So, in the wisdom of her silence, she is the harsh goddess Athenaeus.

Her head rises on her shoulders with that frail grace that is peculiar to long-stemmed flowers. More than in other humans, one has the impression that his head forms the crowning and final chord of the musical contours of his body. Her face tilts slightly forward, while her neck, on which the tiara of her hair rests, bends back, as if to rise above a surface. And in the rays of the sun, as in a homogeneous substance, the lines of his head merge into great clarity.

In HIS hair, the night has plunged, and from time to time a gleam springs from it like the dawn{64}springs from the night: perhaps these are thoughts—thoughts which she does not express and which guess what is to come—which are thus exhaled in front of the flowers. I saw one day, at the Burg, above the Emperor’s table, a portrait which represents her wrapped in her hair, like a hamadryad, or a nymph, or Ophelia, without any of the ornaments of earthly royalty, and I thought of Queen Berenice whose hair now shines in the sky among the stars, because after her death the stars took it from her. But usually she wears her hair braided in a diademed crown whose nocturnal weight seems too heavy for her luminous brow.

His face is dazzlingly pale, which all the rays of the midday sun could not dull, jealous, and which brings out darker, under his eyes, the crystallized redness of a bed of dried tears. In this glow, gentle dawn, which seems to reflect interior things lived and passed away, appears, undreamed of, the blossoming of her lips with such a fine design, such an incredible purple, like the slit of a{65} mystical pomegranate: they bend, these lips, o indescribable melancholy, in an arc which has the science of all mourning, as if it were the very bridge over which all sadness has passed which almost expresses the anguish of knowing even more and , relentlessly, questions destiny. As soon as his mouth is half-open, aromas and music exhaling, this curve of pain sinks into the depths of being, but it reappears as soon as the silence on the lips has placed its seal, and in the silent handles , afterwards, assemble the bitterness of all the uncried tears.

So, in the wisdom of her silence, she is the harsh goddess Athenaeus.

As locked in the shady circle of an ineluctable evil, live HIS eyes, his clear scrutinizing eyes. Never were there such eyes, which could discern the essential sadness which is the eternal element of things. Often her eyes are, like those of flowers, wide open towards marvels; then the veil of the eyelashes falls over them, like a delicate cloud hiding stars. Her eyebrows shoot up audacious and lose themselves proud in a supreme elevation, thrill of ad annihilations.{66}mirable. The mastery of beautiful forms, the heroism of lofty thoughts, the passionate inflection of the waves on the shore, the ironic disdain for all solidly established reality, the will that nothing can fetter, and the momentum, mortal courage, of the genius and from the mountains to the sky, the majestic purity of the swans, the sublimity of the clouds above the shallows, all this slumbers in the dazzling lines of her eyebrows sculpted by shadow.

Her hands are thin, frail, and they expire in the lilies of her fingers. They are like flowers that are cold. They have I don’t know what mysterious air. When they hold something, they embrace it so tightly that one would think that they are intimately linked, almost substantially fused with this object.

His whole face , too fluid to be called only slender, sighs like a cypress towards the sky, undulates like the waves when they rest and breathe.{67}

She walks less than she advances—rather one could say that she slides—the bust slightly bent backwards and on the slender hips, gently swaying. This sliding, in itself, recalls the movements of a swan’s neck. Like a calyx of long-stemmed irises which wavers in the wind, she walks on the ground, and her steps are nothing but a continuous and always resumed rest. The lines of her body then flow in a series of imperceptible cadences, which mark the rhythm of her invisible existence. Oh! what melodies of ecstasy I, deaf, guessed…

The folds of her dress adhere to her regardless of the sinuous suppleness of her movements. And the fabrics that veil her royal body and the paths she treads seem to recognize the sovereignty of her being more profoundly and proclaim it with more gratitude than men.

Pure and clear, soaring in musical fugues, is HIS word, and yet slow and low. As{68}if I found myself near a lonely spring, streaming, secretly, in a sweet delirium, I feel enveloped by the diaphanous sound of his voice in a breath of desolate youth and subtle singing melancholy. So speak the people who, like the sources, are often and for a long time alone, whose voice is not compelled to break against the heaviness of life’s boorish sounds, to rise with difficulty above oneself to dominate the crowd, but can let itself flow to the end, meandering, blissfully, through the meadows, without the torment of obstacles to overcome, and which is intoxicated with its own sweetness and its own concern. And his voice is also only the language of his lines, translated into music. What are the tears of the harp compared to these sounds, flowing freely from the mystical wave of human forms! And the pines, are they not also sonorous harps, when the wind, in its august desire, embraces them, and the forest and the sea, with delight, hold their breath? Oh! why do we have ears, if it is not to hear?{69}

His mind is fluid and deep like the sea.

But his thoughts are like the tops of the mountains or like vast plains which go away towards infinity calm, in silence.

She hardly ever laughs—never when living her own, real life; but when everyone’s vulgar life, what we call reality, comes up against the flow of her inner existence, when man-to-man relations reach her and brush against her, then she laughs, cooing softly and convulsively, to tears, as if something very comical and painful at the same time struck her; then, too, a wave of red blood rises from her heart to her temples, to the roots of her hair, and veils her face with the purple of her intimate royalty, as if to protect her against an insult from without. And that other mute smile, which often shines from her eyes,{70}which often also half-opens the mysterious flower of its lips—oh! this one is more than a simple smile, but a blossoming of chalices, nameless sadnesses which bloom under a ray of the black sun of destiny. And these chalices bloom in the soul of all beings who discover their true nature in rare exaltations.

. . . . . . . .

The forever painful curve of the mouth, the intense look of the eyes, as if they wanted to plunge into the impenetrable, the bearing of the neck and forehead, raised in proud rebellion against some unbearable external burden that they would be alone to bear, and, at the same time, the forward sloping lines of the face, showing a conscious weariness never admitted, the attitude of this slender and tender Queen’s body which seems on the point of breaking and yet is full of strength and of momentum against the assaults of fate, the clarity of the gestures, the limpid aroma of the voice, the music of the words, resembling a visible flowering of secret harmonies:—all this revealed to me an inner world of organized sadness, which lived its own existence,which was as exquisite and as immense and as mysterious as this outside world which assails our eyes with questions.{71}O the sweet reminiscence of those impressions which, like the dried flowers of a herbarium, only allow one to guess faded youth and vanished radiance, and yet enclose within themselves all that radiance and all that youth! To revive them, I would exhale (how willingly!) my soul upon them!… de Lainz, of his features so quickly transfigured, of the lines of his body undulating slowly like waves in pain and they spread, during our long walks, in each of my words, on all the sad turns of the road. This is why, perhaps, I brought back nothing conscious of it: the ecstasies of the flowers in the sun, the elusive breath of the shade under the trees,{72}scattered and set them far above the most fully felt delights . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

Innsbruck, August 13, 1891.
Today the first anniversary of my birth since this inconceivable event: my first real day of birth!… When, in the morning and in the evening, the mountains, above the roofs, blaze even in my windows, as if, from an undreamt-of world, they arose, then still within me radiate those smiles of inextinguishable melancholy that SHE let fall into my heart and which seem to be removed from the universal law of things, or else it is a revived perfume of memories that will never want to fade…

I often go to the dreary castle church, where so many steel kings and queens line themselves behind a heavy iron gate, as if this meeting had been the final goal of their existences, only pursued throughout their lives. There too, poor women harassed by the people, as if pushed by a mysterious hand, all day long, until{73}in the night, prayers stutter in the darkness: perhaps it is simply a matter of a new petticoat for them; at the statue of Saint Anthony the little maids ask for the grace to find the lost teaspoons. Ah! I pity them for not having obtained what they want, because I tell myself that, if I dared to raise my wish to the height of a prayer, I would have to sink into prayers…

September 3.
Is it possible that my dream has not faded? New spring, will it bloom again on the autumn of my memories, without having undergone either winter or death?…

A letter from Baron Nopcsa, dated Ischl, asking me, on behalf of the Empress, if I am prepared “to spend the months of December to April with Her Majesty the Empress and Queen, as a teacher of Greek, and to accompany him on his walks.

In a postscript , Baron Nopcsa adds, “Under the condition that your studies would not suffer thereby.”{74}

So you have to finish with the Faculty or refuse. I am going to take my exams here, in Innsbruck, because in Vienna my turn would not come so quickly…

When I think of what, without praying, I obtained, for the only reason, perhaps, that I kept my wish secret to myself!…

I chose Schopenhauer as the subject of my philosophy thesis: I have made myself a vital element of his doctrine since it corresponds so perfectly to my state of mind. “A singular subject for examination!” said to me, with a sneer, the philosophy professor from Innsbruck. I was and I remain perhaps the only one who dared such an attempt.

I saw the Duchesse d’Alençon, sister of the Empress, today. In front of a shop in the rue Marie-Thérèse, a team in livery was stopped. In the car, a very distinguished-looking gentleman, with a blond Henri IV beard that was already graying, and two big little boys with red, puffy cheeks. The door of the shop opened, a large dog, with a single bound, rushed towards the car,{75}and then a lady came out: the empress herself, but slimmer, more frail, more miniature. His appearance shocked me. Later I learned that she was the sovereign’s sister, and that she lived in the castle of Mentelberg during the summer. For a long time I watched the car as it drove away. The Duchess had no idea that eyes were so stubbornly attached to her and that the glances of my soul were weaving like a streamer between her and her imperial sister…

Any word that I utter at this time has only a temporary meaning, but at the same time it has a deeper meaning, and like a perspective behind it. It’s as if I wanted to say: What do I care what you tell me and what I tell you? The main thing is what will come. I remember only vaguely my promotion to doctor, which I had to undergo in a foreign university, in front of an audience as flattering as it was unexpected, of students from the corporation of the “Goths”, former comrades of my cousin Theodore. But I didn’t have a look for their gala clothes, nor for my diploma, and I still worried{76}less of the ceremonial medieval of the University of Innsbruck, because a brighter goal, very close to me now, invited me…

By a thousand detours, to prolong as much as possible a wait whose charm could not be surpassed by the event, I went to Vienna, to the Burg.

Vienna Hofburg, December 8, 1891.
My apartment is located in the Leopoldine wing. One arrives from Franzensplatz, next to the guardhouse, by a narrow spiral staircase, lit day and night by gas— the confectioners’ staircase— to a long corridor lined with mats, known as the Passage des Demoiselles . A long series of doors with the names of ladies-in-waiting on white cardboard. At the very end, guards from the Burg who come and go slowly with the clanking of sabers. To my surprise, on one of these doors, I read my name: there, already labeled, my existence to come in this cupboard of drawers that is the courtyard. My room quite large, but low ceiling. The floor is like a mirror, over which the fire in the fireplace sends swarms of will-o’-the-wisps flying.{77}Drapes and furniture in gray and white stripes. A large double window overlooks the outer castle square and the Volksgarten, now shrouded in dusk’s grayness. A screen of purple silk in front of the bed, also covered with heavy purple silk—moreover, all with a very grand air of simplicity.

