The Longer the Wait… Krogold: Triple Celinian Myth

With the publication of La Volonté du Roi Krogold (The Will of Krogold the King), Gallimard has brought Céline’s unpublished works to a close, putting an end to almost ninety years of uncertainty about the adventures of this legendary ruler. This will satisfy Céline aficionados first and foremost, while the uninitiated will find it a little-used gateway. If it is not easy to squeeze through, it nevertheless opens up new and unexpected reading perspectives.

Ecce Krogold! The famous Nordic king that Céline fans have been dreaming of since May 1936, when he made his appearance in Mort à crédit (Death on Credit), the second high point of a prolific body of work that is far more eclectic than the hasty reduction to the author’s regrettable (and condemnable!) ideological blunders generally suggests. Far from being part of the contemporary realist fictions that continue to make Céline so successful, King Krogold is an original figure with a doubly mythical aura, firstly, because the story of which he is the central character draws on a number of legends, episodes and memories, including the Arthurian cycle, the biography of François Villon, the writings of Rabelais and that mythical medieval figure from Breton legend, the Bard with the gouged-out eyes, imprisoned for standing up to Christianization.

The mythical brilliance of Krogold the king, then, manifests itself in the improbability, long persistent, of seizing concretely and in a palpable, “haptic” way an epic which has become, over the decades, as legendary as the collection of a few scraps of narratives that, in spite of everything, have come down to us.

Krogold vs. Gwendor

A reminder: From the moment Céline left his Montmartre apartment for Copenhagen, for fear of paying the price for the political upheaval in France in the wake of Operation Neptune, he never ceased to deplore, with the vehemence often characteristic of his writings since Mea culpa (1936), the theft (or incineration, as the case may be) of what he himself, in a letter to his faithful secretary, Marie Canavaggia, described as “a legend from the operatic Middle Ages.” We need only reread his two great post-war texts, Féerie pour une autre fois (Enchatment for Another Time) and D’un Château l’autre (From one Castle to Another), to be convinced.

The literary merit of Krogold seemed rather light, however: “I was disappointed to read it again. My romance hadn’t stood the test of time,” says the Ferdinand of Mort à credit, and judging by the rejection Céline received from his publisher Robert Denoël in 1933. Yet Denoël had not hesitated to publish L’Église (The Church), a five-act comedy of equally fragile merit, the first version of which had been rejected by Gallimard in 1927, just eleven months after the release of Voyage au bout de la nuit (Journey to the End of the Night). Literary choice or commercial calculation? In any case, important fragments of the legend were incorporated into the narrative of Mort à crédit, in whose pages King Krogold now runs like a weak, if stubborn, thread. It is as if Céline had sought to tacitly thumb his nose at his publisher.

Despite Ferdinand’s repeated efforts to provide a detailed account, the legend’s developing plot remains rather opaque. However, this has not prevented Celinian scholars, such as the American Erika Ostrovsky, from seeking to unravel the mystery behind it. In 1972, in her contribution to Cahiers de L’Herne, devoted to Céline, Ostrovsky noted that while the legend’s known beginning, the deadly confrontation between King Krogold, “mighty and damned monarch of all the marches of Tierlande” and the felon Gwendor, “grand margrave of the Scythians, Prince of Christiania” (and very secret fiancé of Wanda, Krogold’s only daughter) is “nothing out of the ordinary;” so much so that it “could almost pass for a pastiche of epic novels,” but it is special in that, on a more abstract level, it puts into perspective the defeat of the poetic (of which Gwendor is the embodiment) in the face of the degradation of everyday life, embodied by Krogold; the latter presented by Ostrovsky as an “executioner.”

Royal Magnanimity, Poetic Vagabondage

Although the idea of an antagonism between poetry and daily life is resistant to over-hasty expeditions, the development proposed by Ostrovsky half a century ago now requires nuance and even revision, particularly in the contortionist reading she gives King Krogold. This reassessment is all the more necessary given that, thanks to the recent publication by Gallimard of rediscovered pages, Céline enthusiasts and others can now look at a whole series of scenes and tableaux, differently elaborated, The common theme is the equipment of the legendary King Krogold (there is no need to go back over the incredible circumstances which, in the summer of 2021, saw the reappearance of the famous Céline manuscripts, stolen during the Liberation and thought to be lost forever, as well as the medico-judicial soap opera which has been making keyboards clack ever since).

First observation: the material of Le Roi Krogold gave birth to two distinct texts under Céline’s pen, La Volonté du Roi Krogold (a manuscript found in 1939/40) and La Légende du Roi René (an earlier version based on a typescript dated 1933/34). The former is presented by the collection’s editor, Véronique [Robert-] Chovin, as a rewrite of the latter. The numerous thematic parallels that emerge from one plot to the next support this assertion.

Second observation: the elements on which these two versions are based take off from very different starting points. One is based on the defeat of Prince Gwendor’s army by the victorious troops of King Krogold. Impaled by an enemy spear, Gwendor faces death from which, in a classic dialogue, he vainly seeks to obtain “one day… two days…” of reprieve. When the inhabitants of Christianie learn of the defeat of their protector Gwendor and the imminent arrival of King Krogold, they decide, in order to appease the latter’s a priori devastating grudges, not to prostrate themselves before the victor and offer him the city’s treasures, as might be expected, but instead to meet him by—dancing. This unusual stratagem had once saved the city from the advancing regiments of the Great Turk. Given the historical context of the writing, it is obviously tempting to read the advance of these armed troops as an allusion to the invasions (sometimes camouflaged as annexation) carried out by the Wehrmacht.

Alas! King Krogold is no connoisseur of dance. Indeed, he puts the harmless “dancers of the rigodon” to the sword. And yet, once he has entered the city, he heads straight for the cathedral and, while keeping his foot in the stirrup, throws his sword over a huge, panic-stricken crowd that has taken refuge under the nave’s vaults, “right up to the altar step.” This gesture of almost cinematic royal indulgence is greeted by jubilant singing, thanksgiving and even the appearance of an angel expressly sent down from heaven. Thus closes this first narrative, with its chivalric, popular and Christian overtones.

It is joined by another; this time centered on the wanderings of a trouvère, named Thibaut in René but Tébaut in Krogold. This vagabond poet with not-so-Catholic impulses seeks to join the victorious king (Krogold or René, respectively) in the North, to accompany him on his crusade. His itinerary takes him from Charente to Brittany, and in particular to Rennes, where—depending on the version of the legend—he is either about to be thrown into prison after narrowly escaping lynching by an excited mob (Krogold), or to stop off at the brothel where he casually abuses a prostitute (René). In both versions of the legend, however, he becomes the murderer of Prosecutor Morvan, president of the parliament of Brittany and father of Joad, Thibaut/Tébaut’s traveling companion secretly in love with Wanda, the king’s daughter. It is good to set up these triangles of conflict from the outset.

The Underpinnings of a Work

Make no mistake, however: Krogold, far from being an entertaining fabliau, is probably Céline’s most complicated text; René is a sort of first draft written in a French that is, if not academic, at least linguistically more accessible. In fact, these are pages not finalized by the author, with all that this implies of doubles, repetitions, unfinished business, which all very quickly causes a feeling of saturation, but also fatigue. At the same time, these pages are undoubtedly the most interesting and richest among the bundles of manuscripts found.

On the one hand, because together with the snippets of the legend inserted in Guerre (War) and Londres (London), (Gallimard, 2022), the other two recently exhumed unpublished works, they allow us to measure the important weight that throughout the 1930s, Céline gave to the possibility of giving birth to a medieval fantasy legend. That Krogold the King cannot be reduced to a unifying element of Mort à crédit, that he is much more than a mere vanishing point for Céline’s post-war rantings, constantly raising the specter of spoliation, which we now know were not completely aberrant, The major merit of this collection, published by Gallimard under the full title of La Volonté du Roi Krogold, followed by La Légende du Roi René, is that it does indeed create a coherent whole, the hitherto unexploited underbelly of a work that has been widely commented on for almost ninety years.

One of the things we need to look at is how this legend relates to Céline’s polemical writings. After all, the date chosen for the recovered manuscript is 1939/40. In the chronology of Céline’s publications, this corresponds to the period between the publication of L’École des cadavres (School for Corpses), (November 1938) and the release of Les Beaux Draps (The Fine Sheets), (February 1941). But Bagatelles pour un massacre (Trifles for a Massacre), published in December 1937, already invokes the Middle Ages, presenting ballet librettos populated by legendary characters and deliberately drawing on medieval imaginary.

We should also take a closer look at the legend’s many references to Christianity and its key concepts of blasphemy, sin, repentance, mercy and forgiveness, practices whose density is just as unusual here, as the invocation of a united Christianity is absent from the rest of the work—apart from Mea culpa.

“I am Celt”

On the other hand, it is undoubtedly in the linguistic contributions that the primary interest of the recovered pages lies. The few journalistic accounts published to date have made this clear. In the April 27 issue of La Croix, Fabienne Lemahieu writes of a “medieval Nordic tale with accents of Old French;” Alexis Brocas in the May issue of Lire/Magazine littéraire points to a “cousinly relationship between Céline’s language and that of the medieval Rabelais and Villon;” and David Fontaine in the May 10 issue of Le Canard enchaîné describes the Céline of Krogold as an “alchemist of style, [who] intends to resurrect medieval French.”

A single passage illustrates these observations: “The Queen in her finest attire, followed by her ladies and pages, slowly approached and descended the long marble steps. ‘Sir Knight, what would you have us give you?’ ‘Victory! Victory!’ he shouted ever louder, raising his hand to his chest to show his pure heart. ‘Victory? Victory? That it shall be [quickly]! But is not the King wounded? I had a sad dream… a fearful reverie yester night…’ ‘Nothing betides the King, my lady! Nothing betides the King! Apart from a mere wheal, a niggling scuff that his majesty little heeds.’ ‘You tell me so much, Sir Knight!’…’Excelras has won my wager!’”

While work on language is obviously one of the major constants in Céline’s work, his interest in pre-classical turns of phrase in this excerpt is not only in keeping with his well-known abomination of so-called academic French, but also reflects a more assertive approach to a linguistic (and hence literary) genealogy that emphasizes the Celtic heritage of the French language. At the expense of the Greek and Latin legacies advocated by the codifiers of classical French. It would probably be instructive to reread André Thérive’s Libre histoire de la langue française (Stock, 1954) to grasp the full ideological dimension behind this artistic approach.

“The intoxication of this existence must one day cease…”

Last but not least, Céline devotees will find it hard to pass up this collection which, in addition to the two versions of the legend, includes a rich appendix of all the passages in the work that can be associated, in one way or another, with the legend of Krogold the King: from Mort à crédit to D’un Château l’autre, via Guerre, Londres and Féerie pour une autre fois. A contextualizing essay by archivist and historian Alban Cerisier provides a more concrete account of the forces expressed in these two medievalist narratives. Although we are unaware of the legend’s “incompleteness,” “each scene offers, with the author’s ironic finesse and great humor, a variation on man’s relationship with his finitude.”

The aforementioned mythical dimension of the Krogold legend is further enhanced by the fact that it has remained incomplete and fragmentary, and that its material has somehow resisted literary form. But is not this a guarantee of its “legitimacy?” After all, how many medieval legends have come down to us without gaps?

Maxim Görke teaches in the German Department, at the University of Strasbourg.

Featured: King William I, folio 33 of Liber legum antiquorum regum, British Library, Cotton MS Claudius D. II, 14th century. [This article appears through the kind courtesy of PHILITT.]

Flos Triticum

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Wheat Flower erat in villa mea pulcherrima puella. Alta, bene erecta, pulchroque sui fiducia gradiens, Clara risum splenduit campis, alta viarum Vendée secat silvas. Cum primis tepidis veris diebus albedo lactea cutis, lentigines sidere punctis

Rustici dicebant: Dominus bonus manipulum furfure in faciem proiecit.

Furfur et farina, ut videtur, nam facies eius sub radiis solis tam alba manebat ac si tritico oppessato pulvere inspergeretur. Hinc cognomen fortasse, vel rufis fortasse capillis Debebat, fulvis magis aequantibus ocellis. Dedit unam impressionem omnium pulcri auri-brunnei toni maturi tritici. Wheat Flower pulcher erat, et hoc sciebat, quia sic tota die narrabatur.

Vir agris non longe abhorret. Sensus eius estheticus non est idem cum nostro. Non linea, forma, gratia formae moventis movetur, sed colore afficitur potenter, sicut omnes quos humanitas non excoluit. Wheat Flower igitur est coloris animali, voluptatem igitur audiendi se pulchram praedicabat, et ad propulsandam lasciviam, interdum robustiores blanditias, virilis iuventutis usque ab Sainte Hermine in Chantonnay. Florem, ubi vis, ibi congregabuntur apes. Ubicumque occurristi pulchritudinis, videbis homines ad pabulandum venientes, oculis et manibus et labiis. Inter urbem et patriam est sola differentia occasus.

Cuius fama ultra pagi fines propagata, Wheat Flower habebat admirantium turbas quae in vicinia per multos dies non visa sunt. Superbia eius in oculis suis praestringitur, et si ad Cleopatram, in quem spectata mundi obtutus dicta esset, non esset certum, quod regina Aegyptia plus prodesse putasset. Rus ancilla. Quam ob rem laudo, quod multam adorantium enumerare stulte lusum est. Regina autem mortua erat et puella rustica: optimum omnium argumentum.

Fabulae iucunda pars est, Wheat Flower, dum se ab omnibus admirari, et invidisse omnibus foeminis, animum suum fidum amico, qui noverat conciliare, in quo egregie a Cleopatra differebat. Ille autem amicus, quoniam ad confessionem tandem veniendus est, nullus alius fuit quam humilis servus tuus. Condonari possim istius advocationis superbiam: Wheat Flower amavi, et Wheat Flower sentiebat de me, quod exhibere minime nolebat. Sequebam eam circa prata cum cane suo “Rubrum Udones,” sic dicta propter quatuor fulvos manus, et dum grex nimis inepte pascebatur ultra limitem ruris custodiae, narravi ei omnia de Nannetensi, ubi. hiemem habui. Obstupui ex libris meis fabulis, aut mecum de animalibus, quid egerunt, quid sentirent, mecum locuta est; quae mihi narravit extraordinarias fabulas. Proximae sibi erant animae nostrae, non eadem pectora nostra dicam, nam tristis amor nostri pars erat, heu, viginti sex vel septem, si starem in gradu. Hoc non difficile est, alterutrum tamen alterum amplecti. Postmodum intellexi meam fortunam.

Nostri optimi dies erant in tempore messis. Nondum rus invaserat fumus arenae machinae nefandus. Scibis adhuc in usu erat. Luce prima viri ac feminae in partes divisae areae circuire incipiebant, motusque eorum numeroso impetu lignei flagelli, humi stramentis obvoluti; pars quadrille sensim cederet, media pars paulatim procederet. Necessitas observandi, et conatus silere deiectos. Sed quam cachinnus et cantus motus cum pice lignea subiguntur, positis paleis! Aspiciet instratam messoribus meridiana torva solis humum, fallaxque timet rusticus umbram. Ad ictum campanae, sonorus concentus scloporum iterum undique aerem replebat.

Ad vesperum erant choreae et carmina in quibus Wheat Flower excellebat. Sciebat omnis regionis illius cantus, et nasi, indocta voce canebat, delectamentum rusticae auris, poemata ingenua, in quibus “Filius Regis”, “Luscinia” et “Ros” in phantasmatibus apparuerunt; laeta vel tristis. Vatem loci etiam de Wheat Flower, carmen liberioris et liberioris dialecti, fecerat, cuius cantilena florem triticum sub messe flagelli dedere segetem dicebat. Wheat Flower sine pudore falso cantu celebravit se, et erant denique iurgia, si quidam adulescentuli per iocum crederent in agendo abstinentiam ponere.

Serius vel serius, Wheat Flower sub messoris flagello tenebatur. Atque hic lectoris animum ad hanc fabulam voco, cuius meritum est omnium fabulae. Nullius enim maioris erroris scio, quam ut singula- rum rerum casus opinari soleant, quae faciunt vitam iucundam. Si quis inspiciat, reperietur vere mirabilia ea esse quae nobis cotidie accidunt, eaque duella, sica, etiam autocineta, odio comitante, invidia, proditione, amore, perfidia, re vera vulgaria eveniunt. In enorme vitae communis a nativitate ad mortem.

Ut sine ulla nostra voluntate ad huius mundi conscientiam adferamus, fatali concatenatione gaudiorum ac dolorum subiaceat fortunae periculo, et finem in tarda corruptione, quae nos ad antecedentem statum reducit. Nostri, nonne hoc summum casus est? Quid magis opus est ut miremur? Quidam, qui pessimistae vocantur, quodam murmure accipiunt. Alii, optimates existimati, tantam fortunam considerant, ut ad eam per consolationem studiose addant somnium coelestis adventus, quem quisque liberet exornare quantum libet.

Wheat Flower eius mentem non ullo ex hoc vexavit. Viginti erat illa, eo occupatior. Audivit vocem adulescentiae suae sicut praegressae feminae et quae sequuntur eam in terra. In campis, natura tam propinqua, homines minime impediti sunt conventionibus socialibus magis minusve phantasticis, quae humanas necessitudines moderari incipiunt inter duas creaturas, inter se esurientes et sitientes.

