Page images

Après avoir lu fort mal un petit discours que j'avais écrit de mon mieux, ce qui n'est pas beaucoup dire, j'allai me promener dans les bois de Ville-d'Avray et suivis, sans trop peser sur la canne du capitaine, un sentier couvert sur lequel le jour tombait en disques d'or. Jamais l'odeur de l'herbe et des feuilles humides, jamais la beauté du ciel et la sérénité puissante des arbres n'avaient pénétré si avant mes sens et toute mon âme, et l'oppression que je ressentais dans ce silence traversé d'une sorte de tintement continu était à la fois sensuelle et religieuse.

Je m'assis à l'ombre du chemin sous un bouquet de jeunes 10 chênes. Et là, je me promis de ne point mourir, ou du moins de ne point consentir à mourir, avant de m'être assis de nouveau sous un chêne où, dans la paix d'une large campagne, je songerais à la nature de l'âme et aux fins dernières de l'homme. Une abeille, dont le corsage brun brillait au soleil comme une 15 armure de vieil or, vint se poser sur une fleur de mauve d'une sombre richesse et bien ouverte sur sa tige touffue. Ce n'était certainement pas la première fois que je voyais un spectacle si commun, mais c'était la première que je le voyais avec une curiosité si affectueuse et si intelligente. Je reconnus qu'il y 20 avait entre l'insecte et la fleur toutes sortes de sympathies et mille rapports ingénieux que je n'avais pas soupçonnés jusque-là.

L'insecte, rassasié de nectar, s'élança en ligne hardie. Je me relevai du mieux que je pus, et me rajustai sur mes jambes. 25

- Adieu, dis-je à la fleur et à l'abeille. Adieu. Puissé-je vivre encore le temps de deviner le secret de vos harmonies ! Je suis bien fatigué. Mais l'homme est ainsi fait qu'il ne se délasse d'un travail que par un autre. Ce sont les fleurs et les insectes qui me reposeront, si Dieu le veut, de la philologie, 30 et de la diplomatique. Combien le vieux mythe d’Antée est plein de sens! J'ai touché la terre et je suis un nouvel homme, et voici qu'à soixante-dix ans de nouvelles curiosités naissent dans mon âme, comme on voit des rejetons s'élancer du tronc creux d'un vieux saule.

35 (1881.)


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1. "Conquered."
2. Allusion to the invasion of Greece by the Gauls in 278 B. C.

3. Lucian: Heracles (Hercules). The story of Hercules representing Eloquence, with chains of gold and amber from his tongue to the ears of his joyful followers.

4. “Celui.” Reference is to Jason and the Golden Fleece.
5. Village in Anjou where Du Bellay was born.
6. "Soir," cf. "vepre."
7. "Tomber."
8. From "ouir."
9. “Relationship" or "connection."
10. "Note,” calling attention to a particular passage.
11. Words of the same family or origin.

12. Malherbe was nearly seventy-two years old when he composed this ode, probably his best one. The occasion is the revolt of the Huguenots of La Rochelle, who, with the aid of the English, disembarked in the Ile de Rhé, wanted to proclaim a republic.

13. “Paraitre," the spelling with o is kept on account of the rime. 14. "England.” 15. "Français,” the spelling is kept on account of the rime.

16. The father of Jason, who was made young again by the magic of Medea.

17. Mountain in ancient Greece sacred to Apollo and the Muses, hence "honored by recognition as a poet.”

18. Son of Jupiter and Antiope, a poet and musician. According to the legend, the stones of the walls of Thebes put themselves mysteriously into place at the sound of his lyre.

19. François du Périer, "avocat" in the parliament of Aix and an intimate friend of Malherbe.

20. Malherbe had lost two sons, the second dying in his arms on June 23, 1599.

21. Allusion to the famous remark of Malherbe that the "crocheteurs du Port au foin” were the real masters of the French language. The place Saint Jean was one of the most important markets near the Seine where the "crocheteurs” would naturally be found.

22. “Indulges (legitimately) in certain liberties.”
23. "Neglect."
24. The infinitive used as a noun.
25. "Embellish."

26. “Ornaments.” 27. "Elegant." 28. “Parti-colored.” 29. A sort of rouge. 30. "Whereas in the case of." 31. A mountain in Greece, the reputed home of the Muses. 32. i. e., Palais de Justice, in whose galleries were booksellers' stalls.