The same evening the Empress received me. A lackey of the private service came to inform me that His Majesty had known of my arrival and begged me to come to HER . I hurried towards HER, silently on the mats, all along the corridor, among lackeys and chambermaids who were whispering, then, after a bend, by a wider corridor, which crosses the so-called wing of the Empress Amélie. It is the part of the castle which looks out over the Franzensplatz from the large eye of its clock, blazing in the evening; it is inhabited exclusively by the Empress and her retinue. By a secret door, I arrived at the grand staircase of honor, then, one floor lower, on a landing, where a guard of the Burg in full uniform was planted, motionless, in front of a very heavy velvet door; behind this drapery, a vestibule in the Empire style, with that cold and bare luxury of the princely antechambers where one freezes so atrociously when one is not born a lackey. Several bailiffs at{78}white stockings, almond-green breeches, dark jacket embroidered with gold, and the sword, bowed before me to the ground, the doors as if by themselves opened, and I found myself suddenly in a large room, even more sumptuous, but whose reception was less closed to me, less haughty. There, another gatekeeper, apparently of higher rank, in a black coat, came to meet me. And, at that moment, I realized that I had instinctively taken on a new pace and that I was maintaining it with great virtuosity; it is a question, here, of walking without stopping and without haste, sliding on the floor rather than treading on it, without coming up against greetings or bows. The Empress’s valet, also in a black coat (Her Majesty’s private mourning livery), came out of the opposite door, bowed low, and disappeared at once through the same door. on tiptoe to announce me. All these people held their breath and their souls, and were only tails and tiptoes. And then the door swung open without the slightest sound. Behind a screen of scarlet silk, I entered a vast and brightly lit room. On the walls red silk fabrics, all around gilded furniture, wide and deep mirrors holding whole panels, large hanging chandeliers{79}dants. And an atmosphere of almost immaterial purity exhaled towards me.

From another door at the back, which was open and gave a glimpse of a small salon, the Empress appeared to me, and she came to meet me.

Now SHE was standing before me again, the same black apparition from the unforgettable enchanted garden! She whom I had known in her sylvan condition, she had now called me to her luxurious palace, where she was to live, for a time. I vaguely remember a tale in which it is spoken of a forest fairy whom an even more powerful sorcerer kept for part of the year in his underground palace and who, there, was to be queen. But that may just be the story of Persephone.

And the expression on her face, again, reminded me of Persephone, who also spent half her life in the underworld. The dark red brilliance of the walls, the numberless flames which streamed on the gilding and spurted from the depth of the mirrors, the diamond-shaped crystals of the chandeliers, scintillating like aerial precious stones, all this almost made for this fiction of an underground world the contemplation of a reality. Like from another world{80}the black empress stood before me, sovereign of all this splendour. She greeted me from afar, and afterwards told me that she was delighted to see me again near her. And as soon as she opened her mouth and her voice rang out, the wonderful radiance around her paled. Thus I knew that she was even more radiant than all that surrounded her. I already knew, before entering, what I would find here, and yet I was dazzled. We walked for an hour, on the soft silky carpet, where the foot sank as in young grass, in waves of light whose touch acted like warm air, but more musically still.

All around, gilded furniture stood, at long distances and in perfect calm, one would have said bewitched objects. In this room, on these pieces of furniture, neither laughter nor cry arose, no line moved or changed place. From the large mirrors, which extended the room, as if under diaphanous masses of water, in infinite distances, the light rebounded, like a fluid mist of gold and blood. I looked around and recognized the gesture of Spanish etiquette, which, from dark corners, rose to princely portraits in heavy gilt frames, and pointed to doors{81}secret, lined with silk. This convinced me even more that the whole castle, immemorial, was swallowed up in an illusory abyss of water. But there was something else, which I felt more than I saw, which came from this world where SHEactually breathe. She was not alone. My eyes searched and soon found what they were looking for. There were trees there, living trees, almost concealed by the heavy silks and laces of the curtains, azaleas as big as trees, blooming, oh tender bloom, in innumerable white and pink chalices. They had followed her, those azaleas, from distant springs to the underwater depths of her palace; they were like symbols of the vanished Persephone. Thus one can imagine that all the young trees are kept hidden, during the winter, in similar palaces, in some exiled fairy. And that faint, ancient perfume that wafted through the room—was it from the trees, or was it, solely,

I spoke to him of the blazing mountains of Innsbruck, of the “Hofgarten”, the palace garden with its tall trees, on which the purple autumn{82} had spread, yellowed leaves of my melancholy and my memories, which fell on the alleys like great dead birds, churches, where desolate women, as if pushed by an invisible hand, threw stammered prayers blindly into the darkness, where kings and queens of bronze, coming from different centuries, had arranged to meet. And she spoke to me only of the Gastein waterfall, which resounds in the night like a lost soul, and of the pines and black firs in which the clouds like to pause for a long time. And then we talked about Homer and the sirens, and Beatrice whom Rossetti painted. Then she once again held out her hand to me to kiss, and said:

—From tomorrow, we will go for a walk every day for a few hours in Schönbrunn. If you hadn’t come, I should have deprived myself of this pleasure. I don’t want to impose this drudgery on my ladies-in-waiting in winter, and the Emperor unfortunately doesn’t have the time.


December 9.
This morning, at eight o’clock, the lackey came to tell me that the Empress was calling me to HER while they were doing her hair. I was already ready and waiting. For, the day before, the Empress had warned me that she would take her Greek lesson while having her hair done.

“It almost always lasts two hours,” she had said, “and while my hair is so heavily occupied, my mind remains idle. I’m afraid that from my hair it will pass through the hairdresser’s fingers. That’s why my head hurts so much. We will use this time to translate Shakespeare: oh! then the brain is forced to concentrate.

I entered the large living room with the ceremonial of the day before.

The Empress was seated before a table which had been pushed into the middle of the room and covered with a white cloth. She was as if misty in a peignoir of white lace; her loose hair fell to the ground and enveloped her whole person. Only a small part of her face was open, like those suave, muffled, almond-faced Madonnas. This{84}aspect was new to me, but more enchanting than anything I had seen before. She responded to my bow with a slight bow of her head, saying:

“How did you sleep your first night at the Burg?” Not worse than usual, I hope. It’s not as beautiful here as in Lainz, she added, but for the night it’s tolerable.

We’ll leave at eleven o’clock, she said again.

Then the lesson began. The Empress writes very quickly; she clenches her fingers on the quill, doubtless out of a childhood habit that she only kept because, probably, her teachers scolded her for it. Moreover, when she writes, her whole attitude is one of childish grace, of a charming awkwardness which contrasts with her habitual dress, so majestic among the trees and the flowers. She stares at the paper and the nib of the pen, and it’s as if she wants to force her pen to write finely and neatly. But the impetuous letters spring up and jostle each other, freed from all convention.

“My bad handwriting surprises you. She’s like me, she tells me, she doesn’t want to be subjugated.

She also makes big smudges of purple ink—the{85}imperial violet—the only one with which she writes and which she draws from a golden inkwell; thin sheets of blotting paper are strewn all around on the table, and she dries each page by banging it with her clenched fist.

This first lesson during hairdressing left me with impressions of epic harmony.

From the hair, I saw hair in waves, reaching the ground, and spreading there, and flowing further: from the head, of which they revealed the delicious grace, the pure and perfect line (thus the fabrics of Cos let shine through forms of goddesses), they flowed over the white lace mantle that covered HIS shoulders, without their flow ever drying up.

Behind the Empress’s chair stood the hairdresser, in a black dress with a long train, a white cobweb apron fastened in front of her, imposing in appearance for a servant, with the traces of a faded beauty on face, and eyes full of dark artifice—reminiscent of a rather famous second-rate Queen of the European Orient, now proscribed. With her white hands she rummaged in the waves of hair, raised them in the air and felt them like velvet and silk, rolled them around her arms (streams that she had{86}seized because they did not want to sink quietly but rather fly away); finally she divided each wave into several others with a comb of amber and gold, and then separated each of these into innumerable threads, which, in the light of day, became filigree gold and which she untangled gently and placed on the shoulders, to scatter again in luminous rays another tangle of hanks. Then, all those rays which, of dull gold, kindled in flashes of dark garnet, she let them converge in new and peaceful waves, and from these waves she weaved braids full of art, which transformed into two heavy serpents magically; and she lifted up these serpents, and rolled them round her head, and formed of them, interlacing them with ribbons of silk, a magnificent diademal crown. Then she seized another comb of transparent tortoiseshell ending in a point and trimmed with silver, and waved the cushion of hair, on the occiput, which was intended to wear the crown, in those lines which are proper to the sea when it breathes. . Then she brought back the stray locks on the forehead, near the eyes, so that they hung, like golden fringes, from the edge of the crown and, like a luminous veil, hid the forehead, parted with pliers{87}of silver those of those nets which disturbed the harmony and the symmetry, only hampering the calm course of the eyebrows in arches, lowered other nets, like a foaming curl of waves, on the ears, so that the harshness of the sounds broke there, and thus erected a protective grid before the door of the soul. Then, on a silver platter, she presented the dead hair to her mistress, and the eyes of the mistress and the servant met for a second, expressing a bitter reproach in the mistress, in the servant publicizing the fault and the repentance. Then the white lace cloak slipped from the drooping shoulders, and the black Empress, like a divine statue, emerged from the envelope which hid her. Then the sovereign bowed her head, the servant sank to the ground, murmuring in a low voice: “At Your Majesty’s feet I bow down.” The sacred service was accomplished.

“I feel my hair,” SHE told me , and slid a finger under the waves of hair, as if to lighten the burden on her head.

It’s like a foreign body on my head.{88}

“Your Majesty wears her hair like a crown instead of her crown.

-Only, we can, more easily, get rid of this other crown, she replied with a sad smile.

At eleven o’clock we left for Schönbrunn. There is always a large gathering in front of the entrance to my staircase to see me get into the carriage, and the palace guard presents arms, but with visible doubt as to the right I may have to military honors.

A superb day today, the sky so pure and so blue as in spring. I have taken a book with me, of which I intend to read a few pages to the Empress during the walk: the Tales of Dostoyevsky.

I read the White Nights to him . She found the tale delightful.

“What happened to Naschtenka,” she said, “is typical for all young girls. Everyone makes a mistake at least once in their life, without knowing when it happens. From Naschtenka herself, we don’t know if she made a mistake with the one she took or{89}with the one she left. It’s a matter of fate. Women especially live under the star of their destiny.

We then spoke of the emancipation of women and their education. She says:

— Women must be free; they are often more worthy of it than men. George Sand is the best example. But as far as the so-called instruction is concerned, I am opposed to it. The less women learn, the more valuable they are, for they derive all science from themselves. What they learn does, in truth, only lead them astray on the wrong path and distance them from their intimate being: they thereby unlearn a part of themselves, to appropriate grammar or logic imperfectly. In countries where women are poorly educated, they are much deeper beings than our blue stockings. It is an error of the friends of emancipation to come to allege, in favor of this movement, that cultivated mothers would give to humanity intellectually better gifted sons.

“But on the other hand,” I said, “modern men want to find in modern women—their wives—an intellectual support.

—On the contrary, their action, as mothers,{90}would be more beneficent, if they were like the trees, free from all shackles and all distortion, under the vast sky; women should not be there to help men in their affairs, by whispering thoughts and advice to them, but by their mere proximity they should awaken and bring to maturity in men ideas and resolutions that they, then, have to draw from themselves.

December 10.
Today they brought me flowers from the Empress’ apartments. The Empress, I was told, had ordered the gardener of the chateau to send me rare flowers every day. And what flowers they were! Parfilé silk duvets, melancholy faded old velvets, folded in delicate folds, and sad purple. And also trembling corollas and sweet chalices, on whose petals all the splendor and languor of the autumn sunsets were spread.


From December 11 to 20.
At noon, back to Schönbrunn. It was raining sleet, and the wind whipped our faces with icy powder. We had to jump over big puddles of water.

