“When love has fused and mingled two beings in a sacred and angelic unity,
the secret of life has been discovered so far as they are concerned;
they are no longer anything more than the two boundaries of the same destiny;
they are no longer anything but the two wings of the same spirit.“
“What is love?
The reduction of the universe to the compass of a single being, and the extension of a single being until it reaches God — that is love. Love is the salute of the angels to the stars.
I have met in the streets a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, the water passed through his shoes and the stars through his soul.
To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life. You who suffer because you love, love still more. To die of love, is to live by it.
Love has no middle term; either it destroys, or it saves. All human destiny is this dilemma. This dilemma, destruction or salvation, no fate proposes more inexorably than love. Love is life, if it is not death. Cradle; coffin, too. The same sentiment says yes and no in the human heart. Of all the things God has made, the human heart is the one that sheds most light, and alas! most night.
Love is like a tree: it grows by itself, roots itself deeply in our being and continues to flourish over a heart in ruin. The inexplicable fact is that the blinder it is, the more tenacious it is. It is never stronger than when it is completely unreasonable. Love is the foolishness of men, and the wisdom of God. Life is the flower for which love is the honey.
The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only. To love another person is to see the face of God.
He fell to the seat, she by his side. There were no more words. The stars were beginning to shine. How was it that the birds sing, that the snow melts, that the rose opens, that May blooms, that the dawns whitens behind the black trees on the shivering summit of the hills?
One kiss, and that was all.
Both trembled, and they looked at each other in the darkness with brilliant eyes.
They felt neither the cool night, nor the cold stone, nor the damp ground, nor the wet grass; they looked at each other, and their hearts were full of thought. They had clasped hands, without knowing it.
She did not ask him; did not even think where and how he had managed to get into the garden. It seemed so natural to her that he should be there.
From time to time Marius’ knee touched Cosette’s. A touch that thrilled.
At times, Cosette faltered out a word. Her soul trembled on her lips like a drop of dew on a flower.
Gradually, they began to talk. Overflow succeeded to silence, which is fullness. The night was serene and glorious above their heads. These two beings, pure as spirits, told each other everything, their dreams, their frenzies, their ecstasies, their chimeras, their despondencies, how they had adored each other from afar, how they had longed for each other, their despair when they had ceased to see each other. They had confided to each other in an intimacy of the ideal, which already, nothing could have increased, all that was most hidden and most mysterious in themselves. They told each other, with a candid faith in their illusions, all that love, youth and the remnant of childhood that was theirs, brought to mind. These two hearts poured themselves out to each other, so that at the end of an hour, it was the young man who had the young girl’s soul and the young girl who had the soul of the young man. They interpenetrated, they enchanted, they dazzled each other.
When they had finished, when they had told each other everything, she laid her head on his shoulder, and asked him: “What is your name?”
My name is Marius,” he said. “And yours?”
My name is Cosette.
A man without a woman is like a pistol without a trigger; it is the woman who makes the man go off. Nobody knows like a woman how to say things that are both sweet and profound. Sweetness and depth, this is all of woman; this is Heaven.
It was ‘She’. Whoever has loved knows all the radiant meaning contained in the three letters of this word ‘she’ … She loved with so much passion as she loved with ignorance. She did not know whether it were good or evil, beneficent or dangerous, necessary or accidental, eternal or transitory, permitted or prohibited: she loved.
The soul gropes in search of a soul, and finds it. And that soul, found and proven, is a woman. A hand sustains you, it is hers; lips lightly touch your forehead, they are her lips; you hear breathing near you, it is she. To have her wholly, from her devotion to her pity, never to be left alone, to have that sweet shyness as, to lean on that unbending reed, to touch, Providence with your hands and be able to grasp it in your arms; God made palpable, what transport! The heart, that dark celestial flower, bursts into a mysterious bloom. You would not give up that shade for all the light in the world! The angel soul is there, forever there; if she goes away, it is only to return; she fades away in a dream and reappears in reality. You feel an approaching warmth, she is there. You overflow with serenity, gaiety, and ecstasy; you are radiant in your darkness. And the thousand little cares! The trifles that are enormous in this void. The most ineffable accents of the womanly voice used to comfort you, and replacing for you the vanished universe! You are caressed through the soul. You see nothing but you feel yourself adored. It is paradise of darkness.