Peculiare genus placentae, quae “échaudé” dicitur, praecipuum est fructus industriae meae villae: placentam ex farina et ovis, delectabilem recentem e clibano, sed gravem et gravem sititatis causa, tempore procedente per bracchium usque ad Niortum, Rupellam seu Fontenay. Noctu vehitur vectura longis bigis ab equina trahentibus, cuius tarda et stabilis incessus saxa somnos agitatoris et mulieris comitantis praeesset ad vendendum placentas. Hae plostra terribilia internuntius sunt. Odor filicis periculi plenus est. Iacent duo somno pariter, sub dio. Non semper dormiunt, etiam post longum diem laborem. Forum oppidum procul abest. Inhumani censoresque moenibus suis quattuor inclusi sunt. Temptatio augetur per succussos qui unum contra alterum proiciunt. Quare resistendum est, cum tandem cedendum sit?

Wheat Flower, qui in his liba locupletis domestici mangonis elaboraverat, diem unum egregium ei “dominum” duxit, postquam ei dedit, nemine mirante, duo certa argumenta dociliorum ad gaudium ac munia maternitas. Proximi ruri narrabunt nihil esse extra ordinem in vita. Vir eius tantum diebus dominicis post vesperas, quando nimium biberat, eam verberavit, nec plus vindicavit in eum, quam necesse fuit ut extraneis ostenderet quod ultimum verbum non haberet.

Post aliquantum temporis spatium iterum eam vidi. Manipulus farinae et furfures adhuc erat ibi. Lustrabant oculi, crinemque tenus ardentibus alis tena ardent. Sed mihi visus eius aspectus acutior, iamque labiorum curva taedium prodidit vitae. Pulchellus adhuc nomen ei adhaesit, sed flos florem amiserat. Illa adhuc risit, sed iam non canebat. Ad eam Fortuna venerat, annuli fibulae, torques aureae testatae. Diebus dominicis gerebat pallium sericum et praecinctorium ad ecclesiam, et librum deauratum portabat, rem utilem etiam ab iis qui legere non possunt, cum eis satisfaciat ad excitandam invidiam proximi.

Visitatio mea ad pagum iam brevis et longe distans factus erat. Longe longe vixissemus, cum quadam die ei occurrisset, in una nostra alta via secat, ad pascuum ducentem vaccam. Senex, annosa, fracta, obsoleta mulier. Curabitur ut cessavimus. Mortuus est autem vir suus et reliquerat eam bonis, sed filii instarent ut omnia eis traderet. Dixeruntque “ad notarii” eius salarium se habituros.

“Debeo statuere animum ut faciam” finivit cum gemitu. “Credisne me heri verberare appropinquasse filium meum, eo quod nolui dicere necne?”

Decem amplius anni transierunt. Quodam die, cum per vicinum vicinum iret, mihi monstratum est gurgustium ruinae, et dicebatur “barbotte” ibi suos dies finire. Wheat Flower non fuit. Illa nunc erat “Barbotte” a nomine mariti sui Barbot.

Intravi. In media luce videre potui, sub reliquiis veteris pallii, caput quassans vetulae mulieris, facie siccante, retorrida membrana, oculis duobus flavis transfixis, in quibus obscurissima oculorum vestigia obdormierunt. Vicinus mihi narravit omnia de eo. Liberi non perstiterunt, quod nemo miratur. Res erat usitata. Aliquando, attulerunt ei frustum panis, interdum pulmentum, aut frusta ciborum die dominico, post missam. Anus infirma erat, et aegre se habebat. Putabatur autem servus semel in die venire et videre eam. Saepe oblitus est.

“Cur non querar?”, dixi inconsiderate.

“Dixit quodam die notarium mittere. Verberavit pro eo. Et quis vellet accipere nuntium suum? Nemo studet inimicis facere. Iam liberi eius nulli satis placebant ut quisquam intraret tuguriolum. Nolunt homines rebus suis miscere.”

Per hunc sermonem lacrimae lucebant in oculis nictantes flavo. “The Barbotte” me agnovit.

“Noli me turbari” dixit tenui voce timorem verberum prodidisse. “Nihil egeo. Pueri mei valde benigni sunt. Veniunt quotidie. Forsitan sis sicut ceteri, domine, putes me tempus grave in manibus meis invenire. Scisne quid agam, cum ego hic solus sum? Cano. In corde meo omnia carmina antiquitatis oblitus sum eorum et nunc revertuntur ad me tota die illa cantabo sine ullo sonitu et intus cano in medio eorum cum ego omnia complevi, iterum incipio. Est sicut grana mea narrans. Ridiculum est, annon?”

Et ridere conata.

“Monsieur le curé me obiurgat”, iterum sumpsit. “Vellet me dicere vota mea. Sed preces non prius institui quam carmina redire. Non possum. Meministine, nonne tu, Filius Regis?’ O filius regis! et ‘Luscinia?’ et ‘Rose?’ Tibi unum cantare volo, clare, pro meo animo. Quis? ‘Flos triticum!’ Flos triticeus! Ah… ” Cantare videbatur, sed inde fluens exclamavit: “Vexillum messoris venit. Frumentum sublatum est. Nihil restat nisi palea… et hoc male laeditur. Nimium trituratum est… Carissime domine, qui omnia nosti, potesne mihi dicere quare venimus in hunc mundum?

“Aliud dicam tibi, mi amice, cum iterum venero.”

Sed numquam recesserunt.


Featured: A Seated Peasant Woman, by Camille Pissarro; painted in 1885.

Mirum-Vultus Homo

If you would like to learn to speak and read Latin using the acclaimed Ecce Romani series, consider enrolling in Apocatastasis Institute, where Latin is anything but dead!

Parvus vicus inter montes villae iacebat, ex qua quadriennio ad pugnam egressi sunt. Primo ierant optimi viri, deinde senes, deinde iuvenes, postremo pueri ludi. Videbitur neminem in villa remanere nisi pervetustis ac imbecillis corporis, qui mox exstinctus est, propter rei publicae belli rationem, ut pereat inutilis quo plus escae esset utilior.

Contigit autem omnibus hominibus praeterquam quod remanserant in tarta fame, pauci redierunt, pauci vero debiles et variis modis deformati. Iuvenis unus tantum partem faciei habebat, et pictam larvam stanneam induerat, sicut festus fabricator. Alius duo crura habebat sine bracchia, alius duo bracchia sed non crura. Vix unus a matre aspici poterat, exstinctis oculis de capite, donec instare morti aspiceret. Non bracchia, non crura, furens insuper aerumna, totumque diem in cunis velut infans iacebat. Erat autem ille senex admodum, qui nocte ac die strangulatus a veneni vapore; et alius juvenculus, qui, sicut folium in alto vento, a concharum concussione concussit, et ad sonum clamavit. Et ipse quoque manum et partem faciei amiserat, etsi non satis larvam ei sumptum ad warantizandum.

Hos omnes, praeterquam qui sui horrore extorres erant, ingeniosis adjumentis instructos, ut partim se sustentarent, et de tributis, quae victae genti onerabant, satis mereretur.

Ire per illum pagum post bellum erat quasi perambulans viculum vitae mediocris cum omnibus figuris mechanicis glomeratis et strepitantibus. Tantum pro figuris novis, hilaresque et bella, quassata et deridicula et inhumana.

Forent molendinum, et ferrariam, et domum publicam. Ordo casularum, villa, ecclesia, cataractae scintillantes, campi multicolores diffunduntur instar collium panniculorum, volucrum pompae, caprae et vaccae, etsi non multae postremae. Fuerunt mulieres, et cum eis aliqui pueri; perpaucae tamen, quia rationabiles feminae erant, et iam nollent habere filios, qui eis inermes ac furiosi aliquando remitti possent, in cunis gestari, fortasse multos annos.

Adhuc juniores, molliores impulsu, pepererunt aut duas. Horum unus, secundo belli anno natus, tribus admodum flavis et globulus scelestus fuit, truculento aere et piratico ingenio. Sed eae notae pueris satis teneris annis ineunt, et fuit quasi ludicra vicus, hic, illic, et ubique, in familiarissimis belli naufragiis, quod reipublicae gubernatio fecerat.

Ille in stagno quaesivit larvam et crus pistoris mechanicum ludebat, ita indulgens illi libidini suae; et saxum superflue oblectabat cunabula hominis, qui sine membris erat, et patrem.

In ac foras cucurrit, et flexis adsuevit. Alii amisisset filium, alii filium habere posset, si mundus aliter discessisset. Aliis brevis umbra futuri sine spe evasit; aliis tamen diversitas horae. Hoc maxime verum erat de caeco, qui ad fores suae veteris matris casae scopae ligaturae sedit. Praesentia pueri visa est ei sicut calidum solis radium per manum incidens, et eum ad morandum alliceret permittens tentare magnas caeruleas goggles quas in publico optime gestare invenit. Nulla tamen deformitas vel deformitas homunculi hominem terrere visus est. Haec ab infantia prima ludibria.

Quodam mane, mater, lotis vestibus occupata, eum solum reliquerat, confidens se mox aliquod fragmentum militis amicissimum quaesiturum, et usque ad meridiem et inedia se oblectaturum. Aliquando autem pueri habent notiones impares, et contrarium eorum quae quis supponit.

Hac aestate praeclaro mane puer solitariam vagari in ripa montis fluvii existimabat. Vage lacunam altius sursum petere voluit, et in eo lapides ejicere. Nunc in parvas valles, vel anates vias persequentes, lente errabat. Ante decem, quam virides nitentes spumeusque lacusque desuper adeptus erat, canae saxi delapsus in umbram, ter cui pinus in novo vertice plana flectitur aura. Sub illis, aspiciens puerum quasi nubem albam in viridi coelo, stabat juvenis pulcher, qui divei in meram ripam libratus. Vno momento ibi constitit umbra et sole obsita, proxime ita perite ediderat ut vix aquam circum se spargeret. Tum atro rorante caput constitit, micatque bracchia fixo navit ad litora. Alius divei scopulum conscendit. Has actiones in puro lusu et vitae laetitia repetivit toties ut spectatoris eius vertiginis excubiae fierent.

Tandem ille satis procubuit abiectis vestibus. Hos in occultiore loco gerebat, celeriter indutus, puer luscus et mirabundus, quippe qui multa in animo haberet.

Duo bracchia, duo crura habebat, totum vulto oculis, naso, os, mento, auribus, plenum. Videbat enim eum vestitum perstrinxisse. Loqui poterat, magna canebat. Audire poterat, nam cito ad stridorem columbarum alarum post se deflexerat. Pellis eius toto orbe teres erat, nusquam in eo atro coccineo tabulae, quas in brachiis, facie, et pectore exustis puer reperit. Non omne strangulavit pusillum, aut insano tremit, et ad sonum clamat. Vere inexplicabile, ideoque terribile.

Incipiente puero ad nutantem, tremefacit, matrem suam circumspectat, adulescens eum animadvertit.

“Bene!” avide clamabat, “si puer non est!”

Accessit per pontem peditem gratissimo risu, hoc enim primum illo die, quem puerum viderat, et mirum putabat, tam paucos natos esse in valle, ubi, cum haberet. Ante quinquennium ita fuerat, ut vix tot denarios invenire potuissent. Itaque “Salve,” inquit, “laete, et in loculos scrutatus est.”

At stupefactus puer flavos puerulus perterritus exclamavit in arma propere ad puellam confugit. Illa eum evidenti subsidio amplexa est, atque in eum modum objurgationis et deliciarum largiebatur, cum viator accessit, quasi laesus affectus.

“Mana mehercules,” inquit, “me modo filiolo tuo hos denarios dare voluisse.” Inspiciebat se admirationis. “Quid in terris est de me ut puerum terreat?” queritur quesiuit.

Utroque indulgens risit rustica virgo, ingemuitque puer, vultumque in oram abdidit, et in puero perplexum et formosum adulescentem.

“Est quia invenit Herr hospes tam inusitatus,” inquit, flectens. “Parvus est,” inquit, exiguitatem gestus ostendit, “et est primum totum hominem videri.”


Featured: Untitled, by Gustav Wunderwald; painted ca. 1940s.

Iter et adventures baronis Trump et canis mirandus Bulger—V

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Redeundo a primo meo itinere ad terras longinquas, senior baro et fidelis sponsus, dilecta mater mea, subsecuta omnes hospites hospicii, occurrerunt me Bulgerum et me ad portam exteriorem, et cum illa indomita et indomita laetitia domum nos excepit. Quae sola Germanorum corda capaces sunt.

Senior baro bracchia circa collum meum jactavit, et oblitus rei me mediae magnitudinis, me penitus de terra levavit in irrationabili gaudio cordis patris, me pene suffocans.

Calcavi fortiter, sed, mollia pedum orientalium meorum calceamentorum sensi percepi, quominus intelligam eum ieiunum me suffocantem ad mortem.

Animadvertit tandem pia mater, quod me in facie nigrescere, et crurum prehendere, me deorsum traxit ab amplexu periculoso, quo me senior baro obvolvit. Non tamen, donec ovum patris mei Nuremberg in frontem protuberantem graviler perforasset, aliam gibba in agro iam aspero addens. Quo animadverso senior baro famulum suum ad diaetam suam emisit cum mandatis ut quaereret cistam medicam pro lagena volatilis lini. Quod illatum laesionem solvendi cupidus, acrem liquorem torrens in oculos fudit, meque intensum dolorem effecit. Hanc vero meam rubeam et inflammatam conditionem tenentibus ac clientibus affectui meo attribuit, post tam longam absentiam intrantibus in aulam baroniam iterum.

Huiusmodi casus minime paenituit, nam cum in promptu animi mei genere, quem aliqui semper tenent, opponor, nobili et gravi lacrimarum usu nihil obiicio.

Supervacuum est dicere quod omne corpus gaudebat videre Bulgerum. Multitudine, pulchritudine et intelligentia invenerunt omnes.

Hoc totum obsequium cum dignitate conspicuum excepit.

Ad turbam vero illius disciplinae ac temperantiae, quam sibi constantem ac fidum sui domini comparaverat, turbam moveret, tot aestus ac delicata offensa, quae illi offerebant, minime tangere recusavit. Ceteri canes in rabiem ruentes cibo quem noluerant permoleste neglexerunt.

Lorem ipsum dolor erat ipsum.

Paucis interiectis diebus omnia sub baroniali tecto ad solitam quietem consederant. Ad vesperas transivi narrationes multarum rerum, quas in foris videram.

Ad haec subsellia pauci ex senioribus et secretioribus domestici servi admissi sunt.

Ea bona mater collocavit in semicirculo post cathedras baronis majoris et hospitum suorum. Ego cum Bulgero iuxta latus meum occupavi gradum, vel ad latus mensae sedens curiositates meas tenentes, vel stantem ante auditores meos in loco facili, dum eas narrando tenebam alligari.

Unum erat quod me anxium erat, et hoc erat: Quomodo senior baro recipiet annunciationem intentionis meae ut iterum exiturus, ante plures lunas?

Ad magnam admirationem et delectationem meam ne exspectes quidem me ut mea consilia cognosceret.

Dum in bibliotheca mea sedet, quodam die perferens rarissimum librum peregrinationis quam nuper emeram, lenem ad ianuam sonum effecit Bulgerum, ut caput levaret et rugirem humilem redderet.

“Venient in!” dixi ego.

Is erat maior baronum.

“Te turbare!” orsus.

“Habes hoc, baro,” respondi, blando risu; “Sede, quaeso.”

Et hoc dicens, disposui pellem pulcherrimi et rarissimi animalis, quod in foris occideram, ut faceret sedem commodam seniori baroni in conopeo.

“Fili mi!” Dixit baro, “Venio ad te offerendum hoc parvum signum a domino nostro clementissimo imperatore.”

Levavi oculos meos.

In manu insignium Magnae Crucis Vermiculi Cincture gerebat.

Vitrum in mensa posui.

“Parvus baro,” inquit, pater, “Conplacui tibi.”

Humilem adorationem feci.

“Ora omnia mirabilia tua casus implent. Novum decus familiae posuisti nomen tuum, et venio ad excitandam te de apparentia tua desidia. Faciendum sit et excute hanc socordiam, quae tibi singulis horis transeuntibus auctam obtinebit potestatem. Te novi expectant triumphi. Egredere iterum. De viis declinate. Mira et mirabilia quaere. Sed antequam exponis, pergameni huius voluminis contenta expende. Multos ante annos, cum primum ad genam meam descenderat humanitas, et antequam vitae onera gravarentur animae meae, reperi in humidis et atroces antra vetusti Romani Coenobii, quam pestilens aeris incusat. Palus exinanita inquilinis. Vestigia tua ad res novas et iucundus convertat!”

Gaudium patris mei verbis ac diligentiam cognoscendi contenta rotuli pergameni aegre celans, salutationem reddidi senioris baronis cum honore notabili, et discessit.

Lectorem pene anhelantem, qua volumini evolvimus, certiora non indigeo.

Lingua Latina erat, et scribae opus erat.

Atramentum aliquantum evanuerat, sed etiam in locis ubi penitus evanuerat, ope lentis validae facile verba lineas in membrana exaratas a puncto calami indagare potui.

Exemplar diurnae Romanae vetustae seu Acta Diurna fuit ac diem ferebant respondentem nostro anno quadragesimo quinto ante tempus praesens.

