SHAKESPEARE [séance of Wednesday, January 25, 1854, 9:30 in the evening. Present: Victor Hugo, Madame Hugo, Guerin.]
M d e i l m m
--- Do you want someone else to take the table? --- Yes. --- Who? --- Charles. --- Can anyone else substitute for him? --- No. --- Who should leave the table? --- Madame Hugo. . . . --- Continue the preceding verses. We're listening to you.
My work descended, but my soul has climbed.
Alive, we called ourselves Shakespeare, him Moliere.
We make suns out of emotions
And our work, creating worlds out of the glare,
Fills the human spirit with constellations.
Dead, we throw ourselves wide open, humble, under the stars,
We hide ourselves, dreamers, behind our tombs.
And there we see ourselves.
[Interruption.] --- Are you searching for the end of your verse and do you want us to wait a minute? [The table continues to shake without answering.] --- Do you want me to re-read everything? Would that help you? --- Yes. [They read, the table answers.]
---the unveiled immensity
On our foreheads---
[Interruption from the table. It shakes] --- Is it a t that follows? [No response.] --- Is there something that's bothering you? --- No. [The table continues to glide and to turn.] ---Do you want to start over with your last verse? --- Yes. --- Go ahead. [Still a silence; then the table starts up again.] --- Finish the stanza. --- Is it I, Victor Hugo, whom you say should finish the stanza? --- Yes. --- Your verse, is it done? --- Yes. --- Do you want me to make mine right away? --- Yes. [Interruption of three or four minutes during which Victor Hugo makes his verse.] --- Here's my ending:
Eternal star extinguished earthly flames
--- Tell us yours.
On our extinguished stars to light its flames.
--- Do you have some observation to make? --- I like your verse better. --- Do you want to continue the rest of the verse? --- Yes.
Death takes the r r ---
--- Do you want to start the verse over? --- No. --- Continue.
---th, human under its immense feathers,
Carries him to the bottom of the skies and shows him Venus
And tells him: Art is a dark shepherd
Who walks bare-footed. Those there are the eternal opus.
He passes on the level ground at the hour the sun sets,
Guiding humanity outside the path of wolves,
Stood on its feet by the troop s---
[Interruption.] --- Do you want to change something in that verse? --- Yes. [The first four are retained; it changes the fifth.] --- Which word are you changing? --- The word "sets". --- Into what? --- "goes down". --- Keep the following verse? --- No. --- Go ahead.
Guiding man who follows his soft, powerful step.
Great for the black troop---
---whom his arm leads, at ease,
Stood on its feet for the horizon, but on knees for the star,
But even though you are little for God, poets,
Don't say: that's a little. What does our effort matter!
Continue, thinkers, the things that you do,
--- Keep the V? --- No. [Interruption. The table starts over:]
The key that you forge opens the door.
[The table stops.] --- Do you want to re-do that verse? --- Yes. --- Keep anything? --- No. [The table starts up over.]
That is not a robber but the shadows of death.
Death does not steal their florets
For crowns. Death is not a theft of immortality.
The sky guards fame, O God, when you give it,
Death does not---
[Interruption.] --- Keep "Death does not"? --- No. [The table starts up again.]
God does not deprive Shakespeare of his immensity.
Don't say: death comes in the cemetery,
Night, on furtive steps, and there, while everything sleeps,
Takes his poem to Dante and his play to Moliere
And flees. Accursed would be the ghost
[Interruption.] --- Do you have something to change? --- Yes. --- In which verse? --- The second. --- Keep "Night, on furtive steps"? --- Yes. --- Keep "and there"? --- No. --- Then, re-do the second half of the line.
---and like an enemy.
---Retain the third? --- No. --- Completely re-do it? --- Yes. --- Go ahead.
Steal hell from Dante and Tartuffe from Moliere
And take his epitaph to Cervantes asleep.
Which do you like better: "to Cervantes asleep", or: "to the genius asleep"? ---- I like "to the genius" better. I like that it's more general and that it applies to all great men. Do you think like me? --- Yes. --- Continue.
No: death is life, and not the---
[Interruption.] --- Do you want to change something in this verse you just started? [No response. The table shakes.] --- Do you want to redo the whole thing? --- Yes. --- Go ahead.
No, poets, death is not a black phantom,
Scrimshanker lazily at the gates of a tomb.
The sepulcher is not, on the road of man,
A trap that God renders to the great, the just, the handsome.
No, Death is life set free and superb.
It is the great reaper.
[Interruption.] --- Do you want to change that half-line? --- Yes. --- Go ahead.
It is the sower of the sky who is the great reaper,
Who sweeps a last scythe on the tomb
And who gleans---
[The table goes to Z and stops.] --- Do you want to change "And who gleans"? --- Yes. --- Go ahead.
And throws his harvest at the feet of the Lord.
The earthly work lives, the earthly work reigns.
It is our key of love to enter into the azure.
That our arm shudders and our forehead bleeds,
Up to the sky, rock by rock, let us lift our wall.
Slowly heap masterpiece upon masterpiece,
Today Don Quixote and tomorrow Iago,
Today the lion and tomorrow the garden snake,
Today, me, Shakespeare, and tomorrow, you, Hugo.
Since God outdistances us and He humbles us,
Let us give Him pain to conquer the vermillion art,
And that in seeing to climb---
[Interruption.] --- Do you have something to change? --- Yes. --- Is it in the whole stanza? --- Yes. [They re-read it.] --- Keep the first verse? --- Only the first half of the line. --- Re-do the second.
---from at least a hundred cubits
--- The second verse? --- Keep it. --- Keep the half-line of the third? --- Change "climb". --- Into what?
---to run our quadrigas ° of ideas ° two-wheeled chariot, four horses
He triples the yoke for his solar chariot.
Let us be proud to be those whom the sky battles,
And that in seeing the skies they say: they are greater
Than the heavenly bugle---
[Interruption.] --- Do you want to change something? --- Yes, the second half of the first verse. --- Into what?
---who fight the empire
--- Continue the third verse.
---art measures its lyre
And to be such dwarfs, being such giants,
No, we are nothing, we are an atom;
No, we are nothing by comparison.
Our books are small before the divine tome
When the daybreak has gilded its edges to the horizon.
--- Do you want to go on today? It's two o'clock in the morning. --- You decide. --- Do you want to come back soon? --- Yes. --- When? --- Friday at nine o'clock.
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