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more bleared with tears; and, looking into the bright morning heaven, he said ;
“I will be strong !”
Men sometimes go down into tombs, with painful longings to behold once more the faces of their departed friends; and as they gaze upon them, lying there so peacefully with the semblance, that they wore on earth, the sweet breath of heaven touches them, and the features crumble and fall together, and are but dust. So did his soul then descend for the last time into the great tomb of the Past, with painful longings to behold once more the dear faces of those he had loved ; and the sweet breath of heaven touched them, and they would not stay, but crumbled away and perished as he gazed. They, too, were dust. And thus, far-sounding, he heard the great gate of the Past shut behind him as the Divine Poet did the gate of Paradise, when the angel pointed him the way up the Holy Mountain ; and to him likewise was it forbidden to look back.
In the life of every man, there are sudden transitions of feeling, which seem almost miraculous. At once, as if some magician had touched the heavens and the earth, the dark clouds melt into the air, the wind falls, and serenity succeeds the storm. The causes which produce these sudden changes may have been long at work within us, but the changes themselves are instantaneous, and apparently without sufficient cause. It was so with Flemming; and from that hour forth he resolved, that he would no longer veer with every shifting wind of circumstance; no longer be a child's plaything in the hands of Fate, which we ourselves do make or mar. He resolved henceforward not to lean on others; but to walk self-confident and self-possessed; no longer to waste his years in vain regrets, nor wait the fulfilment of boundless hopes and indiscreet desires ; but to live in the Present wisely, alike forgetful of the Past, and careless of what the mysterious Future might bring. And from that moment he was calm and strong; he was reconciled with himself! His thoughts turned to his distant home beyond the sea. An indescribable, sweet feeling rose within him.
“ Thither will I turn my wandering footsteps," said he; “and be a man among men, and no longer a dreamer among shadows.
Henceforth be mine a life of action and reality! I will work in my own sphere, nor wish it other than it is. This alone is health and happiness. This alone is life;
*Life that shall send
And when it comes, say, Welcome, friend!' Why have I not made these sage reflections, this wise resolve, sooner? Can such a simple result spring only from the long and intricate process of experience? Alas! it is not till Time, with reckless hand, has torn out half the leaves from the Book of Human Life, to light the fires of passion with, from day to day, that Man begins to see that the leaves which remain are few in number, and to remember, faintly at first, and then more clearly, that, upon the earlier pages of that book, was written a story of happy innocence, which he would fain read over again. Then come listless irresolution, and the inevitable inaction of despair ; or else the firm resolve to record upon the leaves that still remain, a more noble history, than the child's story, with which the book began."
[From Hyperion, a Romance, 1839, chapter 8. The text is that of the first edition.]
THE VALLEY OF THE LOIRE
Je ne conçois qu'une manière de voyager plus agréable que d'aller à cheval; c'est d'aller à pied. On part à son moment, on s'arrête à sa volonté, on fait tant et si peu d'exercise qu'on veut.
Quand on ne veut qu'arriver, on peut courir en chaise de poste; mais quand on veut voyager, il faut aller à pied.
ROUSSEAU In the beautiful month of October, I made a foot excursion along the banks of the Loire, from Orléans to Tours. This luxuriant region is justly called the garden of France. From Orléans to Blois, the whole valley of the Loire is one continued vineyard. The bright green foliage of the vine spreads, like the undulations of the sea, over all the landscape, with here and there a silver flash of the river, a sequestered hamlet, or the towers of an old château, to enliven and variegate the scene.
The vintage had already commenced. The peasantry were busy in the fields, — the song that cheered their labor was on the breeze, and the heavy wagon tottered by, laden with the clusters of the vine. Everything around me wore that happy look which makes the heart glad. In the morning I arose with the lark; and at night I slept where sunset overtook me. The healthy exercise of foot-travelling, the pure, bracing air of autumn, and the cheerful aspect of the whole landscape about me, gave fresh elasticity to a mind not overburdened with care, and made me forget not only the fatigue of walking, but also the consciousness of being alone.
