"It is possible.
In the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king.
All these people are commonplace because their mind is shut in between two walls, money and politics.
They are dullards, my dear fellow, with whom it is impossible to talk about anything we care for.
Their minds are at the bottom mud, or rather sewage; like the Seine Asnieres.
Ah! how difficult it is to find a man with breadth of thought, one who causes you the same sensation as the breeze from across the broad ocean one breathes on the seashore.
I have known some such; they are dead."
Norbert de Varenne spoke with a clear but restrained voice, which would have rung out in the silence of the night had he given it rein.
He seemed excited and sad, and went on:
"What matter, besides, a little more or less talent, since all must come to an end."
He was silent, and Duroy, who felt light hearted that evening, said with a smile: "You are gloomy to-day, dear master."
The poet replied: "I am always so, my lad, so will you be in a few years.
Life is a hill.
As long as one is climbing up one looks towards the summit and is happy, but when one reaches the top one suddenly perceives the descent before one, and its bottom, which is death.
One climbs up slowly, but one goes down quickly.
At your age a man is happy.
He hopes for many things, which, by the way, never come to pass.
At mine, one no longer expects anything--but death."
Duroy began to laugh:
"You make me shudder all over."
Norbert de Varenne went on: "No, you do not understand me now, but later on you will remember what I am saying to you at this moment.
A day comes, and it comes early for many, when there is an end to mirth, for behind everything one looks at one sees death.
You do not even understand the word.
At your age it means nothing; at mine it is terrible.
Yes, one understands it all at once, one does not know how or why, and then everything in life changes its aspect.
For fifteen years I have felt death assail me as if I bore within me some gnawing beast.
I have felt myself decaying little by little, month by month, hour by hour, like a house crumbling to ruin.
Death has disfigured me so completely that I do not recognize myself.
I have no longer anything about me of myself--of the fresh, strong man I was at thirty.
I have seen death whiten my black hairs, and with what skillful and spiteful slowness.
Death has taken my firm skin, my muscles, my teeth, my whole body of old, only leaving me a despairing soul, soon to be taken too.
Every step brings me nearer to death, every moment, every breath hastens his odious work.
To breathe, sleep, drink, eat, work, dream, everything we do is to die.
To live, in short, is to die.
I now see death so near that I often want to stretch my arms to push it back.
I see it everywhere.
The insects crushed on the path, the falling leaves, the white hair in a friend's head, rend my heart and cry to me,
It spoils for me all I do, all I see, all that I eat and drink, all that I love; the bright moonlight, the sunrise, the broad ocean, the noble rivers, and the soft summer evening air so sweet to breathe."
He walked on slowly, dreaming aloud, almost forgetting that he had a listener:
"And no one ever returns--never.
The model of a statue may be preserved, but my body, my face, my thoughts, my desires will never reappear again.
And yet millions of beings will be born with a nose, eyes, forehead, cheeks, and mouth like me, and also a soul like me, without my ever returning, without even anything recognizable of me appearing in these countless different beings.
What can we cling to?
What can we believe in?
All religions are stupid, with their puerile morality and their egoistical promises, monstrously absurd.
Death alone is certain."
He stopped, reflected for a few moments, and then, with a look of resignation, said:
"I am a lost creature.
I have neither father nor mother, nor sister nor brother; no wife, no children, no God."