the disinterested and impersonal life, to recover my old indifference towards subjective miseries, and regain a purely scientific and contemplative state of mind ? Shall I ever succeed in forgetting all the needs which bind me to earth and to humanity ? Shall I ever become pure spirit ? Alas! I cannot persuade myself to believe it possible for an instant. I see infirmity and weakness close upon me, I feel I cannot do without affection, and I know that I have no ambition, and that my faculties are declining. I remember that I am forty-seven years old, and that all my brood of youthful hopes has flown away. So that there is no deceiving myself as to the fate which awaits

: - increasing loneliness, mortification of spirit, long-continued regret, melancholy neither to be consoled nor confessed, a mournful old age, a slow decay, a death in the desert !

Terrible dilemma! Whatever is still possible to me has lost its savour, while all that I could still desire escapes me, and will always escape me. Every impulse

me :

ends in weariness and disappointment. Discouragement, depression, weakness, apathy: there is the dismal series which must be for ever begun and re-begun, while we are still rolling up the Sisyphean rock of life. Is it not simpler and shorter to plunge head-foremost into the gulf ?

No, rebel as we may, there is but one solution - to submit to the general order, to accept, to resign ourselves, and to do still what we can. It is our self-will, our aspirations, our dreams, that must be sacrificed. We must give up the hope of happiness once for all! Immolation of the self

- death to self, — this is the only suicide which is either useful or permitted. In my present mood of indifference and disinterestedness, there is some secret ill-humour, some wounded pride, a little rancour; there is selfishness in short, since a premature claim for rest is implied in it. Absolute disinterestedness is only reached in that perfect humility which tramples the self under foot for the glory of God.

I have no more strength left, I wish for nothing; but that is not what is wanted. I must wish what God wishes ; I must pass from indifference to sacrifice, and from saccifice to self-devotion. The cup which I

would fain put away from me is the misery of living, the shame of existing and suffering as a common creature who has missed his vocation ; it is the bitter and increasing humiliation of declining power, of growing old under the weight of one's own disapproval, and the disappointment of one's friends! Wilt thou be healed ?' was the text of last Sunday's sermon. • Come to me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' —. And if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart."

27th August 1868. — To-day I took up the Penseroso 1 again. I have often violated its maxims and forgotten its lessons. Still, this volume is a true son of my soul, and breathes the true spirit of the inner life. Whenever I wish to revive my consciousness of my own tradition, it is pleasant to me to read over this little gnomic collection which has had such scant justice done to it, and which, were it another's, I should often quote. I like to feel that in it I have attained to that relative truth which may be defined as consistency with self, the harmony of appearance with reality, of thought with expression, — in other

words, sincerity, ingenuousness, inwardness. It is personal experience in the strictest sense of the word.

21st September 1868 (Villars). — A lovely autumn effect. Everything was veiled in gloom this morning, and a gray mist of rain floated between us and the whole circle of mountains. Now the strip of blue sky which made its appearance at first behind the distant peaks has grown larger, has mounted to the zenith, and the dome of heaven, swept almost clear of cloud, sends streaming down upon us the pale rays of a convalescent sun. The day now promises kindly, and all is well that ends well.

Thus after a season of tears a sober and softened joy may return to us.

Say to yourself that you are entering upon the autumn of your life; that the graces of spring and the splendours of summer are irrevocably gone, but that autumn too has its beauties. The autumn weather is often darkened by rain, cloud, and mist, but the air is still soft, and the sun still delights the eyes, and touches the yellowing leaves caressingly: it is the time for fruit, for harvest, for the vintage, the moment for making provision for the winter. – Here

the herds of milch-cows have already come down to the level of the châlet, and next week they will be lower than we are. This living barometer is a warning to us that the time has come to say farewell to the mountains. There is nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by despising the example of nature, and making arbitrary rules of life for oneself. Our liberty, wisely understood, is but a voluntary obedience to the universal laws of life. — My life has reached its month of September. May I recognise it in time, and suit thought and action to the fact !

13th November 1868.- I am reading part of two books by Charles Secrétan 2 (Recherches sur la Méthode, 1857; Précis élémentaire de Philosophie, 1868). The philosophy of Secrétan is the philosophy of Christianity, considered as the one true religion. Subordination of nature to intelligence, of intelligence to will, and of will to dogmatic faith, — such is its general framework. Unfortunately there are no signs of critical, or comparative, or historical study in it, and as an apologetic, -in which satire is curiously mingled with glorification of the religion of love, - it leaves

« PreviousContinue »