“Like frogs we gallop through the marshes,” said the Empress. We are like two damned souls wandering in the infernal world. For many people, here and at this hour, it would be hell. Yesterday I was chatting with a lady who extravagantly traveled on the glaciers—during the summer, of course, with two guides and tied to a rope to be hoisted up. I would like to see her now, her and her bravery. If she knew I’m here, walking around here today, she’d think I’ve gone crazy. You see, it suits my ladies-in-waiting better to stay home and warm their feet by the fireplace. They knit stockings and read novels. You too would prefer, wouldn’t you, to be warm in your room?

“How can Your Majesty say that?” I who, in my room, spend all my hours waiting, in the hope that Your Majesty will send for me…{92}

“For me, it’s the weather I like best. Because it is not made for others. I can enjoy it alone. In truth, he is only there for me, like those plays that poor King Ludwig had played, for him only. Still, the spectacle is much grander here, in the open air, than on any kind of stage. Certainly the storm could be somewhat more raging: then one feels so close to all things, as if in conversation with them!

“Does your Majesty see that great old tree with black, bare branches, how it stands up all by itself and, desperately, stretches its arms in the air?” It is almost stronger than the hurricane, it does not move.

“His pain is stronger than the hurricane. He’s like King Lear. Even if he were now struck by lightning, he still conquered death.

She herself was like a constituent part of this upset landscape, but she was not aware of it.

She has the gift, by her mere presence, of bringing to the surface the eternal element of things, of evoking it as if by a prestige, as if all things, long since lonely in their obscure life, had not waited than this to spread out{93}of themselves. So I always have the impression that it was through her, to tell the truth, that, for the first time, the real essence of things was revealed to me.

Today, the Empress only called me at four o’clock in the afternoon, instead of having me leave at eleven o’clock by car for Schönbrunn, following her. The whole morning had been taken up in the great washing of the hair. This takes place every fortnight. So she wore her hair loose on her back to dry it. Her aspect in this form, when, having deposited this natural crown, she is no longer obliged to bend her forehead under her weight, is even more graceful, if possible, and also more majestic, more conformable to her true nature. An unsuspected youth radiates from his features and almost a happiness from his eyes (the same that trees experience when they are reflected in the water) and from the lines of his body a music, even sweeter than usual, because , muffled and secret, as in dreams and presentiments,

On the soft scarlet rugs that covered the floor, we came and went, in the dawn of the{94}numberless flames from a whole series of large hanging chandeliers, with lozenges and crystal beads, in the breath of the living chalices which everywhere formed little luminous islands (oh vernal dream!), between the mute marine abysses of the mirrors, in an air as pure and as fresh as on the tops of the mountains, (the windows, in December , were all open)—and we were reading the Odyssey. In such an environment, near her, the old forgotten rhapsody of dead verses awakens again and, through the open windows, with the floods of light, even on the silent place of the castle it overflows. Groups of people usually stand there in the shadows, gazing at the row of brilliantly lighted windows and the blazing chandeliers, under which an imperial being weaves its mysterious life; and they are astonished or they guess, but never their presentiment nor their astonishment reach reality…

The Emperor came in today during the lesson. The hairdresser sank into the rug as though into a trapdoor, and went away immediately in a whisper. I rose from my chair, but the empe{95}Herr invited me to stay and began to chat with the Empress in Hungarian. I picked up names of statesmen and politicians. The Empress had an expression of intense attention on her features; her eyes stared before her as if they wanted to grasp sharply and penetratingly an infinitely small object; and she answered the Emperor and interrupted him quite often. The Hungarian on his lips sounded like musical pearls this fragrant. Sometimes she would shrug her shoulders and make a little grimace that meant a lot, which made the Emperor laugh. Then the Emperor got up and walked out of the room with his elegant and soft military step. With a rustle, the hairdresser came in and the Empress said to me in Greek:

“I have just been involved in politics with the Emperor. I wish I could be useful; but maybe I am more advanced in Greek. And then I have too little respect for politics and do not consider it worthy of interest. And you, are you interested in it?

“Not too much, Majesty, I follow her only in her great phases, when ministers fall.

—Ah! they are only there to fall; then others come, she told me, with a curious nuance in her voice that was like an inner laugh.{96}

“For me, Majesty, I’m more interested in public life in France.

“She’s definitely more fun!”

“I think so too, Majesty.

“People over there know how to act better, and with more wit.

After a moment she added:

“Besides, the whole thing is such a voluntary illusion!” Politicians believe they drive events and are always surprised by them. Each ministry bears its fall within itself, and that from the very first moment. Diplomacy is only there to grab some loot from the neighbor. But everything that happens happens of its own accord, out of inner necessity and maturity, and diplomats only state the facts.

From each of the many languages ​​SHE speaks with admirable perfection, she makes music. Does she speak Hungarian? it is really as if a source were letting drop, one after the other, singing drops, in slow and harmonious melancholy.

“Greek,” she told me, “is the language in which my ideas and my words come to me.{97}like beings of beauty, to open up an unsuspected world to me. The appearance of this world makes me forget what remains outside.

Today we met a lady on the way to the Gloriette : she was going down and we were going up. She wore her hair cropped short and had a copper-red face and a determined gait. She stared fixedly at the Empress, without however greeting her, almost with an air of provocation. The Empress says:

—The lady has wit, since she wears her hair short; but I’m afraid she does it on purpose so that people might think she’s witty. If I wanted to have my hair cut—oh! out of conviction, because I consider them useless—people would fall on me like wolves.

“And really that would be a pity, Majesty. People do say, “It’s not all right for everyone.”

—There is only stupidity to which everyone also claims…


Today SHE said:

—Most men do not want the blindfolds of fate and life to be undone from their eyes; they think they are thus keeping themselves out of danger. But we do not stop living in the shadow of fate and this shadow watches for every drop of light. What is common to all is not the mind, but fate. And, sometimes, fate chooses one of us to make a magnificent poem out of it or to gorge ourselves on it like Oedipus or Medea… I beg you, let’s read something from Aeschylus tomorrow.

Later SHE said:

“Most men are unhappy because they are in perpetual conflict with necessity. When one cannot be happy as one pleases, all that remains is to love one’s suffering. This alone gives rest, and rest is the beauty of this world. But beauty is the cause and purpose of the universe.

Today, in the morning, we continued our translation of Othello. The Empress declaimed{99}Desdemona’s song of the willow with a painful rapture which, to hear it, made one faint, and, suddenly, lips curled in subtle irony, SHE exclaimed:

“However, there is something other than jealousy or heroism, and that is the willows.

Later she says:

“We don’t know why women are unfaithful to their husbands! The answer is quite simply: because they should remain faithful to them. This requirement provokes infidelity because it has the force of law. And do we know if the husband really was the one chosen by fate? Most young girls only marry out of a desire for freedom. And, after all, love has wings to fly too.

Today we were talking about tragedy in modern plays. The Empress says:

—I believe that tragic conflicts do not act by themselves, but by something which, incessantly, we await in our life and which we then believe we are approaching. To tell the truth, we are always disappointed, because these are only{100}ordinary passions that we put before our eyes, but we nevertheless recognize them for something other than what they claim to mean. And when we are gripped, we are not gripped by the tragedy of the theater, but by deeper sounds that have been awakened in our hearts.

I read him the lyric poems of Ibsen, among others passages from Peer Gynt . This last poem struck him as sublime. Until then she had, in truth, known nothing of Ibsen. Surely she had no idea of ​​its significance or its greatness. He had been told, at court, of his dramas, like inept whims which, unfortunately, were still being played out. And yet, this whole world of beauty already existed in her before these poems were invented. Everything, so to speak, came from her and came back to her. She dreamed all dreams before they were dreamed, and she relives them in her existence, whereas poets only dream them. That’s why she’s content with the Odyssey, Shakespeare, or old-fashioned songs by Heine, because she can do without these works perfectly.{101}as well as the most eminent modern creations of the human mind.

Today, during the lesson, the Empress said to me:

“You must be on your guard against court intrigues. You are new to these things and you do not know where the traps are placed. I advise you to be very circumspect in your visits to the people of the court—you know who I mean. These people eat pheasants and partridges every day, but an hour without gossip would kill them.

“I thought that not only Baron Nopcsa and Countess Festetics, but all the staff of the Court were devoted enough to Your Majesty that I could move here safely.

-Oh yes! definitely. We are very devoted to the Empress. Maybe I still have to thank God for being Empress: otherwise it would turn out badly for me. We love the Empress above all because, for love of her, we have the chance to be something ourselves.

“Does your Majesty not believe that there are{102}magical powers which emanate from the genius and beauty of the soul? I cannot imagine that any being, admitted to Your Majesty, could tear himself away from this spell. By this I mean that Your Majesty’s entourage must have lost all will of their own and live only in His own.

“You would like to make a Circe of me; I would like to be one. I would then transform many people like the companions of Ulysses. But selfishness is stronger than any magic. You are still too young and do not know the world. Every greeting has its purpose, every smile wants to be paid for. If we didn’t consider this to go without saying, we would even save ourselves all these costs.

“Does your Majesty remember, in the park of Lainz, when the boars rushed at us threatening us, so that I had to drive them away with a stalker which your Majesty had brought?” I kept imagining, then, what would have happened, if the boars hadn’t been so cowardly, if they had pretended to pounce on us? I would have proved to Your Majesty my heroism and my abnegation. And Your Majesty could draw at least one exception to the rule.

-Oh! keep calm! They wouldn’t have us{103}attacked!—since they had better things to do: they were eating truffles!—Luckily for both of us!

And thereupon she smiled cheerfully.

Instinctively with Elle, I took on a cadence in the voice, for her ear, only, appropriate. Always a step behind her, I walk and let the uninterrupted sequence of my words reach her hearing in subtle waves. Today she tells me about it:

“You have understood very well that one must not, by one’s voice, either strangle one’s own ideas or startle those of others.

Schoenbrunn, December 21.
We were talking today about HIS trips to Egypt.

“I feel extraordinarily at home in Cairo,” she said. Even in the great crowd of porters and donkeys, I feel less oppressed than at a court ball and almost as happy as in a forest. Oh, we must distinguish the{104}culture with civilization. Cultivation is found even in the deserts of Arabia; above all, in the South and in the East, where civilization has not penetrated, in the solitary prairies and on the seas. Stifling culture is civilization. She is at home in the West. It is a deviation and an alteration of the natural aims of existence. Civilization is trams—culture, beautiful free forests. Civilization is scholarship—culture is ideas. Civilization claims every human being for itself and puts us all in a cage. Culture, each man carries it within himself, like a legacy of all his previous existences, he breathes it into himself with each breath, and in this lies the great unity. There are also gradations of civilization and culture, which come from opposite directions and meet. Where they clash, bursts the mute complaint of life. The victims are the poor, miserable people: culture has been taken from them, and in return civilization is shown to them in the distance, almost inaccessible to them. In Paris, it is very pleasant for me to walk through the streets, because the individual walks lost in the crowd. In this way, this civilization approaches culture.


Today, SHE said to me again:

“When a lady-in-waiting is near me, I am completely different. You noticed it yesterday. I always have to say something to the countesses, so that they can answer. This is precisely their office. The greatest dread of kings is to always have to interrogate. For me, I have a great selection of questions in my attics, because I seldom get around to handing them out in public. When you talk to me, I often only answer myself, or I speak to you well, but at the same time I answer a question that I asked myself, because you are not a lady-in-waiting: and that’s what’s best about you. When you are near me at the same time as the Countess, it becomes very interesting: I have to weave as if between two winds, and each of you feels that I have changed in his regard and holds the other to be the culprit.

