Chateaubriand's memoirs, III, 10

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III, 9 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> III, 11

Mémoires d'Outre-tombe

Book III - Chapter 10
My autumn joys

The sadder the season, the more it matched my mood: cold weather, by making travel less easy, isolated the inhabitants of the countryside: one felt better in human shelter.

A moral character is attached to autumn scenes: those leaves which fall like our years, those flowers which fade like our hours, those clouds that flee like our illusions, that light which weakens like our intellect, that sun which cools like our love, those waves that freeze like our life, have a secret sympathy with our destiny.

I viewed with inexpressible pleasure the return of the stormy season, the flight of swans and woodpigeons, the gathering of rooks on the meadow by the pond, and their perching at the fall of night on the highest oaks of the Great Mall. When evening raised a bluish mist at crossroads in the forests, when the moans or whistles of the wind wailed in the withered mosses, I entered into complete ownership of my natural sympathies. Did I meet with some labourer in the depths of a fallow field? I would stop to look at that man engendered in the shade of those ears of corn among which he must be harvested, and who turning the earth of his tomb with the blade of the plough mingled his hot sweat with the cold rains of autumn: the furrow he dug was the monument destined to survive him. What had my elegant daemon to do with that? Through her magic, she transported me to the banks of the Nile, showed me the Pyramids of Egypt buried in sand, as one day the Armorican furrow would be hidden by heather: I congratulated myself on having set my fables of happiness beyond the circle of mortal realities.

In the evening I embarked on the pond, steering my boat alone, in the midst of bulrushes and the large floating water-lily leaves. There, the swallows gathered again preparing to leave our climes. I did not lose a single note of their twittering: Tavernier as a child would have been less attentive to a traveller’s tale. They played above the water at sunset, chasing insects, hurling themselves together through the air, as if to test their wings, fell towards the surface of the lake, then came and hung on the reeds that their weight scarcely bent down, and which they filled with their confused song.