The story of a fine old chap. The first book I read from the Art of Manliness list of books, and it has for subject a man who is struggling with guilt and remorse, trying to make his way out of it. As you’ll read below, the writing style is old, and good : it made it quite hard to read at the beginning, and as with several other English books, I didn’t get the plot on the spot, but often later. Really good.
‘Surely in no other craft as in that of the sea do the hearts of those already launched to sink or swim go out so much to the youth on the brink, looking with shinning eyes upon that glitter of the vast surface which is only a reflection of his own glances full of fire. There is such magnificent vagueness in the expectations that had driven each of us to the sea, such a glorious indefiniteness, such a beautiful greed of adventures that are their own and only reward ! What we get – well, we won’t talk of that ; but can one of us restrain a smile ?’
It is when we try to grapple with another man’s intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun. It is as if loneliness were a hard and absolute condition of existence ; the envelope of flesh and blood on which our eyes are fixed melts before the outstretched hand, and there remain only the capricious, unconsolable, and elusive spirit that no eye can follow, no hand can grasp.
‘He stood up with the tips of his fingers resting on the desk. ‘ ” We want in so many different ways to be, ” he began again. “This magnificent butterfly finds a little heap of dirt and sits still on it ; but man he will never on his heap of mud keep still. He wants to be so, and he wants to be so…” He moved his hand up, then down… “He wants to be a saint, and he wants to be a devil – and everytime he shuts his eyes he sees himself as a very fine fellow – so fine as he can never be… In a dream…”
‘This mournful and restless sound was a fit accompaniment to my meditations. She had said he had been driven away from her by a dream, – and there was no answer one could make here – there seemed to be no forgiveness for such a transgression. And yet is not mankind itself, pushing on its blind way, driven by a dream of its greatness and its power upon the dark paths of excessive cruelty and of excessive devotion ? And what is the pursuit of truth, after all ?
Photos : Mer Méditérranée, 2009 – Alexandre Christiaens