Alphonse de Lamartine
Part 4 out of 4
as I saw mourning where I had expected to find joy. The other letters
slid from my hands onto my knees. I dared not read on for fear of
finding--alas! what neither hand, nor eye, nor blood, nor tears, nor
earth, nor Heaven could evermore efface--Death!... Though my very soul
trembled so as to make the syllables dance before my eyes, I read at
last these words:
"Prove yourself a man! Submit yourself to the will of Him whose ways
are not our ways; expect her no longer! ... Look for her no more on
earth, she has returned to heaven, calling on your name.... Thursday at
sunrise.... She told me all before she died; ... she directed me to
send you her last thoughts, which she wrote down till the very instant
her hand grew cold while tracing your name.... Love her in Christ, who
loved us unto death, and live for your mother!
I fell back senseless on the straw, and only recovered consciousness
when the cold air of midnight chilled my brow. The light was still
burning, and the doctor's letter was grasped convulsively in my hand.
The untouched packet had fallen on the floor; I opened it with my lips,
as if I feared to profane the heavenly message by breaking the seal
with my fingers. Several long letters from Julie fell out; they were
arranged according to dates.
In the-first there was: "Raphael! O my Raphael! O my brother! forgive
your sister for having so long deceived you.... I never hoped to see
you once more in Savoy.... I knew that my days were numbered, and that
I could not live on till that day of happiness.... When I said at the
gate of the garden of Monceau, 'We shall meet again,' Raphael, you did
not understand me, but God did. I meant to say, 'We shall meet again,
once more to love, to bless eternally, in heaven!' I begged Dr. Alain
to aid me in deceiving you, and sending you away from Paris. It was my
wish, it was my duty, to spare you such a sight of anguish as would
have torn your heart asunder, and would have been too much for your
strength.... And then again--forgive me, I must tell you all--I did not
wish you to see me die.... I wish to spread a veil between us some time
before death.... Cold death!--I feel it, see it, and shudder at myself
in death! Raphael, I sought to leave an image of beauty in your eyes,
that you might ever contemplate and adore! But now, you must not go,
... to await me in Savoy! Yet a little while--two or three days
perhaps--and you need seek me nowhere! But I shall be there, Raphael! I
shall be everywhere, and always where you are."
This letter had been moistened with tears, which had unglazed and
stiffened the paper.
In the other, dated the following night, I read:--
"Raphael, your prayers have drawn down a blessing from Heaven upon me.
I thought yesterday of the tree of adoration at St. Cloud, at whose
foot I saw God through your soul. But there is another holier
tree,--the Cross!... I have embraced it ... I will cling to it
evermore.... Oh, how that divine blood cleanses! how those divine tears
purify!... Yesterday I sent for a holy priest of whom Alain had spoken.
He is an old man who knows everything; who forgives all! I have
discovered my soul to him, and he has shed on it the love and light of
God.... How good is God! how indulgent, how full of loving kindness!
How little we know of him! He suffers me to love you, to have you for
my brother, to be your sister here below, if I live; your guardian
angel above, if I die! O Raphael, let us love him, since he permits
that we should love each other as we do!"...
At the end of the letter there was a little cross traced, and, as it
were, the impress of a kiss all around.
There was another letter written in a totally altered hand, where the
characters crossed and mingled on the page, as if traced in the dark,
"Raphael, I must say one word more--to-morrow, perhaps, I could not.
When I am dead, oh, do not die! I shall watch over you from above; I
shall be good and powerful, as the loving God, to whom I shall be
united, is good and powerful. After me, you must love again.... God
will send you another sister, who will be, moreover, the pious helpmate
of your life.... I will myself ask it of him.... Fear not to grieve my
soul, Raphael!... I--could I be jealous in heaven of your happiness?...
I feel better now I have said this. Alain will forward these lines to
you, and a lock of my hair.... I am going to sleep."...
One letter more, almost illegible, contained only these interrupted
lines: "Raphael! Raphael! where are you? I have had strength to get out
of bed.... I have told the nurse that I wished to be left alone to
rest. I have dragged myself along to the table, where I am writing by
the light of the lamp.... But I can see no more; ...my eyes swim in
darkness; ... black spots flit across the paper; ... Raphael! I can no
longer write.... Oh, one word more!"...
