I am as yet, if not necessary, at least extremely useful, and I shall go on as long as I have a breath, thinking, talking, working for them.
Duty is the master of masters, it is the real Zeus of modern times, the son of Time, and has become his master. It is that which lives and acts outside of all the agitations of the world. It does not reason, does not discuss. It examines without fear, it walks without looking behind it; Cronos, the stupid, swallowed stones, Zeus breaks them with the lightning, and the lightning is the will. I am not a philosopher, I am a servant of Zeus, who takes away half of their souls from slaves, but who leaves them entire to the brave.
I have no more leisure to think of myself, to dream of discouraging things, to despair of human-kind, to look at my past sorrows and joys and to summon death.
Mercy! If one were an egoist, one would see it approach with joy; it is so easy to sleep in nothingness, or to awaken in a better life! for it opens these two hypotheses, or to express it better, this antithesis.
But, for the one who must continue working, death must not be summoned before the hour when exhaustion opens the doors of liberty. You have had no children. It is the punishment of those who wish to be too independent; but that suffering is nevertheless a glory for those who vow themselves to Apollo. Then do not complain for having to grub, and describe your martyrdom to us; there is a fine book to be written about that.
You say that Renan is despairing; for my part, I don’t believe that: I believe that he is suffering as are all those who look high and far ahead; but he ought to have strength in proportion to his vision. Napoleon shares his ideas, he does well if he shares them all. He has written me a very wise and good letter. He now sees relative safety in a wise republic, and I, too, think it still possible. It will be very bourgeois and not very ideal, but one has to begin at the beginning. We artists have no patience at all. We want the Abbey of Theleme at once; but before saying, “Do what you want!” one must go through with “Do what you can!” I love you and I embrace you with all my heart, my dear Polycarp. My children large and small join with me.
Come now, no weakness! We all ought to be examples to our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens. And how about me, don’t you think that I need help and support in my long task that is not yet finished? Don’t you love anyone, not even your old troubadour, who still sings, and often weeps, but who conceals himself when he weeps, as cats do when they die?
I curse once more the dramatic mania and the pleasure that certain people have in announcing remarkable news! Someone had told me that you were very ill. Your good handwriting came to reassure me yesterday morning, and this morning I have received the letter from Maurice, so the Lord be praised!