La Fin de la Nuit Pour L’Enfant

From Les Misérables, Part I, Book 1, chapter 10, by Victor Hugo

L’Eveque en Présence d’une Lumière

A transfiguration at a deathbed that leads the bishop to be a good and holy disciple. 

“Le Conventional,

-Quant á Louis XVI j’ai dit non . . . .

J’ai voté la fin du tyran.  C’est à dire la fin de la prostitution pour la femme, la fin de l’esclavage pour l’homme, la fin de la nuit pour l’enfant.  En votant la république, j’ai voté la fraternité, la concorde, l’aurore! . . .”

These stirring words are recalled to us at a moment later in in the story about the progress that this light has brought to the world through the conversion of Jean Valjean.

“-. . . .  Dans dix ans, j’aurai gagné dix millions, je les répands dans le pays, je n’ai rien à moi, qu’est-ce que cela me fait?  Ce n’est pas pour moi ce que je fais!  La prospérité de tous va croissant, les industries s’éveillent et s’excitent, Les manufactures et les usines se multiplient, Les familles, cent familles, milles families! sont heureuses; la contrée se peuple; . . . .  la misère disparaît, et avec la misère disparaissent la débauche, la prostitution, le vol, le meurtre, tous les vices, tous les crimes!  Et cette pauvre mère élève son enfant! et voilà un pays riche et honnete!”

Jean Valjean has done well and helped the region to go from strength to strength.  But unfortunately he has a personal test with Fantine, just such a person he was hoping to give support to in his factory, but she was sacked because of tittle tattle and fell into destitution.  As a single mother in times when you could be jailed for life for the theft of an apple, she has been harangued and harassed, abused and assaulted.  So he now has to prioritise a personal clash with his own past in the form of Javert, the Inspector of Police, and Fantine’s pleading for her child to be rescued and brought back to her. 

Perhaps I shouldn’t be reading this in a pandemic as it is relentless in its depictions of the depressing ways people can behave to one another.  There are many hopeful moments though and the story is well-known and loved by me.  In fact the French reads fairly smoothly to me and I am really loving the extra story twists and turns and the philosophising in the original book.

It will be a long read though, so if you are tackling this yourself or have read it, or are going to soon then please let me know in the comments below. 

Well Seasoned Days.

By Michael Doyle

Seasoned Daysby Michael DoyleMay your daily conversationFilled as it is with God’s graceBe one of spiritual connectionAnd welcoming to God’s embraceSeen in the faces of the pastIs the dreamers of vast legacySeizing the days that would not lastBut knowing each moment intimately May we, ourselves, live throughAll of our well seasoned daysSharing with the others […]

Well Seasoned Days

The Pangolin

The life cycle of a pangolin with upsetting details.

Well one year on from the terrible pandemic that swept the world do we remember the supposed start of it in a wild animal meat market in China.  It was said to have been a bat or a pangolin that transferred the virus mutation to humans.  Who really knows? But hopefully the wild animal trade that sees beautiful exotic wild creatures trapped, cooped up and sold for food will be erradicated now.

I was thinking of the start of the pandemic when reading from my Penguin Book of Women Poets poetry collection this week and came across this poem by the American Marianne Moore, and liked the comparison to people she makes in this verse. Is it a comparison of a person to a pangolin or of a pangolin to a person, or both? The last couple of lines, ‘The prey of fear . . . . my soul’, speaks to me as I feel a bit like that each day.

The Pangolin

by Marianne Moore

(verse 7 onwards)

 . . . . .    A sailboat

was the first machine. Pangolins, made
for moving quietly also, are models of exactness,
on four legs; or hind feet plantigrade,
with certain postures of a man.  Beneath sun and moon, man slaving
to make his life more sweet, leaves half the flowers
worth having,
needing to choose wisely how to use the strength;
a paper-maker like the wasp; a tractor of foodstuffs,
like the ant; spidering a length
of web from bluffs
above a stream; in fighting, mechanicked
like the pangolin; capsizing in

disheartenment.  Bedizened or stark
naked, man, the self, the being we call human, writing-
master to this world, griffons a dark
'Like does not like that is obnoxious'; and writes
   error with four
r's.  Among animals, one has a sense of humour.
Humour saves a few steps, it saves years.  Un-
modest and unemotional, and all emotion,
he has everlasting vigour,
power to grow,
though there are few creatures who can make one breathe faster and make one erecter.   

Not afraid of anything is he,
and then goes cowering forth, tread paced to meet an
at every step.  Consistent with the
formula - warm blood, no gills, two pairs of hands and
  a few hairs that
is a mammal; there he sits in his own habitat,
serge-clad, strong-shod.  The prey of fear, he, always
curtailed,extinguished, thwarted by the dusk,
  work partly done,
says to the alternating blaze,
'Again the sun!
anew each day; and new and new and new,
that comes into and steadies my soul.'

Pangolin | Species | WWF