From December 22 to 30.
Today SHE said to me, while we were doing her hair:

-Excuse me, today I am distracted. I{106}must apply all my intelligence to my hair; for she (the hairdresser) has sent word that she is ill, and this young girl here (the chambermaid) has not yet been initiated into all the mysteries. A few hairdressing sessions like the one today and, again, I’m subdued. She knows it well, that woman, and she expects a capitulation. I am a slave to my hair. Perhaps, however, I will free myself one day. But I let things go as they want. You must not thwart your destiny. Otherwise he distributes his blows to us earlier and more disastrously still.

As we were walking today and talking about the feeling of beauty in men, the Empress said:

“You mustn’t believe that the so-called beautiful and noble souls are too rare, especially in Germany!” Alas, alas! There is, of course, nothing more ridiculous than human enthusiasm. Enthusiasts are precisely the most insufferable of people.


As we talked about life and cosmic systems, SHE began to declaim in a voice of fluid irony:

Zu fragmentarisch ist Welt und Leben.
Ich will mich zum deutschen Professor begeben,
Der weiss das Leben zuzammenzusetzen,
Und er macht ein verstændlich System daraus:
Mit seinen Nachtmützen und Schlafrockfetzen
Stopft er die Lücken des Weltenbaus[A] .
I told the Empress that I had seen her sister, the Duchess of Alençon, in Innsbruck.[B] and that I often made the pilgrimage to Mentelberg, to have the opportunity to see it in the vicinity of the castle.

“Have you seen his dog too?” asked{108}the empress. She makes a big deal of it. Which of the two charmed you the most?


“She wouldn’t forgive you for not admiring her dog.

December 24.
For the anniversary of her birth today, I gave the Empress some violets and a small antique lachrymatory urn that I had brought from Athens. She graciously deigned to accept “these gifts of sadness and tears,” as she puts it. To which I added:

“May your Majesty preserve in this urn nothing but tears of joy.”

“Then it will always remain empty,” she replied, “and for the other tears it is too small.

Today SHE said:

“When I move among people, I use only that part of myself which I have in common with them. People are surprised to find me so similar to them, because I inter{109}roge on the weather or on the price of the buns. I lose nothing by this. It’s like an old garment that from time to time you take out of the closet and put on for a day.

Today SHE said:

The soul of peoples is the common fund of the unconscious in each individual. What each one does not know of himself, the crowds know. When trees flower or bear fruit, it is done according to the same supreme laws, according to which peoples prosper.

The knee, today, hurt HIM a lot. She suffers badly from ischialgia this winter, she told me. However, it was necessary, from time to time, to rub the painful knee with snow, to find some relief. She did it herself, in the open air; and then, each time, to ask me to hold his snacks for him and to take a few steps away; and, each time, to come back red with effort and suffering. The aspect of this empress of the soul,{110}that vulgar physical pain dared to torture, completely overwhelmed me…

“Woman varies, crazy who trusts it”: that’s my motto, said the Empress to me today, while we were doing her hair, and informing me that we would not go out at an hour later. -noon as it had been decided the day before, but already at eleven o’clock in the morning. The Emperor himself learned of it today for the first time, she added, and he was much surprised at my frankness. Maybe he already knew about it, from experience, but my written motto, he saw it for the first time today.

“What does your Majesty think of this other motto: ‘My heart does not trust you there?’

“What, don’t you trust yourself?” I don’t let myself be influenced by anything. In my motto lies my entire philosophy. Change is the charm of life. It is like the sea.

That’s what she says. But his thoughts, without being decked out in words, spoke further, as if in an inner earshot; at least an echo rose in my soul: “Life is like{111}the sea; in the waves of its phenomena its eternity consists, and in the depths of its riddles its price shines.” Then another sentence from her, heard in the past, still inside me: “If this whole existence is only temporary, what is the use of seeking stability? As in homeopathy, you have to fight like with like . Thus one overcomes this disease also. Life has only one goal: to be overcome in its present form, like a disease. And when you want to conquer it, you must fear nothing, wish for everything, and be indifferent to everything. Only then are we ripe for metempsychosis.”

She called me to the living room this morning, again, before getting into the car. At the open door, between her boudoir and the living room, ropes, gymnastic and suspension apparatus were placed.

I found her just doing the rings . She wore a black silk dress with a long train, trimmed with superb black ostrich feathers. I had never seen her dressed with such pomp. Suspended from the ropes, she makes{112}knows a fantastic effect, like a being between the snake and the bird. To put her feet on the ground, she had to jump over a rope stretched quite high.

“That rope,” she said, “is there so I don’t unlearn how to jump. My father was a great hunter before the Lord and he wanted to teach us to jump like chamois.

Then she asked me to continue reading the Odyssey . She wanted to go out later than on the other days, because she had to receive a few archduchesses, and that was also why she had had to put on, as an exception, this ceremonial dress, as she told me.

“If the Archduchesses knew,” she added, “that I did gymnastics in this garb, they would be petrified. But I only did it in passing; I usually do this exercise early in the morning or in the evening. I know what we owe to royal blood.

Schoenbrunn, January 10.
We were talking about the theatre, and particularly about the last performance of Hamlet , at the Theater de la Burg, which I had attended.{113}

“It is my opinion, Majesty, that yesterday’s Hamlet would have done better to deliver to itself its fine tirade to the actors.

“So you weren’t happy!”

And thereupon she quoted from memory:

-“Oh! I feel pierced to the core, when I hear a big wigged maraud tear a passion to shreds, put it in rags… It is to pass Herod into herodism…»

“Yes, that’s it, Majesty. I think Shakespeare would have found this way of acting unworthy of him.

“And I wouldn’t want to see him represented either,” she said. I picture it better to myself, I think. Moreover, when we are alone with the poet, the poet must mime us or we must play him ourselves. In the first case, we can’t complain, and in the other, we don’t want to.

—And that Ophelia, Majesty, what a delightful figure!—in the play, I mean, and not on the stage.

“Have you not noticed that in Shakespeare the madmen are the only sane ones?” In life, too, we do not know where reason lies and where{114}dementia, just as one hardly knows whether reality is the dream or whether the dream is reality. I am inclined to regard people who are called mad as reasonable. The reason itself passes, most often, for a “dangerous bewilderment”.

After a while we came to talk about the insertion of plays, as such, into Shakespeare’s plays.

“That is very profound,” said the Empress. Shakespeare meant by this that our whole life is nothing but a play. We keep playing ourselves. The acting on the stage is the comedy of our comedy. And when a theater scene is represented on the stage, then it is the third generation stage. The effect is all the more moving. The passions which are thus brought within sight of us and are, to tell the truth, only noises and pantomimes, make us foresee for the first time the true events of the soul. The more we move away from ourselves, the deeper we see within ourselves. As in a mirror, we then see our destinies.


January 20.
The appearance of the empress while we were doing her hair today suddenly made me think of Elisabeth Siddal, “the beloved” of Rossetti. Her hair, which usually rests dark and heavy, like a wreath of nocturnal melancholy, on her brow, cast, when this morning she untied it, a purple halo of glorification, and enveloped her lilial form like a massive shadow. , materialized from which clarity would radiate. For a moment she lifted a wave of her hair in one hand, holding in the other a small silver mirror, over which she gazed into the distance, sideways, as if mirroring herself in a void, in another invisible mirror where she perceived her destinies. She really was like this Rossetti’s painting: La bella mano, and these verses came to my mind, which he also wrote, as for her:

The beauty gave
Piangendo says:
come son
The stelle in heaven!
What fiato anelo
Dello stanco sole,{116}
Quanto knocked me out!
E la luna, macchiata
Come uno specchio
Logoro e vecchio,—
Faccia affanata
Che cosa vuole?
. . . . . .
Che the spalle his frank
E le braccia bianche.
. . . . . .
Che cosa al mondo
Posso più far di question![C] …
Now I know that she is, in truth, Elisabeth Siddal herself; the same superhuman form, rather of cypress—the arched lips, sinking into deep handles of marigold, purple as the blood of the pomegranate—the penetrating eyes which shed fluid essences, so as to be believed to live of one’s own life; and then the painfully weary undulation of its lines. And now all her names also come to mind: The blessed Damozel , Proserpina , The day’s dream , Sybilla , Sancta Lilias , Ancilla Domini , Silence , Beatrice , Beata Beatrix , Lady Lillith, Rosa triplex , and Bella mano (I looked at his hand and immediately recognized the one in the portrait).

All these names, sweet as music in a dream, implore a single portrait, embracing it with the incense of their perfume. This portrait, so multiple and so unique, is only the breath of these inexhaustible essences which, always anew, spring from a single cut. And the only cut is Elisabeth Siddal. And Elisabeth Siddal anticipated the royal Elisabeth of Wittelsbach, but Rossetti created her out of his desire even when he painted her. These are the metempsychoses of beauty, the creatures of divine desire, the myth of Pygmalion, but surpassed.{118}And this imperial Elisabeth, too, lives in an ecstasy ( under a trance ), like her who preceded her; and like the other Elisabeth who now exists in her who was guessed by her, she carries within herself the feeling of her death stronger than that of life. And that is why she is silence incarnate, and she is the long sigh of the cypresses, motionless in the storms of the soul, hovering mystically on the river of life, on which, from the nocturnal shadows of her hair, she leaves fall hyacinths and violets.

Schoenbrunn, January 21.
We spoke today, during the walk, of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Burne-Jones.

“They are,” she said , ” souls of long ago, returned to earth to pursue the dreams of the men who preceded them and divine those of the men who will follow them. They drew these dreams from the chaos where before all eternity they floated, waiting for an eye to discern them. The things of the spirit, too, want to be born in order to attain the fulfillment of their sublime death…


February 1.
“In the name of heaven!” SHE called out to me in a low voice today during the lesson, while the hairdresser was braiding her hair. Don’t look at her! I feel every look you give her on my hair. These Greeks exercise an astonishing fascination! I will ask my doctor to prescribe blinkers, as for young horses. And you will have to put them on every morning.

—Do you know which Shakespeare play is my favorite? SHE asked me , after a moment, abruptly.

” Hamlet , Majesty?”

—No, A Midsummer Night’s Dream . Didn’t you notice, at Lainz, the engraving that was in your room: Titania with the head of an ass ? It is the donkey’s head of our illusions that we tirelessly caress. I have had this painting put up in all my castles. I cannot get enough of seeing him.


Today, SHE led me into a small room whose walls were literally covered with portraits of horses. They were marvelous portraits of marvelous beasts.

“You see,” she said to me, “I have lost all these friends and never gained a single one in their place.” Many of these horses have died for me, which no man would ever have done; they would rather assassinate me.

Schoenbrunn, February 19.
Today we spent the whole afternoon going up and down the two paths which, on two sides, lead by a gentle slope to the Gloriette . Gray and weary hours. The sky as ashes. The trees were shivering. Fallen leaves, discolored rubble, were heaped in thick layers under the trees—faded thoughts and departed joys; and below the dead hours lay like in tombs. The few leaves that still hung from the trees seemed to me to be twitching with pain. The air was aged, numb and heavy like still water. Thus, walking through these same and so gloomy alleys, without{121}talking, always, we went up on one side and down on the other, enclosing in a circle the symbol of the Gloriette .

The Empress, that day, was extraordinarily taciturn, and her movements lacked that magnificent calm and that smoothness of lines which are customary for them and which no one with her shares: from time to time the blood rushed to her temples. . I felt that a foreign atmosphere, hostile to his intimate nature, enveloped him.