My first day's journey brought me at evening to a village, whose name I have forgotten, situated about eight leagues from Orléans. It is a small, obscure hamlet, not mentioned in the guide-book, and stands upon the precipitous banks of a deep ravine, through which a noisy brook leaps down to turn the ponderous wheel of a thatch-roofed mill. The village inn stands upon the highway; but the village itself is not visible to the traveller as he passes. It is completely hidden in the lap of a wooded valley, and so embowered in trees that not a roof nor a chimney peeps out to betray its hiding-place. It is like the nest of a ground-swallow, which the passing footstep almost treads upon, and yet it is not seen. I passed by without suspecting that a village was near; and the little inn had a look so uninviting that I did not even enter it.
After proceeding a mile or two farther, I perceived, upon my left, a village spire rising over the vineyards. Towards this I directed my footsteps; but it seemed to recede as I advanced, and at last quite disappeared. It was evidently many miles distant; and as the path I followed descended from the highway, it had gradually sunk beneath a swell of the vine-clad landscape. I now found myself in the midst of an extensive vineyard. It was just sunset; and the last golden rays lingered on the rich and mellow scenery around me. The peasantry were still busy at their task; and the occasional bark of a dog, and the distant sound of an evening bell, gave fresh romance to the scene. The reality of many a day-dream of childhood, of many a poetic revery of youth, was before me. I stood at sunset amid the luxuriant vineyards of France !
The first person I met was a poor old woman, a little bowed down with age, gathering grapes into a large basket.
She was dressed like the poorest class of peasantry, and pursued her solitary task alone, heedless of the cheerful gossip and the merry laugh which came from a band of more youthful vintagers at a short distance from her. She was so intently engaged in her work, that she did not perceive my approach until I bade her good evening. On hearing my voice, she looked up from her labor, and returned the salutation; and, on my asking her if there were a tavern or a farm-house in the neighborhood where I could pass the night, she showed me the pathway through the vineyard that led to the village, and then added, with a look of curiosity, “You must be a stranger, Sir, in these parts.”
Yes; my home is very far from here." “ How far?” “ More than a thousand leagues.” The old woman looked incredulous. “ I came from a distant land beyond the sea."
“More than a thousand leagues !" at length repeated she; "and why have you come so far from home?"
“ To travel ; — to see how you live in this country.”
Here the old woman gave me a piercing look of reproof; shook her head mournfully, and, with a deep sigh, as if some painful recollections had been awakened in her bosom, turned again to her solitary task. I felt rebuked; for there is something almost prophetic in the admonitions of the old. The eye of age looks meekly into my heart ! the voice of age echoes mournfully through it ! the hoary head and palsied hand of age plead irresistibly for its sympathies ! I venerate old age; and I love not the man who can look without emotion upon the sunset of life, when the dusk of evening begins to gather over the watery eye, and the shadows of twilight grow broader and deeper upon the understanding !
I pursued the pathway which led towards the village, and the
next person I encountered was an old man, stretched lazily beneath the vines upon a little strip of turf, at a point where four paths met, forming a crossway in the vineyard. He was clad in a coarse garb of gray, with a pair of long gaiters or spatterdashes. Beside him lay a blue cloth cap, a staff, and an old weather-beaten knapsack. I saw at once that he was a foot-traveller like myself, and therefore, without more ado, entered into conversation with him. From his language, and the peculiar manner in which he now and then wiped his upper lip with the back of his hand, as if in search of the mustache which was no longer there, I judged that he had been a soldier. In this opinion I was not mistaken. He had served under Napoleon, and had followed the imperial eagle across the Alps, and the Pyrenees, and the burning sands of Egypt. Like every vieille moustache, he spake with enthusiasm of the Little Corporal, and cursed the English, the Germans, the Spanish, and every other race on earth, except the Great Nation,
“I like,” said he," after a long day's march, to lie down in this way upon the grass, and enjoy the cool of the evening. It reminds me of the bivouacs of other days, and of old friends who are now
Here he pointed with his finger to the sky.
“They have reached the last étape before me, in the long march. But I shall go soon. We shall all meet again at the last roll-call. Sacré nom de ! There's a tear !”
He wiped it away with his sleeve.
Here our colloquy was interrupted by the approach of a group of vintagers, who were returning homeward from their labor. To this party I joined myself, and invited the old soldier to do the same; but he shook his head.
“I thank you; my pathway lies in a different direction." “But there is no other village near, and the sun has already set.”
“No matter, I am used to sleeping on the ground. Good night."
I left the old man to his meditations, and walked on in company with the vintagers. Following a well-trodden pathway through the vineyards, we soon descended the valley's slope, and I suddenly found myself in the bosom of one of those little hamlets from