Chateaubriand's memoirs, III, 9

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III, 8 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> III, 10

Mémoires d'Outre-tombe

Book III - Chapter 9
Two years delirium – Occupations and dreams

This delirium lasted two whole years, during which my mental faculties reached the highest pitch of exaltation. I used to speak little, I no longer spoke at all; I still studied, but tossed aside my books; my taste for solitude intensified. I possessed all the symptoms of violent passion; my eyes grew hollow; I grew thin; I no longer slept; I was distracted, sad, ardent, and unsociable. My days rolled by in a manner that was wild, strange, insensate, maddened, and yet full of delight.

To the north of the château extended a terrain dotted with Druidic stones; I would go and sit on one of these stones at sunset. The golden summit of the wood, the splendour of the earth, the evening star glittering among the rose-coloured clouds, sent me back to my dreams: I would have wished to enjoy the spectacle with the ideal object of my yearnings. I followed the star of day in thought; I gave him my beauty to lead along, so that he might present her, radiant beside him, to the universal homage. The evening breeze which stirred the web woven by a spider between the grass-tips, the moor-land lark settling on a stone, called me back to reality: I made my way back home, heart constricted, face lowered.

On stormy days in summer, I would climb to the top of the great west tower. The rumble of thunder in the garrets of the chateau, the torrents of rain that pounded down on the cone-shaped roofs of the towers, and the lightning furrowing the clouds and marking out the brass weathercocks with electric flame, excited my enthusiasm: like Ismen on the ramparts of Jerusalem, I invoked the thunder; I hoped it might bring me Armida.

Was the sky clear? I crossed the Great Mall, around which lay meadows separated by hedges of willow-trees. I had made a seat, like a nest, in one of these willows: there, alone between heaven and earth, I spent hours with the warblers; my nymph was at my side. I associated her image equally with the beauty of those spring nights filled with the freshness of dew, with the plaints of the nightingale, and the murmur of the breeze.

At other times, I would follow an abandoned track, or a stream adorned with its water-plants; I listened to the sounds that emanate from unfrequented places; I put my ear to every tree; I thought I might hear the moonlight singing in the woods: I wanted to tell of these pleasures and words died on my lips. I do not know how often I rediscovered my goddess in the tones of a voice, the tremors of a harp, in the velvet or liquid sounds of a horn or an organ. It would take too long to tell of the lovely voyages I made with my flower of love; how hand in hand we visited famous ruins, Venice, Rome, Athens, Jerusalem, Memphis, Carthage; how we crossed the seas; how we demanded happiness from the palm-trees of Tahiti, from the balm-filled groves of Ambon and Timor; how we went to wake the dawn on a summit of the Himalayas; how we descended the sacred rivers whose waves extended round pagodas with golden domes; how we slept on the banks of the Ganges, while the Bengali, perched on the mast of a bamboo craft, sang his Indian barcarole.

Heaven and earth no longer meant anything to me; I forgot the former especially: but if I no longer addressed my prayers to it, it heard the voice of my secret misery, since I suffered, and suffering is prayer.