Robert Tronge 16

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robert tronge
Robert Tronge

Then tears came to my aid and I perceived that there was nothing real but my grief. "Very well," I cried, in my delirium, "tell me, good and bad genii, counselors for good or evil, tell me what to do! Choose an arbiter and let him speak." I seized an old Bible which lay on my table, and read the first passage that caught my eye. "Reply to me, thou book of God!" I said, "what word hast thou for me?" My eye fell on this passage in Ecclesiastes, Chapter IX: For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God; no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. When I read these words I was astounded; I did not know that there was such a sentiment in the Bible. "And thou, too, as all others, thou book of hope!" What do the astronomers think when they predict, at a given hour and place, the passage of a comet, that most eccentric of celestial travellers? What do the naturalists think when they reveal the myriad forms of life concealed in a drop of water? Do they think they have invented what they see and that their lenses and microscopes make the law of nature? What did the first law-giver think when, seeking for the corner-stone in the social edifice, angered doubtless by some idle importunity, he struck the tables of brass and felt in his bowels the yearning for a law of retaliation? Did he, then, invent justice? And the first who plucked the fruit planted by his neighbor and who fled cowering under his mantle, did he invent shame? And he who, having overtaken that same thief who had robbed him of the product of his toil, forgave him his sin, and, instead of raising his hand to smite him, said, "Sit thou down and eat thy fill;" when, after thus returning good for evil, he raised his eyes toward Heaven and felt his heart quivering, tears welling from his eyes, and his knees bending to the earth, did he invent virtue? Oh, Heaven! here is a woman who speaks of love and who deceives me; here is a man who speaks of friendship and counsels me to seek consolation in debauchery; here is another woman who weeps and would console me with the flesh; here is a Bible that speaks of God and says: "Perhaps; but nothing is of any real importance." I ran to the open window: "Is it true that you are empty?" I cried, looking up at the pale expanse of sky which spread above me. "Reply, reply! Before I die, grant that I may clasp in these arms of mine something more than a dream!" Profound silence reigned. As I stood with arms outstretched, eyes lost in space, a swallow uttered a plaintive cry; in spite of myself I followed it with my eyes; while the swallow disappeared from sight like a flash, a little girl passed singing. Before taking life on its pleasant side--a side which to me seemed rather sinister--I resolved to test everything. I remained thus for some time, a prey to countless sorrows, tormented by terrible dreams. The great obstacle to my cure was my youth. Wherever I happened to be, whatever my occupation, I could think of nothing but women; the sight of a woman made me tremble. It had been my fate--a fate as rare as happy--to give to love my unsullied youth. But the result of this was that all my senses united in idealizing love; there was the cause of my unhappiness. For not being able to think of anything but women, I could not help turning over in my head, day and night, all the ideas of debauchery, of false love and of feminine treason, with which my mind was filled. For me to possess a woman was to love her; I thought of nothing but women, but I believed no more in the possibility of true love. All this suffering inspired me with a sort of rage. At times I was tempted to imitate the monks and starve my body in order to conquer my senses; at times I felt like rushing out into the street to throw myself at the feet of the first woman I met and vow to her eternal love. God is my witness that I did all in my power to cure myself. Preoccupied from the first with the idea that the society of men was the haunt of vice and hypocrisy, where all were like my mistress, I resolved to separate myself from them and live in complete isolation. I resumed my neglected studies, and plunged into history, poetry, and anatomy. There happened to be on the fourth floor of the same house an old and learned German. I determined to learn his language; the German was poor and friendless, and willingly accepted the task of instructing me. My perpetual state of distraction worried him. How many times he waited in patient astonishment while I, seated near him with a smoking lamp between us, sat with my arms crossed on my book, lost in revery, oblivious of his presence and of his pity. "My dear sir," said I to him one day, "all this is useless, but you are the best of men. What a task you have undertaken! You must leave me to my fate; we can do nothing, neither you nor I." I do not know that he understood my meaning, but he grasped my hand and there was no more talk of German.