Monday, November 28, 2011

São umas cavalgaduras


  Carlos não decidira fazer exclusivamente clínica : mas desejava  decerto dar consultas, mesmo gratuitas, como caridade e como prática. Então Vilaça sugeriu que o consultório estivesse separado do  laboratório.
    – E a minha razão é esta : a vista de aparelhos, máquinas, coisas, faz esmorecer os doentes...
    – Tem você razão, Vilaça ! – exclamou Afonso. – Já meu pai  dizia : poupe−se ao boi a vista do malho.
    – Separados, separados, meu senhor – afirmou o procurador  num tom profundo.
    Carlos concordou. E Vilaça bem depressa descobriu, para o  laboratório, um antigo armazém, vasto e
retirado, ao fundo de um  pátio, junto ao Largo das Necessidades.
    – E o consultório, meu senhor, não é aqui, nem acolá ; é no Rossio, ali em pleno Rossio !
    Esta ideia do Vilaça não era desinteressada. Grande entusiasta  da Fusão, membro do Centro
Progressista, Vilaça Júnior aspirava  a ser vereador da Câmara, e mesmo em dias de satisfação superior  (como quando o seu aniversário natalício vinha anunciado no Ilustrado, ou quando no Centro citava com aplauso a Bélgica),  parecia−lhe que tantas aptidões mereciam do seu partido uma  cadeira em S. Bento. Um consultório gratuito, no Rossio, o consultório  do Dr. Maia, «do seu Maia» reluziu−lhe logo vagamente como um elemento de influência. E tanto se agitou, que daí a dois dias tinha  alugado um primeiro andar de esquina.
    Carlos mobilou−o com luxo. Numa antecâmara, guarnecida de  banquetas de marroquim, devia
estacionar, à francesa, um criado  de libré. A sala de espera dos doentes alegrava com o seu papel  verde de ramagens prateadas, a plantas em vasos de Ruão, quadros de muita cor, e ricas poltronas cercando a jardineira coberta  de colecções do Charivari, de vistas estereoscópicas, de álbuns de  actrizes seminuas, para tirar inteiramente o ar triste de consultório, até um piano mostrava o seu teclado branco.
    O gabinete de Carlos ao lado era mais simples, quase austero,  todo em veludo verde−negro, com
estantes de pau−preto. Alguns  amigos que começavam a cercar Carlos, Taveira, seu contemporâneo e agora vizinho do Ramalhete, o Cruges, o marquês de Souselas, com quem percorrera a Itália – vieram ver estas maravilhas.  O Cruges correu uma escala no piano e achou−o abominável ;  Taveira absorveu−se nas fotografias de actrizes ; e a única aprovação franca veio do marquês, que depois de contemplar o divã do gabinete, verdadeiro móvel de serralho, vasto, voluptuoso, fofo,  experimentou−lhe a doçura das molas e disse, piscando o olho a  Carlos :
    – A calhar.
    Não pareciam acreditar nestes preparativos. E todavia eram  sinceros. Carlos até fizera anunciar o
consultório nos jornais ;  quando viu, porém, o seu nome em letras grossas, entre o de uma engomadeira à Boa Hora e um reclamo de casa de hóspedes –  encarregou Vilaça de retirar o anúncio.
    Ocupava−se então mais do laboratório, que decidira instalar no  armazém, às Necessidades. Todas as
manhãs, antes de almoço, ia  visitar as obras. Entrava−se por um grande pátio, onde uma bela  sombra cobria um poço, e uma trepadeira se mirrava nos ganchos  de ferro que a prendiam ao muro. Carlos já decidira transformar  aquele espaço em fresco jardinete inglês ; e a porta do casarão  encantava−o, ogival e nobre, resto de fachada de ermida, fazendo  um acesso vulnerável para o seu santuário de ciência. Mas dentro  os trabalhos arrastavam−se sem fim ; sempre um vago martelar preguiçoso numa poeira alvadia ; sempre as mesmas coifas de ferramentas jazendo nas mesmas camadas de aparas ! Um carpinteiro  esgrouviado e triste parecia estar ali desde séculos, aplainando  uma tábua eterna com uma fadiga langorosa ; e no telhado os trabalhadores, que andavam alargando a clarabóia, não cessavam de  assobiar, no sol de Inverno, alguma lamúria de fado.
    Carlos queixava−se ao Sr. Vicente, o mestre−de−obras, que lhe  asseverava invariavelmente «como daí a dois dias havia de Sua  Excelência ver a diferença». Era um homem de meia−idade, risonho, de falar doce, muito barbeado, muito lavado, que morava ao pé  de Ramalhete, e tinha no bairro fama de republicano.
       Carlos, por  simpatia, como vizinho, apertava−lhe sempre a mão : e o Sr. Vicente,  considerando−o por isso um «avançado», um democrata,  confiava−lhe as suas esperanças. O que ele desejava primeiro que  tudo era um 93, como em França...
    – O quê, sangue ? – dizia Carlos, olhando a fresca, honrada e  roliça face do demagogo.
    – Não, senhor, um navio, um simples navio...
    – Um navio ?
    – Sim, senhor, um navio fretado à custa da nação, em que se  mandasse pela barra fora o rei, a família real, a cambada dos  ministros, dos políticos, dos deputados, dos intrigantes, etc. e etc.
       Carlos sorria, às vezes argumentava com ele.
    – Mas está o Sr. Vicente bem certo, que apenas a cambada,  como tão exactamente diz, desaparecesse pela barra fora, ficavam  resolvidas todas as coisas e tudo atolado em felicidade ?
    Não, o Sr. Vicente não era «burro» que assim pensasse. Mas,  suprimida a cambada, não via Sua
Excelência ? Ficava o país desatravancado ; e podiam então começar a governar os homens de  saber e de progresso...
    – Sabe Vossa Excelência qual é o nosso mal ? Não é má vontade  dessa gente ; é muita soma de
ignorância. Não sabem. Não sabem  nada. Eles não são maus, mas são umas cavalgaduras !
    – Bem, então essas obras, amigo Vicente – dizia−lhe Carlos,  tirando o relógio e despedindo−se dele com um valente shake−hands – veja se me andam. Não lho peço como proprietário, é como correligionário.
– Daqui a dois dias há−de Vossa Excelência ver a diferença –  respondia o mestre−de−obras,
desbarretando−se.

