Part 5 out of 5
A complaint, a pang, a tear, is enough to make a man, a woman, and a
child, blend their hearts together and feel that they are but one.
Laugh at marriage; the task is easy. All human contracts are tainted
with error, and an error is always smiled at by those who are not the
victims of it. There are husbands, it is certain; and when we see a man
tumble down, even if he knocks his brains out, our first impulse it to
burst out laughing. Hence the great and eternal mirth that greets
But search to the bottom and behold that beneath all these trifles,
beneath all this dust of little exploded vanities, ridiculous mistakes
and comical passions, is hidden the very pivot of society. Verify that
in this all is for the best, since this family sentiment, which is the
basis of society, is also its consolation and joy.
The honor of our flag, the love of country, and all that urges a man to
devote himself to something or some one not himself, are derived from
this sentiment, and in it, you may assert, is to be found the source
whence flow the great streams at which the human heart quenches its
Egotism for three, you say. What matter, if this egotism engenders
Will you reproach the butterfly with having been a caterpillar?
Do not accuse me in all this of exaggeration, or of poetic exaltation.
Yes, family life is very often calm and commonplace, the stock-pot that
figures on its escutcheon has not been put there without reason, I admit.
To the husband who should come and say to me: "Sir, for two days running
I have fallen asleep by the fireside," I should reply: "You are too lazy,
but after all I understand you."
I also understand that Baby's trumpet is noisy, that articles of
jewellery are horribly dear, that lace flounces and sable trimmings are
equally so, that balls are wearisome, that Madame has her vapors, her
follies, exigencies; I understand, in short, that a man whose career is
prosperous looks upon his wife and child as two stumbling blocks.
But I am waiting for the happy man, for the moment when his forehead will
wrinkle, when disappointment will descend upon his head like a leaden
skull-cap, and when picking up the two blocks he has cursed he will make
two crutches of them.
I admit that Alexander the Great, Napoleon the First, and all the demi-
gods of humanity, have only felt at rare intervals the charm of being
fathers and husbands; but we other poor little men, who are less
occupied, must be one or the other.
I do not believe in the happy old bachelor; I do not believe in the
happiness of all those who, from stupidity or calculation, have withdrawn
themselves from the best of social laws. A great deal has been said on
this subject, and I do not wish to add to the voluminous documents in
this lawsuit. Acknowledge frankly all you who have heard the cry of your
new-born child and felt your heart tingle like a glass on the point of
breaking, unless you are idiots, acknowledge that you said to yourselves:
"I am in the right. Here, and here alone, lies man's part. I am
entering on a path, beaten and worn, but straight; I shall cross the
weary downs, but each step will bring me nearer the village spire. I am
not wandering through life, I am marching on, I stir with my feet the
dust in which my father has planted his. My child, on the same road,
will find the traces of my footsteps, and, perhaps, on seeing that I have
not faltered, will say: 'Let me act like my old father and not lose
myself in the ploughed land.'"
If the word holy has still a meaning, despite the uses it has been put
to, I do not see that a better use can be made of it than by placing it
beside the word family.
They speak of progress, justice, general well-being, infallible policies,
patriotism, devotion. I am for all these good things, but this bright
horizon is summed up in these three words: "Love your neighbor," and this
is precisely, in my opinion, the thing they forget to teach.
To love your neighbor is as simple as possible, but the mischief is that
you do not meet with this very natural feeling. There are people who
will show you the seed in the hollow of their hand, but even those who
deal in this precious grain are the last to show you it in leaf.
Well, my dear reader, this little plant which should spring up like the
poppies in the wheat, this plant which has never been seen growing higher
than watercress, but which should overtop the oaks, this undiscoverable
plant, I know where it grows.
It grows beside the domestic hearth, between the shovel and tongs; it is
there that it perpetuates itself, and if it still exists, it is to the
family that we owe it. I love pretty nearly all the philanthropists and
saviours of mankind; but I only believe in those who have learned to love
others by embracing their own children.
Mankind can not be remodelled to satisfy the wants of humanitarian
theories; man is egotistical, and he loves, above all, those who are
about him. This is the natural human sentiment, and it is this which
must be enlarged, extended and cultivated. In a word, it is in family
love that is comprised love of country and consequently of humanity.
It is from fathers that citizens are made.
Man has not twenty prime movers, but only one in his heart; do not argue
but profit by it.
Affection is catching. Love between three--father, mother, and child--
when it is strong, soon requires space; it pushes back the walls of the
house, and by degrees invites the neighbors. The important thing, then,
is to give birth to this love between three; for it is madness, I am
afraid, to thrust the whole human species all at once on a man's heart.
Such large mouthfuls are not to be swallowed at a gulp, nor without
This is why I have always thought that with the numerous sous given for
the redemption of the little Chinese, we might in France cause the fire
to sparkle on hearths where it sparkles no longer, make many eyes grow
brighter round a tureen of smoking soup, warm chilled mothers, bring
smiles to the pinched faces of children, and give pleasure and happiness
to poor discouraged ones on their return home.
What a number of hearty kisses you might have brought about with all
these sous, and, in consequence, what a sprinkling with the watering-pot
for the little plant you wot of.
"But then what is to become of the redemption of the little Chinese?"
We will think of this later; we must first know how to love our own
before we are able to love those of others.
No doubt, this is brutal and egotistical, but you can not alter it; it is
out of small faults that you build up great virtues. And, after all, do
not grumble, this very vanity is the foundation stone of that great
monument--at present still propped up by scaffolding--which is called
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Affection is catching
All babies are round, yielding, weak, timid, and soft
And I shall say 'damn it,' for I shall then be grown up
He Would Have Been Forty Now
How many things have not people been proud of
I am not wandering through life, I am marching on
I do not accept the hypothesis of a world made for us
I would give two summers for a single autumn
In his future arrange laurels for a little crown for your own
It (science) dreams, too; it supposes
Learned to love others by embracing their own children
Life is not so sweet for us to risk ourselves in it singlehanded
Man is but one of the links of an immense chain
Recollection of past dangers to increase the present joy
Respect him so that he may respect you
Shelter himself in the arms of the weak and recover courage
The future promises, it is the present that pays
The future that is rent away
The recollection of that moment lasts for a lifetime
Their love requires a return
Ties that unite children to parents are unloosed
Ties which unite parents to children are broken
To love is a great deal--To know how to love is everything
We are simple to this degree, that we do not think we are
When time has softened your grief