Les Miserables 75: A Heart Beneath a Stone

Last time I promised that we would look at Marius’s love letter to Cosette, because it is some of Victor Hugo’s most beautiful writing and it is best to let you experience it for yourself.  So here we go:

The reduction of the universe to a single being, the expansion of a single being into God, this is love.

Love is the salutation of the angel to the stars.

How sad the soul when it is sad from love!

What a void is the absence of the being who alone fills the world!  Oh!  How true that the beloved becomes God!  One would understand that God might be jealous if the Father of all had not clearly made creation for the soul, and the soul for love!

One glimpse of a smile under a white crepe hat with lilac veil is enough for the soul to enter the palace of dreams.

God is behind everything, but everything hides God.  Things are black, creatures are opaque.  To love a human being is to make her transparent.

Certain thoughts are prayers.  There are moments when, whatever the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.

Separated lovers belie absence by a thousand chimeric things that have their own reality.  They are prevented from seeing each other, they cannot write to each other; they find a host of mysterious ways to correspond.  They exchange the song of the birds, the perfume of flowers, children’s laughter, sunlight, the sighs of the wind, the starlight, the whole of creation.  And why not?  All of God’s works were made to serve love.  Love is powerful enough to charge all nature with its messages.

O Spring!  You are a letter that I write to her.

The future belongs still more to the heart than the mind.  To love is the only thing that can occupy and fill up eternity.  The infinite requires the inexhaustible.

Love partakes of the soul itself.  It is of the same nature.  Like the soul, it is a divine spark; it is incorruptible, indivisible, imperishable.  It is a point of fire within us, which is immortal and infinite, which nothing can limit and nothing can extinguish.  We feel it burning even in the marrow of our bones, and we see it radiate even to the depths of the sky.

O love!  Adorations!  Light of two minds that understand each other, of two hearts interchanged, of two glances that interpenetrate!  You will come to me, won’t you, happiness?  Walks together in the solitudes!  Blessed, radiant days!  Occasionally I have dreamed that from time to time hours detached themselves from the life of the angels and came down to pass through the destiny of men.

God can add nothing to the happiness of those who love one another, but to give them unending duration.  After a life of love, an eternity of love is a superabundance, indeed; but to intensify the ineffable felicity that love gives to the soul in this world is impossible, even for God.  God is the plenitude of heaven; love is the plenitude of man.

You look at a star for two reasons, because it is luminous and because it is impenetrable.  You have at your side a softer radiance and a greater mystery, woman.

Whoever we may be, we all have our living, breathing beings.  If they fail us, the air fails us, we stifle, then we die.  To die for lack of love is horrible.  The asphyxia of the soul.

When love has dissolved and mingled two beings into an angelic sacred unity, the secret of life is found for them; they are then but the two terms of a single destiny; they are then but the two wings of a single spirit.  Love, soar!

The day that a woman walking past sheds a light on you as she goes, you are lost, you love.  You have then only one thing left to do:  to think of her so earnestly that she will be compelled to think of you.

What love begins can only be finished by God.

True love is in despair and raptures over a lost glove or a handkerchief found, and it requires eternity for its devotion and its hopes.  It is composed at the same time of the infinitely great and the infinitely small.

If you are stone, be loadstone, if you are plant, be sensitive, if you are man, be love.

Nothing is enough for love.  We have happiness, we wish for paradise; we have paradise, we wish for Heaven.

O ye who love each other, all this is in love.  Be wise enough to find it.  As much as Heaven, love has contemplation, and more than Heaven, passionate delight.

“Does she still come to the Luxembourg?”  “No, monsieur.”  “She hears mass in this church, doesn’t she?”  “She no longer comes here.”  “Does she still live in this house?”  “She has moved away!”  “Where has she gone to live?”  “She did not say!”

What a somber thing, not to know the address of one’s soul!

Love has its childishness, the other passions have their pettiness.  Shame on the passions that make man little!  Honor to what makes him a child!

There is a strange thing–do you know what?  I am in the night.  There is a being who has gone away and carried the heavens with her.

Oh, to be laid side by side in the same tomb, hand clasped in hand, and from time to time, in the darkness, to caress a finger gently, that would be enough for my eternity.

You who suffer because you love, love still more.  To die of love is to live by it.

Love.  A somber starry transfiguration is mingled with this torture.  There is ecstasy in the agony.

O joy of the birds!  It is because they have their nest that they have their song.

Love is a celestial breathing of the air of paradise.

Deep hearts, wise minds take life as God has made it; it is a long trial, an unintelligible preparation for the unknown destiny.  This destiny, the true one, begins for man with the first step inside the tomb.  Then something appears to him, and he begins to discern the definite.  The definite, think about this word.  The living see the infinite; the definite reveals itself only to the dead.  Meantime, love and suffer, hope and contemplate.  Woe, alas, to the one who shall have loved bodies, forms, appearances only.  Death will take everything from him.  Try to love souls, you shall find them again.

In the street I met a very poor young man who was in love.  His hat was old, his coat was threadbare–there were holes at his elbows; the water seeped through his shoes and the stars through his soul.

What a great thing, to be loved!  What a greater thing still, to love!  The heart becomes heroic through passion.  It is no longer composed of anything but what is pure; it no longer rests on anything but what is elevated and great.  An unworthy thought can no more spring up in it than a nettle on a glacier.  The lofty and serene soul, inaccessible to common passions and common emotions, rising above the shadows of this world, its follies, its falsehoods, its hatreds, its vanities, its miseries, inhabits the blue of the skies, and no longer feels anything but the deep subterranean commotions of destiny, as the summit of the mountains feels the quaking of the earth.

If no one loved, the sun would go out.

A couple of thoughts:  When Marius says that the heart becomes heroic through passion and is no longer composed of anything but what is pure and no longer rests on anything but what is elevated and great, he betrays his youthful naivete.  Even when he is in love with Cosette, in fact, because he is in love with Cosette, he is capable of treating Eponine quite poorly.  Eponine, who loved him so much and sacrificed so much that he might be made happy.  But his love for Cosette had a dark side and Eponine experienced the full brunt of it.

My other thought:  Who really lives this way?  Who really feels this way about the person he/she loves?  Is anyone out there capable of feeling the depth of passion that Marius conveys in his letter to Cosette?  Does anyone even want to feel that?  Would it even be good if anyone were to feel that?  Or would that be an unhealthy extreme that would be detrimental to our relationships?

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2 thoughts on “Les Miserables 75: A Heart Beneath a Stone

  1. Joe?!?!? Is anyone out there? You were my one and only entertaining link to reading this book with a hint of understanding. I am on my third chapter about “slang” and I still have no idea what he is referring to!

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