Farewell

Farewell

Autumn
already!… But why regret the everlasting sun, if we are sworn to a
search for divine brightness– far from those who die as seasons turn….
Autumn. Our boat, risen out of a hanging fog, turns toward poverty’s
harbor, the monstrous city, its sky stained with fire and mud. Ah! Those
stinking rags, bread soaked with rain, drunkenness, and the thousands
of loves who nailed me to the cross! Will there never, ever be an end
to that ghoulish queen of a million dead souls and bodies and who will
all be judged!, I can see myself again, my skin corroded by dirt and
disease, hair and armpits crawling with worms, and worms still larger
crawling in my heart, stretched out among ageless, heartless, unknown
figures…. I could easily have died there…. What a horrible memory!
I detest poverty. And I dread winter because it’s so cozy!

–Sometimes in the sky I see endless sandy shores covered with white
rejoicing nations. A great golden ship, above me, flutters many-colored
pennants in the morning breeze. I was the creator of every feast, every
triumph, every drama. I tried to invent new flowers, new planets, new
flesh, new languages. I thought I had acquired supernatural powers.
Ha! I have to bury my imagination and my memories! What an end to a
splendid career as an artist and storyteller! I! I called myself a magician,
an angel, free from all moral constraint…. I am sent back to the soil
to seek some obligation, to wrap gnarled reality in my arms. A peasant!
Am I deceived? Would Charity be the sister of death, for me?

Well, I shall ask forgiveness for having lived on lies. And that’s that.
But not one friendly hand… and where can I look for help? True; the
new era is nothing if not harsh. For I can say that I have gained a
victory; the gnashing of teeth, the hissing of hellfire, the stinking
sighs subside. All my monstrous memories are fading. My last longings
depart– jealousy of beggars, bandits, friends of death, all those that
the world passed by– Damned souls, if I were to take vengeance! One
must be absolutely modern. Never mind hymns of thanksgiving: hold on
to a step once taken. A hard night! Dried blood smokes on my face, and
nothing lies behind me but that repulsive little tree! The battle for
the soul is as brutal as the battles of men; but the sight of justice
is the pleasure of God alone.

Yet this is the watch by night. Let us all accept new strength, and
real tenderness. And at dawn, armed with glowing patience, we will enter
the cities of glory. Why did I talk about a friendly hand! My great
advantage is that I can laugh at old love affairs full of falsehood,
and stamp with shame such deceitful couples– I went through women’s
Hell over there– and I will be able now to possess the truth within
one body and one soul.

April-August,
1873