Charles Robert Maturin Quotes
“Yes, I laugh at all mankind, and the imposition that they dare to practice when they talk of hearts. I laugh at human passions and human cares, vice and virtue, religion and impiety; they are all the result of petty localities, and artificial situation. One physical want, one severe and abrupt lesson from the colorless and shriveled lip of necessity, is worth all the logic of the empty wretches who have presumed to prate it, from Zeno down to Burgersdicius. It silences in a second all the feeble sophistry of conventional life, and ascetical passion.”
“The next moment I was chained to my chair again,--the fires were lit, the bells rang out, the litanies were sung;--my feet were scorched to a cinder,--my muscles cracked, my blood and marrow hissed, my flesh consumed like shrinking leather,--the bones of my legs hung two black withering and moveless sticks in the ascending blaze;--it ascended, caught my hair,--I was crowned with fire,--my head was a ball of molten metal, my eyes flashed and melted in their sockets;--I opened my mouth, it drank fire,--I closed it, the fire was within,...and we burned, and burned! I was a cinder body and soul in my dream.”
“But (for Melmoth never could decide) was it in a dream or not, that he saw the figure of his ancestor appear at the door?–hesitatingly as he saw him at first on the night of his uncle's death,–saw him enter the room, approach his bed, and heard him whisper, 'You have burned me, then; but those are flames I can survive. I am alive, I am beside you.' Melmoth started, sprung from his bed,–it was broad day-light. He looked round,–there was no human being in the room but himself. He felt a slight pain in the wrist of his right arm. He looked at it, it was black and blue, as from the recent gripe of a strong hand.”
“Terror is very fond of associations; we love to connect the agitation of the elements with the agitated life of man; and never did a blast roar, or a gleam of lightning flash, that was not connected in the imagination of some one, with a calamity that was to be dreaded, deprecated, or endured,–with the fate of the living, or the destination of the dead. The”
“Will you dare to say so?–Have you never erred?–Have you never felt one impure sensation?–Have you never indulged a transient feeling of hatred, or malice, or revenge?–Have you never forgot to do the good you ought to do,–or remembered to do the evil you ought not to have done?–Have you never in trade overreached a dealer, or banquetted on the spoils of your starving debtor?–Have you never, as you went to your daily devotions, cursed from your heart the wanderings of your heretical brethren,–and while you dipped your fingers in the holy water, hoped that every drop that touched your pores, would be visited on them in drops of brimstone and sulphur?–Have you never, as you beheld the famished, illiterate, degraded populace of your country, exulted in the wretched and temporary superiority your wealth has given you,–and felt that the wheels of your carriage would not roll less smoothly if the way was paved with the heads of your countrymen? Orthodox Catholic–old Christian–as you boast yourself to be,–is not this true?–and dare you say you have not been an agent of Satan? I tell you, whenever you indulge one brutal passion, one sordid desire, one impure imagination–whenever you uttered one word that wrung the heart, or embittered the spirit of your fellow-creature–whenever you made that hour pass in pain to whose flight you might have lent wings of down–whenever you have seen the tear, which your hand might have wiped away, fall uncaught, or forced it from an eye which would have smiled on you in light had you permitted it–whenever you have done this, you have been ten times more an agent of the enemy of man than all the wretches whom terror, enfeebled nerves, or visionary credulity, has forced into the confession of an incredible compact with the author of evil, and whose confession has consigned them to flames much more substantial than those the imagination of their persecutors pictured them doomed to for an eternity of suffering! Enemy of mankind!' the speaker continued,–'Alas! how absurdly is that title bestowed on the great angelic chief,–the morning star fallen from its sphere! What enemy has man so deadly as himself? If he would ask on whom he should bestow that title aright, let him smite his bosom, and his heart will answer,–Bestow it here!”
“Mine is the best theology, the theology of utter hostility to all beings whose sufferings may mitigate mine. In this flattering theory, your crimes become my virtues,–I need not any of my own. Guilty as I am of the crime that outrages nature, your crimes (the crimes of those who offend against the church) are of a much more heinous order. But your guilt is my exculpation, your sufferings are my triumph. I need not repent, I need not believe; if you suffer, I am saved,–that is enough for me. How glorious and easy it is to erect at once the trophy of our salvation, on the trampled and buried hopes of another's! How subtle and sublime that alchemy, that can convert the iron of another's contumacy and impenitence into the precious gold of your own redemption! I have literally worked out my salvation by your fear and trembling.”
“Dans l’automne de l’année 1816, John Melmoth, élève du collège de la Trinité, à Dublin, suspendit momentanément ses études pour visiter un oncle mourant, et de qui dépendaient toutes ses espérances de fortune. John, qui avait perdu ses parents, était le fils d’un cadet de famille, dont la fortune médiocre suffisait à peine pour payer les frais de son éducation ; mais son oncle était vieux, célibataire et riche. Depuis sa plus tendre enfance, John avait appris, de tous ceux qui l’entouraient, à regarder cet oncle avec ce sentiment qui attire et repousse à la fois, ce respect mêlé du désir de plaire, que l’on éprouve pour l’être qui tient en quelque sorte en ses mains le fil de notre existence.”
“What I mean — and I ought to know if any one does! — is that while most countries give, others take away. Egypt changes you. No one can live here and remain exactly what he was before.”
This puzzled me. It startled, too, again. His manner was so earnest. “And Egypt, you mean, is one of the countries that take away?” I asked. The strange idea unsettled my thoughts a little.
“First takes away from you,” he replied, “but in the end takes you away. Some lands enrich you,” he went on, seeing that I listened, “while others impoverish. From India, Greece, Italy, all ancient lands, you return with memories you can use. From Egypt you return with — nothing. Its splendour stupefies; it’s useless. There is a change in your inmost being, an emptiness, an unaccountable yearning, but you find nothing that can fill the lack you’re conscious of. Nothing comes to replace what has gone. You have been drained.’’
I stared; but I nodded a general acquiescence. Of a sensitive, artistic temperament this was certainly true, though by no means the superficial and generally accepted verdict. The majority imagine that Egypt has filled them to the brim. I took his deeper reading of the facts. I was aware of an odd fascination in his idea.
“Modern Egypt,” he continued, “is, after all, but a trick of civilisation,” and there was a kind of breathlessness in his measured tone, “but ancient Egypt lies waiting, hiding, underneath. Though dead, she is amazingly alive. And you feel her touching you. She takes from you. She enriches herself. You return from Egypt — less than you were before.”
What came over my mind is hard to say. Some touch of visionary imagination burned its flaming path across my mind. I thought of some old Grecian hero speaking of his delicious battle with the gods — battle in which he knew he must be worsted, but yet in which he delighted because at death his spirit would join their glorious company beyond this world. I was aware, that is to say, of resignation as well as resistance in him. He already felt the effortless peace which follows upon long, unequal battling, as of a man who has fought the rapids with a strain beyond his strength, then sinks back and goes with the awful mass of water smoothly and indifferently — over the quiet fall.”