Then, in large letters, like those of a child trying to write for the
first time, there are two words which occupy a whole line, filling the
bottom of the page. "Farewell, Raphael!"
All the letters fell from my hands. I was sobbing without tears, when I
perceived another little note in the handwriting of the old man, her
husband; it had slid between the pages as I was unsealing the first
There were only these words: "She breathed her last, her hand in mine,
a few hours after writing you her last farewell. I have lost my
daughter.... Be my son for the few days I have yet to live. She is
there upon her bed, as if asleep, with an expression on her features of
one whose last thought smiled at seeing something beyond our world. She
never was so lovely; and as I look on her I require to believe in
immortality.... I loved you through her; for her sake love me!"
How strange, and yet how fortunate for human nature, is the
impossibility of immediately believing in the complete disappearance of
a much-loved being! Though the evidence of her death lay scattered
around, I could not believe that I was forever separated from her. Her
remembrance, her image, her features, the sound of her voice, the
peculiar turn of her expressions, the charm of her countenance, were so
present, and, as it were, so incorporate in me, that she seemed more
than ever with me; she appeared to envelop me, to converse with me, to
call me by my name, as though I could have risen to meet her, and to
see her once more. God leaves a space between the certainty of our loss
and the consciousness of reality, like the interval which our senses
measure between the instant when the eye sees the axe fall on the tree
and the sound in our ear of the same blow long after. This distance
deadens grief by cheating it. For some time after losing those we love,
we have not completely lost them; we live on by the prolongation of
their life in us. We feel as when we have been long watching the
setting sun,--though its orb has sunk below the horizon, its rays are
not set in our eyes; they still shine on our soul. It is only
gradually, and as our impressions become more distinct as they cool,
that we are made to know the complete and heartfelt separation,--that
we can say, she is dead in me! For death is not death, but oblivion.
This phenomenon of grief was shown in its full force in me during that
night. God suffered me not to drain at one draught my cup of woe, lest
it should overwhelm my very soul. He vouchsafed to me the delusive
belief, which. I long retained, of her inward presence. In me, before
me, and around me, I saw that heavenly being who had been sent to me
for one single year, to direct my thoughts and looks forevermore
towards the heaven to which she returned in her spring of youth and
When the poor boatman's candle was burned out, I took up my letters and
hid them in my bosom. I kissed a thousand times the floor of the room
which had been the cradle, and was now the tomb, of our love. I
unconsciously took my gun, and rushed wildly through the mountain
passes. The night was dark; the wind had risen. The waves of the lake,
dashing against the rocks, lashed them with such hollow blows, and sent
forth sounds so like to human voices, that many times I stopped
breathless, and turned round, as if I had been called by name. Yes, I
was called; and I was not mistaken; but the voice came from heaven!...
You know, my friend, who found me the next morning, wandering among
precipices, in the mists of the Rhone; who raised me up, supported me,
and brought me back to my poor mother's arms....
Now fifteen years have rolled by without sweeping away in their course
a single memory of that one great year of my youth. According to
Julie's promise to send me from above one who should comfort me, God
has exchanged his gift for another; he has not withdrawn it. I often
return to visit the valley of Chambery and the lake of Aix, with her
who has made my hopes patient and tranquil as felicity. When I sit on
the heights of the hill of Tresserves, at the foot of those
chestnut-trees that have felt her heart beat against their bark; when I
look at the lake, the mountains, snows and meadows, trees and jagged
rocks, swimming in a warm atmosphere which seems to bathe all nature in
one perfumed liquid; when I hear the sighing breeze, the humming
insects, and the quivering leaves, the waves of the lake breaking on
the shore, with the gentle rustling sound of silken folds unrolling one
by one; when I see the shadow of her whom God has made my companion
until my life's end cast beside mine upon the grass or sand; when I
feel within me a plenitude that desires nothing before death, and
peace, untroubled by a single sigh; methinks I see the blessed soul of
her who appeared to me in this spot rise, dazzling and immortal, from
every point of the horizon, fill of herself alone the sky and waters,
shine in that splendor, float in that ether, bum in all those flames. I
see it penetrate those waves, breathe in their murmurs; pray, and laud,
and sing in that one hymn of life that streams with these cascades from
glacier unto lake, and shed upon the valley and on those who keep her
memory a blessing that the eye seems to see, the ear to hear, the heart
Here ended Raphael's first manuscript.
Back to Full Books