Saturday, March 29, 2014

Les Miserables Excerpt 4

Grass Hides And Rain Blots Out

There is, in the cemetery of Pere Lachaise, in the neighborhood of the Potters' field, far from the elegant quartier of the city of sepulchers, far from all those fantastic tombs which display in presence of eternity the hideous fashions of death, in a deserted corner, beside an old wall, beneath a great yew on which the bindweed climbs, among the dog-grass and the mosses, a stone. This stone is exempt no more than the rest from the leprosy of time, from the mould, the lichen, and the droppings of the birds. The air turns it black, the water green. It is near no path, and people do not like to go in that direction, because the grass is high, and they would wet their feet. When there is a little sunshine, the lizards come out. There is, all about, a rustling of wild oats. In the spring, the linnets sing in the trees.
     This stone is entirely blank. The only thought in cutting it was of the essentials of the grave, and there was no other care than to make this stone long enough and narrow enough to cover a man.
     No name can be read there.
     Only many years ago a hand wrote upon it in pencil these four lines which have become gradually illegible under the rain and the dust, and which are probably effaced:

     Il dort. Quoique le sort fût pour lui bien étrange,
     Il vivait. Il mourut quand il n’eut plus son ange,
     La chose simplement d’elle-même arriva,
     Comme la nuit se fait lorsque le jour s’en va.

     (He sleeps; although so much he was denied,
     He lived. And when his dear love left him, died.
     It happened calmly, on its own,
     The way night comes when day is done.)


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