33. Mercury was the god of the merchants, also of artifice and fraud.

34. Marie de_Médicis (1573-1642), wife of Henri IV. Married by procuration at Florence, she landed at Marseille and was met by the king at Lyon, Dec. 9, 1600.

35. He became the Marquis de Rambouillet at the death of his father in 1611.

36. He was 23 years old in 1600.

37. Tallemant recounts elsewhere that the Marquis de Rambouillet was continually involved in financial difficulties because of his extravagance and stubbornness in money matters.

38. Robert Arnaud d'Andilly (1589-1674), a long time friend of the family.

39. Antoine III, duc de Grammont (1603-1678), became Maréchal de France in 1641. According to Tallemant, he was once affianced to Julie d'Angennes.

40. A gentleman from Dauphiné, attached to the household of the Duc d'Orléans. It was he who introduced Voiture into the Hôtel de Rambouillet. He died in 1644.

41. Angélique Paulet (1591-1650), known as “la belle Lionne" because of her reddish brown hair and proud bearing, was one of the most popular habitués of the Hôtel de Rambouillet.

42. Name under which Mlle. de Scudéry figures in Le Grand Cyrus.

43. Pellisson (1624-1693), one of the historiographers of Louis XIV and author of Histoire de l'Académie française.

44. The heroine of the novel, Mlle. de Longueville, daughter of the celebrated Duchesse de Longueville, the heroine of Le Grand Cyrus.

45. Louis de Nogaret, cardinal de la Valette (1593-1639), a devoted adherent of Richelieu and commander of his armies in Picardy, Germany and Piedmont.

46. Reference to a walk during which Voiture received so many taps from the fans of his feminine companions that he declared himself to be dead and wrote his epitaph.

47. Charlotte de Montmorency, princesse de Condé (1594-1650), mother of the Grand Condé and of the Duchesse de Longueville.

48. Anne-Geneviève de Bourbon-Condé, duchesse de Longueville (1619-1679), known for her beauty and her intrigues, was also a patron of letters. The Hôtel de Longueville reflected the opinions of the Court.

49. The mother of Mlle. du Vigean, beloved of the Grand Condé. Her estate at La Barre was near Montmorency.

50. Wife of a Conseiller d'État, one of the most famous précieuse. 51. The celebrated Julie d'Angennes, the eldest daughter of Mme. de Rambouillet.

52. Cf. p. 20, note 41.
53. Cf. p. 19, note 40.
54. Estate near Montmorency.
55. The adverb tout is invariable in this construction to-day.

56. Picturesque Roman suburb renowned for its cascades and gardens.

57. Mlle. Aubry who became in 1649 the Duchesse de Noirmoutier.

58. "Since my harsh fate ordained that being deprived of my lord, I should also be deprived of my lady.”

59. Meat or other food artistically disguised so that its character is not readily discerned.

60. A city on the outskirts of Paris.
61. Infinitive used substantively.
62. Old form of the present subjunctive of bénir.

63. The quarrel of the two sonnets was the most famous of the literary disputes which divided “précieux” society in the XVII Century. Shortly after the death of Voiture (1648) his sonnet to Uranie, written much earlier and already popular, was compared with Benserade's Job with the result that all Paris was soon involved in a discussion of their respective merits. The "Jobelins” including among their number the Prince de Conti, and the "Uranistes,” Mme. de Rambouillet and the famous Duchesse de Longueville. The controversy was pursued with an ardor out of all proportion to the value of the two poems. Mme. de Longueville even sought to have the Académie Française and the Sorbonne pass judgment upon them and did eventually persuade the Academy of Caen to render a futile decision in favor of Voiture. The Prince de Conti aptly summed up the situation in the quatrain :

Ces deux sonnets n'ont rien de comparable,
Pour en parler nettement.
Le grand est le plus admirable,

Le petit est le plus galant. 64. Isaac de Benserade (1613-1691), member of the Academy and author of light verse popular in its time.

65. Cf. p. 26, note 48.
66. Cf. Epitre au Seigneur de Villeroy.

67. A court dance extremely popular in the XVII Century and the music for it.

68. Chrysippus (280-206 B. C.), the third great leader of the Stoics and one of the greatest philosophers of antiquity.

69. Balzac spent most of his time on his estate keeping in touch with the capital by his correspondence.

70. De Analogia.

71. Raymond Lulle (1235-1315), a Spanish philosopher, author of Ars Magna. He claimed to have invented a mechanical method of carrying on the work of philosophic thought.

72. In 1650, the Augustinus of Janssen, bishop of Ypres, a com

« PreviousContinue »