Throughout the month of May, every night, in that poor, wild garden, under that shrubbery, each day, more perfumed and dense, two human beings composed of every chastity and every innocence, every flowing with all the felicities of Heaven, closer to archangels than men, pure, honest, intoxicated, radiant, glowed for each other in the darkness. It seemed to Cosette that Marius had a crown, and to Marius that Cosette had a halo. They touched, they gazed at each other, they clasped hands, they pressed close together, but there was a distance they did not pass. Not that they respected it; they were ignorant of it. Marius felt a barrier, Cosette’s purity, and Cosette felt a support, Marius’ loyalty. The first kiss was also the last. Since then, Marius had not gone beyond touching Cosette’s hand, or her scarf, or her curls, with his lips. Cosette was to him a perfume, not a woman. He breathed her. She refused nothing, and he asked nothing. Cosette was happy, and Marius was satisfied. They were living in that ravishing condition that might be called the dazzling of one soul by another. It was that ineffable first embrace of two virginities within the ideal. Two swans meeting on the Jung Frau.
Let us say in passing, to be blind and to be loved, is in fact–on this earth where nothing is complete–one of the most strangely exquisite forms of happiness. To have continually at your side a woman, a girl, a sister, a charming being, who is there because you need her, and because she cannot do without you, to know you are indispensable to someone necessary to you, to be able at all times to measure her affection by the degree of the presence that she gives you, and to say to yourself: She dedicates all her time to me, because I possess her whole love; to see the thought if not the face; to be sure of the fidelity of one being in a total eclipse of the world; to imagine the rustling of her dress as the rustling of wings; to hear her moving to and fro, going out, coming in, talking, singing, to think that you are the cause of those steps, those words, that song; to show your personal attraction at every moment; to feel even more powerful as your infirmity increases; to become in darkness, and by reason of darkness, the star around which this angel gravitates; few joys can equal that. The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves–say rather, loved in spite of ourselves; the conviction the blind have. In their calamity, to be served is to be caressed. Are they deprived of anything? No. Light is not lost where love enters. And what a love! A love wholly founded in purity. There is no blindness where there is certainty.
You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness. We pardon to the extent that we love. Love is knowing that even when you are alone, you will never be lonely again. Love is the only future God offers.
Love is the sublime crucible in which is consummated the fusion of man and woman; the one being, the triple being, the final being — the human trinity springs from it. This birth of two souls into one space must be an emotion for space. The lover is priest; the apprehensive maiden submits. Something of this joy goes to God. Where there really is marriage, that is to say, where there is love, the ideal is mingled with it. A nuptial bed makes a halo in the darkness. Were it given to the eye of the flesh to perceive the fearful and enchanting sights of the superior life, it is likely that we should see the forms of night, the winged stranger, the blue travelers of the invisible, bending, a throng of shadowy heads, over the luminous house, pleased, blessing, showing to one another the sweetly startled maiden bride and wearing the reflection of the human felicity on their divine countenances. If at that supreme hour, the wedded pair, bewildered with pleasure, and believing themselves alone, were to listen, they would hear in their room a rustling of confused wings. Perfect happiness implies the solidarity of the angels. That obscure little alcove has for its ceiling the whole heavens. When two mouths, made sacred by love, draw near to each other to create, it is impossible, that above that ineffable kiss there should not be a thrill in the immense mystery of the stars.
“Do you know what friendship is?” he asked.
“Yes,” replied the gypsy; “it is to be brother and sister; two souls which touch without mingling, two fingers on one hand.”
“And love?” pursued Gringoire.
“Oh! love!” said she, and her voice trembled, and her eye beamed. “That is to be two and to be but one. A man and a woman mingled into one angel. It is heaven.“
Excerpts from Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.
~Victor Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. During a literary career that spanned more than sixty years, he wrote abundantly in an exceptional variety of genres: lyrics, satires, epics, philosophical poems, epigrams, novels, history, critical essays, political speeches, funeral orations, diaries, letters public and private, and dramas in verse and prose.
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