“At times like this one feels life weighs more heavily,” I said, as we once again reached the top of the Gloriette , as if to make the restrained silence cry out within me.

“You mean the life we ​​must lead as a herd of superior little beasts! replied the Empress with a subtle irony in her voice. Nothing new to say about it. It is so dark and so false, this life, that it is certainly not worth trying to find it bearable.

After a short pause, she added:

—Often I seem to be enveloped in thick veils, in an inner masquerade: disguised as an empress.

—Yes, Majesty, we take the phenomena{122}accessories and external conditions of existence for the sublime life itself, while they are but trabans and valets around the closed litter of a princess: something false and ignoble, which, grossly , struggles, which hastens with an importunate noise around life, masking, sequestering from the outside, by sinister shadows and lying cries, the exquisite thing. And all this, which, in truth, is foreign to us, we confuse with the only one which is proper to us.

The Empress replied:

“That is why we must, as far as possible, try to save a few rare moments, during which we can penetrate, each in our own way, into our own lives. I discover myself new each time I arrive in another atmosphere that no one has yet breathed, which no one has abused. When I find myself all alone in a solitary site which I know has been little frequented, I feel that my relations with things are quite different from what they would be if other men had been there; only by this difference do I recognize myself—at sea, in the vast plains, where there are none of those nooks where men so willingly pile up like dust. Life among men unifies us all in a black heap,{123}where vulgarity is the only element common to all.

“To tell the truth, men feel none of this as long as they live,” I said; it is when we die, perhaps, that we begin to live, truly and deeply.

-Oh! no, said the Empress, even during life we ​​live like this, only we do not see our life; death alone causes the scales to fall from our eyes. But there are men who, in their lifetime, are already closer to death than to life. We don’t usually have time to go to ourselves, addicted as we are to foreign things. We don’t have time to look at the sky that awaits our eyes. I remember having seen once, in Tölz, a peasant woman distributing the soup to the servants of the farm. She failed to fill her own plate.

-The idea of ​​death should already, of itself, embellish our life, I said. All earthly things acquire, by the very fact that they are perishable, a profound intimate value and the significance of symbols.

“Yes,” she said, “the idea of ​​death exalts and purifies us, like a gardener who pulls up weeds when he is in his garden. But this gardener wants to be always alone and is upset{124}if the curious look in its enclosure. That’s why I hide my face behind my parasol and my fan, so that he can work in peace.

So, speaking softly, or rather listening attentively to the monologues of our thoughts, we quietly followed the alley leading down from the Gloriette ., to return to the castle. Then, again, my gaze rose towards this parasol, towards this fan—towards the famous black fan, towards the too well-known white parasol—faithful companions of her external existence, which had become almost constituent elements of her bodily appearance. In her hands, they are not just what they are to other women, but, rather, pure emblems, weapons and shields in service of her true self. When she finds herself very high, on the summit of a mountain, bathed in sonorous solitude and languor, in the blaze of the sun, while high noon rolls over the rocks, then only does she close the parasol which hides her head on all sides, only then, from the pallor of her face, does she lower the black fan. She spoke about it once, in Lainz. She only wants{125}higher”; she wants to preserve her inner silence from all profanation; she doesn’t want to move away from the closed gardens of sadness that she conceals in herself and from which other men have exiled themselves. So she bends unceasingly to the eternal flowers of pain which bloom in her heart, and she listens to the sounds of the living beauty of the world which from these chalices overflow and in themselves are reabsorbed and weave the substance of his being.

“What is joy, Majesty?” I asked, when we had already arrived at this little flowerbed, which, from the right wing of the castle, extends in the direction of Hietzing. The Empress was walking very quickly, for the castle clock, which with its large eye was gazing out over the gardens (so uselessly for the plants!), had already marked six o’clock in the evening.

-Oh! joy, she said, running more than she walked, joy is only an ephemeral thing, an episode, a stopgap, which fools us about the sad languor, the Sehnsucht , which must come. Oh! it always comes, because it is the expectation of the destiny that our life aims to reach; it is the saddest and, therefore, the most exquisite thing in the world. All beings who are beautiful await their destiny and are sad too, when they are not diverted from it. You see, now I have to put myself{126}to run, because I have been absent from this dear life for too long: my Swedish doctor is waiting for me for the massage. I call this kneading , so little am I imperially disposed during this operation. And thereupon she burst out laughing.

As I got back in the car, I said to myself, “She laughed! To tell the truth, she cannot, nor will ever want to laugh, as long as she is in her true form of existence. But when reality brushes against her, then only, and in relation to so-called human things, she laughs. Laughing means, for her, getting away from her inner self.

Schoenbrunn, February 22.
Today, as we were returning from the walk, I said to the Empress:

“I cannot marvel enough that Your Majesty’s demeanor, after hours of walking, does not betray the slightest weariness.

“It’s because I’m never tired,” she replied. And we owe thanks, my sisters and I, to our father. “You have to learn to walk too,” he always told us, and he gave us, expressly for that, a renowned master. And this master, she added cheerfully, constantly recommended to us:{127}each step you take, you must be able to rest from the previous step, and, as much as possible, not drag yourself on the ground. According to him, we should have only one example in front of our eyes: butterflies. My sister from Alençon and the Queen of Naples are famous in Paris for their gait. But we don’t walk as Queens should walk. The Bourbons, who almost never went out on foot, took on a special allure—that of majestic geese. They proceed like true kings.

From February 25 to March 5.
We read the works of Carmen Sylva. The Empress is very fond of the crowned poetess.

“His youthfulness is worthy of admiration,” she said. She still remains the backfish[D] German, despite his exotic crown and white hair. And her sentimental world has also remained the same, although she has become, in the meantime, an unhappy mother. It is still just as impulsive, easily ignited and quickly dried up. His works{128} suffer from it. She does not have the patience to stop on her ideas and to penetrate them; it is as if she were dying of a thirst for events, behind which she hopes to reach the inaccessible . Also, it never attains rest, which is the only goal. We must renounce the fact. Only what hasn’t happened is eternal…

The Empress found the “curl of anger” of one of the heroines of Carmen Sylva priceless: a lock of hair that stands threateningly with every outburst of anger.

Snow everywhere. The languid black silhouette, on the deserted and white plane, walking slowly, seemingly aimlessly, as if to concentrate, simply, in its living perpendicular black line, the beautiful dead calm of the surface, and thus to make it take self-awareness. And also all this ermine purity is embodied in this black serpentine line, and this same crystal atmosphere fills his soul…

She translated today into modern Greek, and{129}with admirable elan, the fifth canto of the Odyssey (the farewell to Calypso and the arrival at Scheria), which I recited to him in German.

“We are now singing the prelude to our trip to Corfu,” she said. If Heine hadn’t told us that the gods of Greece are dead and that they are, at most, capable of blushing at the truths that are told to them, we would have to beg Dzeus and Poseidon to grant us a happy crossing. You, Hellene, you are surely not afraid of the sea. Will you get seasick, for example? If so, you won’t get much pleasure from my travels. I am like a storm bird. I hoist all the sails so as not to deprive myself of the sight of the raging waves; and every time a wave breaks on the deck, I want to burst into cries of jubilation. Would you do the same?

“Perhaps, Majesty. Besides, the journey to Corfu no longer offers such terrors.

-It is sad! This is one of the disadvantages of civilization. I sailed once on the ocean, on the English yacht Chazalie , which was little more than a large boat. But that was only a tiny part of the ocean. I would have had so much pleasure crossing the entire ocean on this boat!{130}

Miramare, March 6.
Arrived today with the imperial train. Sunshine after the rain, which was, perhaps, just sleet. Up there, on the Karst, there had still been, on the extreme edges of the rocks and in the stunted branches of the trees, loose heaps of snow, performing incredible tricks of balance. It was like bad memories that wouldn’t go away; but in the glare of the sun they had lost all horror. We got off at Grignagno station. The park of the castle rises up to here, under a mist of aromas and vapors after the rain.

The Empress with Baron Nopcsa, then Countess Janka Mikes, me and the rest of the retinue, we walk on the wet gravel paths, under the dripping and shivering trees, which, in terraces and without interruption, descend to the sea they no longer want to leave. And finally, the captivating appearance of the sea itself. The castle, filled with sad loneliness. Black paneled walls in the vestibule that overlooks the sea and the gardens. Stairs, marvels of wooden sculpture, which dream of crisp steps. Darkened portraits of Spanish Habsburgs: oh those heads{131}thin don Juan, the fever in the eyes and the protruding lower lip, characteristic for the whole race; and the melancholy eyes of fragile infantas, whose slender hands rest on the heavy folds of their silken dresses; and, again, adorable little mouths of imperial children, whose dimpled cheeks are framed in large, stiff ruffs.

My room is in the big tower, with a view of the infinity of the sea. In front of my windows, white seagulls, with a silent wing beat on the mirror of the sea, like restless dreams, whirl: dazzling , they stand out against the sky and the sea… In my room an old scarlet silk upholstery with high gilt backs. In the silk is woven the Mexican eagle, crushing in its beak a reptile: (oh irony of fate, that the eagle was annihilated by the reptile before the fabric had worn out!)… An Italian servant of ogress proportions is at my command; Helped by an asthmatic old lackey, she serves me dinner (I had never seen such big and beautiful crayfish: only one of their claws filled my plate, and they were pink as coral). These two servant souls have been serving the castle since the times of poor Emperor Maximilian. With naive joviality{132}and an inexhaustible talkativeness, they tell the saddest things.

The Empress has her hair done in a pale blue silk boudoir. The walls are adorned with portraits of the Belgian royal family; they remind me that among the royal races destiny (that is to say misfortune, for destiny is always fatal) is transmitted from one to the other by blood ties.

The sun was vanishing behind the trees. The black and opaque cypresses, in their contours (continuous and yet immutable fall) were bordered like a flowing hair of gold; and through the darkness of their branches, however, the sun said goodbye just as if it had been forever… We passed a tall pine tree bathed in russet gold. From its summit a deafening cry of quarreling sparrows arose.

“The pine doesn’t care much about it,” said the Empress. The lines of its ridge remain the same.

Further on, all the trees became silent again. A small cloud, lonely in the middle of the sky, was dreaming. He{133}was dressed in purple and drowned in an ocean of rays. He seemed to be in pain, but his suffering was so tender that it almost seemed like happiness… We then went down to the shore. From the top of a cypress, right against the sea, suddenly, long and repeated, resounded a desolate cry of a bird addressed to the dying star.

“How the sun is dying, Majesty,” I said, “how it rushes into the great abyss in the undulating purple of its desire and accompanied by so many chords of harps!”

The Empress seemed for a moment absorbed in the contemplation of this solitary fairyland, then suddenly she turned her face towards me and said in her singsong voice:

Mein Herrlein! sei’n Sie munter.
Das ist ein altes Stück:
Yesterday vorne geht sie unter,
Und kehrt von hinten zurück[E] …
“In such moments,” she added, becoming serene.{134}laughing, we must only believe in one thing, in the grandeur of nothingness.

I do not need to look into HIS heart, to surprise there the sadnesses which weave there his secret life.

Often she says a word, and then she is silent, but the meaning of the word and the melody of the sound expand, extend, in the silence, ad infinitum… And her silence makes me guess the unspeakable .

In her secrets SHE must draw marvelous agonies.

Often in his eyes pass despair whose terror cannot be described.

Her life, in what abysses does she roll, her life which she digs so deeply in the rock of solitude?…

Everything becomes fabulous in HIS proximity, things show themselves under a new aspect, as if illuminated by the blue peaks of her soul.{135}

Each garden where she sets foot becomes as mysterious as that of the Hesperides.

