Read CHAPTER IV of Raphael Pages Of The Book Of Life At Twenty, free online book, by Alphonse de Lamartine, on

The autumn was mild, but had set in early. The leaves which had been blighted by the morning frost fell in roseate showers from the vines and chestnut-trees. Until noon, the mist overspread the valley, like an overflowing nocturnal inundation, covering all but the tops of the highest poplars in the plain; the hillocks rose in view like islands, and the peaks of mountains appeared as headlands in the midst of ocean; but when the sun rose higher in the heavens, the mild southerly breeze drove before it all these vapors of earth. The rushing of the imprisoned winds in the gorges of the mountains, the murmur of the waters, and the whispering trees, produced sounds melodious or powerful, sonorous or melancholy, and seemed in a few minutes to run through the whole range of earth’s joys and sorrows its strength or its melancholy. They stirred up one’s very soul, then died away like the voices of celestial spirits, that pass and disappear. Silence, such as the ear has no preception of elsewhere, succeeded, and hushed all to rest. The sky resumed its almost Italian serenity; the Alps stood out once more against a cloudless sky; the drops from the dissolving mist fell pattering on the dry leaves, or shone like brilliants on the grass. These hours were quickly over; the pale blue shades of evening glided swiftly on, veiling the horizon with their cold drapery as with a shroud. It seemed the death of Nature, dying, as youth and beauty die, with all its charms, and all its serenity.

Scenes such as these exhibiting Nature in its languid beauty were too much in accordance with my feelings. While they gave an additional charm to my own languor, they increased it, and I voluntarily plunged into an abyss of melancholy. But it was a melancholy so replete with thoughts, impressions, and elevating desires, with so soft a twilight of the soul, that I had no wish to shake it off. It was a malady the very consciousness of which was an allurement, rather than a pain, and in which Death appeared but as a voluptuous vanishing into space. I had given myself up to the charm, and had determined to keep aloof from society, which might have dissipated it, and in the midst of the world to wrap myself in silence, solitude, and reserve. I used my isolation of mind as a shroud to shut out the sight of men, so as to contemplate God and Nature only.

Passing by Chambery, I had seen my friend, Louis de ; I had found him in the same state of mind as myself, disgusted with the bitterness of life, his genius, unappreciated, the body worn out by the mind, and all his better feelings thrown back upon his heart.

Louis had mentioned to me a quiet and secluded house, in the higher part of the town of Aix, where invalids were admitted to board. The establishment was conducted by a worthy old doctor (who had retired from the profession), and communicated with the town by a narrow pathway, which lay between the streams that issue from the hot springs. The back of the house looked on a garden surrounded by trellis and vine arbors; and beyond that there were paths where goats only were to be seen, which led to the mountain through sloping meadows, and through woods of chestnut and walnut-trees. Louis had promised to join me at Aix, as soon as he should have settled some business, consequent on the death of his mother, which detained him at Chambery. I looked forward with pleasure to his arrival, for we understood each other, and the same feeling of disenchantment was common to us both. Grief knits two hearts in closer bonds than happiness ever can; and common sufferings are far stronger links than common joys. Louis was, at that particular time, the only person whose society was not distasteful to me, and yet I awaited his arrival without eagerness or impatience.