Eça de Queirós, Os Maias

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Héloïse: The heart of man is a labyrinth


How happy should I be could I wash out with my tears the memory of those pleasures which yet I think of with delight? At least I will exert some generous endeavour, and, by smothering in my heart those desires to which the frailty of my nature may give birth, I will exercise torments upon myself, like those the rage of your enemies has made you suffer. I will endeavour by that means to satisfy you at least, if I cannot appease an angry God. For, to show you what a deplorable condition I am in, and how far my repentance is from being available, I dare even accuse Heaven every moment of cruelty for delivering you into those snares which were prepared for you. My repinings kindle the divine wrath, when I should endeavour to draw down mercy.

In order to expiate a crime, it is not sufficient that we bear the punishment; whatever we suffer is accounted as nothing, if the passions still continue, and the heart is inflamed with the same desires. It is an easy matter to confess a weakness, and to inflict some punishment upon ourselves; but it is the last violence to our nature to extinguish the memory of pleasures which, by a sweet habit, have gained absolute possession of our minds. How many persons do we observe who make an outward confession of their faults, yet, far from being afflicted for them, take a new pleasure in the relating them. Bitterness of heart ought to accompany the confession of the mouth, yet that very rarely happens. I, who have experienced so many pleasures in loving you, feel, in spite of myself that I cannot repent of them, nor forbear enjoying them over again as much as is possible, by recollecting them in my memory. Whatever endeavours I use, on whatever side I turn me, the sweet idea still pursues me and every object brings to my mind what I ought to forget. During the still night, when my heart ought to be in quiet in the midst of sleep, which suspends the greatest disturbances, I cannot avoid those illusions my heart entertains. I think I am still with my dear Abelard. I see him, I speak to him, and hear him answer. Charmed with each other, we quit our philosophic studies to entertain ourselves with our passion. Sometimes, too, I seem to be a witness of the bloody enterprise of your enemies; I oppose their fury; I fill our apartment with fearful cries, and in a moment I wake in tears. Even in holy places before the altar I carry with me the memory of our guilty loves. They are my whole business, and, far from lamenting for having been seduced, I sigh for having lost them.

I remember (for nothing is forgot by lovers) the time and place in which you first declared your love to me, and swore you would love me till death. Your words, your oaths, are all deeply graven in my heart. The disorder of my discourse discovers to everyone the trouble of my mind. My sighs betray me; and your name is continually in my mouth. When I am in this condition, why dost not thou, O Lord, pity my weakness, and strengthen me by thy grace? You are happy, Abelard; this grace has prevented you; and your misfortune has been the occasion of your finding rest. The punishment of your body has cured the deadly wounds of your soul. The tempest has driven you into the haven. God who seemed to lay his hand heavily upon you, fought only to help you: he is a father chastising, and not an enemy revenging; a wife physician, putting you to some pain in order to preserve your life. I am a thousand times more to be lamented than you; I have a thousand passions to combat with. I must resist those fires which Jove kindles in a young heart. Our sex is nothing but weakness, and I have the greater difficulty to defend myself, because the enemy that attacks me pleases. I dote on the danger which threatens me, how then can I avoid falling?