The sea so vast, so vast and empty and desolate, and the waves breaking on the reefs, so weary! Their voice, light rustling of dry leaves, a murmur that suddenly, fearfully, is silent. Oh! those lunar nights on the water! These enchantments of silence, which resound within us like cries of exasperation! And an endless loneliness, an annihilation in the depth of his self, beyond the understanding of the senses. This open breast of the sea, what immensity of desire does it not embrace? And the moon has slipped wildly up to him and laid her fair cheeks on the trembling surface, and streams within herself until she slumbers—and falls asleep, and still streams Again.

—What darkness, Majesty, under this dripping intoxication lie buried, what abysses silence their groans, since they must always remain abysses… In this luminous river, the happiness of living, from an inconceivable distance, to the pitfalls, pours out and then breaks, on the pitfalls that are there. It’s as if he wanted to trickle away,{136}always streaming on the mirror of the soul, above all the moaning abysses.

Then the Empress said:

— Happiness is not given to rocks. Fatefully the light breaks against the pitfalls. I am like a pitfall. The light is not likely to approach me. And if she came to me—there is darkness in which all clear rays dissolve, which absorb all light and never give it back.

And while she was talking to me like this, her eyes seemed to me to shine inwardly.

We passed a small pond, quite apart from the castle, on which ducks were swimming. The sun was just setting behind the trees and pouring gold on the waters. Thus the humble domestic birds became sumptuous and fantastic. One after another, the ducks came out of the golden water and were quiet on the bank, as if absorbed in the meditation of sad riddles, and the Empress said:

“No one cares about their feelings. We treat them almost like cooks, because we{137}considers them only in relation to cooking. Who knows if they weren’t once queens… When I come back to earth…

And here, abruptly, she broke off.

We were talking today about the English poet Swinburne, whom SHElove so much. She spoke to me of her calm despair in lamenting fleeting beauty and the spells that dry up happiness, of her ancient choirs that sing the gifts of sadness and tears, then of the life that cannot be rejected. , and that is why the ship of men is sailing towards the blessed islands, on the hesperic sea, to take refuge there outside the empire of death… How dazzling was this world which it opened up to me! As if in indefinable perplexity and succumbing under some confused and magnificently fierce wish, I tore a branch from the young and fresh leaves which had brushed my head, and I buried my face in it. An acrid and penetrating scent of unexperienced, unexhausted youth almost brought tears to my eyes. Then, in me, all the uncreated was divined, all the germs of the future,{138} myself, to aspire to their fulfillment. But the Empress said to me:

“Why did you break that branch?” You are as cruel as fate.

Then she says:

—Art is only a creation of our desire for supreme existence, such as life should be for us; it is born of nostalgia for the unique homeland, and it divines its forms.

It was raining big warm drops, falling as softly as silent tears, cried on hands that embrace each other, without a word being uttered. All around me and inside me too, a great silence resounded. I felt all the strength of the soul being consumed in this mutual silence. I looked at the Empress and said to myself: “All the beauties fade royally in her, without anyone noticing them.”

White and pensive statuettes in their green niches, with stiff gestures of a discolored human ideal! In a little frequented part of the garden, a{139}stone goddess lay on the ground, her face in her arms, as if crying… These walks by HER side, through the garden of melancholy, of which she seemed to me to be the spiritual projection, gave these few days that I went to the castle by the sea, the indescribable charm of a mysterious penetration. Everything I saw around me slumbered, and it was as if everything could have been awakened by one of her wishes, renewed each time.

March 15.
Today we will embark on the imperial yacht Miramare , which the day before yesterday arrived from Pola, and anchored in front of the castle: a boat with wheels, of delicate structure, of shapes as flexible as a yacht, but more taller than pleasure craft usually are. From the window of my room, which occupies the upper part of the great tower, I see the vessel, on the gray sea, gently swaying: the only dark point on all this colorless desolation which is about to suffocate in the milky mists of the distance. . On all this liquid surface without visible limits, life seems{140}suspended, and as if concentrated in the tender swaying of this unique and black ship…

“Before embarking, we want to go once more to visit our favorite places,” the Empress told me last night.

And we went along the parterre, through the flowers that had bloomed too soon, delicate and miserable, then, on the side of the island of deer , to the chalet .; finally, without feeling the need to explain ourselves about it, almost instinctively, we directed our steps towards the pavilion where the Empress Charlotte lived, when she returned, alone, from Mexico. She lived in him insane, and insane she left him. Solitary and mute it stands, the windows hermetically closed, forever. Branches in a network of climbing roses, still arid, entwine the veranda and the walls, like dead things that had remained there, attached—painful memories of joys that were: one can hardly imagine, seeing them, that, each spring, they spread on this lethargic and inanimate house a new quivering life of flowers. But the slender tower has always been embraced by a dark ivy that{141}seems to symbolize something sinister, which one cannot escape, which one cannot tear from one’s soul. Without saying a word, the Empress walked several times around the enclosure of living plants, which separated the abandoned little chateau of madness from the great artificial park of outdoor life. His gaze slid over the closed windows which, fixedly and stubbornly, a few cypresses, black as erebus, while exhaling a bitter and penetrating aroma, also contemplated. And before my eyes appeared the famous painting which represents the then happy chatelaine Archduchess Charlotte, hugging the young and radiant Empress Elisabeth, returning from Madeira, on landing, on the large semicircular staircase of white marble which leads to the sea. …

The Empress was standing next to me, and as if hearing my thoughts, she said in a barely perceptible voice:

“A thirty-year-old abyss, full of horrors… And with that, they say the Empress Charlotte is still fattening.”

She was silent; but, again, she stood still near the enclosure of living plants, and her gaze alone slid over the closed windows. A breath, coming from the most hidden depths of my being, made me suddenly start, as if the secret fear of these{142}blind powers that mow down a young tree in one night would have overflowed into my soul—and then I saw the Empress already quite far away, turning towards me. She must have run away.

“It’s even sadder than Oedipus,” I said, approaching her. “Life and happiness are a breath,” sang Dante somewhere.

“Misfortune is stronger and madness is truer than life,” she replied, and we returned to the castle.

When it was time to embark, the weather had become even more gloomy. Without a breath, the sea lay, smothered under the thick veil of pale greyness. On the mirror of the waters, low, white layers of wadding, motionless clouds and as if sadly dozing, stretched to the distance. The very small waves that the keel of the launch raised in front of her curled up, slow and lazy, for a moment, and then sank in on themselves, without the slightest murmur. Only the regular cadence of the oars and the imperious voice of the helmsman who directed the Empress’s boat resounds{143}arose in the silence, vibrating above the vast empty surface…

The Imperial Yacht is elegant and luxurious. The cabins reserved for the Empress, very low in the hull of the vessel, have the special character of a sailor’s accommodation; they are simply and practically arranged, and yet one immediately recognizes in them the abode of a sublime personality. Here too all the furniture covered with white canvases under which no silk can be seen, and flowers everywhere. The bath cabin is, in truth, the main room, arranged with more comfort than the others. During her crossings, the Empress takes only baths in sea water: this water, a rowboat, during the course of the boat, fetches it very far from the sea. On the bridge, there is a rotunda pavilion of glass, offering, on all sides, a view of the sea. It is upholstered in blue silk, with pull-down blinds and a circular divan, blue silk too. It is here that the Empress has her hair done in the morning, and at the same time she reads or writes with me. While she is standing in this pavilion, all the curtains are drawn;—otherwise it is only in time{144}of rain or strong storm that it withdraws there, and, in this case, the sight on the sea is again released. She herself showed and explained all this to me.

“When there’s a storm and we’re on the high seas, I usually have myself tied to this chair with ropes. I take the same precautions as Ulysses, because the waves attract me in the same way.

But her particular domain is, as she told me, the afterdeck and one of the watch thwarts which she has enclosed with sailcloth, so that you can no longer see anything of the ship and that only the sea remains visible. To this tent, I gave the name of Isolde’s tent , which she found very good. She has certain hours when she adopts the watch’s bench or the quarterdeck: in the morning, for example, the watch’s bench; at noon, the rear deck; and in the evening, again, the watch bench. But towards evening, the canvases are removed and the crew tries, as much as possible, to make themselves invisible.

Immediately after the end of the lesson, SHE called me back on deck. In Isolde’s tent , a single opening was made, masked with a carpet above{145}hanged. In front of us, we had only the sea, empty and diverse, of a dark leaden blue, which made almost perceptible the weight of its liquid masses; and white strands of foam crossed this infinite bleak blue. Seagulls with silent wings fluttered behind us; from time to time they uttered shrill cries.

“On each of my voyages, seagulls follow my ship,” she said, “and there is always one of a dark color, almost black, like this one.

And she pointed to a black seagull flying at the heads of the others. Whereupon she added:

“That one alone will come as far as Corfu.” Sometimes the black seagull accompanied me for a whole week, from one continent to another. I believe she is my Destiny.

The Miramare called at Pola, because the Empress intended to inspect the old cruiser Pelican , which was being transformed into an imperial yacht. The ship, which awaited this visit, was decked out. She went there, with her lady-in-waiting, on a boat from the Miramare , and{146}in front of it came another boat with admirals and various dignitaries of the port. From the solitudes of the mind in which she wandered, she now returned to the atmosphere of her imperial situation among men. But there too she brought the unspeakable elevation, the sublime grace of her own nature. I read on the faces of those around him that they were dazzled by the poetry of his presence, but that they hardly realized the single cause, and attributed, falsely, the impression felt to his high dignity.

Today SHE says:

—Life on board is more than just a voyage. It is an improved life, and, above all, a truer one. I seek to enjoy it as fully and for as long as possible. We find ourselves here as if on an island from which all inconveniences and all relations are banished. It is an ideal life, chemically pure, crystallized, without desire, and without consciousness of time. The feeling of time is always painful, because it gives us the feeling of life.


On deck, SHE said to me, pointing to the brown seagull which, still beating its transparent wings in the sun, sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right of the ship, was hovering over us.

“She foretells me that I must die of drowning.” When I found out how Shelley died, the idea immediately came to me.

We were passing the Dalmatian Islands. The sea was calmer now. The coast was green. I asked if SHE didn’t want to dismount. She says:

“Life on the ship is far more beautiful than any shore can be. It is worth desiring to go somewhere only because the journey comes between us and our wish. If I had arrived anywhere and knew that I could never leave it again, even a stay in paradise would become hell for me. The thought of soon abandoning a place moves me and makes me love it. And so I bury each time a dream, vanished too soon, to sigh after another, which has not yet been born.


At three o’clock in the afternoon, they served HIM milk from a Maltese goat, which had been brought from Vienna.

“She makes the trip without any enthusiasm for the beautiful,” she said, as we visited the goat in her box. But she has a very developed sense of duty, because she is English. It is worth more than any aesthetic. That’s why I took her. There are no better nurses than the English.

Later, SHE said to me:

—Men believe they dominate nature and the elements with their steamboats and express trains. On the contrary, it is now nature that has put men under the yoke. Formerly one felt like god in a hole in the valley that one never abandoned. Now, globetrotters, we roll like drops of water in the sea, and we will finally recognize that we are nothing more.


“At sea, my breathing widens,” SHE told me again on deck. It adjusts to the swell. The looser the blades become, the deeper I breathe.

“Yes, Majesty, there is between us, poor mortals, and eternal things, profound correspondences whose laws are concealed in perennial enigmas.

“I think,” she said, “that the sea dehumanizes us, that it suffers nothing from terrestrial animality in us. In the storm, it often seems to me that I myself have become a foaming wave.

