Robert Tronge 2

     <--Previous Page          Main Robert Tronge Menu           Next Page-->     

robert tronge
Robert Tronge

The Duke of Orleans created De Musset Librarian in the Department of the Interior. It was sometimes stated that there was no library at all. It is certain that it was a sinecure, though the pay, 3,000 francs, was small. In 1848 the Duke had the bad taste to ask for his resignation, but the Empire repaired the injury. Alfred de Musset died in Paris, May 2, 1857. Before the history of any life can be written, that life must be lived; so that it is not my life that I am now writing. Attacked in early youth by an abominable moral malady, I here narrate what happened to me during the space of three years. Were I the only victim of that disease, I would say nothing, but as many others suffer from the same evil, I write for them, although I am not sure that they will give heed to me. Should my warning be unheeded, I shall still have reaped the fruit of my agonizing in having cured myself, and, like the fox caught in a trap, shall have gnawed off my captive foot. During the wars of the Empire, while husbands and brothers were in Germany, anxious mothers gave birth to an ardent, pale, and neurotic generation. Conceived between battles, reared amid the noises of war, thousands of children looked about them with dull eyes while testing their limp muscles. From time to time their blood-stained fathers would appear, raise them to their gold-laced bosoms, then place them on the ground and remount their horses. The life of Europe centred in one man; men tried to fill their lungs with the air which he had breathed. Yearly France presented that man with three hundred thousand of her youth; it was the tax to Caesar; without that troop behind him, he could not follow his fortune. It was the escort he needed that he might scour the world, and then fall in a little valley on a deserted island, under weeping willows. Never had there been so many sleepless nights as in the time of that man; never had there been seen, hanging over the ramparts of the cities, such a nation of desolate mothers; never was there such a silence about those who spoke of death. And yet there was never such joy, such life, such fanfares of war, in all hearts. Never was there such pure sunlight as that which dried all this blood. God made the sun for this man, men said; and they called it the Sun of Austerlitz. But he made this sunlight himself with his ever-booming guns that left no clouds but those which succeed the day of battle. It was this air of the spotless sky, where shone so much glory, where glistened so many swords, that the youth of the time breathed. They well knew that they were destined to the slaughter; but they believed that Murat was invulnerable, and the Emperor had been seen to cross a bridge where so many bullets whistled that they wondered if he were mortal. And even if one must die, what did it matter? Death itself was so beautiful, so noble, so illustrious, in its battle-scarred purple! It borrowed the color of hope, it reaped so many immature harvests that it became young, and there was no more old age. All the cradles of France, as indeed all its tombs, were armed with bucklers; there were no more graybeards, there were only corpses or demi-gods. Nevertheless the immortal Emperor stood one day on a hill watching seven nations engaged in mutual slaughter, not knowing whether he would be master of all the world or only half. Azrael passed, touched the warrior with the tip of his wing, and hurled him into the ocean. At the noise of his fall, the dying Powers sat up in their beds of pain; and stealthily advancing with furtive tread, the royal spiders made partition of Europe, and the purple of Caesar became the motley of Harlequin. Just as the traveller, certain of his way, hastes night and day through rain and sunlight, careless of vigils or of dangers, but, safe at home and seated before the fire, is seized by extreme lassitude and can hardly drag himself to bed, so France, the widow of Caesar, suddenly felt her wound. She fell through sheer exhaustion, and lapsed into a coma so profound that her old kings, believing her dead, wrapped about her a burial shroud. The veterans, their hair whitened in service, returned exhausted, and the hearths of deserted castles sadly flickered into life. Then the men of the Empire, who had been through so much, who had lived in such carnage, kissed their emaciated wives and spoke of their first love. They looked into the fountains of their native fields and found themselves so old, so mutilated, that they bethought themselves of their sons, in order that these might close the paternal eyes in peace. They asked where they were; the children came from the schools, and, seeing neither sabres, nor cuirasses, neither infantry nor cavalry, asked in turn where were their fathers. They were told that the war was ended, that Caesar was dead, and that the portraits of Wellington and of Blucher were suspended in the ante-chambers of the consulates and the embassies, with this legend beneath: 'Salvatoribus mundi'. Then came upon a world in ruins an anxious youth. The children were drops of burning blood which had inundated the earth; they were born in the bosom of war, for war. For fifteen years they had dreamed of the snows of Moscow and of the sun of the Pyramids. They had not gone beyond their native towns; but had been told that through each gateway of these towns lay the road to a capital of Europe. They had in their heads a world; they saw the earth, the sky, the streets and the highways; but these were empty, and the bells of parish churches resounded faintly in the distance.