In the midst of these struggles I endeavour at least to conceal my weakness from those you have entrusted to my care. All who are about me admired my virtue, but could their eyes penetrate into my heart, what would they not discover? My passions there are in a rebellion; I preside over others, but cannot rule myself. I have but a false covering, and this seeming virtue is a real vice. Men judge me praise-worthy, but I am guilty before God, from whose all-seeing eye nothing is hid, and who views, through all their foldings, the secrets of all hearts. I cannot escape his discovery. And yet it is a great deal to me to maintain even this appearance of virtue. This troublesome hypocrisy is in some sort commendable. I give no scandal to the world, which is so easy to take bad impressions. I do not shake the virtue of these feeble ones who are under my conduct. With my heart full of the love of man, I exhort them at least to love only God: charmed with the pomp of worldly pleasures, I endeavour to show them that they are all deceit and vanity. I have just strength enough to conceal from them my inclinations, and I look upon that as a powerful effect of grace. If it is not sufficient to make me embrace virtue, it is enough to keep me from committing sin.

And yet it is in vain to endeavour to separate those two things. They must be guilty who merit nothing; and they depart from virtue who delay to approach it. Besides, we ought to have no other motive than the love of God. Alas! what can I then hope for? I own, to my confusion, I fear more the offending of man than the provoking of God, and study less to please him than you. Yes, it was your command only, and not a sincere vocation, as is imagined, that shut me up in these cloisters. I fought to give you ease, and not to sanctify myself. How unhappy am I? I tear myself from all that pleases me? I bury myself here alive, I exercise my self in the most rigid fastings; and such severities as cruel laws impose on us; I feed myself with tears and sorrows, and, notwithstanding this, I deserve nothing for all the hardships I suffer. My false piety has long deceived you as well as others. You have thought me easy, and yet I was more disturbed than ever. You persuaded yourself I was wholly taken up with my duty, yet I had no business but love. Under this mistake you desire my prayers; alas! I must expect yours. Do not presume upon my virtue and my care. I am wavering, and you must fix me by your advice. I am yet feeble, you must sustain and guide me by your counsel.

What occasion had you to praise me? praise is often hurtful to those on whom it is bestowed. A secret vanity springs up in the heart, blinds us, and conceals from us wounds that are ill cured. A seducer flatters us, and at the same time, aims at our destruction. A sincere friend disguises nothing from us, and from passing a light hand over the wound, makes us feel it the more intensely, by applying remedies. Why do you not deal after this manner with me? Will you be esteemed a base dangerous flatterer; or, if you chance to see any thing commendable in me, have you no fear that vanity, which is so natural to all women, should quite efface it? but let us not judge of virtue by outward appearances, for then the reprobates as well as the elect may lay claim to it. An artful impostor may, by his address gain more admiration than the true zeal of a saint.

The heart of man is a labyrinth, whose windings are very difficult to be discovered. The praises you give me are the more dangerous, in regard that I love the person who gives them. The more I desire to please you, the readier am I to believe all the merit you attribute to me. Ah, think rather how to support my weaknesses by wholesome remonstrances! Be rather fearful than confident of my salvation: say our virtue is founded upon weakness, and that those only will be crowned who have fought with the greatest difficulties: but I seek not for that crown which is the reward of victory, I am content to avoid only the danger. It is easier to keep off than to win a battle. There are several degrees in glory, and I am not ambitious of the highest; those I leave to souls of great courage, who have been often victorious. I seek not to conquer, out of fear lest I should be overcome. Happy enough, if I can escape shipwreck, and at last gain the port. Heaven commands me to renounce that fatal passion which unites me to you; but oh! my heart will never be able to consent to it. Adieu.

Héloïse to Abelard

Monday, November 21, 2011

True tenderness (Heloise to Abelard)


You cannot but remember, (for what do not lovers remember?) with what pleasure I have past whole days in hearing your discourse. How, when you were absent, I shut myself from everyone to write to you; how uneasy I was till my letter had come to your hands; what artful management it required to engage confidents. This detail, perhaps, surprises you, and you are in pain for what will fellow. But I am no longer ashamed that my passion has had no bounds for you; for I have done more than all this: I have hated myself that I might love you; I came hither to ruin myself in a perpetual imprisonment, that I might make you live quiet and easy. Nothing but virtue, joined to a love perfectly disengaged from the commerce of the senses, could have produced such effect. Vice never inspires any thing like this; it is too much enslaved to the body. When we love pleasures, we love the living, and not the dead; we leave off burning with desire for those who can no longer burn for us. This was my cruel uncle's notions; he measured my virtue by the frailty of my sex, and thought it was the man, and not the person, I loved. But he has been guilty to no purpose. I love you more than ever; and to revenge myself of him, I will still love you with all the tenderness of my soul till the last moment of my life. If formerly my affection for you was not so pure, if in those days the mind and the body shared in the pleasure of loving you, I often told you, even then, that I was more pleased with possessing your heart than with any other happiness, and the man was the thing I least valued in you.