And I look towards her, as if dazzled.

Today the sea is stormy again. She wanted me to read her a few pages from Heine ‘s North Sea Cycle . The second stanza of The Tempest gave me an indefinable thrill, because it is as if traced on it.

O Mer!
Mutter der Schoenheit, der shaumentstieg’nen!
Schon flattert, leichenwitternd,
Die weisse, gespenstische Moewe,{150}
Und wetzt an dem Mastbaum den Schnabel[E] .
And further:

Fern an schottischer Felsenküste…
Steht eine schoene kranke Frau,
Zartdurchsichtig und marmorblass…
Und der Wind duzchwühlt ihre langen Locken
Und trægt ihr dunkles Lied
Ueber das weite, stürmende Meer[G] .
Fearfully I raised my eyes to his, and saw them wandering, solemn and sad, on the deserted and stormy sea.


March 17, 1892.
The gray morning was already spreading when we arrived in sight of Corfu. The approach to the native shore had brought me to the bridge earlier than usual. The sea, still, under an opaque veil of ashes, slumbered. Miramare wheelssinking softly into the milk of these waves and dragging after them long silky and silvery streaks which darkened in weary volutes of emerald. A damp coolness penetrated the still air in a diffuse whiteness—and no other sound than the panting of the machine which, calm and muffled, rose from a deep distance, palpitations of a heart, more sensitive than perceptible. We were sailing precisely in the narrow channel between the northern tip of Corfu and the mountainous walls of Epirus. On one side, titanic rocks, black as ebony against the pale gray green of the sky, and low round hills of the Corfiot coast, under a humble brushwood, which was outlined black on black also in blurred outlines; many of these bushes must have been in bloom, for an intensely sweet fragrance, evaporated honey intermingled with the exhalations of the damp rock, enveloped the vessel from time to time. Where the white sea embraced the dozing hills, a{152}mystery of great abysses, in themselves collapsed, was revealed. And a barely visible ripple of foam soundlessly licked the rocky coast—kisses in sleep; but one felt that, under these calm and so tender delicacies, slumbered the terror of furious surges. Yes, all this was immersed in a deep and lethean sleep, but this sleep hinted at a passionate and deep life.

The Empress was also on deck, although the protective tent was not yet pitched. She saw me, and nodded at me:

“Such a morning is a magnificent state of existence,” she told me. How all these mountains sleep! It is not only silence nor the absence of sunlight, it is the true sleep of living beings of which we are only a degraded copy. Do you see there the Pantokrator with its two twin horns, with curves as graceful and as pure as those of a young torso of God? He is always the first to wake up.

We turned our eyes to the rising sun: behind the Acroceraunian mountains where the Eumenides live and where the entrance to hell is, the star was rising. Waves of light announced, quivering, his passage over the celestial sea; it was{153}like leaves of roses, pale in the heart, which spread to infinity, over unfathomable distances, indescribably. And the peaks of the mountains to shine, with a dusting of pink gold, as in a labyrinth of supermundane gleam, in the distance and the brilliance of the mythical times of the gods. One felt, if one did not know it, that here the rosy-fingered dawn, here the jubilant Phoebus with the quadriga of white horses was at home. And then the roses fell on the stone chest of the Pantokrator; all the deep ravines became visible, and the white climbing villages lighted up softly. And the light slid along the steep rocks, buried the shadows in the chasms or threw them in long velvety bands on the sea. untied her golden hair on the sea and on the islands.

And our vessel passed in front of the port of Corfu and continued its course towards the South… I was standing beside the Empress, on the bench of quarter closed with canvas ( the upper tent of Isolde ), while, very close to the coast, we glided silently on the diaphanous emerald waves. Like a fluid desire that drank our gazes, was this virid transparency. The bay of Garitza opened its bosom, so soft{154}round, at the bottom of which white houses sparkled and gentle hills, still under blue veils, slept. Then came a protruding tongue of land, completely invaded by luxuriant plants: as from the horn of Amalthea the trees and the flowers spilled out into the sea; aloes and palm trees raised their slender heads higher in the blue; oranges in the dark foliage blazed, and the white house lying in those gardens was Mon Repos , the palace which had once served as the residence of the Lord Commissioner of the Ionian Islands and which now belongs to the King of Greece. .

“I also lived here for a year,” said the Empress. Consul Warsberg called this place the gardens of Alcinous . We have often talked about poor Nausicaa, who was so bitterly undeceived. Look at this staircase in the rock, which leads to the sea, I used it to go swimming. There, in the rock, is a natural grotto, masked by reeds and hanging branches of yellow broom—it was my grotto of Calypso ; it is only at the Lido that I have been able to bathe myself so deliciously. I have moments, and even entire periods, when I can only live on the sea or in the sea.

And the ship glided past the gardens of Nau{155}sicaa, leaning as with a passionate impulse over the sea, and before the invisible grotto of the imperial Calypso. A new bay opened, the sea of ​​Chalkiopoulos , the Phaeacian port, where Odysseus embarked on his fast vessel for Ithaca. Lonely, as from another world, still plunged in a pale sleep, there lay, this immemorial haven, in a liquid and nebulous radiance, veiled by dream and mystery. But from the midst of the waters of sleep rose a bundle of black cypresses embracing a very small and white chapel; and where the reef, which supported these cypresses, plunged into the sea, the latter reddened with a purpural reflection of geraniums.

—This islet, I say, seems to me the model of Böcklin’s Island of Death . The cypresses stand there like gloomy dreams, and the fiery flowers, which are reflected on the mirror of the water, are sacred to Persephone.

“The Greeks prosaically call it Mouse Island ,” said the Empress. M. de Warsberg, on the other hand, thought it was the ship of the Phaeacians, turned to stone by the resentful Poseidon. And he was indignant at the sacrilegious naming of the modern Phaeacians. But, I believe, both parties were quite happy with the name they chose.{156}

Then came another long hill, covered with olive trees, which went far out into the sea, and it was only after having skirted it that we entered the bay of Benizze…

From the sea rises very high a gentle slope, softly downy with silvery olive trees; above, black cypresses, lonely, stand like the masts of a sunken ship above a sea glistening in the sun, and like the masts of a sunken ship they gaze upon the empty sea at their feet, sorry. But, on the summit, from the last waves of foliage, dazzling, the white palace of Achilles emerges.

“At the end of many years you return to the country,” said the Empress. I see how you drink native air.

“At the end of nights that have lasted for years, Madam, the first morning finally rises today. But it is not my country of old that I find here: I am now arriving in a completely different country, which I have never known, but after which, without knowing it, I have always sighed.

-What do you mean by that?

“I mean it’s not just the country where I was born, but the country where I became me. It’s the homeland of my soul that now brings me back{157}understand, because only now, and for the first time, have I become worthy of her.

“Then we are compatriots,” said the Empress, and in her eyes, under her fringed eyelid, an indescribable flash passed, which immediately died out. But her mouth bent in that familiar curve that is more painful than crying. It was not until we were ashore that I saw this line again sink to its own depth.

From March to April.
It was already bright morning when we landed, but all the lines were still hidden, blurred, under these virgin veils of the night which yield only slowly to the caresses of the sun. From everywhere a coolness rose towards the light and my face was bathed in the sweet perfumes of the dozing plants and the dew-wet earth which still pearled above. The Night and a Sleep without desire exhaled their essence, before the intoxication of nuptials with the light began. In the hollows and ravines the velvety shadows still slumbered softly, so deeply and blissfully blue, as if, for the{158}world, they would not have wanted to wake up. In what bright youth was here all that my eyes met! New, almost fabulous, the familiar trees and rocks appeared to me: the black cypresses and the silvery waves of the foliage of the olive trees, and the golden flowering bushes, which hung from the red rocks, blond curls in the flames,—as if I had fallen into the unreal. From another land, dark and old, I landed here at an enchanted shore where a brighter life dwelt. Ah! surely I was in another dimension of existence and sensation. Was it not reborn in some new Life of Dante? And it was SHE who introduced me to it. She whom a ship from the far dark had brought.

The imperial boat approached. The Empress descended on the white marble jetty, where, ornamentally, stands a stone dolphin. She had shown it to me from the ship, saying to me:

“Look over there, it’s my laughing philosopher who will receive me first.”

In front of us, extending its curve of sweet and passionate languor, the beach of Benizze rounded out, white with pebbles, and, in its hollow, the village of the same name stood lovingly between orange trees and cypresses. And the black slender form{159}of the Empress advanced, slippery, on the luminous shore, towards the wide open jagged iron gate which gave access to her Eldorado .

The court procession and the outward trappings which are necessarily attached to it, usually remained purely extrinsic and always contrasted (oh, what a discrepancy!) in the most prosaic way in the world with the inner elevation of the personality. of the Empress; but this time they had almost a symbolic meaning for the apparition above all that trod the tragic beach. And she moved forward, still, her head in the white halo of her parasol, and it was as if she had hatched from the ground, and the countryside opened before her steps, and the whole country was hollowed out, the trees loosen and round the braids of their hair to enshrine it. At his side I climbed the white steps that lead to the temple of Heine. Her royal head moved in the rays softened by the white parasol, as under a clear wave through which the light only passes attenuated. So we went along an alley of lemon trees in bloom. Their intense perfume, which no words will describe, gently distilled, in drops, in my chest, so that I had to draw deeper breath several times. I{160} I looked at the flowering trees, all that fragrant whiteness in the thick shadow of the leaves, and my eyes had a blissful sensation of youth and happiness. What a spring! Prodigy! And I who had almost forgotten it!

—Does Your Majesty see how they have adorned themselves, the lemon trees, to celebrate Him? I said.

“They’ve put on their wedding dresses,” she replied, smiling.

“Ah, that perfume! I had completely forgotten about it.

—It will also go away—and the lemons, after, are very sour.

I fell silent, as if caught in a cloud of obscure things, which I only knew was a joy to sink into.

And my indiscernible, floating thoughts shed their leaves, mute, on her royal hands like those petals of white flowers which, without a breath of wind, fell silently and ceaselessly on the mother earth.

She showed me the whole castle, room by room. It was like in a fairy tale, what she showed me, and that she showed it to me, SHE -{161}same. So do the good fairies for young lost shepherds.

The palace is built into the mountain itself—the facade is three stories high, while on the opposite side, a single story overlooks a vast terrace planted with age-old trees. The façade faces the main road which, from Corfu, passing through the white village of Gasturi and in front of the castle, descends towards Benizze, on the shore. A very high white fence wall and the thick veil of olive tree leaves draw the gaze away from the curious.

“The English are in despair,” said the Empress, “because they stay posted for hours on the hill opposite, without being able to see anything.

A large iron gate, with the inscription above: ΑΧΙΛΛΕΙΟΝ, opens onto the road. A ramp rises gently to the castle’s projecting portico, where huge columns support a wide marble verandah; on the parapet of the latter, at each corner, stand also marmoreal centaurs. The second and third stories are set back, giving way to two loggias, to the right and left of the central veranda—the veranda of the centaurs , to which they connect. For their part, the elegant twin columns{162}loggias support balconies corresponding to the upper floor. And on the balustrade of these balconies, at each corner, bronze figures again, black women adorned with gold jewels, who with their raised arms hold globes of electric light. Along the whole length of the castle, on the side facing the interior of the island, a long verandah also runs, with a view of Gasturi and Aji-Deka—another picturesque village halfway up the symmetrical mountain dome which bears the same name; and a winged Hermes, the kerykeion in his hand, seems ready to fly from the extreme edge of the balustrade, over the olive grove.