Florebat Caesar in potestate sua.

Pax regnavit, artes floruerunt. Romae, medium orbis terrarum, domicilium magnificentiae ac magnificentiae fuit, quam quod procul oculis hominum aspexerant.

Quae in hoc exemplari Acta Diurnae peractae sunt magnae rei gestae diurnae magni iudicii quae Romae peractae sunt, in qua septem statuarii notati damnati sunt veneficii formosae ancillae nomine Paula, cum singulas simulacrum perfecisset. Ea, ne qua alii statuarii unquam ad hoc uti possint.

Judices in eos sententiam mortis pronuntiaverunt: sed pro tantis meritis Caesar ad decorandam civitatem, supplicium de morte in longum exilium mutaverat.

Septem statuarii in triremis imperialis ad longinquam insulam in mari Australi devecti erant. Ut in hoc exemplari Acta Diurna erat ultima pars agri Romani imperii ad meridiem vergens.

Ad insulam remotissimam imperii Romani medianorum.

Accedit imperatoria clementia coniuges liberosque damnatorum statuariorum concessum, ut maritos patresque suos in atrocem exilium sequerentur.

Cum omnia perlegerem minutissima huius tanti sceleris et tam horrendi eventus, inveni sanguinem meum per venas furiali impetu currere. Ibam pavimentum tam rapido et nervoso gradu et trepidatione tam conspicuum in vultu meo, ut e reveretione mea excitatus sum anxia stridatione Bulgeri, qui me sequebatur circa cubiculi mei calcem.

Cur non quaeramus hanc insulam longinquam, ad quam hi septem statuarii ac familiae iussu Caesaris magni transportati sunt?

Forsitan in illa longinqua insula habitat genus hominum, qui, oblitus orbis, oblivio, insuetis moribus ac peculiaribus institutis ita interest, ut me ad omnia pericula transeundo ignara maria curram. Et declinans ab Oceano semitas.

Forsitan et posteri eorum adhuc supersint?

Haec idea totum meum nunc occupavit esse.

Somnus esse non potest.

Absit in noctem, prisca perspicio chartis.

Dum alta silentia tectis involvunt baronia, elaboravi animo, vel potius elaboraret animus, quem persequar cursum.

Nam mea semper consuetudo fuit, ut numquam insolubilem solvere tentarem. Re quidem vera primum compertum feci impedimentum aliquod a me impedire cum arcanis mentis operibus tendere potius suam actionem impedire.

Ita lucem placide expectavi.

Pervenit tandem.

Oculos claudens, oculis meis internis videre poteram mappam orbis orientis exaratam in candenti, lineas meridianas in atramento.

Atque ibi etiam viderem cursum meum discoloribus lineis igneis designatum.

Voce magna, tinnitu gaudii ad pedes meos prosilui et exclamavi: “Miram insulam hanc inveniam! Portas austri recludam maria! Inspiciam interfectores Paulae posteros!

“Veni, Bulger! Discedite! Discedite!”

Praecipitans iussa parentibus, ipse me in ephippia fixi, et, ense croupe tutoque Bulger, in Mediterranei litora furens proripuit.

“Filius baronis rursus insanus est!” exclamaverunt rustici, praetervolantes villas suas.

Tribus diebus steti super navi vasis mei.

In mandatis meis obtemperans, manu magistri gubernacula restitit.

Tota illa die stantem oculis in littus defixit, aliquid enim ei dixit me procul abesse non posse.

Omnia in promptu erant usque ad ultimum buccellatum.

Bulger et ego transivi per rail, bona mea navis rotunda ad ventum, et emicuit quasi res vitae.

Sanguis in venis tinctus caeruleis adspectus undis, Candida vela dedit.

Bulger in rabiosis ludis et auriculae latrat Saevit satis.

Fuit certe auspicatum.

Relicto navi ad maritum imperium, dux me in casulam adjunxit, ubi ei consilium meum explicavi navigandi in maria australi ad insulam diu oblitam quaerendam.

Festinavit chartulam suam evolvere et spectacula aptare, ut insulae locum cum latitudine et longitudine darem.

Fac trepidi paene, cum ei indicavi solum argumentum me esse talem insulam brevitatem in ephemeride Romana antiquitatis fuisse mentionem.

Num me insanire?

Nihilne magis vitae curavi quam abicere in tam stulte suscepto?

An nesciebam rabiem immanis Typhonis, fraudem abditi scopuli, pondus aquosi montes, quae nobis strata ruerent?

Poteratne sperare nautas ire ubi non erat recordatio periculosissimi nautae praeteritorum saeculorum umquam aquam arasse?


“Magister,” inquam, post silentium temporis, “navis haec mea est, et iurasti mihi ut vero navita servire, sed si virtus tua te defecerit, in primo portu quem facimus exiens eris. Vade!”

“Immo parvus baro,” exclamavit nauclerus, “Iam sententiam tuam tentabam. Si audes in ignota navigare freta, audeo te sequi, veni, serenas lucidas undas placidasque ferat tibi nimbos et fulmina venti!

Senis manum excussi et eum ornare iussit, nam ad vigilias meos, primum in tribus septimanis, ad ultimum somnum venerat, et solus esse volebam.

Paucis diebus transivimus fretum Gaditanum, et ad meridiem venimus, in conspectu Africae tunicam habentes.

Praeteriebam me in Latino sermone perficiendo, ac saepe vehementissimas protestationes a Bulgero appellando in ea lingua evocavi, et utens in auditorio quodam, ante quod orationes meas promulgavi et expolivi eos.

Sola clausula nunc nobis erant aquae vel commeatus.

Luce et luce stellata mea praecordia navis cursum suo claudit, quasi quidam amicae nereides ad puppim impellentes. Longis vigiliis noctis in cubili recumbam et fingebam mihi illam Romanam triremem, septem illos exules cum dilecta terra sempiterno a carissimo parente suscepisse.

Priusquam alia luna sub vesperam lunam inflexisset, ad promunturium venissemus, atque in ancoras venissemus, quo navim nostram diligentissime traheremus, priusquam in meridiem iret.

Hoc complures dies occupaverunt.

Urebam moras.

Ter in die dominum navis meae ad casulam vocavi eumque hortatus sum ut properaret. Patientissime mecum tulit, cor saltum dedit, cum tandem dominum iubere vela vela dare.

Nautae canebant et schedulae in summa nixae in navi nixae erant.

“Quomodo illam capiam, parve baro?” dominum rogat, manus ad pileum elevata.

“Mortuus ad meridiem!” respondi.

Constitit, traiecit.

Promontorium nos circumituros putaverat, et solitum cursum ad Indos sequendum.

Movet labra quasi ad recusabo.

Praecidi tamen unda manu.

Complures nautae, pallorem conspicati, qui vultum principis invaserat, appropinquaverunt et aspicientes nos, semianimis admirantes, percontando steterunt.

“Dux!” dixi placide, sed satis clarae satis audiri a circumstantibus in coetu prope, “pistolae meae factae sunt ab armigero Imperatoris. Ignis numquam deesset. Inveniam te unum punctum orientis et occidentis meridionalis orientis vel occidentis cursum mutans te in vestigiis tuis te necabo!”

Hoc dicens, abiit.

Et ex hoc tempore omnia opera bona sunt.

Dominus navis me iudicatum est iter habere, etsi vitam perdideram, et ille cessit.

Conversus ad catervam nautarum clamavi, “Mille ducatos homini qui terram primus vidit.”

Magnanimus clamor aerem discidit, et vocato Bulgerum ad me sequendum, infra ad cogitandum ivi.

Illa nocte non solum cautum in lanternum suspendi, ut in cubili meo cubarem, et aliquando evigilarem gyrum navis viderem, sed timens ne aliqua fraude tentaretur, mandavi fidelem meum Bulgerum dormire cum. Dorsum eius contra ostium, ut minima vibratio eum excitaret.

Noctes quoque diligentissime haec cautela secuta est. Interdiu quoque sclopi mei semper in balteo fuerunt.

Bulgarum periculum in me essem sensit, et ille vigilanter commodum oculorum in occipitio mihi dedit.

Admonuit me humilis fremitus accessus domini vel unus e turba.

Sic munitus et custoditus sum nihil timeri praeter communem seditionem. Idque vix fieri posse sciebam, plures enim turbae mihi erant studiosiores ad quamlibet perfidiae propositiones. Percussissent dominum gelido sanguine, ausum Spirare seditionem!

Res bene per decem dies processit cum atrox proelium in mente ducis geritur vidi.

Vereri coepi ne ratione careat ac se in mare praecipitet.

Vultus eius colorem subpallidum suscepit.

Ad litteram ille erat pavore moriens.

Mane unus ante me provolutus genibus, lacrymis genas orabat ut iterum Africae reducerem.

Omnia potui ei sedare, sed frustra.

Tarde sed certe cedente ratio erat.

Vocans ad me coniugem, praeposui eum vasi, et ordinavi eum ad capitaneum in casula sua, et custodiam super eum collocavi.

Hoc me animo facere cogor, orabat enim miser ut cane navi praeesset relinqui.

Sed precibus ejus surdus fui.

iam omnem molestiam sensi esse confectam.

Horam quindecim nodis flabat ventus.

Omne pannum navium refertum erat.

Satis ex aqua quasi res vitae exsiluimus, medium volantes natantes.

Semper in sæculum inspexi circini.

Illa mortua est versus meridiem.

Tinxerunt genae meae et potui sentire sanguinem calidum per omnem venam in corpore meo.

Ascendens luna sicut scutum auro purum. Mare resplenduit sicut ignis liquidus. Turn porpoise insiluit ac mille orbibus orbes immisit volvens iterumque in aequora torsit.

Bona nostra navis vitreum sinum maris scindit, tanquam monstrum quoddam atri magni maris, et vestigia ignis in evigilando, quantum oculus attingere potuit, reliquit.

Media nocte ad quietem veni.

Sed nec quies, nec somnus dabatur.

Dimidium ephebum, me in hamum conjeci, et solitum Bulgerum ad fores assumpsit.

Lucerna plenae lunae lucem superare non valuit. Oculos tauri per infandum, radios phantasticos perfluebat, et casulam meam crebris et occultis formis frequentabat.

Septem erant!

Facies et figurae deiformes, tam albae, tam pulchrae erant.

Tristitia inenarrabilis erat in tenebris oculis plena.

Verbum non loquebantur.

Subito tabulatum cubiculi laqueatum divisum, et scalarum obscuritate involuta, lucem incertam patefecit.

Ad hos gradus veniebat clementissimus, tam candidus, tam formosus, et amabilis, ut vidi anhelitu.

Descendere, demittere, propius ac propius accedere.

Sed alas degebat ut angelus esset!

Sed, heu! Pulchro vultu maerore impleta!

Diffisi labra, diu nigros cinxere capillos confusos humeris.

In Cameram ingressa est. Tum celer e vultu, septem curvata figuras decidit.

“Paula!” clamaverunt, et attraxerunt super capita sua stolas albas.

“Ho terra! Terra ho!”

Quid est! Credere potui aures meas?

“Ho terra! Terra ho!”

Vincto e cubili meo exsilui, et in navim provolavi.

Immo vero! Ibi, quingentos passus ante nos, aspectus erat qui me velut ictum ephebi sopitum.

Tellus erat, sed non ea terra, quam me in somnis somnia speraveram.

Decem milia luminum arcana eluxit in litore, Romana ante templum lacte candidiora illustravit. Gradus marmoreus eiusdem coloris ad ipsum ripam aquae deductus.

Sacrificium edebatur.

Ex summo atrox fumi nigri columna lente sursum crispans.

Nullus ad aurem sonitus pervenit.

Prope sensibus orbatus steti.

Tandem oratio mea rediit. Ancoram proici iussi, et bone navis inhaerens scaenis, longam et laetam in vestibulo spectabat.

Terra enascebatur naturali solaria e litore, quacumque in partem aspexisti, prospexit in speciem decoris simulacrum aut coetum statuarum candidam lunam inter opaca, inter opaca folia, velut in albo vestitis figuris errans lignum.

“Debet esse!” Murmuravi ad me.

“Inveni eam! Hoc templum Romanum, hoc scala marmorea, haec statuaria circulis, omnia monstrant ad felicitatis meae navigationis inventionem. Haec est insula sculptorum!”

Quam diu ibi steterim hanc pulchram spectans litus nescio. Quidam manica mea leniter trahens me e reverie movit.

Bulger fuit.

Ego inclinavi et permulsi caput ejus paulisper.

Subito evigilavi ad sensum magnae taedii, et alium aspectum in arcanum illud litus proiciens, conversus sum et descendi ad Cameram.

Mox in soporem decidit.

Ex quo promunturium meum nervorum terribilem intendit, ex media seditione remigum, insania magistri navis, et vigilias longas, per quas iacuerat et audieram clamorem terrae, tandem mihi narraverat.

Sol aliquot horis altus erat, cum e cubili meo elapsus sum, et in navim provolavi.

Poteratne hoc omnes somnium fuisse? Egone templum nobile, scalas marmoreas, omnesque statuas eminentes in tenues auras defluxisse?

Ah non!

Adhuc ibi erat illud pulcherrimum littus, evolvitur ante oculos meos admiratio velut quaedam pulchra imago, plena lucis et gratiae ac delectamenti fuco.

“Homo est Lorem!” Clamavi celerius quam id narrare, deducebam ad litus Sculptorum Insulae.

Fidelis Bulger iuxta me sedit, ocellos lucidos et expressos in faciem meam intuens.

Ad pedem scalae marmoreae appulsus, leviter e launch, quam secutus est Bulger, marmoreis gradibus concludam.

Tres erant egressi priusquam ad gradum templi pervenissem, e quibus singulis gratior et suavior prospectus est. Pulchrum sane ad ea, quae arte et natura sese satis superaverunt. Tandem gressus fugam ultimam purgavi, et pavido corde tessellato aulam trajecit, et ante templi ostium moratus est.

Favillae adhuc linum in altari, circa quod steterunt sacerdotes aliquot albo-rolatos capite demisso capite et aversa facie. Sollemni officium irrumpere nolui. Verti secutus sum viam latam, strata marmorea, obumbrata amoenissimis arboribus et lentae vitis.

Singulis gradus incidit in aliquam effigiem stupentis formae, nunc nymphae; nunc dea; nunc ipse luppiter; nunc magnus Caesar; nunc formosae Gratiae; nunc atrox Pluton; nunc ridet alma Ceres; iam lunata coronata Diana venandi studio; nunc Satyri chori ; nunc capripedes Pana bipes; nunc aliquis Romanus heros aut capessivit; et identidem forma virginalis, miro modo formosa, sed ineffabili moeroris vultu in facie formosa erat. Ita saepe eadem figura oculis meis obviavit, me demum ad eius basim accedere in spem explicationis inveniendae. Clamavi quasi in sculptile nomen oculi mei.

Paula fuit.

Sed omne dubium dissipabatur.

Ego quidem sculptores inveneram Isle.

Latus anfractus, dextra laevaque ducens, nunc mea decepi vestigia. Nulla terra mediocris pulchrior esse potuit.

Fructus aurei micabant in viridi foliis opacis.

Florent undique innumerabiles colores emittentes unguenta delicatissima. Vites trahentes graciles festos pendebant, aut statuarum bases circumplexi, albas flores ad candidiora ferentes manus tacitis et immotis huius regionis solitudinis incolis. Dico incolas, nondum enim animam viventem viderat oculus meus, nisi sacerdotes adiuncti altari.

Litora apposui insulae, super quas natura larga manibus silvas, placidas, lacus, purpureas rivos, pomis onustas, floriferas floccis et cristas in odorato iactans aere vites. Frondem ab arbore in arborem copiose variegatae, caelo superne fulgidam, solo velutino subtus virentem obsitum, solum relictam ab homine relictam reperire; quid pulchritudinis et tamen solitudinis, mera polita et fucata testa, ex qua vita omnis excessit in aeternum?

Talis erat cogitationum series quae in animo meo inambulavi per has anfractus stratas marmoreas inclusas frondoso tecto, per quod identidem sol inluminabat magisteria artis sculptoris, circa cujus bases ascendebant. Et florentibus vitibus usta pereuntis, pars inflexis bacis in gremiis, nitidior auro quam polita, alii lanugine uvae magis ostro quam Lydia murice tenentes.

Dum per hoc cantatis hortum meum sequebar iter, in quo lilii flexiles caules unguentatos cyathos in genas flectebant, et arbores ad pedes meos aurum et purpureum fructum decidebant, in altoque frutice rubicundi fruticis virgulta. Et pinus sericans, melancholia luscinia, lento et querulo modulo movit liquidum melos, concupivit cor meum ad sonum vocis humanae.

“Utinam aliquod animal,” inquam, “quamvis inflexum ac detortum figura, vel quam dissonum voce, mihi in hac pulcherrima solitudine occurreret.”

Animadverti nunc viam meam clivum clivum leniter ascendere. gressum incitavi, nam cupiebam in aliqua altitudine consistere, quo latius viderem longinquam regionem.

Ut summum collis assecutus sum, scena ineffabilis pulchritudinis oculis meis occurrit.

