Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ah! Manon...

(Burne-Jones)

"We sat down close by each other. I took her hand within mine,
`Ah! Manon,' said I, with a look of sorrow, `I little thought
that love like mine could have been repaid with treachery! It
was a poor triumph to betray a heart of which you were the
absolute mistress--whose sole happiness it was to gratify and
obey you. Tell me if among others you have found any so
affectionate and so devoted? No, no! I believe nature has cast
few hearts in the same mould as mine. Tell me at least whether
you have ever thought of me with regret! Can I have any reliance
on the duration of the feeling that has brought you back to me
today? I perceive too plainly that you are infinitely lovelier
than ever: but I conjure you by all my past sufferings, dearest
Manon, to tell me--can you in future be more faithful?'

"She gave me in reply such tender assurances of her repentance,
and pledged her fidelity with such solemn protestations and vows,
that I was inexpressibly affected. `Beauteous Manon,' said I,
with rather a profane mixture of amorous and theological
expressions, `you are too adorable for a created being. I feel
my heart transported with triumphant rapture. It is folly to
talk of liberty at St. Sulpice. Fortune and reputation are but
slight sacrifices at such a shrine! I plainly foresee it: I can
read my destiny in your bright eyes; but what abundant recompense
shall I not find in your affections for any loss I may sustain!
The favours of fortune have no influence over me: fame itself
appears to me but a mockery; all my projects of a holy life were
wild absurdities: in fact, any joys but those I may hope for at
your side are fit objects of contempt. There are none that would
not vanish into worthlessness before one single glance of thine!'

"In promising her, however, a full remission of her past
frailties, I enquired how she permitted herself to be led astray
by B----. She informed me that having seen her at her window, he
became passionately in love with her; that he made his advances
in the true style of a mercantile cit;--that is to say, by giving
her to understand in his letter, that his payments would be
proportioned to her favours; that she had admitted his overtures
at first with no other intention than that of getting from him
such a sum as might enable us to live without inconvenience; but
that he had so bewildered her with splendid promises, that she
allowed herself to be misled by degrees. She added, that I ought
to have formed some notion of the remorse she experienced, by her
grief on the night of our separation; and assured me that, in
spite of the splendour in which he maintained her, she had never
known a moment's happiness with him, not only, she said, because
he was utterly devoid of that delicacy of sentiment and of those
agreeable manners which I possessed, but because even in the
midst of the amusements which he unceasingly procured her, she
could never shake off the recollection of my love, or her own
ingratitude.

Abbé Prévost, Manon Lescaut

No comments: