One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Chateaubriand on Charlotte Ives


For the rest, in marrying Charlotte Ives, my role in the world would have altered: buried in a county of England, I would have become a hunting gentleman: not a single line would have issued from my pen; I would even have forgotten my own language, since I could write English, and the thoughts in my head were starting to shape themselves in English. Would my country have lost much by my disappearance? If I were to set aside what has been my consolation, I would say I might have already reckoned on many peaceful days, instead of the troubled days that have been my lot. The Empire, the Restoration, divisions, the disputes within France, what would I have had to do with all that? I would not have had to counteract faults, and combat errors, each morning. Is it certain that I have a true talent, and a talent worth the painful sacrifices of my life? Will I outlast my tomb? When I pass beyond, will there be, given the transformations which will occur, in a world altered and preoccupied with other things, will there be a public to listen to me? Will I not be a man of the past, unintelligible to the new generations? Will my ideas, my sentiments, even my style not seem boring and old-fashioned to scornful posterity? Will my shade be able to say as Virgil’s did to Dante: ‘Poeta fui e cantai: I was a poet, and sang.’!
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