Quantum oculus attingere posset, evolvit sub me notae tantae venustatis, ut haererem ligatum. Finge vallem inclusam silvestribus altis, Per quam placide currit argenteus amnis; hic nemus ingens lato diffundit in artus, atque ibi glebae pomiferis aurea solis gazis ostentant onus; hinc florentia virgulta nitent ut ebur contra virides opacas, inde trahentes vites et intonsa silices, multas umbraculae fantasticae imaginis thalamum fabricavit manus hominis; huic adiiciunt ustulo statuum in omni cogitabili habitu gratiae et pulchritudinis positae — hic coetus, illic una figura, et infra bini et terni, stantes, accumbentes, sedentes, ad ludendum, in meditatione, audiendo, legendo, pulsando. Fidibus, in habitudines venationis, discive proiciens, vel attingens fructus vel flores vellere.

“Estne hoc somnium?” Murmuravi. “Nonne ego ludibrio mali spiritus alicuius loci?”

Ex hoc profundo reveritus latratu voce Bulger me concussa vi excitavit.

Vidi in directione soni.

Pauper, stulte canis, de una statuarum alebat, et se oblectabat expergefactus voce sua.

Subiratus eram, interpellavi, et vocavi ad cessandum latratu suo.

Prope sacrilegium visum est mihi tam profundam pulchrae vallis quietem turbare.

Iterum latratus erupit. Hoc tempore barbari saeviores sunt quam ante.

Statua quae iuvenis erat, ut fructum aut florem ferret, satis amens videbatur circumeundoque circumeundoque, et in medium quendam furorem, medium malum, in serie corticum, fremit ac fremit querimoniis. Rara quidem erat quod Bulger votis meis, quamvis languide, non attendebat, sed nunc ne minax quidem vox in eo aliquid momenti habere videbatur.

Insaniens alea continuat latratibus acuta. Illi gravissime ob inoboedientiam exprobrare constitui, et in eum irato perrexi.


Et vidi! Vidi!

Cinis progenitorum meorum. Quid est? Statua oculos bipatentes habebat. Statua genas vitae ruborem habebat.

Motus, motus usque ad latitudinem capillorum nullus erat! Et tamen hi oculi caerulei in Bulgarum inflexi media percunctanti, semisi admiratione conspicati sunt.

Lumina detrivi et vidi iterum.

Accepi gradum.

Repente me fluctus timoris obrepsit super me sicut fluxus glacialis aquae. Vivumne marmor, diuturnis inclusae passionibus ad vitam calefactum, manum erigat, et me mortuum feriat?

Ipse in unum colligo, sub umbra frondis tectae frondentis et intertextae vites frondentis catervam virginum ludentium inspexi.

Dico citius quam capit, prosilivi et in eorum vultum defixi aspectum.

Mors humanam formam in habitu suo immobiliorem tenere non potuit.

Oculi tamen eorum mira luce repleti sunt.

Color vitae rubeus in faciebus pulchris fulsit, lucidus et calidus!

Ubi eram?

Insolens timoris sensus, pars laetitiae, nunc in me rapitur.

Et adhuc loqui non ausus sum. Vox mea franget incantatores, quo omnes hi spirantes terrae filii pectus teneant vitam, et in nihilum defluant.

Iamque propinqui mei oculi, nigrius magis quam politi carbonis, pleni in me visi sunt. Viderem, cogitabam, ebonum illorum globorum splendorem quasi lachryma in eos irruisse.

Manus eius extenta.

Quid, si tetigero, videro, an calor vitae in se habeat, an re vera non sit res lapidea, et ludibrio mali alicujus insulae spiritus?

Hoc faciam, si quasi vermiculus misellus occidar, qui appropinquante flamma tepefactus obviam repit.

Digitorum apices tetigi!

O rem miram!

Non lapidea erant, sed mollissima, caro calidissima.

Ego retro haesivi, exspectans videre globi in aere evanescentem.

Sed non; non movit.

Stabat ut ante.

Iamque sensi sub me convalescere membra.

Statui loqui, veni malum, vel veni bonum!

Defixus in vultus pulchros iuvenesque oculosque detexit et sic verba locutus est:

“O res novas atque arcanas, ne aegre feram hanc in sacram quietem mortalium audaciam tantilli irruptionis! Loquere ad me! Si vis, liceat mihi de solo tuae pulchrae insulae pedes tollere. Sed antequam vado, loquere ad me, sciam, an non sitis creaturas alicujus spiritus hujus insulae, an vere vivitis spirantes.”

Nullus ab illis roseis labris sonus edita, quasi in ipso dicendi genere scinditur.

Non motus, nullus tremor, horum pulchra figuras Marmora rumpere.

Totum momentum intercidit.

Mihi aeterno visum est.

Ego ad terram valde suspenso defixi.

Minuta corpora gravia una post alia trahebant.

Sed gaudium ineffabile!

Labia movere incipiunt.

Subridens, primo imperceptibilis, lente, lente, in faciem serpit.

Purpura genarum profundiorem colorem sumit.

Oculi dulcissimi et amicissimi me intuentur.

Verbum “nos” leniter in aurem cadit.

Alia pausa!

Procumbo, molestissima suspenso, ut sequentem syllabam tenui capiam.

Pervenit tandem.


“Vivunt!” Clamavi magna et laeta voce, “vivunt! Non sum ludibrio ullius divinitatis. Hae figurae non sunt frigidi et sine sensu marmoris, sed sanguinis, spirandi, cogitandi, viventis!

Non possum tibi dicere altitudinem satisfactionis meae hanc inventionem a dilecto meo Bulgero factam esse. Vidit anxium trepidationis dominum suum, et festinat ad subveniendum; non frons, non minax vox satis erat avertere ab animo in obscuram lucem. Alta contritione vix potui adduci ut nomen eius dicam.

Quam indignus essem amore sensi.

Sed mihi ignovit generoso plusquam humano ingenio, veniamque dedit, blanditiis obtegens manus, et demissam corticum seriem exprimens.

Cum latere meo Bulger, nunc cum his carnibus et sangui- nibus comitibus incolarum marmorum insulae permistus sum, ab uno coetu ad alium transiens in admirationem stupens. Enimvero bona fide viverent, sed non magis quam flores, frutices, arbores, vites, quae conficiunt amoenissima, quorum erant pulcherrima ac pulcherrima ornamenta.

Celerius quam illi de loco ad locum moventur vites, citius germinant flores, quam virgines labra. Ut cerea figurae pulchrae, tardo demerso cuiusdam fontis occulto motae, statuae vivae permeant horas, imo dies, ad pedes exsurgentes, vel in velutino herbae subsidentes.

Ego per aliquot horas steti spectans candidam manum virginis emissam, motu insensibili, rubentem persici, qui juxta eam pendebat, vellere. Plena hora ibat antequam illi digiti delicati circa persici iuncti erant, alius antequam ad labra delatus esset. Ibi tota die pressa tenuit, sed cum sole occubuit nemorosis collibus, decidit a laxis manibus pedibusque revolvit. Tarde demittebam, neque enim diu inveniebam quod vivos motus meos has statuas animatas dolerem ac sustuli. Sentire potui, aliquod pulpamentum e fructu laetissimo extractum, sed cutis vix fracta, ita leniter super illo pascebatur.

Hoc momento, arridens vultu cuiusdam virginis conversus sum ut invenirem in quem vultum suum inflexit.

Pulcherrima iuventus, quae forte quinquaginta pedibus aberat, oculis in virgineis fixa.

Certe, sicut alias terras, motus eorum excitabo affectum meum; aliquantum iam properabunt ad invicem.

Sed nulla, longa crepuscula paulatim cedit ad umbras profundiores; nox venit; lunam in caelo rutilantem deposuit orbes, nec tamen adfuit ut iuventa teneret virginis illa manus.

A primo crepusculi adventu, risum lente ingerebant aliorum iuvenum et virginum ora, quorum oculi in amantes versabantur.

Nunc mitis “ha!” incidit in aurem meam, et, elapso semihorae spatio, alius ac clarior “ha!” secutum esse, post longiorem moram, sequitur etiam aliud “ha.” Hoc ultimum “ha!” producta est in notam claram et tinnitum quae tacuit tacuit. Tunc decrevit languidior et languidior, et exanimata est sicut resonatio absumpta. Laetitia peracta est.

Cum inter has vivas statuas iter plicabam, unum mane veni in coetum puerorum ludentium.

Primo non potui videre quod adventum meum omnino animadverterent, sed post elapsam quadrantis horae spatium sensi oculos pulchre lucidos suos sensim converti ad me, et decrevi prope secumbere et observare. Placet mihi, quod deliciarum tenui filo florentis vitis circumplexa est, et circa corpus parvae flavae ancillae circiter septem, collo cinctum multis coloratis foliis et coralliis, et se in modum coronae plexum. Purpureoque auro mollibus anulis, omissis floribus et claviculis, leniter circa caput et umeros descendit.

Videns stuporem meum, et verba mea delectationis audiens, mulier mitis facies ad me lente sedet, manus sensim levavit et digitos extendit ad me ut intelligerem quod isti cherubi decem dies in terra ibi ludentes fuissent.

Hanc, putavi, pulchram vitem, ioco iunctam. Quantum illi vivit, re vera unus e sociis suis se vulnerat et circa puerum amanter proxime sedet.

Iterum vidi. Ecce! Arbor onusta dulcibus nucleis in auram vibrabat et quatiebat in gremiis puerorum ludentium, cum illinc, alta et decora planta ferens cyathiformes flores apricis albedinis, quorum singula notavi impleta. Aqua limpida, cuius guttae tamquam gemmis nitidis in sole micantes, contra genam pueri ridentis leniter reiciebant, ac si diceret:

“Bibe, fratercule carissime!”

“Mirum dictu!” “Haec beata animalia, hae arbores et flores, haec poma et vites omnes eiusdem familiae liberi sunt. Nullae unquam tempestates istas caelos sereno obscurant. Ver aeternum hic regnat. Per lucem, stellam et lunam, vita eorum leniter fluunt sicut quidam latis, argenteus amnis, cuius motus tardior est oculis hominum ad notandum. Myste populus! Quomodo investigabo mirabile arcanum tuae vitae? Quomodo legam historiam populi, cuius soli libri obmutescunt rivi et nemori taciti, quorum linguas ita amiserunt vires interpretandi ut menses praeterirent et mysterium tamen insolutum remaneat!

Post paucos dies commoratus apud “Motores tardos”, ut ita dixerim, invenio quae me valde terrebat.

Hoc arcanum silentium, hoc novum fatum, quod me inter animalia objecerat, cum quibus sermocinari non potuit, hoc funditus non posse discernere vivos statuas a marmoribus, incipiebat depraedari animo meo.

Animadvertit bulger melancholiam meam ingravescentem, et ad oblectandum et consolandum me elaboravit.

Sed male respondi mille et uno versutis dolis et ridiculis antiphonis.

Equidem sensi animum meum sensim cedere ad aliquam vim horroris , quae pervasit ipsum aerem, quae etiam per singulas horas, ita convalescit, ut necesse sit, ut necesse sit, evelli a potestate superhumana. De me iam acquisierat, vel fierem vivam simulacrum et fratrem ad formas carnium et marmorum, quae incolebant hanc admirationem.

Non taedet lectores minutim consilium quod ad extremum periculum imminens concepi, quo me iam subrepens sentiamus morte ereptum essem.

Desperatio mea decrevi vetustissima tardis motoribus applicare meque ad ejus misericordiam, ut ita dicam, dicere, quod cupiens me ab imminente fato gravi effugere, ad meos parentes, ad dilectos parentes, redire. Maerens ad sepulchra descenderet, si, unicus infans, fastus et spes, non numquam reditura senectae.

Sed plusquam hoc statui, si fieri potest, historiam insule ejusque arcanam discere, eoque fine rogari decrevi, ut indicaret mihi ubi invenirem aliquam memoriam rerum gestarum, aliquem librum aut membranam; ne vitam gravem animi cruciatibus adirem cogitationem me non posse solvere hoc mysterium, quod si dies meos non minueret, certissime exacerbaret.

Quemadmodum iam exposui, cum tardis motoribus colloqui conanti mihi occurrit duplex difficultas. Primum, etsi impatienter rumpar, tamen tranquillissimam et placidam exteriorem servabo, deinde, cum post longam ac fatigationem morae venerit, ut respondeam quod respondeam. Non excedunt cochleae gressum tardi motorum sermonis, alioquin lucidi oculi obnubilant, et celeritate sermonis mei perculsi videbantur. Palpebrae eorum lente descenderunt, et visi sunt in soporem cadere, ex quo horae ad excitandum eas factae sunt.

Prima Aurorae series quaesivi longaeva motorem, Quem saepe in templo frondoso notaverat aede, Marmoreo residens tacito defixa cacumine, quae perfudit radicibus arborum, cujus pandi ramos. Adiuvisti tecti habitationis suae.

Tota dies illa et nox siderea que secuta est, sedebam ante pedes.

Finge tibi meam desperationem in eo studiorum, quod non verbum aut linea, non folium aut membrana exstiterint, quae formidolosam sollicitudinem finiret. Horrendum dico, quia fortius et validius per horas impetus crevit vitae inutilis, insensibili actui finiendae vitae, et ad multitudinem statuarum viventium adiungo, in quorum cor non inanis desideria obscurant vitam placidam somnii sui.

Mane secundi diei cogitatio in mentem inrupit. Hoc erat.

Habitet fortasse alicubi in hac insula, animal aliquod, qui, dissimiles fratribus, celeritatem sermonis vim habeat, cuius lingua aliqua ratione soluta remaneat.

Sic cogitabam: In omni terra erant contraria, bona et mala, pulchra et deformis, decora et inconcinna, velox et tarda. Certe in hac insula talia contraria sunt vivendum. Verum, exceptio fortasse; sed mirum si non esset.

Tota die exegi in tradendo sene tardo movens me cogitationum series.

Alta erat crepuscula, antequam interrogarem, an non esset aliquod animal in hac insula habitans, cujus loquelae magis similis esset mihi, et cui possem in me semper ingravescentem transmutationis horrorem. In tardum motorem, confugium a me, ad satisfactionem inexsuperabilis desiderii mei ipsius animae incumbentis.

Sed vespertinae umbrae non adeo altae erant ut obscuriorem umbram notare non possem, quae senis tardi motoris faciem colligere coepi cum interrogationem perfeceram.

Attonitus sum.

Tantae erant cordis pulsus cordis mei, ut streperet, licet obvolutus, super gemitum zephyri, murmur foliorum, querellarum strepitus luscinii.

Cum haec umbra ingravescentibus, magis magisque altioribus, in visu senis, sensi me aliquod vetustum vulnus tetigisse, quod, etsi diu oblitus, nunc denuo iecisti.

Labra dirupta, caput lente, tarde mersa, gemitus tam plenus significationis prodiit, ut quasi susurro diuturni doloris absconditi, ut timerem ad pessimum.

Membra rigebant.

Sanguinem sentire potui venas minuere gressum, et quasi incertus viae palpitare pergam.

Apices digitorum meorum pressi genas. Frigidum erant ut marmor politum.

Conatus sum dicere. Venire verba noluerunt.

Denique feci vehementi opera.

“Bulger!” in aurem.

Miser canis, ad pedes meos dormivit.

Certavi uno momento temporis effugere incantamentum, ut demitterem fideli amico vale blandiri.


Tardus motor locutus est.


Servatus sum!

Dicere debebat ille mihi.

Aetio fracta.

Cor cæpit iterum; perque meas venas ruit ille cruor.

Angustus effugium erat.

Iam digiti mei tepuerant.

Alio momento et turbam motorum tardarum adiunxeram et frater factus incolarum marmoreorum in insula sculptorum.

Tota nocte illa senex Tardus movens mecum loquebatur. Cum sol occumberet, novi omnia. Arcanum quod tam placidum vultum obscuraverat agnovi. Sciebam speluncam in qua habitabat eremita sculptorum insulae, ejectus, vinctus, clausus inter angustias cavernae maris, sine culpa ejus, sine peccato, sine injuria.

Natura sic voluit.

Cur, tardus motor nesciebat senex.

Erat nomen Antonius heremita.

Mane facto, quaesivi eum.

Inueni eum in porta spelunce sedentem intuentem gloriam orientis caeli.

Hoc fuit arcanum exilii sui.

Hunc quidam crudele fatum in iuventute horribilem morbum adiit, non dissimile illud quod tripudium sancti Viti notum est. Ubi febris incessit, non solum membrorum omnium potestate perdidit, ut pedes quo ire vellet, atque id quoque summa celeritate adficeret, sed arma etiam quam celerrime ac vehementes exercuisset. gestus, nunc apparente ira, nunc precibus, nunc admirantibus. Facile intelliges, cur infaustus Antonius e mediis tardis moventibus exul venerit.

Quorum frater, licet penitus amabilis, fulminis velocitate, motu violento, motu prope adsiduis animi, non modo tarda moventium offensa, attonitus est; abhorrent eos; tardumque cruorem vitae cohibebat venae, cunctaque lento sed certa morte minabatur.

Ire debet!


Antonius in speluncam maris relegatus est, ubi nunquam sonus venit, nisi Oceani fremitus a daemonibus agitatus, aut tristis ejus murmur ac sine intermissione perfringit ac torsit momenta somni et quies.

Sed foedissima omnium infelicis Antoni aegritudo formidolosissima fuit orationis eius celeritas taeterrima atque indomita.

Ut furiales equi, lingua et labia ruentia!

Oculis auribusque tardis, tam vis expressa facies, tam insana celeritas sermonis, ipsa mors!

