Winter Sunset
The Launch of the Thurible

Proust on the Law Written In Our Hearts

I ran across a 50-cent copy of Randall Jarrell's Poetry and the Age a while back, and have been reading it a little at a time. He closes the first essay with this quotation; I mention that because I think it would be dishonest for me to leave you thinking I've read Proust:

All that we can say is that everything is arranged in this life as though we entered it carrying the burdens of obligations contracted in a former life; there is no reason inherent in the conditions of life on this earth that can make us consider ourselves obliged to do good, to be fastidious, to be polite even, nor make the talented artist consider himself obliged to begin over again a score of times a piece of work the admiration aroused by which will matter little to his body devoured by worms, like the patch of yellow wall painted with so much knowledge and skill by an artist who must for ever remain unknown and is barely identified under the name Vermeer. All these obligations which have not their sanction in our present life seem to belong to a different world, founded upon kindness, scrupulosity, self-sacrifice, a world entirely different from this, which we leave in order to be born into this world, before perhaps returning to the other to live once again beneath the sway of those unknown laws which we have obeyed because we bore their precepts in our hearts, knowing not whose hand had traced them there--those laws to which every profound work of the intellect brings us nearer and which are invisible only--and still!--to fools.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

very nice quotation

I have no idea what Proust's religious views were, but if he came to that conclusion more or less on his own, it's a pretty remarkable testimony.


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)