The Devil's Pool eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 145 pages of information about The Devil's Pool.
the incident that I have related in the preface, an engraving of Holbein’s that had made an impression upon me, and a scene from real life that came under my eyes at the same moment, in sowing time,—­those were what impelled me to write this modest tale, the scene of which is laid amid humble localities that I used to visit every day.  If any one asks me my purpose in writing it, I shall reply that I desired to do a very simple and very touching thing, and that I have not succeeded as I hoped.  I have seen, I have felt the beautiful in the simple, but to see and to depict are two different things!  The most that the artist can hope to do is to induce those who have eyes to look with him.  Therefore, my friends, look at simple things, look at the sky and the fields and the trees and the peasants, especially at what is good and true in them:  you will see them to a slight extent in my book, you will see them much better in nature.

George sand.

NOHANT, April 12, 1851.




    A la sueur de ton visaige
     Tu gagnerois ta pauvre vie,
    Apres long travail et usaige,
     Voicy la mort qui te convie.[1]

The quatrain in old French written below one of Holbein’s pictures is profoundly sad in its simplicity.  The engraving represents a ploughman driving his plough through a field.  A vast expanse of country stretches away in the distance, with some poor cabins here and there; the sun is setting behind the hill.  It is the close of a hard day’s work.  The peasant is a short, thick-set man, old, and clothed in rags.  The four horses that he urges forward are thin and gaunt; the ploughshare is buried in rough, unyielding soil.  A single figure is joyous and alert in that scene of sweat and toil.  It is a fantastic personage, a skeleton armed with a whip, who runs in the furrow beside the terrified horses and belabors them, thus serving the old husbandman as ploughboy.  This spectre, which Holbein has introduced allegorically in the succession of philosophical and religious subjects, at once lugubrious and burlesque, entitled the Dance of Death, is Death itself.

In that collection, or rather in that great book, in which Death, playing his part on every page, is the connecting link and the dominant thought, Holbein has marshalled sovereigns, pontiffs, lovers, gamblers, drunkards, nuns, courtesans, brigands, paupers, soldiers, monks, Jews, travellers, the whole world of his day and of ours; and everywhere the spectre of Death mocks and threatens and triumphs.  From a single picture only, is it absent.  It is that one in which Lazarus, the poor man, lying on a dunghill at the rich man’s door, declares that he does not fear Death, doubtless because he has nothing to lose and his life is premature death.

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The Devil's Pool from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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