Non unus mensis brevis in illo solido pectore statuam reperiret vivam, nisi abisset Antonius!

Gratum fuit Antonio illi dirae sententiae, quae eum in antro marique perpetuo collocavit!

Videbat sui populi dolores, et quamvis in illo brevi tempore plus lacrimae oculi flerent, quam omnes fratres sui semper in segnem vitam effusissent, tamen tam horrendi doloris quam pauperis documentum est.

Antonius ad me convertit, accedens ad locum ubi summa meditatione involutus sedit. Triste sed et blando volitante labra risu, fulminis in remoto ceu velox sed languido caelo.


Ego moratus sum opperiri iussum eius accedere.

Non locutus est verbum, sed extendit manum suam.

Circumdedi illud terminis meis, et premo ad labia mea.

Et continuo cecidit in eum locus.

Videre possem doloris aspectum qui per suam faciem emicuit.

Elapsus est, nunc retrorsum, nunc prono, nunc obliquo, nunc obliquo, porrecto magno conatu ad me, qui, pari desperatione, insano conatu ad capiendum quod me assidue fefellerat, cessit.

Bulger hunc inter scopulos illius litora scopuli, Insequitur furiose latrantem vestigia prorsus.

Non potui tempus sedandi.

Procul, geminato cursu tenditque Antonium, dextramque ad me veluti miserabili precatione capias, et sic aptam quatientem membra furibundus finiat.

Intermisso ut spiritum meum caperem, iterum figuram volitentem assecutus sum cum proposito ut eum consequeretur vel in conatu periret.

Tandem circuli minores et semper minores circuli videbantur.

Nunc tempus erat mi!

Exsilio in illam volubilem formam, insania quadam desperatione, manum extensam arripere ac tenere.

Tandem tenuit.

Sed non!

Venerat ad quietem corpus, nunc alte supra caput, nunc ad pedes, nunc emicare, nunc deprimere, nunc vibrare ante oculos meos, nunc cingere caput meum, sicut avis cita volatu; manus ibat semper in inmensum et arcanum.

Fortitudo mea me deficiebat!

Num semper id capere potero?

Antonius quoque dirae potentiae dirae quam torquebat cederet.

Vultus insolito pallorem suscepit! Pectus eius convulsivos. Uno tandem conatu desperato, manum volitans circum caput arripiebam!

Adhaesi strenue!

Meus tactus a venis discutit venenum.

Visus est evigilare tanquam ex aliquo horrore somnio. manu trans oculos transmisit.


Ad manum haerens, super scopuloso scamno eum sedere sensim compuli, cui velutini maris gramen et zizania texuerat oceanus.

“Antonius!” “Pax super te veniat; Oblivisci doloris tui. Esto sicut olim. Tactus meus potest tibi saltem breve spatium dare!

Compulit manum meam. Suspirans extulit pectus. Novissimus anhelitus daemonis oppressit eum.

lam quiescendum erat.

Celeris ad me eius sermo fuit, sed non magis quam multorum acutorum cum quibus locutus sum.

“Quid vis?” Submissa, inquit, sed mirae suavis, vocis lenis.

Eum rem veniam explicavi.

Redii ad actis diurnum Romanum et ab domo discessum meum.

Omnes, omnes; ei omnia dixi; quomodo venissem in domum tardi motorum, quomodo eos ad marmora fefellissem, sicut reliquae insulae figurae, quomodo patefactum mysterium habere cupiebam.

Totus illo die Antonius et ego ad mare iucundissime conloquor.

Semel in meridie, fabulae suae modum brevem posuit, dum in specum ejus transivimus ad sumendum cibum et potum.

Animo magno, audivi fabulam de septem Sculptoribus in insulam descensu. Primum opus fuit, ut longos marmoreos educere templos volatu ad mare deducens. Tunc illi, et postea filii, et filii eorum, hanc insulam pulcherrimam hominibus paene infinitis figuris rarissimae gratiae operam navare decreverunt.

In silvis, per ripas fluvii, per vallem, per clivum, subtus solaria, in ipso aquarum ore, statuas sine mira pulchritudine et profusione sustulerunt.

Hic illic et ubique refulsit egregiae formae gratia, niveis inter frondea nemora aut perplexum.

Arcanus exsulis artificum praecordia urebat ardor. Ferae spei videretur, ut aliam illam urbem longe aliam Romam, infantulam filiam, candidiorem et candidiorem marmoreo magnificentia quam gloriosa mater, quae septem montibus insidebat, educeret.

Iterum atque iterum ter denos terque quaterque denos, misera Paula e lapicidinis orta, formosior semper et formosior semper, nunc flexa tremendo maerore, nunc ipsa sui specie resupinato pudore sethera ponens; blanda et miseranda facies.

Hic quoque magnus Caesar stetit, nunquam oblitus divinae clementiae statuarios ex gravi morte rapuit.

Cum secundo exsilii saeculo regnum parvum Romanum longe sub caelo meridionali exortum sit, eo ipso tempore, quo colonia invalescit ac viget res nova et obscura, habitantibus in hac insula domicilio suavissimae acciderunt.

Non plures pueri masculi nati sunt!

Septem statuarii, iam senio inflexi, et facies eorum acutis compunctionibus cavata, una post alteram in mortis tenebrosam regna ibant.

Filii quoque eorum in maturam aetatem pervenerunt. Et filii eorum creverunt, felices possessione splendidi ingenii, qui tam eximiae pulchritudinis formis insulam impleverat.

Sed iam genus ad finem longi imperii pervenit in arte.

Decennium post decennium defluxit et adhuc non venit unus puer masculus qui domum sculptoris laetificavit.

Desperatio quaedam in coloniam delapsus est.

Maiores statuarii scalpturas in summa desperatione deposuerunt.

Nam et minoris et minus.

Nullus adhuc puer erat, qui carmen priscum excitaret et risus quondam illius insulae laetae domum rediret.

Rigebant arte digiti callidissimi senio.

Corda gloriosa inspiratione plena hebetata sunt et sopita! Singillatim omnes ibant viam, quam mortale pedes calcare debent.

Atrox, mira mutatio in populum venit.

Hoc plumbeo maerore praegravatus, his stupefactis et immotis marformis die ac nocte circumdatus, quae, licet ipsa glaeba tacita, tamen indesinenter exclamavit: “Date nos in his solitudinibus plures”. Isti miseri paene ad ipsum marmora conversi.

Vero sane fratres ac sorores marmorarii in hac insula facti sunt.

Tandem venit finis!

Novissimus sculptor sculpsit super feretrum magni templi albi ad mare.

Tamdiu silentium, tam altum, tam atrox invasit populum, ut paene in perpetuum oratio eorum amissa sit.

In obscuro specubus et nemoroso truculento, ab ipsa luce diei se occultare prorepserunt.

Eorum artus, olim tam molles et elastici, prompti dominis suis per clivum et per campum ferendi, choreis adsueti generis delectati, nunc graves et tardi facti sunt.

Visi prope ad saxum converti, et tacita circum se iungere consortia.

Nimirum tale imminebat fatum, cum euentus laeta res avertebat.

Annus erat elapsus ex quo ultimus sculptor iverat ad comitatum umbratilem quae per desertum aeternae Silentii semper movetur, cum septem filiae eius tristes ab infantis clamore commotae sunt.

Sed ecce!

Infanti subnixa in amplexu stat mater vidua.

Filius est!

Laetus nuntius nonnisi e familia ad familiam subrepit.

Eheu! serum revocare ad priscos mores moresque, serum cruorem pristino cohibere, cursu per venas salire.

Homines mutati erant!

Felicitas vera eorum iterum venit, sed eadem non fuit. Ridere et ridere poterant, sed vix plus quam facies marmoris arcano quodam numine movebantur. Loqui potuerunt, sed verba tam lente ceciderunt ut prope videri statua aliqua inter frondea insulae secreta locuta sit. Movere poterant, sed cochlea vel testudo facile eos praevenit.

Tarn mutati sunt; fatis posthac populis pulcherrimam insulam domum cum statuis viventibus.

Longa nam fuga fugit annos, donec alia centuria secuta est, nec tamen mira ingenii res rediit.

Perpetuum perierat!

Iampridem etiam populus fabulae patrum oblitus est.

Paucorum electorum in cordibus vivitur, idque singulis saeculis iunioribus ad id delectis tradunt.

Antonio ita creditum est.

Talis autem narratio mihi narravit!

Levato animo, iam inde dubitationis et incerti ponderis elato, valedicens Antonium iubebam, deinde Bulgerum ad tardum moventium domicilia repetentem.

Praeterirem nemorum, qui marmora ferebant, Constiti, ante magni cur miranda Caesaris imago.

Adjunxit me Bulger, et ibi stetimus, pueri huius diei, oculis elevatis ad faciem eius, cuius minimus sermo in tabulis ceratis olim descriptus est, quasi dei vox.

Caesarem semper amavi.

Multis inter se similes sumus.

Ambo viri pugnandi fuimus.

Misertus sum nunc eum, ut etiam in marmoris effigie, inter tam hebes et inertes homines, quam segnes motores, vivere cogeretur.

Sic ei dixi.

“Et tamen”, inquit, “Iulius”, inquit, “vocavi ab hominibus, Magne Caesar, quam felix nunc non es; nam pudore vincere vis omnes casus meos legere, dum scripsisti librum. De Gallia in brevibus bibliothecarum mucida et pulverulenta iacet!

Sequenti die obiter iter faciens et magni Caesaris vultum respexi, animadverti risum modo in dextro oris eius angulo coepisse. Ita stolidissimus factus est per longam mansionem apud motores tardis ut nuper coeperat oblectari dicto priore die.

Cogitationes domus iam animo obortae sunt.

Re vera paulo post, cum Antonio in caverna maritimo colloqueretur, Bulger manifestas domesticae aegritudinis signa coeperat ostendere. Itaque eum chirographo praefecto navis meae misi ut de reditu suo statim pararet iter.

Bulger festinavit ad faciendam commissionem.

Profectus est ad pedem scalae marmoreae, ac deinde latratu maximo magistratus quem praefecerat admovit.

Navem in eiectam misit et Bulger cum meis litteris in ore suo occurrit.

Ut verum fatear, per septimanam vel tam diutius inter motores tardiores morari vellem, sed apparebat apparere quod ad meam praesentiam resuscerent.

In genis eorum multa persici rubicundi signa evanuerunt.

Quotidie magis magisque crescebant fratribus marmoreis.

Celeres motus eorum oculos ita defatigavi ut paucis horis in medio eorum commoratus me dormientium soporatum coetu circumventum inveni.

Nec audeo dicere.

Nam quamvis vocem delenirem, vel quam lente proferret verba, lentorum moventium aures offenderunt, et vultus signa doloris praeteribant.

Celeriter igitur formatum est consilium meum.

Gradu cochleae transivi a coetus ad catervam, ab arcu ad ima, a nemus ad nemus, sono molli et mensurato dicens: “Vale bene! Bene valete!”

Tunc gressus meos direxi ad templum candidum iuxta mare, nam cymbam meam sciebam sub pede scalae marmoreae me opperiri.

Ante Magni Caesaris statuam praeteriens novissimam valedicendi fluctum verti.

Quid ego te vidi existimare?

Quin idem risus, qui ante aliquot dies in dextro oris eius angulo coeperat, ad alteram faciei partem traiecerat, et in sinistro oris eius angulo suberat.

Dextro, unde venerat, omnia tam trux ac placidus erat, cum sedisset Romae sedentem orbem terrarum.

Aliquot post horis, cum bonae navis meae vela poneremus, incidit in aurem meam verbo sono molli et resonante.


Motores tardi coeperant valedicere. Ventis secundis.

Vela repleta.

Cum sol occubuit, diluvium aureum infundens super scalas pulchras marmoreas, templum magnum candidum, et statuae multae niveae, quae inter opaca arborum et vinearum folia tam clara et pulchra fulgebant in arcano illius insulae. Posui me in cincinnis intentis oculis ut quam diutissime in amoena scena defixos servarem.

Bona navis in altissimo silentio enavigavit. Mandaveram enim ne quis supra susurrum loqueretur.

Nunc Sculptores Insula in mera spelunca in horizonte defluxerat, et nunc in noctis umbris colligendis absorpta est et in perpetuum amissa!

Cor aggravatum est.

Tum caput in gremium irrepsit, oculisque amantibus in me plenum defixis.

Ambos somnus devicit.

Caelum erat stelliferum cum evigilantes.

Frigida me nocte ventus refecit.

Egrediendi animo infra exorsus sum. Ilico volitans vesperi auram, instar montis repercussus pene consumptus, sonus mollis arcanus.

Auris mea eam cepit! erat.


Motores tardi finem suum valedicunt.

Tocsin of the Absolute: Armel Guerne

Armel Guerne (1911-1980) was a French poet and translator. A friend of Mounir Hafez, Georges Bernanos and Emil Cioran, he is the author of numerous translations, including those of Kawabata, Hölderlin, Novalis, Woolf, The Book of a Thousand and One Nights and Moby Dick, to name only the most famous. The fame of his work as a translator has somewhat obscured his own immense poetic work. Yet, according to his own admission, he had no other ambition “than to be welcomed and received as a poet, to be able to count myself one day among the holy number of those divine ruffians of love.”

In the midst of an indigent modernity, dominated by the “absurd and monstrous accumulation of the things without souls,” Armel Guerne knew how to tear open an irredentist breach—a breakthrough “against the world” to sound the tocsin of the Absolute. From his first arrow to his final salvo, his work never deviated from its outgrowth—all were charitably oriented towards a poetic star, the only herald of a “truth that lasts, that begins at the ground level and goes to the sky, and that remains.” And as a cliff carries its other side, his work as a translator and poet are rooted in the same mythical Vale of Tempe—that land of the German Romantics, on which they silently set the “very seal of eternity” on poetry.

Of Armel Guerne’s critical writings (collected in Le Verbe nu [The Naked Word] and L’Ame insurgée [The Insurgent Soul]), chanted at the edge of inner constellations, one could say what Bettina von Arnim said of Hölderlin’s poetry: they are “in the eternal fermentation of restless poetry.” Without ever feeding on any “flavor of the day”—whose constant frenzy is only a proof of its latent paralysis—Armel Guerne watched over a branch of speech, which it is up to each generation to revive in a “grace of living charity” (Lettres Dom ClaudeLetters Dom Claude). Like a guardian of the Pyrenees, like the crypt where the Mazdean priests maintained a sacred fire for a thouysand years, Armel Guerne praised and preserved this heritage of “incessant orations”—thus re-establishing the preeminence of the poem, this “brazen shaft of all words, this axis around which all the worlds revolve and all the ages turn.” (La Nuit veilleNight Watch).

In fidelity to this stellar decree, one finds in each of Armel Guerne’s poems the destined reflection of the “infinite Silentiary” (JournalDiary), which gave his poetry a vesperal and definitive character—in the image of the burnt sky which culminated above Tourtrès, where Guerne sat with his mill, like a watchman on an inalterable Acropolis. It is from this “mill of miracles,” rooted in “the mineral of the wind and forgotten times” that Armel Guerne wrote his greatest poetic work, including Les Jours de l’Apocalypse [The Days of Apocalypse], Le Jardin colérique [The Angry Garden], or the Rhapsodie des fins dernières [Rhapsody of the End Times].

In spite of the overwhelming confidentiality in which his work remains walled up, Guerne remains a sentinel in our night, reminding us of the imperative necessity of poetry, this “Ravenous hunger of the Holy Spirit” which never gives up its weapons to any world, and only gives its eyes to the expectation of a Word—without ever dimming its “purple wing” (St. John of the Cross).

If the poets are immutable and that they alone “found what remainsm” as Hölderlin said, the conservation of their voices seems however to be endangered by the modern pandemonium, which does not cease to reduce the range of their insolent brisures. Guerne hurled in particular violent anathemas at the prolific critical logorrhea which, contrary to its initial mission of “passer-by,” is now happy to palaver blissfully, by assembling and disassembling the great texts upon a mechanical and inert frame. In this necropolis of the word, erected by these merchants of contraband, we find “Nothing true. Nothing alive. Nothing lived. Death put in tomes. Death. Easy to recognize: it cannot be silent, since it exists only in its chatter” (Le Verbe nu). By thus spatulating its plaster of quibbles, this “necrophilic literature of professors, doctors, commentators, exegetes, analysts, biographers, historiographers, anecdotists, nomenclators” proves in the same gesture that it does not actually reside in the poem—its learned objectivity was thus only a scarecrow, upon which it leaned its disarmament—its escape before a sovereign Word. According to Guerne, this denial is the very sting of this pantomime modernity, which, by fear or by cowardice, gesticulates ceaselessly on its own rubble: “For there is a modern thought… clothed in a barbaric or zany language, caught in a corset, a thought without breath; its circle has been reduced to the dimensions of a tiny circus… without ever risking a glance outside” (Le Verbe nu). From then on, we have to consider, following Guerne, that this tropism to the dismantling of the poets is only an umpteenth modality of the “technical Moloch” demystified by Bernanos—this specter of orphaned ashes, which voluntarily forgets as its corruption of the world advances, the vital ferments which made it get born.

