In His Absinthe


"Que m'importe que tu sois sage?

Sois belle! Et sois triste!"

is as French as it sounds, and true only as far as glory is the destiny of man, and as far as grief is his doom. So it is very, very true, in a pagan, and French, sort of way. And it is very, very untrue, in a pagan, and French, sort of way.

But it is not only true in a pagan way. What do I mean by beautiful?: destined for glory, I am beautiful, but may I be sad if I am pleased with God's providence? Yes, I may, and once again, positive and negative co-exist, and once again are fitting: I will rejoice in God's glory and the glorification of my race; I will grieve over the fallen of my race, not because they fell short (for they never strove, never desired to, always sought their own good far from God), but simply because they fell.

Man does not fall as Homer portrayed him falling, seeking and finding glory in a good death, so that we grieve but exhult. Man falls as Wilfred Owen or James Jones portrayed his fall, and that is even more grievous, and there is no exhultation.

Beauty and grief console a man in life, and give him balance. But that is only for the man who has God: all that is good is beautiful, and the knowledge that all that is ugly will be done away with...well, that is beautiful too, but it is grievous. Beauty and grief without God lead to despair: a slower despair than sudden immersion in ugliness, but just as sure: that is what we call ennui.

That is what provokes a man to write "Que m'importe que tu sois sage?/Sois belle! Et sois triste!" in the first place.

Voici le fleur de qui nous avons parlé, Baudelaire.