and at a bound my dream of perfection. I shall
at last proclaim myself your true priest. I shall
become what all my studies, my prayers, my five years
of initiation have been unable to make me. Yes,
I reject life; I say that the death of mankind is
better than abomination. Everything is stained;
everywhere is love tainted. Earth is steeped
in impurity, whose slightest drops yield growths of
shame. But that I may be perfect, O Queen of angels,
hearken to my prayer, and grant it! Make me one
of those angels that have only two great wings behind
their cheeks; I shall then no longer have a body,
no longer have any limbs; I will fly to you if you
call me. I shall be but a mouth to sing your
praises, a pair of spotless wings to cradle you in
your journeys through the heavens. O death! death!
Virgin, most venerable, grant me the death of all!
I will love you for the death of my body, the death
of all that lives and multiplies. I will consummate
with you the sole marriage that my heart desires.
I will ascend, ever higher and higher, till I have
reached the brasier in which you shine in splendour.
There one beholds a mighty planet, an immense white
rose, whose every petal glows like a moon, a silver
throne whence you beam with such a blaze of innocence
that heaven itself is all illumined by the gleam of
your veil alone. All that is white, the early
dawns, the snow on inaccessible peaks, the lilies
barely opening, the water of hidden, unknown springs,
the milky sap of the plants untouched by the sun,
the smiles of maidens, the souls of children dead in
their cradles —all rains upon your white
feet. And I will rise to your mouth like a subtle
flame; I will enter into you by your parted lips, and
the bridal will be fulfilled, while the archangels
are thrilled by our joyfulness. Oh, to be maiden,
to love in maidenhood, to preserve amid the sweetest
kisses one’s maiden whiteness! To possess
all love, stretched on the wings of swans, in a sky
of purity, in the arms of a mistress of light, whose
caresses are but raptures of the soul! Oh, there
lies the perfection, the super-human dream, the yearning
which shatters my very bones, the joy which bears
me up to heaven! O Mary, Vessel of Election,
rid me of all that is human in me, so that you may
fearlessly surrender to me the treasure of your maidenhood!’
And then Abbe Mouret, felled by fever, his teeth chattering,
swooned away on the floor.
Through calico curtains, carefully drawn across the
two large windows, a pale white light like that of
breaking day filtered into the room. It was a
lofty and spacious room, fitted up with old Louis XV.
furniture, the woodwork painted white, the upholstery
showing a pattern of red flowers on a leafy ground.
On the piers above the doors on either side of the
alcove were faded paintings still displaying the rosy
flesh of flying Cupids, whose games it was now impossible