« EelmineJätka »
plishment, as a little snow falling in the night puts a stop to the noise of a great city.
Want of energy at the period in which we live; the nullity or degradation of characters too frequently strangers to honour and devoted to interest; indifference towards good and evil, vice and virtue; the worship of guilt; the carelessness or apathy with which we look upon events that of old would have convulsed the world; the privation of those conditions of life which seem necessary to social order all these things may authorise the belief that the denouement is approaching, that the curtain is about to rise, and another performance to begin: no such thing. Other men have not hidden themselves behind the present men; that which strikes our eyes is not an exception, it is the common state of manners, ideas, and passions; it is the great and universal disease of a world which is at the point of dissolution. Were every thing changed to-morrow, with the proclamation of other principles, we should see nothing but what we now see-reveries in some, frenzies in others, equally impotent, equally barren.
Let some independent men step aside to allow the torrent of miseries to flow off-alas! they will have passed away before these! Let young generations, filled with illusions, confront the impure flood of baseness, let them proceed with head bent
forward to a pure future which they hope to seize, but which incessantly eludes their grasp: finding in their devotedness the reward of their sacrifice, having proceeded from chimera to chimera, and arrived on the brink of the grave, they will bequeath the weight of disappointed years to other mistaken generations, which will carry them to the nearest tombs, and so on successively.
A future there will be, a mighty future, free in all the plenitude of evangelical equality; but it is still far, very far beyond any visible horizon: it will not be attained but by that untiring Hope, incorruptible by misfortune, whose wings grow and enlarge in proportion as everything seems to deceive it; by that hope stronger and longer than time, and which the Christian alone possesses. Before mankind arrive at the goal, before they attain the unity of nations, natural democracy, they will have to pass through the social decomposition; a time of anarchy, perhaps of blood, certainly of infirmities. This decomposition is begun; it is not ready to produce from its germs, not yet sufficiently fermented, the new world.
By way of conclusion, let us return to the primary object of this work, and again descend to the humble rank of translator. When a man has seen' like me, Washington and Bonaparte; upon a level with them, but in another order of power, Pitt and Mirabeau; among the high revolutionists, Robespierre and Danton; among the plebeian masses, the common man marching to the exterminations of the frontiers, the Vendean peasant shutting himself up with his blazing crops, what more remains to be seen behind the great tomb of St. Helena ?
Why have I survived the age and the men to whom I belonged by the date of the hour at which my mother inflicted life upon me? Why have I not disappeared with my contemporaries, the last remnants of an exhausted race? Why am I left alone to seek their bones amid the darkness and dust of a crumbled world? I had everything to gain by not dragging on a longer existence upon the earth. I should not have been obliged to
begin and afterwards to suspend my posthumous acts of justice, to write this book, in order to preserve my independence as a man.
When, at the beginning of my life, England afforded me an asylum, I translated some of Milton's verses, to supply the wants of the exile: now, having returned to my country, drawing nigh to the end of my career, I again have recourse to the poet of Eden. The author of "Paradise Lost" was not, however, richer than I am. Seated among his daughters, deprived of the light of heaven, but illumined by the torch of his genius, he dictated his verses to them. I have no daughters; I can contemplate the luminary of day, but I cannot say to it, of myself, like the blind British bard,
How glorious once above thy sphere!
Milton served Cromwell; I have combated Napoleon he attacked kings; I have defended them he hoped nothing from their pardon; have not reckoned upon their gratitude. Now that in both our countries monarchy is declining towards its end, Milton and I have no more political questions to squabble about. I shall seat myself at the table of my host; he will have nourished me young and old. It is nobler, it is safer, to have recourse to glory than to power.