You cannot but be entirely persuaded of this by the extreme unwillingness I showed to marry you: tho' I knew that the name of Wife was honorable in the world, and holy in religion, yet the name of your mistress had greater charms, because it was more free. The bonds of matrimony, however honorable, still bear with them a necessary engagement; and I was very unwilling to be necessitated to love always a man who, perhaps, would not always love me. I despised the name of Wife, that I might live happy with that of Mistress; and I find, by your letter to your friend, you have not forgot that delicacy of passion in a woman who loved you always with the utmost tenderness, and yet wished to love you more, you have very justly observed in your letter, that I esteemed those public engagements insipid which form alliances only to be dissolved by death, and which put life and love under the same unhappy necessity. But you have not added how often I have made protestations that it was infinitely preferable to me to live with Abelard as his mistress than with any other as empress of the world, and that I was more happy in obeying you, than I should have been in lawfully captivating the lord of the universe. Riches and pomp are not the charms of love. True tenderness make us to separate the lover from all that is external to him, and setting aside his quality, fortune, and employments, consider him singly by himself.

'Tis not love, but the desire of riches and honor, which makes women run into the embraces of an indolent husband. Ambition, not affection, forms such marriages. I believe indeed they may be followed with some honors and advantages, but I can never think that this is the way to enjoy the pleasures of an affectionate union, nor to feel those secret and charming emotions of hearts that have long strove to be united. These martyrs of marriage pine always for large fortunes, which they think they have lost. The wife sees husbands richer that her own, and the husband wives better portioned than his. Their interested vows occasion regret, and regret produces hatred. They soon part, or always desire it. This restless and tormenting passion punishes them for aiming at other advantages of love than love itself.
If there is any thing which may properly be called happiness here below, I am persuaded it is in the union of two persons who love each other with perfect liberty, who are united by a secret inclination, and satisfied with each other's merit; their hearts are full and leave no vacancy for any other passion; they enjoy perpetual tranquillity, because they enjoy content.

If I could believe you as truly persuaded of my merit as I am of yours, I might say there has been such a time when we were such a pair. Alas! how was it possible I should not be certain of your merit? If I could ever have doubted it, the universal esteem would have made me determine in your favour. What country, what city, has not desired your presence? Could you ever retire but you drew the eyes and hearts of all after you? Did not every one rejoice in having seen you? Even women, breaking through the laws of decorum, which custom had imposed upon them, showed manifestly they felt something more for you than esteem. I have known some who have been profuse in their husband's praises, who have yet envied my happiness, and given strong intimations they could have refused you nothing. But what could resist you? Your reputation, which so much soothed the vanity of our sex; your air, your manner; that life in your eyes, which so admirably expressed the vivacity of your mind; your conversation with that ease and elegance which gave every thing you spoke such an agreeable and insinuating turn; in short, every thing spoke for you; very different from some mere scholars, who, with all their learning, have not the capacity to keep up an ordinary conversation, and with all their wit cannot win the affection of women who have a much less share than themselves.

With what ease did you compose verses? and yet those ingenious trifles, which were but a recreation after your more serious studies, are still the entertainment and delight of persons of the best taste. The smallest song, nay, the least sketch of any thing you made for me, had a thousand beauties capable of making it last as long as there are love or lovers in the world. Thus those songs will be sung in honour of other women which you designed only for me? and those tender and natural expressions which spoke your love will help others to explain their passion, with much more advantage than what they themselves are capable of.

What rivals did your gallantries of this kind occasion me? How many ladies laid claim to them? 'Twas a tribute their self-love paid to their beauty. How many have I seen with sighs declare their passion for you, when, after some common visit you had made them, they chanced to be complimented for the Sylvia of your poems? others, in despair and envy, have reproached me, that I had no charms but what your wit bestowed on me, nor in any thing the advantage over them but in being beloved by you. Can you believe if I tell you, that, notwithstanding the vanity of my sex, I thought myself peculiarly happy in having a lover to whom I was obliged for my charms, and took a secret pleasure in being admired by a man who, when he pleased, could raise his mistress to the character of a goddess? Pleased with your glory only, I read with delight all those praises you offered me, and without reflecting how little I deserved, I believed myself such as you described me, that I might be more certain I pleased you.

Letters of Abelard to Heloise 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday, November 05, 2011