This city belongs to ghosts, to murderers, to sleepwalkers. Where are you, in what bed, in what dream?
Tout bonheur est un chef-d'oeuvre: la moindre erreur le fausse, la moindre hésitation l'altère, la moindre lourder le dépare, la moindre sottise l'abêtit.
Le souvenir n'est qu'un regard posé de temps en temps sur des êtres devenus intérieurs,mais qui ne dépendent pas de la mémoire pour continuer d'exister.
Happiness is a masterpiece: the slightest error compromises it, the slightest hesitation undermines it, the slightest excess corrupts it, the slightest vulgarity defiles it.
I was glad that our venerable, almost formless religions, drained of all intransigence and purged of savage rites, linked us mysteriously to the most ancient secrets of man and of earth, not forbidding us, however, a secular explanation of facts and a rational view of human conduct.
The true birthplace is that wherein for the first time one looks intelligently upon oneself; my first homelands have been books, and to a lesser degree schools.
Attianus had been right in his conjectures: the virgin gold of respect would be too soft without some alloy of fear.
Of all our games, love's play is the only one which threatens to unsettle the soul, and is also the only one in which the player has to abandon himself to the body's ecstasy.
It is not by blood, anyhow, that man's true continuity is established: Alexander's direct heir is Caesar, and not the frail infant born of a Persian princess in an Asiatic citadel; Epaminondas, dying without issue, was right to boast that he had Victories for daughters.
At that period I paid as constant attention to the greater securing of my happiness, to enjoying and judging it, too, as I had always done for the smallest details of my acts; and what is the act of love, itself, if not a moment of passionate attention on the part of the body? Every bliss achieved is a masterpiece; the slightest error turns it awry, and it alters with one touch of doubt; any heaviness detracts from its charm, the least stupidity renders it dull. My own felicity is in no way responsible for those of my imprudences which shattered it later on; in so far as I have acted in harmony with it I have been wise. I think still that someone wiser than I might well have remained happy till his death.
We lose track of everything, and of everyone, even ourselves. The facts of my father's life are less known to me than those of the life of Hadrian. My own existence, if I had to write of it, would be reconstructed by me from externals, laboriously, as if it were the life of someone else: I should have to turn to letters, and to the recollections of others, in order to clarify such uncertain memories. What is ever left but crumbled walls, or masses of shade?
A part of every life, even a life meriting very little regard, is spent in searching out the reasons for its existence, its starting point, and its source. My own failure to discover these things has sometimes inclined me toward magical explanations, and has led me to seek in the frenzies of the occult for what common sense has not taught me.
I lent only half an ear to those well-intentioned folk who say that happiness is enervating, liberty too relaxing, and that kindness is a corruption for those upon whom it is practiced. That may be; but in the world as it is, such reasoning amounts to a refusal to nourish a starving man decently, for fear that in a few years he may suffer from overfeeding. When useless servitude has been alleviated as far as possible, and unnecessary misfortune avoided, there will remain as a test of man’s fortitude that long series of veritable ills, death, old age, and incurable sickness, love unrequited and friendship rejected or betrayed, the mediocrity of a life less vast than our projects and duller than our dreams; in short, all the woes caused by the divine nature of things.
It displeases me to have some creature think that he can foresee and profit from my desire, automatically adapting himself to what he supposes to be my taste.
All forms of dire poverty and brutality were things to forbid as insults to the fair body of mankind, every injustice a false note to avoid in the harmony of the spheres.
But other hordes would come, and other false prophets. Our feeble efforts to ameliorate man’s lot would be but vaguely continued by our successors; the seeds of error and of ruin contained even in what is good would, on the contrary, increase to monstrous proportions in the course of centuries. A world wearied of us would seek other masters; what had seemed to us wise would be pointless for them, what we had found beautiful they would abominate. Like the initiate to Mithraism the human race has need, perhaps, of a periodical bloodbath and descent into the grave. I could see the return of barbaric codes, of implacable gods, of unquestioned despotism of savage chieftains, a world broken up into enemy states and eternally prey to insecurity. Other sentinels menaced by arrows would patrol the walls of future cities; the stupid, cruel, and obscene game would go on, and the human species in growing older would doubtless add new refinements of horror. Our epoch, the faults and limitations of which I knew better than anyone else would perhaps be considered one day, by contrast, as one of the golden ages of man.
Chabrias, ever preoccupied to offer the gods the worship due them, was disturbed by the progress of sects of this kind among the populace of large cities; he feared for the welfare of our ancient religions, which yoke men to no dogma whatsoever, but lend themselves, on the contrary, to interpretations as varied as nature itself; they allow austere spirits who desire to do so to invent for themselves a higher morality, but they do not bind the masses to precepts so strict as to engender immediate constraint and hypocrisy.
A being afire with life cannot foresee death; in fact, by each of his deeds he denies that death exists. If death does take him, he is probably unaware of the fact; it amounts to no more for him than a shock or a spasm.
Overhead shone the great star of the constellation of Lyra, destined to be the polar star for men who will live tens of thousands of years after we have ceased to be.
Laws change more slowly than custom, and though dangerous when they fall behind the times are more dangerous still when the presume to anticipate custom.
Any law too often subject to infraction is bad; it is the duty of the legislator to repeal or to change it, lest the contempt into which that rash ruling has fallen should extend to other, more just legislation.
He had come to that time in his life (it varies for every man) when a human being gives himself over to his demon or to his genius according to a mysterious law which orders him either to destroy or to surpass himself.