Drained and brutalized, the modern soul—whose each edges seems dedicated to the countable osculation of the world—does not know how to measure itself with this sibylline and elusive truth deposited by poetry. It is against this seated deciphering that Guerne crystallizes his rock of insurgency: his anger has no other aim than the fight against all these debilitating deadlocks—tightened every day by the modern dementia, “whose characteristic is to never think, but to turn in circles, faster and faster, in the sawdust and the dung of the time, with the other civil servants, without ever risking a glance outside” (Le Verbe nu).

It is thus against the grain that Guerne reveals to us the dawn of an interior vox cordis, that of poetry—since it is “the only language still alive enough, still armed enough, still powerful and whole enough, close enough to the mystery also of the word, to carry away the fortresses of the inertia and to burst the concrete of the lie, carrying in it a grain of human truth which can still germinate, a seed of beauty which will bloom in the hideousness” (L’âme insurgée).

“All true language is silence”

In response to this deadlocked language, padlocked in its own corrosion, Guerne enjoins us to scrutinize the incandescent hearth of poetry, where only “silence” crackles—this pneuma of an unconquerable breath that whispers its “Unavowable absence impossible to grasp” (Le Jardin colérique). This absence—unavowable because unforgivable—is not this withdrawn mutism that a certain poetry obscure to itself claimed in a self-sufficient glory. On the contrary, with Guerne, silence is an immemorial tear to be safeguarded, a mythical Palladium which guarantees to the world the perpetuation of an island of freedom: “Silence is not what one believes, an extinction, an immobility, a not closed in a yes wide open. Silence is a movement that contains itself, of such power and intensity that to move beside it becomes a grotesque caricature, a stunning simulacrum. The movement of movement, the universal source… The hand of all caresses, of all pains, beyond evil and good, of all acts” (Fragments).

To be disposed to this poetic grammar, it is necessary to imagine that poetry shelters in its torn center a baptistry of silence, where is imperially maintained the forefinger of Angerona, that ancient goddess whose finger affixed to lips—symbol of an ordered silence—is an insolence opposed to all the noises of the world, be they the sweetest. And it is from this preserved archipelago—where the eternal and the temporal intersect—that Armel Guerne composed his Adamic alphabet, wherein culminates in its summit “the unique human voice that stands behind the words and that resounds, mysteriously, each time man reaches out to himself… Sometimes open to the heavy night and echoing in the depths of the abyss, sometimes torn by supernatural gleams, this authentic voice of man, which reappears suddenly at the crucial hours, pierces and disperses his languages” (L’Ame insurgée). For Guerne, perhaps even more than an inapparent heart or a founding axis, silence is the very strength of the poet—indeed, the only one he truly possesses. [“That the most sublime poetry is really, in the end, only the learning of silence” (Le Verbe nu)].

And to connect the corolla of the diamond cutters, who set poetry with an aura of silence, it is appropriate to quote Max Picard and his Monde du silence (World of Silence), in which he writes that “Poetry comes from silence and for the nostalgia of silence.” [Max Picard wrote of Hölderlin that his words “seem to come from a space that existed before creation” (Le Monde du silence)].This echo without return acts thus in the manner of a liturgical screen, by which the poet sifts the relics of a word which precedes the creation, to collect the deposit of a new clarity—opened in the immobile one. This is what Guerne’s poem Le Poids vivant de la parole (The Living Weight of the Word) evokes, in which he dips his hieratic blade, ever more deeply into the “amassed” powers of silence [“The most difficult thing is still to gather the silences, all the silences of the most diverse kinds, and to bring them back intact, one by one, by the dozens, by the thousands, the smallest and the largest, to collect them carefully as they pass and to bring them home delicately. Without breaking them, without tarnishing them, without crumpling them” (La nuit veille)]:

You can write, and you write;
You can be silent, and you are silent.
But to know that silence
Is the great and only key,
One must pierce all the symbols.
To devour the images,
To listen in order not to hear,
To undergo until death
Like a crushing
The living weight of the word.

It is thus about poetry as about an asceticism: a constant and heroic “mine of will” which arms itself in a column of silence. In these two secret nobilities, the same language of oracle is whispered: an awakener of the Spirit who goes “to seek behind the noise; who picks it up and who collects it for all those who are exiled from it. In such a poetic alchemy, there is no place for embellishment or ornament: each word, however simple, is chanted at its “maximum flavor“—thus crystallizing this concretion of the poem into a secret pearl, which testifies before its living weight: “The silent meditation of the most silent of monks is, in this sense, a listening of the word until the finest of the ineffable. Almost perfection” (Fragments).

The Abyss of Time

For Guerne, much more than a simple aggregate of captious and scattered words, the poem is a tension—torn at the two points of the infinite, between the previous Word and the words that seek it. This caesura of abyss, as violent as a “silent storm,” reminds us of the famous letter of the American poet William Carlos Williams [1913 letter to Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry magazine], where he, after having written that ” Now life is above all things else at any moment subversive of life,” indicates that it is the same for the poem: ” Verse to be alive must have infused into it something of the same order, some tincture of disestablishment, something in the nature of an impalpable revolution.” With Guerne, it is a question of the same perseverance of the poem in a stellar conatus, of the same light accentuating itself in a coruscating force—all these ardent powers concur to this “oxidation of the infinite, of the eternity or of the things” carried by the poetry.

Detecting then a “source of all fires,” the poet fans the mythical remains of it to the point of setting his own word ablaze in a burning firebrand—to be able to welcome “the deposit of a truth” which is not his own. It is this lightning rearrangement that the poem Soudain [Suddenly] encloses, spurring even more deeply this “urge for renewal is gaining ground in the aftermath of monstrous destruction,” of which the poem is only one meteor:

Words, just to put them down
One next to the other,
That say more and go further
Than we go; words
Suddenly no longer ours
And stand so close
Close to a supreme truth.
Words that cease to be said
To better come, suddenly, to become again.
Words of the word.
(Le Poids vivant de la parole)

And if “the ark of the world is on the waters of time,” as Guerne writes in his Jours de l’Apocalypse, it is because it is the poet’s responsibility to go up the tubular corridors of time—themselves linked to the “pillar of Eternity”—to ring the bell of the unalterable. Split between these two temporal poles, his own and that of the word, the poet condenses a “hurricane above the deserts” and breaks the anthropic bodice by a ray of lightning—such as the “interior blood and its irrevocable mystery, until then contained in the night of the body” (La Nuit veille). For, contrary to a modern taxonomy, which requires of the poet a hectic inventiveness turned towards artifice or imagination, Guerne teaches us that the “clairvoyance” of the poet is above all an inclination of the soul towards itself—a sovereign expectation of the living Weight of the word: “The true mystery of all poetry, it is that the poet is in us; the other one, the one who speaks, doesn’t speak; it’s not true: it’s not him, it’s just the Word. Thus, it is by an august gesture of allegiance that the poet makes himself Sphinx, by putting himself in tune with an anterior sovereignty—being able thus only “to give his voice—even if it is breathless—to the voice which calls” (Au bout du tempsAt the end of time).

And it is in this beginning of a rediscovered word that we detect the first strain of Guerne’s thought—the vital point from which all its foliage branches out. It is based on the intuition that poetry should not “second the world” as Kafka said about the novel, but that it aspires to be a mirror of the Apocalypse, taken in its primary sense of “revelation” and “unveiling”: “We have passed the threshold of the Apocalypse and, in my opinion, we are mistaken when we want to look at or read the Apocalypse as a prophecy. In reality we should read and understand it as a lived history, already past in part, and in the depths of which we are charitably engaged. This is what is happening every day. It is more than at our doors; it has entered our lives, we are living it, absolutely.” This apocalyptic bottom generates a deep caesura in his poetic thought—it calls him to a conversion, which carries the word on the imperious way of necessity. As if, by the tear that it would impose, the Apocalypse definitively breaks the vitiated fabrics of the babble, so that poetry finds its innocence of the aerolith. It is with this breaking star that Armel Guerne hoped to hang poetry, as shown in one of his confessions, written in the beating of a revealed abyss: “About poetry, I have ambitious and clear ideas which put it a little higher than the ditty: I want to say, today, vigil of the end time” (Letter to his editor).

The Open Palms

“On a sinking ship, panic comes from the fact that all the people, and especially the sailors, obstinately speak only the language of navigation; and no one speaks the language of shipwrecks. Only prophets and poets know how to use this language of meltdown panic, according to Guerne. In a disoriented universe, where dissolution and siltation seem to be the only avenues of the future, these two passers-by of the absolute raise the lost by only their glances “turned right side up.” It is one of the multiple possible meanings that we give to the Apocalypse evoked by Guerne—beyond a material state of the world, it is an interior accentuation by which the poet does not write any more for himself, nor for the others, but in front of the end of times. Howling thus his Rhapsodie des fins dernières, under the porch of the agony of the world, his verses are consumed in an irrevocable detonation, which tremble with equal intensity with all the “revelations”—”For the poet, the universe is an incandescent drama. Its tragedy enlightens” (Fragments).

Guerne initiates us then into a blessing by the desert—understood as the voluntary desiccation of the poet where the waiting and the attention become his only prayers, his only consoling sources. In these latitudes—dug in an unfathomable abyss that summons all the chasms of silence and night—the freedom of the poet is strangled by the very power of the word: “The word speaks; and I listen to it speak. It sings; and I listen to it sing. It commands; and I listen to it obey and I see it obey. This is the School of the Seer.” And it is from these specular sighs, which reflect even more deeply the received light, that the poet abandons his lower maneuvers to receive the break of a superior verb: “The writing is only a bark of which one makes a divine cup; remains the One who fills it and the one who is thirsty and who takes it to drink. Begging before the one and begging before the other, the poet is between the two ” (Rhapsodie des fins dernières). It is this hieratic snatch of which each poem is the palpitating witness that makes Guerne’s poetic thought so necessary. It reminds us that beyond the dislocation of the poet, between supplications and thundering, it is the simple word carried by poetry which bequeaths to us an effulgent crystal—”The poet did nothing but open his blood, source of word” (Le Verbe nu).

It is up to the poet alone to hold out this open palm of the beggar—whose bruised phalanxes are only the pulverized reflection of his own charity—to pick up this immemorial tear of the word. Like a herald, the poet then remembers this mythical needle by affixing it on all the ruins of the world—and carries in front of a new Axis Mundi, like an Atlas armed with the sword of the Archangel: “All set their traps for you, scholars, politicians, bankers; the traps in which they themselves are caught. The poet holds out to you his buoy, and if he can, his hand”. (Preface to his translation of the Disciples at Sais, Hymns to the Night, religious songs of Novalis).

Henri Rosset writes from France. “Everyone wants to own the end of the world.” This articles through the kind courtesy of PHILITT.

Derrida the Negator

There are posthumous editions that are only of secondary interest in relation to the work already known by their author. Such is not the case with this work, written by Derrida in 1960. It cannot be reduced to its sole pedagogical aim, which was to provide the learned correction of a dissertation subject given to his philosophy students at the Sorbonne, on a subject that is none other than a sentence written by Alain: “To think is to say no.” Indeed, in his Preface, Brieuc Gérard stresses that Derrida, then an assistant in “general philosophy and logic” at the university of the Sorbonne, enjoyed for four years “a complete autonomy as to the subject-matter of his courses and the organization of his directed works,” which ceased in 1964 when he was forced to follow the program of the agrégation of philosophy at the École normale supérieure of Paris. In virtue of this autonomy, proper to any enterprise of “general philosophy,” Derrida thus professed his own thought through those he taught. By the mediation of the philosophers that he summoned and discussed, according to a well determined direction leading to his master Heidegger, Derrida who became one of the greatest thinkers of “French Theory” gives us to read and to think the most important premises of his philosophy of deconstruction.


The title given by Derrida to his four-session essay thwarts the reader’s expectations—instead of representing an apology of negation, in the logical sense of the term, it first follows faithfully Alain’s original proposal to lead to a thought of “neither yes nor no,” where the implications and presuppositions that organize the two affirmative and negative modalities of thought are deconstructed, that is to say, unpacked, and not eliminated. The opposition that Alain makes between thought and affirmation begins in fact, at first, by being translated in the terms of an opposition between thought and belief—for him, Derrida tells us, “the idea of proof as a technical instrument of truth is to be refused, because as soon as one says yes, one ceases to think and one begins to believe.” In this sense, Alain, more Cartesian than Descartes, would adopt an “ultraradicalism of doubt” which consisted in not using it to reach a certainty under the aegis of a veracious God, but on the contrary in remaining at “the hypothesis of the deceitful God and even of the Evil Genius to save thought and the initiation of thought… which has no initiation except in the “no,” hostile to any proof, to any definitive destination in the true.

Even before opposing the ready-to-think provided against it by “the world, the tyrant and the preacher,” the thought is thus constituted by a movement of negation: on the one hand, negation of appearance, insofar as to think, that is to say, to examine objects and to reflect on them, is to refuse to stick to what one perceives; on the other hand and above all, negation of what one holds oneself to be apparent, since “in order to see something, necessitates [already] a whole implicit work of selections, criticisms, questions;” that is to say, of negation of what one excludes in our perceptual sorting: “to believe everything, therefore to say yes to everything, is to choose to see nothing,” Derrida comments. To say yes, one must say no.

In fact, this raises an objection to Derrida, in that this total affirmation, instead of being only a total deprivation of the visible, can be, on the contrary, under different conditions of the rational or discursive thought, the way of access to the invisible itself. Doesn’t the naive “yes to everything” deserve to be measured and rethought by the “I choose everything” of Saint Therese of Lisieux?

Notwithstanding what the saint may object to in the dialectician, Derrida pursues Alain’s reasoning, whose antithesis does not fail to put classical skepticism out of the game: if belief signifies a halt in the movement of thought, its being put to sleep, it is only as “credulous thought.” On the contrary, faith, in its broad sense of an act of trust, is not naive credulity, but the inevitable presupposition of all awakened thought, of all thought that says no: “without a kind of primitive axiological adherence to the legitimacy of truth, it would not even be possible to challenge opinion in general… as a de facto breach of the truth.” In other words, to be able to deny, one has to feel that one has to do so: to say no, one has to have confidence in truth as an ideal against which an opinion can be refuted because it is wrong: “to say no, to doubt, to refuse, one has to want to, to decide to. It is a necessary fiat or a be that is a yes to the will to say no.” The actuality of doubt is based, if not on the ideal certainty in the truth, at least on a confidence in it. To say no, one must say yes.

By showing that thought says neither yes nor no, Derrida leads to the deconstruction of affirmation and negation. This in a double sense: by revealing, on the one hand, the negation supposed by affirmation (in the form of a sorting, a selection) as well as the affirmation supposed by negation (in the form of a confidence in one’s own project), he denies—on the other hand, the pretension of both to represent two modalities of thought, each one provided with its own and definite meaning. In so doing, Derrida challenges classical logic and ontology, which respectively make non-being and negation the symmetrical opposites of being and affirmation, in order to disseminate the meaning of these two opposites in the variety of their mutual implications.


While following Bergson, Derrida notes that negation in classical logic is not a negation; it is only a “modalization” of affirmation, since it consists in refusing an affirmation in the name of another implicit affirmation. For example, to say that such and such a table is not white is to affirm in disguise that the table is of another color. This is why, in the same way, the nothingness in the classical ontology is not a nothingness either, because if it is a nothingness; it is nothing at all; we don’t have to talk about it; it is thus, on the contrary, under the mode of “the haunting” that it means something: “it is necessary that the nothingness haunts being so that negation is possible.” The negation, logical or ontological, must therefore be rethought. By ending his course on Heideggerian phenomenology, Derrida announces what his philosophy will be based on: a renewed thought of negation. For a negation to be really such, in fact, it is necessary, while remaining discursive (without which there is no judgment), that it is the affirmation of nothing. For there to be negation, it must not be a contrary affirmation, but the contrary of any affirmation; consequently, not the determination or definition of any meaning, but the dissemination of meaning.

Derrida has indeed a neantizing conception of freedom. He repeats in his course that humanity experiences its freedom only through its power of “neantization” of the world, of negation of everything: “for my affirmative judgment to have a value of truth,” he says, commenting on Bergson, “it is necessary that I be free to choose for the truth and that I be able to say something other than what I say;” that is to say, to negate the truth. It is thus “by the negation or the thought of nothingness that the spirit authenticates itself as freedom,” he concludes. However, it was Bergson’s mistake, as well as Husserl’s and finally Sartre’s after him, to think negation incompletely: if, indeed, consciousness that denies all existence does not deny itself as existence (or as “being”), its negation is not complete. To affirm its freedom, the subject must be able to deny itself also, to include itself in the hyperbolic negation: “The most comprehensive phenomenological reduction, the most extended, the deepest anguish [will be able] to negate the totality of the world, the totality of the states, the totality of the regions of the being [only by negating also] the man, the for-itself, the consciousness included. It is thus necessary to exceed this opposition consciousness-world.

