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FAREWELL

Autumn already!... But why regret the everlasting sun, if we are sworn to a search for divine brightness-- far from those who die as seasons turn....

Autumn. Our boat, risen out of a hanging fog, turns toward poverty's harbor, the monstrous city, its sky stained with fire and mud. Ah! Those stinking rags, bread soaked with rain, drunkenness, and the thousands of loves who nailed me to the cross! Will there never, ever be an end to that ghoulish queen of a million dead souls and bodies and who will all be judged!, I can see myself again, my skin corroded by dirt and disease, hair and armpits crawling with worms, and worms still larger crawling in my heart, stretched out among ageless, heartless, unknown figures.... I could easily have died there.... What a horrible memory! I detest poverty.

And I dread winter because it's so cozy!

--Sometimes in the sky I see endless sandy shores covered with white rejoicing nations. A great golden ship, above me, flutters many-colored pennants in the morning breeze. I was the creator of every feast, every triumph, every drama. I tried to invent new flowers, new planets, new flesh, new languages. I thought I had acquired supernatural powers. Ha! I have to bury my imagination and my memories! What an end to a splendid career as an artist and storyteller!

I! I called myself a magician, an angel, free from all moral constraint.... I am sent back to the soil to seek some obligation, to wrap gnarled reality in my arms. A peasant!

Am I deceived? Would Charity be the sister of death, for me?

Well, I shall ask forgiveness for having lived on lies. And that's that.

But not one friendly hand... and where can I look for help?

True; the new era is nothing if not harsh.

For I can say that I have gained a victory; the gnashing of teeth, the hissing of hellfire, the stinking sighs subside. All my monstrous memories are fading. My last longings depart-- jealousy of beggars, bandits, friends of death, all those that the world passed by-- Damned souls, if I were to take vengance!

One must be absolutely modern.

Never mind hymns of thanksgiving: hold on to a step once taken. A hard night! Dried blood smokes on my face, and nothing lies behind me but that repulsive little tree! The battle for the soul is as brutal as the battles of men; but the sight of justice is the pleasure of God alone.

Yet this is the watch by night. Let us all accept new strength, and real tenderness. And at dawn, armed with glowing patience, we will enter the cities of glory.

Why did I talk about a friendly hand! My great advantage is that I can laugh at old love affairs full of falsehood, and stamp with shame such deceitful couples-- I went through women's Hell over there-- and I will be able now to possess the truth within one body and one soul.

April-August, 1873