This is what Heidegger finally understood when, abandoning his theme of anguish, he refused to affirm the power of neantisation “from to be [or] from being,” and to think it on the contrary from “the difference between to be and being,” by which “to be shows itself by hiding itself in being.” Indeed, for Heidegger, nothingness haunts everything, since everything appears and disappears on a purely undetermined background—the fact that any phenomenon can appear and disappear indicates to us that any phenomenon always rests on an empty place; that nothingness is not the opposite of existence but its condition of appearance, as a blackboard allows any form to be drawn on it. But as long as we remain in the order of logically measurable language, this Heideggerian theory of “ontological difference” is an error, since logically speaking, “there is only difference within a genus, [and] being is not a genus.” To assume the ontological difference, it is thus necessary, for Derrida, to make language incommensurable, to subtract it from any possibility of logical measurement, by thwarting any attempt to fix meaning, to define it. Such was the Derridean enterprise of the “dissemination”—once deconstructed the sense of the words, necessarily, instead of recomposing what has been deconstructed, leave the elements of sense scattered, without a coherence definitively assignable to a system or to a given interpretation; it is necessary to let the elements show themselves scattered in an irremediable multiplicity and without substance. Derrida thus saveed the coherence of the Heideggerian phenomenology by exceeding it in a more radical theory—that of the meontological “differentiation,” true contrary thought of to be.


The “differentiation” that Derrida theorized consisted in substantiating the insubstantivable—not the fact of differentiating one thing from another, but the fact of deferring in time the meaning of a concept by its inscription, in a chain of other concepts. Against the traditional principle of identity which, at the foundation of the other principles (of contradiction and of the third-excluded), stipulates that “every thing is what it is,” “A is A,” the course “Thinking” is saying no; it intends to show that the two fundamental elements of language, the yes and the no, have no determined meaning—the yes is not a yes, the no is not a no, since their meaning is always deferred, awaiting donation through the diversity of their uses and their mutual implications. We thus understand why Derrida concluded his course by saying that Heidegger’s “ontico-ontological difference” “would allow us to really hear Alain when he says that ‘to think is to say no'”: this thought indeed opens a breach in the possibility of thinking a negation that is really one, by preventing any determination, any assignment of any meaning whatsoever to a given sign by disseminating it, by always ceaselessly deferring the sign from itself.

The Deconstruction inaugurated by Derrida is thus much more subtle, and therefore more pernicious, than what many contemporaries understand it to be by associating it, wrongly, with an enterprise of pure and simple destruction. Derrida does not destroy anything—he deconstructs to disseminate, to untie. He exhibits the constructions of thought and language, without suppressing them nor recomposing them, by leaving them “disseminated” out of any possibility of stable recomposition. To the antipodes of the philosopher Albert Leclère who, in 1901, defended in his Essai critique sur le droit d’affirmer (Critical Essay on the Right to Affirm) that “the thinking subject cannot consider thought without immediately noticing that it poses the existence of some reality,” concluding that “the reality of being, of metaphysical being, is a necessary affirmation of thought.” On the contrary, Derrida wrote, sixty years later, a succession of essays to show the necessity, for thought, of denying. All of Derrida’s originality is to see to it that this negation is a true negation; that is to say, not a contrary affirmation, but the contrary of any affirmation—this is why he considered that “to criticize a philosopher is a lamentable gesture” and, refusing all criticism, does not seek to refute but to dissolve the problems by taking care to never completely satisfy the need for comprehension, by thwarting all attempts at definition.

Derrida thus represents the most coherent attempt to dissolve the traditional philosophical “realism” of a Saint Thomas Aquinas, by denying to signs not only their connection to things, to which they refer (as the nominalists were content to do), but also their capacity to coincide with their own meaning. If, from this course, the sense is untied from the real (“the noem is nothing real since it is a sense,” he infers about Husserl), the sense announces itself similarly to be untied from itself in the justification of the thought as “saying no.” Thus, it is not excluded to think that Derrida completed, in the 20th century, the whole process of desubstantialization of language inaugurated by nominalism from the 14th century, completing the modernization of thought in an enterprise of final dissolution of meaning.

Paul Ducay, Professor of philosophy with a medievalist background. Heir to the metaphysics of Nicolas de Cues and the faith of Xavier Grall. Gascon by race and French by reason. “The devout infuriate the world; the pious edify it.” Marivaux. [This article comes through the kind courtesy of PHILITT].

Featured: “Via Dolorosa,” by Sybil Andrews; linocut print, 1935.

On Cancel Culture

Back in the 1970s, Jorge Luis Borges complained that American publishers would not publish his novels and short stories because he called the black man “negro” and not “colored man” and the blind man “stone-blind” and not “visually-impaired.”

Around that time, Yankee intellectuals began to use what is today known as “inclusive language”: the use of invented and repetitive rhetoric like “everyone” for “men and women,” “child and children” for “boys and girls,” “”workers,” for “the working man,” etc. In North America it now no longer needs to be used; but, as usual, it arrived twenty or thirty years later in South America where progressives have adopted it as a novelty.

Progressivism, that senile disease of old ideologies such as Marxism and liberalism, found in this pseudo-language its most successful expression: it speaks without saying anything and defines without defining. Its method is to be always at the forefront of everything. Hence, man cannot have a pro-ject (something moving forward) because he (the progressive) is his own project.

When political analysts ask themselves about this or that project of a progressive government, they are asking a false question, or a question without foundation. It is like pretending to ask the hanged man about the noose or rope he’s hanging from.

This senile disease, a mixture of liberalism and Marxism, supported by the secular religion of human rights, is slowly occupying all the governments of the West, thus establishing a single, politically correct way of thinking.

The common areas of this thought are: concern for humanity and not for the needs of the people; concern for individual well-being and not for that of families; concern for consumption and not for savings; concern for the Earth and not for the land; concern for ritual and not for the sacred; concern for the economy and not for politics; concern for virtual companies and not for work; and so on in all aspects of behavior and thinking.

As early as 1927, Martin Heidegger, in Being and Time (Section 35), spoke to us of the dictatorship of the “anonymous one (das Man)” who “says, thinks and acts [in me] as one says, thinks and acts,” which governs improper being. In nearly a hundred years, the issue has worsened and intensified.

Today the power of progressivism, being hegemonic, is unconditional. This explains why any questioning is considered right-wing, fascist or imperialist. If multiple sectors of society say “no” to erroneous measures, the response is “no response,” silence, ignoring—in short, the canceling of the objector. Canceling has become a mechanism of denying everything that discomforts or questions progressivism. What is particularly serious is that at the same time that cancel culture denies or does not listen to the objections of its opponents, it yet calls for dialogue on the basis of a consensus that does not reach a consensus; that is, by way of a false consensus.

This pernicious mechanism is the basis of progressive governmental action. The philosopher Massimo Cacciari has rightly observed that these governments do not resolve conflicts but only manage them. The lack of a firm ideological definition (President Fernandez of Argentina is both a Peronist and a social democrat, as he has declared) allows governments to swear allegiance to Biden, Putin and Jinping at the same time.

But all this is nothing more than feints; appearances used by progressive governments to join the globalization process that seems to be inevitable in the world.

After two years of Covid, the economy became completely independent of politics. The indirect powers (the lobbies, the mega-corporations and the international imperialism of money), according to Pius XII’s preclear expression, justify their actions in and with progressive governments.

However, the indirect economic powers demand that progressive governments be installed on the basis of the “one man, one vote” mechanism, since they need to have the legitimacy offered by the democratic mask. Democracy, being limited only to the legitimacy of origin, denies any demand for legitimacy of exercise, which is the requirement of good governance. Just and correct actions are what characterize good government, which is why there have been and will be good governments without them necessarily being democratic.

In South America, the ten governments we have are progressive in their different variants: in Argentina a Peronist who defines himself as a social democrat; in Chile a Marxist who calls himself a Peronist; in Bolivia a Marxist who calls himself a nationalist; in Uruguay a liberal who defines himself by Agenda 2030; in Paraguay, as usual, nothing; in Brazil a nationalist who lets multinationals do business; in Peru and Ecuador Marxists subjected to the crudest capitalism; in Colombia a liberal partner of the United States (now, a former FARC guerrilla converted to green ideology is taking office); and in Venezuela a Marxist with a calling to be rich, to the torment of his people.

Who governs South America? In reality, the international imperialism of money with all its ramifications, although nominally the ten progressive governments that with their disregard for a legitimacy of exercise facilitate the work of anonymous imperialism that has neither hands nor feet.

In this sense the great corruption of the ruling class counts a lot. To give an indisputable example, a thousand kilos of gold and ten thousand kilos of silver leave Argentina every year for Europe and the USA, practically without paying taxes. In the ports on the Paraná River, from where the grain production, worth millions (wheat, corn, soybean, sunflower), is shipped out, the annual tax evasion comes to 10 billion dollars. Fishing depredation in the South Atlantic by hundreds of Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Norwegian and English ships is uncontrolled.

Cancel culture has ensured that these and many other issues are not talked about. The title of Marcello Mastroianni’s movie, De eso no se habla (I Don’t Want to Talk About It) is the rule.

When Perón returned from exile in 1974, he stated that the Argentine man is broken and it will be very difficult to recover him. Since then, no attempt has been made to systematically recover our system of civic values, such as savings, hygiene, conduct, etc. Such values have been left, more and more, to their own devices, without any restraint. Those institutions that made Buenos Aires great (la piu grande cita italiana del mondo, as Franco Cardini said), such as the neighborhood clubs, the libraries and the popular swimming pools, the schools that gave on to the streets, the parishes with their festivals and tents—all them disappeared. The support for that Argentine man, who is all of us, was null. And so, teachers who do not read, professors who do not study, priests who do not take care of the soul but of food, librarians who do not invite to readings, clubs where drugs and not sports are the main focus; the combination of all this ended up with the promotion of the mediocre. And that mediocre, today between 40 and 60 years old, is the one that is holding office in the progressive governments of South America.

What to do with a subcontinent like the South American one that covers nearly 18 million square kilometers; that is, twice the size of Europe, or twice the size of the United States. It has 50,000 km of navigable waterways in its interior that take us from Buenos Aires to Guaira in Venezuela; or from the Atlantic in Belém do Pará in Brazil to Iquitos in Peru (San Martin, when he was governor of Peru in 1823, donated his salary to build a ship to stem the advance of the Bandeirantes, by sailing the Amazon from one end to the other). This subcontinent has minerals of all kinds, forests still impregnable, oil, gas, electric energy, and the largest reserve of fresh water on the planet in the Guarani aquifer. And above all, the subcontinent has a diverse human type (about 440 million) but with similar customs, habits and traditions, and speaking the same language as the Hispanic man, according to Gilberto Freyre, the greatest Brazilian sociologist, who speaks and understands without difficulty four languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Galician and Catalan. This extraordinary advantage has never been promoted as a State-policy by any of the ten countries that integrate it.

Anyone who studies us should not underestimate the order of these magnitudes. Hegel has readily taught that the order of magnitudes, when it is immense, transforms them into qualities.

The disadvantage of this great space is that anti-Hispanic colonial powers, such as England (in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Malvinas), Holland in Aruba and Surinam, and France in Guyana are still installed in it. (All plans for subcontinental unity since the time of San Martin and Bolivar have been aborted by the contrary intervention of these three countries).

I proposed in the Social Forum of Porto Alegre in 2002 the theory of the rhombus, with its vertexes in Buenos Aires, Lima, Caracas and Brasilia, as protection of the South American heartland. But this idea did not succeed. Chávez surrendered to Cuba, and the latter, as it has been doing for 70 years, sterilizes any Hispano-American nationalist project.

I invite European and Yankee researchers to study sine ira et studio the process of Cubanization of Our America as the source of all the failures of regional integration attempts.

Lenin’s question returns: What must we do? To dissent, which is nothing more than to raise, to propose “another version and vision” to that established by the single thought. To practice dissent in all its forms and ways is to stop being the mute dog of the Gospel. Dissent is not a negative thought that says no to everything. It is a propositional and existential thought that starts from the preference of ourselves. It rejects imitation and relies on our genius loci (climate, soil and landscape) and on our ethos (customs, experiences and traditions). You may consult my book Teoría del Disenso (published in Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Porto Alegre and Santiago de Chile).

Finally, you may note that I never spoke of “Latin America” because it is a spurious, false and misleading term, created by the French to intervene in America. The Italians know it very well because none of them call themselves Latin except those from Lazio. And in the USA, they are Italian Americans, never Latin Americans. Latin excludes the Basques who have done so much for America since the time of the conquistadors. The concept of “Latin America” is clearly a politically correct one, as it is used by everyone: the Church, the Freemasonry, the liberals, the Marxists and, obviously, the progressives—and also the clueless nationalists.

When we speak of Hispanic in America, it is not like in Spain, which is limited to the monarchy and the Catholic religion. Here, the Hispanic opens us to the whole Mediterranean culture (Italy, France, Portugal), the Arab world (Syria, Lebanon, Morocco). This explains why the millionaire Italian, French and Syrian-Lebanese immigration to South America has been comfortably welcomed.

The first thing to be lost in a cultural struggle is the semantic war, when one adopts the enemy’s denominations. We are Hispano-Creole, neither so European nor so Indian, as Bolivar affirmed.

Alberto Buela is an Argentinian philosopher and professor at National Technological University and the University of Barcelona. He is the author of many books and articles.

Featured: “Daniel Defoe in the Pillory,” by Eyre Crowe; painted in 1862.

Democracy and Psychotic Vocabulary

In the study of human language, the oldest and most fundamental distinction is between sign, meaning and referent. A sign is a sign, visual, sound or any other that indicates an idea, an intention, and represents it in the mental sphere. A meaning is a set of signs that expresses the subjective intention contained in the sign. Referent is the object, the thing, the element of the real world—objective or subjective—to which the meaning, and therefore also the sign, refers. If a subject knows by heart the definition of “cow,” but, when we show him a cow, he can’t distinguish it from an armadillo, a matchbox or an atomic reactor, the sign he used corresponds only to a meaning, a subjective intention, but to no element of reality.

In political discussion, and in journalistic language in general, the use of meaning without referents is a self-hypnotic habit by which the sender of the message persuades himself and his audience that he is saying something when he is saying absolutely nothing.

Whether he does this out of ignorance or malice is indifferent—for malice is nothing more than feigned or planned ignorance.

One of the most characteristic examples is the current, omnipresent and obsessive use of the expression “democratic institutions.” This is understood to mean the entities and institutions founded on laws and constitutions that institute the representative system, as well as the rule of law that controls it. It is understood that this expression defines a thing called “democracy,” differentiating it from dictatorial, tyrannical or authoritarian regimes, where rulers who represent only themselves do as they please and are subject to no law whatsoever. In Brazil, the defenders of “democratic institutions” present themselves as protectors of freedom and of the people, in opposition to the supporters of a “military dictatorship,” represented, it is said, by the current president of the republic, his sons, friends and supporters.

So far, everything is very clear, but with this conversation we don’t leave the realm of verbal meanings. We don’t touch the referent. If we now look for the entities of reality that ordinary language associates with these terms, we find them nowhere. First of all, the supporters of the “dictatorship” that they also call “military intervention” or even “constitutional military intervention” do exist; but they are rare and have not the slightest influence over the mass of the president’s supporters, who present themselves as a mass firmly resolved to fight for their own objectives, supporting the president, to be sure, but without receiving from him even an instruction or a word of an order, let alone a voice of command.

This means that when they present themselves as defenders of “democracy” against the danger of “military authoritarianism,” the supporters of “democratic institutions” pretend to fight an imaginary enemy in order not to have to declare which real enemy they are fighting and wish to destroy. This enemy is not any “dictatorship,” but the popular mass, the populist indignation that occupies the streets and wishes to impose its sovereign will on the political, journalistic and university minority of “defenders of democracy,” as well as on the eventual apostles of the “dictatorship.”

But democracy, unless I am mistaken, is not defined by the presence of such or such “institutions,” but by being “the government of the people, by the people, and for the people;” that is, the government in which the institutions, whatever they may be, are under the control of the people and not the people under their control.

When they turn against the masses of the people in the name of “democratic institutions,” the advocates of the latter are simply reversing the meaning of democracy, making it the absolute empire of “institutions” under which the people have and can have no power and no means of action. No wonder that, on his release from jail, the highest apostle of “democratic institutions” and sworn enemy of “fascist authoritarianism,” Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, finds no popular support and seeks instead the support of the military class, the personification of “dictatorship.”

The language of Brazilian public debates is a set of psychotic inversions in which each speaker tries to deceive himself in order to better deceive others.

Olavo de Carvalho (1947-2022) was a Brazilian philosopher who lived in the United States. His books cover a wide array of topics, including Aristotle, Descartes, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Christian philosophy. For his work, he was honored with the Grand Cross of the Rio Branco Order, Brazil’s highest award, by President Jair Bolsonaro. His most recent book in English is Machiavelli or the Demonic Confusion.

Featured image: “Skat Players,” by Otto Dix; painted in 1920.

A Case For Teaching The Humanities

“I am Roman because Rome, from the time of the consul Marius and the divine Julius to Theodosius, drafted the first form of my France. I am Roman, because Rome, the Rome of priests and popes, has given eternal solidarity of sentiment, of morals, of language, of worship, to the political work of Roman generals, administrators and judges. By this treasure, which it received from Athens and transmitted that deposit to our Paris, Rome means without question the civilization of humanity. I am Roman, I am human: two identical propositions.” These words from the pen of Charles Maurras in Barbares et Romains (Barbarians and Romans) form a vibrant praise not only of Rome, the sweet anaphora, but also of civilization, conveying tradition and transmission and not oblivion and renunciation; perpetuation and not the clean slate; community and not individuality; permanence and not rupture.

For a few days now, the Minister of National Education has seemed inclined to see the teaching of Latin and Greek return to middle and high schools. The Latinist that I am and who used to unveil to students the mysteries of rosa, rosae can only be pleased. However, I am not fooled by these dupes. This kind of announcement is certainly enough to make a whole section of the conservative university and academic intelligentsia of the center-right feel good about the woke and progressive drifts already well underway, with inclusive language, the satanic and non-gendered pronoun “iel” and the convoluted discussions about male domination in language.

We shouldn’t imagine that the Macronian renaissance is about to be launched, as other renaissances were in the course of our history. Minister Blanquer is a liberal-conservative, certainly, but does not have the courage to be conservative. Is he the most cynical of the bunch? That is quite possible—he has already sabotaged the BA degree, reduced to a pittance, and is in favor of the digital school and even of the digital kindergarten.

If I were naive, I would believe that this sudden impulse is inspired by the spirit of Lucien Jerphagnon, whose death, ten years ago, we are commemorating and whose birth we are celebrating a hundred years later. Father Jerph was one of those sparkling, light spirits that contrast with the dullness and pomposity of academics. He was inhabited by joy, the kind of joy that delights youth, lifts the heart, sharpens the soul, and makes it rise above all misfortunes, torments, and distresses. The true joy of knowledge. Lucien Jerphagnon was neither of the Left, nor of the Right, nor a Marxist, nor an intellectual at the forefront of research. He was freelance and classical; close to Paul Veyne by originality, Désiré Nisard by taste, Jean Bayet by academic outlook.

His was a strange life: he dressed like a monk and was ordained a priest; then, a passionate lover, turned into a happy husband and ended up as a patriarch. He was in turn a theologian, historian of ideas, translator and philosopher; of high class, of good style, careful to be versatile if he could not manage the modern complexity of reality. Plotinus was his tender companion, with whom one shares a cigarette and a glass of cognac. In love with Augustine, he knew how to render the full measure of this author. A gifted young scholar, who became a professor in Milan in his thirties when others were at the Collège de France in their twilight. Jerpha revived Madauros, a university town in northern Algeria, that supreme and delicate refinement of Romanization, where Augustine, the orator Maximus, Apuleius and Martianus Capella lived. His biography of Julian the Apostate seeks to understand how a philosopher-emperor thought he could return to paganism and make Christianity a footnote in history. An unresolved death by the side of Mosul clinched it—Christianity would triumph.

Jerphagnon was a philosopher of time and banality. Influenced by Vladimir Jankélévitch, he was concerned with understanding the everyday, the alltäglichkeit, as Heidegger politely said, pretext to all the astonishments, typical of the wise. He was a serious discoverer of forgotten authors such as Marcus Varro or Favorinus of Arles; a historian of ideas of high caliber who made us understand, in les Divins Césars (The Divine Caesars), why the emperors of the 2nd century thought they were the sun and who envisaged Rome as the center of a cosmos—all the while writing with amusement and enjoyment a formidable history of Rome.

The young Lucien at the high school in Bordeaux was bored during a mathematics class. On his knees, he flipped through a book containing a few photos of the ruins of Timgad, the Palmyra of Algeria: “That’s where I want to live and die,” the young lad said to himself. From heaven came down a voice: “Jerphagnon, you will make up two hours!” Then his teacher stuck a future specialist in the Greco-Roman world. “I could never get used to the fact that Rome was dead,” confessed the wise old man to José Saramago, “because I loved it since my 6th grade. I lived my life there, faithful to this love of Roman civilization.” What a beautiful profession of faith!

If Lucien Jerphagnon is to be made an exemplum, let’s not forget that in matters of education, the Left is chopping our legs and causing us many problems. And this is not the end of the story! I hold as proof Vincent Peillon who writes in la Révolution française n’est pas terminée (The French Revolution is not Finished) that it is necessary to reinvent the revolution of the spirit, with the aim of destroying at all costs the Catholic religion and to invent a republican religion. This requires the total conversion of the elites and the young to the sciences and the disappearance of Latin and Greek, languages of the old regime, of Catholicism, of bourgeois domination.

Such is the pinnacle of the freemasons: radical leftists yesterday, social-democrats today; old-fashioned, stuck in the Third Republic, detached from reality and perfectly barbaric, since they claim, shamelessly, not to transmit any more, to cut themselves off from tradition and civilization. They swear only by individualities in the perspective of human rights. Now they promise inclusiveness, flattering the youth, corrupting it with vague ideas about freedom and equality.

In an interview given on TV in 1958, Pagnol felt the problem looming: specialization, the end of the humanities and the science of the technocrat. Specialization, by reducing the fields, reduces the possibilities of linking the fields. To have a rational mind is precisely to see relationships. But if the objects no longer exist, the relationships can no longer be made. It can only result in an impoverishment of thought. National education goes even further, since it has given up training literate people, to preparing only future employees for the labor market. The best will be slug-brain specialists, dumbed down like tabletops, the least good will be cashiers at Franprix, salesmen at Prisunic.

The professors stuff the heads of young people with new ideas, smelling of Pierre Bourdieu, ready-made and passed off as revealed truths, so they themselves can continue to dine at the faculty club during silly seminars on anti-racism in literature, and history colloquiums on North African minorities in the gay Paris of the 1920s. The education of yesteryear has degenerated into a total moron-factory based on the ideological teaching of soft sciences. We are far from the gentleman, far from the humanist, far from the cosmopolitan scholar.

Getting beyond her gavel, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem completed the work, explaining that Latin classes would be for the children of the rich and privileged, that elective classes had to be abolished, and that antiquity had to be made accessible to all by diluting Latin in French courses, thus putting ancient language courses to death in a gentle way; a bit like euthanasia.

Between this caricatured, barbaric Left, in the very sense in which Maurras took it, some have retained the opinion of Raymond Aron in this matter, like Paul Veyne, our dear friend, whose opinion that Latin and Greek should be abolished in secondary school and that a national establishment should be created to train solid scientists and researchers, I do not quite understand. This is a mistake. To dedicate Latin to research is to render it autistic; to leave it in the hands of the colloquium-makers who titillate the coffee-brewers and the editors of scientific articles in obscure journals is to render it mute, invisible, extinct.

It doesn’t matter if people are interested in Aristophanes’ scholia, or in the placement of an accent on a word in a twelfth-century manuscript in the Vatican library. One does not ask young people to read the Pharsalus in the original, even yours truly would not be able to do so. But to have a good head, made robust by the training in, and knowledge of, Greek tragedy, the functioning of the Athenian city, the Peloponnesian war told by Thucydides, the epic of Alexander the Great, Latin and Greek rhetoric, the work of Cicero, Caesar and Augustus, the personality of Seneca, elegiac poetry, Virgil, the bloody and mannered histories of Tacitus, the orientalism of the emperors, 312 and our world that has become Christian. It is grand to arrive, by love of the rei latinae, to the character of Des Esseintes in À Rebours by Huysmans who, in chapter III, gives us the menu of his likes and dislikes of all literature, criticizing the Chickpea (Cicero), judging the verses of a phony and vain poet, and preferring in the “fin de siècle” Roman authors the rot and the carrion, and at times the supreme refinement of precious stones and topazes.

I do not believe in progressivism and personal development, nor even in the scientific and academic elitism left to the Giscards of thought. I firmly believe in the tradition of inheriting and transmitting, of passing on the work of Hellenic-Christian civilization, from generation to generation. This is achieved through solid and serious learning of civilization, through language and grammar, literature, philosophy and history. It is necessary to go through the pain of declensions and conjugations; to make the effort, as in Pétanque, to have access to the texts, to their style; to reflect on the words and their concepts in order to understand the civilization. Nothing is more precious than to know the feeling of the language, to understand the spirit of an era.

This apparent need for Latin and Greek can take three forms: as a declaration in an electoral context; resistance and head-on opposition to progressivism; or a reconciliation with Wokism. The problem is not so much what Minister Blanquer says or thinks, but what the left-wing ideological machine, the Éducation Nationale, is capable of producing. The teacher conforms to the Houellebecquian image of the tired West. The teachers are mostly mediocre, cowardly and subscribe, under contract, to all the sickness of the modern world: deconstruction, diversity, immigration, inclusion, in the public as well as in the private. If this impulse for antiquity gets mixed up, dare I say it, with this kind of progressive thinking, it would do equally bad things for the mental health of our young people. I can already imagine the titles of the courses: “Migratory Crisis in Roman Gaul;” “the Roman Baths: A Space of Hybridization for Minorities;” “Conspiracy and Fake News: The Catiline Conspiracy;” “Being a Slave and Gay in Ephesus;” “Transidentity in Rome.” What a wonderful antiquity!

What we need are professors who are like Hussars in full cavalry at Jena—scholars like Bernard Lugan, like Marc Fumaroli; focused minds concerned with civilization—like Valéry, Thibaudet; intransigent polemicists—like Bloy or Julien Benda. The rest will follow. I began with Maurras, I end with Charles Péguy and Notre Jeunesse (Our Youth): ” What this entry was for me, in sixth grade, at Easter— the astonishment, the newness before rosa, rosae, the opening of an entire world, completely different, an altogether new world. That is what needs to be said, but that would get me tangled up in fondness. The grammarian who just the one time, the first, opens the Latin grammar on rosa, rosae will never know on which flowerbed he is opening the child’s soul.”

Nicolas Kinosky is at the Centres des Analyses des Rhétoriques Religieuses de l’Antiquité. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy La Nef.

Featured image: “Etruscan Vase Painters,” by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, painted in 1871.

Indo-European Origins: Eurasian Steppes Or Northern Fjords?

The question of the “home of origin” (Urheimat, Homeland) of the Indo-Europeans has given rise to the most varied hypotheses and suppositions, theories that are analyzed in detail in Alain de Benoist’s book Indo-Europeans: In Search of the Homeland, without the author—nor anyone else—being able to venture a definitive solution, even though the new revelations of paleogenetics point to the “Yamna culture” of the Eurasian steppes, since anthropological and archaeological evidence insistently points to the European Nordic area. In any case, the debate about the “original homeland” of the Indo-Europeans is still open.

5,000 years ago (especially in the period 2800/2500 BC. ), in the Bronze Age, it seems that a people from the Eurasian Pontic steppes, predominantly light pigmented (skin, eyes and hair), nomadic herders and herdsmen, predatory warriors mounted on horseback and with wheeled chariots, used for both transport and combat, with unique funeral rites, innovative metallurgy and unique pottery, began to invade Europe, in successive migratory waves, imposing themselves on the peaceful hunter-gatherer-farmers. In any case, around 2000 B.C., the hardy bands of steppe nomads reached the Atlantic coasts and passed to the British Isles, after a frenetic race of invasion and conquest, devastating in their path the primitive, agricultural, peaceful, matriarchal and egalitarian European pre-civilization cultures.

Their “original habitat”: the steppes of southern Russia and Ukraine, between the Black and Caspian Seas, reaching westward to eastern Hungary across the Balkans, and eastward to present-day Kazakhstan and the Altai, which would validate the hypothesis of the “kurgans” (tombs in the form of burial mounds) of Lithuanian-American archaeologist Marija Gimbutas. Her greatest “legacy”: the impressive extension of the Indo-European languages, which include most of the languages spoken from Iceland and Ireland to northern India, in addition to the Indo-European peripheries in America, Australia and South Africa. This “Pontic and Steppe hypothesis” seemed to disprove the “Nordic or Germanic hypothesis” held, among others, by Gustaf Kossinna (and more recently, by Lothar Kilian and Carl-Heinz Boettcher), which fits better with the prehistoric data of mythology and anthropology, but which fell out of favor because of the perverse use of “Aryans” in Nazi Germany. Their “other legacy”: genetic inheritance.

They were the “Yamnayas,” the proto-Indo-Europeans who colonized all of Europe, Central Asia, reaching the southern Caucasus, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Chinese Turkestan. The “Yamna” culture (“hole” in Russian and Ukrainian, referring to the graves where they buried their dead) are a “ghost people,” as it is known in genetics, a people that have disappeared but can be identified by the genetic, archaeological, linguistic and anthropological traces they has left in their wake. The result is that the genes of the Yamnayas are present, to a greater or lesser extent, in all present-day Europeans.

Thus, paleogenetic research led particularly by the American geneticist David Reich—carried out from 2010 and culminating in 2015—concludes that “today the peoples of western Eurasia (the immense region encompassing Europe, the Near East and much of Central Asia) show a great genetic similarity… Western Eurasia reveals itself to be homogeneous, from the Atlantic façade of Europe to the steppes of Central Asia (Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past). Genetic haplogroups R1a and R1b, transmitted through the paternal line, are the most representative of present-day Europeans, with a predominance of the former in the East and the latter in the West. Precisely, these two branches are directly linked to the Yamnaya ancestors. Thus, around 2500/2000 B.C., according to the data provided by ancient DNA, the “norcaucasian” or “steppic” component was already part of the anthropological heritage of most of the inhabitants of Europe.

It should be noted that, in fact, archaeological, linguistic and mythological disciplines already indicated that the close kinship between the Indo-European languages meant that they all derive from a single original language (Ursprache), which had been spoken by a single people (Urvolk) in a very ancient homeland (Urheimat), to be spread later, in the course of a series of migrations. Thus, the spread of Indo-European languages would represent the expression of a people living in the same geographical area, in a community of culture and civilization, sharing expressions related to flora, fauna, economy and religion. Now, paleogenetics has confirmed this hypothesis.

But how could this rapid migration/expansion have occurred in a people presumably few in number? In the first place, this “rapidity” must be qualified without taking into account the context of war, since according to the researcher Wolfang Haak, the “conquest” of such an immense territory could have taken about 500 years.

Secondly, the explanatory factors of this prehistoric proto-Indo-European “great march” are diverse. The eminently warlike character of the Yamnayas, with an overwhelming superiority in the mastery of metallurgy, reflected in the use of weapons, such as the sword, the dagger, the bow and the battle axe, their extreme mobility through the use of the horse and wheeled chariots, as well as a society structured very hierarchically around a group of men who held supreme leadership of the various clans and tribal families, to which should be added, according to Kristian Kristiansen, a greater anthropological complexion, more corpulence; in short, surely due to a better diet, because compared to a diet basically reduced to cereals and vegetables typical of the Paleo-Europeans, the Yamnayas enjoyed a more caloric diet based also on meat and dairy products. The conquest/invasion was the work, above all, of young men (according to chromosomal sequences, between 5 and 15 men for each woman), of “bands” not very numerous, but very active militarily and sexually, because they had great reproductive success, surely because they enjoyed advantages in the competition for female partners, occupying the summit of symbolic, religious, political, military and social power.

In any case, although the genetic findings attribute a central weight to the Yamnayas in the spread of the Indo-European languages, which tips the balance definitely in favor of some variant of the “steppe hypothesis”, these discoveries do not yet resolve the question of the territory of origin of the Indo-European languages—acknowledges Reich—the place where these languages were spoken before the spectacular Yamnaya expansion. The debate about the “original homeland” of the Indo-Europeans, therefore, remains open.

Despite the tremendous sensation caused by the paleogenetic studies, which revealed the massive migration of the peoples of the Yamnaya steppe culture in the Early Bronze Age to northern, central and western Europe, considering this event as the basis for the spread of the Indo-European languages, other authors are beginning to express their criticism of the genetic inference and, in particular, its implications for the problem of the origins of the Indo-European languages.

According to the genetic revelations, the steppe “Yamna culture” would be associated with the Proto-Indo-European language, while the origin of the derived linguistic groups (Greek, Germanic, Italic, Slavic, Celtic, Baltic, among others) would be attributed to the cultures of the “Chordate pottery” (also called “battle-axe culture,” spread in northern and northeastern Europe). The supporters of this hypothesis, however, are aware of the relative weakness of their conclusions, advancing, for example, that perhaps not all Indo-European peoples come from the Yamnaya, but only some of them. This means, in essence, that we are not dealing then with the cradle of the proto-Indo-European, but only with one of its subfamilies: in this case, the stereopic hypothesis of the origin of the Indo-Europeans would be transformed only into the origin, so to speak, of the Indo-Iranian group.

Many archaeologists doubt that the discoveries in question reflect a direct migration from the “Yamna culture” to the “Chordate culture.” The first doubt is that the Yamnaya people spoke the Proto-Indo-European language. All recognized dates for the fragmentation of the Proto-Indo-European language are between the seventh and fifth millennia BC. The Yamnaya culture is well dated by calibrated radiocarbon chronology: it begins, at the earliest, within the second third of the third millennium BC. Thus, there is a gap of about 2.5 millennia (1.6 millennia minimum).

The Russian archaeologist Leo S. Klejn highlighted a remarkable fact: the strange distribution of steppe genetic contributions to the “Corded Pottery” cultures and their descendants, revealed by Haak and others, very rich in northern Europe and increasingly weaker towards the south, particularly in Hungary, just where the western edge of the “Yamna culture” itself is located. This distribution is at odds with the suggestion that the source of the contribution to the “Corded Pottery” cultures is the southeastern “Yamna culture;” that very distribution seems rather more natural, if it is suggested that the common source (of both cultural units) is in northern Europe—and hence the common cause of genetic similarity.

The mystery of the origin of the Proto-Indo-Europeans remains an enigma, but perhaps not so indecipherable after reading this book.

Jesús Sebastián Lorente is a Spanish lawyer. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Elmanifesto.

Featured image: “Trizna,” by Andrey Shishkin, painted in 2019.