For a long time I stood there, contemplating the rest of these lines.

Lange stand bewundernd der herrliche Dulder Odysseus ,
said the Empress, quoting a line from Homer…

From the portico we passed to the open atrium: a lofty and deliciously cool room, supported by columns which, at their lower part, are draped in purple velvet; along the white polished marble walls, still purpural velvet which, heavy, falls; and mirrors as high and wide as the wall reflect the radiant ardor of{163}these fabrics. On both sides of the staircase stand gigantic vases of bronze and porcelain, with fan palms, high up to the frescoed ceiling, where dancing nymphs are depicted; from these vases, again, artistic glass flowers spring which, each evening, exhale an incense of light. To the right and to the left, double doors, well joined , according to the Homeric says, lead to other rooms: these are the dining room and the playroom, and my own bedroom, which is also there. Another small room, on the right, on entering the atrium, is arranged as a chapel; on the altar, in a niche, is placed Notre-Dame de la Garde , the statue of Marseille’s patroness of sailors.

“I brought her myself from Marseilles,” said the Empress, “she is the protectress of all seafarers.

A marble staircase, adorned with statues of Venus, Artemis and handsome teenagers, leads from the ramp and the garden below to the terraced gardens above.

A marble peristyle borders the building, which opens onto the terrace. A long series of rectangular columns, supporting the roof, their lower part tinted with cinnabar, the capitals richly do{164}res and painted in blue and red. White, they stand out wonderfully against the Pompeian wall at the back, vermilion, strewn with large fresco medallions where subjects from ancient fables are represented, Apollo with Daphne, Theseus and Ariadne, Homer blind rhapsodist, Aesop the fabulist and views of landscapes Odyssians too. Against the wall, a whole series of hermes with busts, mostly antique, of philosophers, sages and orators that the Empress was particularly fond of. At the other end of the long wing of the peristyle, on the north side and the sea, a marble figure rises dazzlingly white, Peri, fairy of light, who, on a swan’s wing, glides above the wave, and on her bosom presses the sleeping child-man. When we passed in front of the marmoreal fairy, the Empress stopped and remained plunged, for a few minutes, in its contemplation.

“I come to see her every day,” she said, “at dawn, and in the evening at dusk.

In front of each column of the peristyle, there are also marble muses, life-size, with Apollo Musagète at their head. The Empress led me to each of them, as if she wanted to introduce me.

“Most of them are antiques,” she said; I them{165}bought in Rome. They belonged before to Prince Borghese; but he went bankrupt and then he had to alienate his gods. Isn’t it awful, that today the very gods are the venal slaves of money.

Very close to Apollo, in the circle of Pierides, there is another statue, which I recognized for the third dancer of Canova, and which one says, like Venus victrix , that it represents Pauline Borghese, the favorite sister of Napoleon.

“I have brought a new companion to the Muses,” said the Empress; I hope they will have received it well. Apollo, at least, looks at her very tenderly. The peristyle is my new Olympus.

Antique lamps, bulbs rather, figured with dolphins and tritons, and with crystal globes in the form of flowers, descend from the architrave, suspended by chains, between the columns of the peristyle; a single step to descend from the peristyle onto the garden terrace.

“This garden is called the Garden of the Muses ,” advised the Empress. Here, no doubt, a host of poems will come to mind.

There were cypresses there, centuries old, in a stiff, hieratic attitude, and also{166}magnolias, then blooming into giant dream flowers, and wild olive trees again, which, for the first time, revealed to me, so profoundly, all the divine they embody and symbolize.

“I left them there on purpose,” she said, “because on the Acropolis there were also olive trees dedicated to Pallas Athene. Here they fulfill a high mission: they are responsible for retaining at their summits all the rays of the sun in nets which slide so desperately along the cypresses.

In the midst of happy beds, full of roses and hyacinths which give up their fragrant souls in ecstatic death, is a fountain with a dolphin spouting out a stream of water. And a black satyr, who on his shoulders, astride, carries Dionysos child, lends the ear to the eloquent water. We advanced to the edge of the garden from where the mountainous slope slips to the sea, beneath quivering waves of foliage. A tent of rest, of variegated stuff with antique designs, is erected here, on a projection of the terrace, from which the view extends farther than from anywhere else. To the iron poles which support the tent, Aeolian harps are fixed; but under the tent itself and adjusting itself to the external parapet of the terrace, there is a marble bench, semicircular, such as one sees in Athens at the theater of{167} Dionysos and as Alma Tadema likes to paint it, and, above the whiteness of this marble, a dark band, the color of wine, a line in the infinite beyond all comprehension, the sea, which rises very high on the horizon, the ancient sea, passionate, frightening with mystery. And higher still, the purple mountains of Albania melt into the mist of the sun. Laurels are there, all around, condensed into copses, and through them the perennial character of this picture is expressed even better. In this solar brightness, resting on the classic marble bench, the royal black form was moving to me, because it appeared to me like the soul of ancient Greece, which, in mourning for lost beauty, had come to look for it here, on this tragic and sacred shore, in front of this bench with the shapes of yesteryear, sadly neglected. Further on, two other terraces descend from the peristyle towards the north and towards the sea. At their extremity, at the very end, a white point shines.

“It is the dying Achilles ,” said the Empress, “to whom I have dedicated my palace, because he personifies for me the Greek soul and the beauty of Earth and of Men. I also like him because he was so fast on the run. He was strong and haughty and he despised all kings and all traditions, and counted human crowds for nothing, good only to be{168}mowed down by death like ears of corn. He held sacred only his own will and lived only for his dreams, and his sadness was more precious to him than his whole life.

From the terrace of the peristyle, enclosed by a balustrade, we descended a few steps to a second terrace. To the right and to the left of these steps, on pedestals, stand the two famous cestiphore athletes of the Naples museum, in black bronze, one would have said on the point of rushing one on the other. On this second terrace, in the middle of the roses, a seated Hermes rests (a copy of the Herculaneum bronze). Further on, another double, semi-circular marble staircase leads to a third terrace, the Achille terrace .

“Here are my hanging gardens,” she said. I do not believe that those of Semiramis were more prodigious; but it is not mine the merit, if they are so beautiful.

Below the last staircase of the caves with stalactites are dug, artificial, whose entry is masked by ferns. A virid and twilight light springs from the bottom, where mirrors have been placed; and, thus, it is as if these caverns were prolonged under masses of green waters to infinity. And a spring, with slumber and music,{169}streams from above, along a wall of rock, clothed in that delicate fern which is called hair of Venus .

“It’s my new Calypso grotto,” said the Empress. But it is far from being as dangerous as that of my predecessor. Over time everything loses its effect.

Shady alleys covered with climbing plants, then in full bloom, stretch on either side of the statue of the dying Achilles . Sylvan nymphs and a drunken faun, patinated bronzes, rise up in the jumble of greenery in a soft harmony of shades.

Hills of olive trees, again, slope down from the extremity of the terraces towards the deep bay, the so called Sea of ​​Chalkiopoulos . And we can see, from here, Böcklin ‘s island of the dead , this bundle of tall black cypresses, enclosing a white hermitage, above the mirror of the waters.

“We shall often go there,” said the Empress to me. There is a smuggler there who looks exactly like Charon. In his rowing boat I make myself go to the island, like a languid soul. When I go down to the shore, he immediately unties his boat without saying a word. I go up and I also remain silent. On the island, the hermit comes to receive me. He{170} offers me honey and almonds, so that I can taste them and forget the Earth.

Then we returned through the gardens to the chateau. From the peristyle the Empress passed directly into her apartments. In these pieces she put all her soul. They are the most exquisitely poetic thing one can imagine and dream of finding in this place.

—I arranged everything myself, she said, and I chose each object myself. That’s why I feel less foreign here than in Vienna.

“There is a great difference, I thought to myself, between these apartments and the sumptuous halls of the Vienna Burg where everything evokes an idea and nothing a feeling.” Here, in this home , which she herself created from top to bottom and where she wants to be exclusively herself, the features of her sublime entity emerge all the more clearly. From every corner of these rooms singsong sadness radiates. Everywhere fine and rare tints, nameless shades, similar to expiring perfumes, tarnished golds of long ago forgotten, fading lights. Such must have been the womb of Penelope or Helen, if these noble women were aware of the magnificence of their dreams. There were well-shaped chairs there , like the one{171} which Adraste offered to Hélène, encrusted with silver and ivory, covered with a thick fleece of sheepskin. Stepladders gracefully raised on their feet, tall chests like those where Penelope clung her fragrant dresses . Only one palm above the ground, in the bedroom, rises the wide Greek bed , worked to perfection , like that which Ulysses carved from the stump of the olive tree; to the uprights with shining columns, nymphs intertwine, as if to support the cushion that surrounds the dreams. A silken blanket is thrown over the bed: this is how Hélène aux bras de lis ordered her servants to prepare Telemachus’ bed. Beside the bed is a wooden prie-dieu, and above it a silver Byzantine icon of the Virgin. On the walls, paintings in light colors: Valérie, the daughter of his favorite heart, a symphony in pink, evaporating in a cloud of almond blossoms. Superb vases, of that ancient blue glass, pieces of which are found in old tombs, near the dead. The flowers, which everywhere spread the incense of their mysteries, their delicate and perishable charm, are arranged in such a way, that they seem almost organized here for a new life: in these rooms, one feels the souls of exquisite creatures vibrating. vegetable; it’s like{172}if, at the command of a flower fairy, they had come on pilgrimage, from all the meadows and all the gardens, to get drunk on HIS breath and to exhale HIS desires. From the ceiling, bronze bulbs hang, in the shape of flowers or shells that tritons and nymphs embrace. And one thinks of the interiors of Burne-Jones’ paintings, sensitive and refined to the point of suffering. That all these objects are rich, and, at the same time, so delicate, so ravished above the earth, as if seen in another region and formed of an incorporeal matter. But there is still something more here than what is found in works of art: it is the inexorable cruelty of an ancient destiny; the black sun which, icy, burns in HERpoured over this atmosphere, too, the shadow of its rays. And she is the synthesis of all these elements which she incorporates, which she awakens to a proper existence, and which she then pours out of herself. one than the other, all as though emerging from a phantasmagoria, less splendid in their splendor than delicious in the psychic atmosphere which filled them.

On the second floor are located the apartments intended for the Emperor, and those of the Archduchess{173}Valérie and her husband Archduke Franz Salvator.

“It’s a pity,” said the Empress, “that my son-in-law doesn’t want to come here, although I gave him hopes of the finest wild boar hunts in the Albanian mountains. Only once did he come, in the spring, but he declared that we would never see him there again. He prefers Upper Austria ; he hates olive trees and the sea, and Archduchess Valerie, who loves her husband very much, has, therefore, the same preferences as her husband.

And the voice of the empress, at these words, sounded like a death knell, painfully.

—My will bequeaths the Achilleion to the Archduchess; but she will probably have a large family, so it would be better if I sold her and her children received the money. At the same time, I will sell my special silverware, marked with my dolphin: perhaps an American will want some. I have an agent in America for this sale, who gave me this advice.

So spoke the one who turns away from men, who embodies super-terrestrial contemplation and reverie. It’s as if, sometimes, she wants to force herself to be a plain, reasonable woman, thinking of practical and trivial things, and making them the subject of her conversation. She goes there{174}tries and, however, she communicates to these things, vulgar and perishable, as soon as she approaches them, a radiance of eternity.

From the peristyle, by a double double door, antique and bronze, and from the apartments, by oak doors, one exits on the staircase. The stairwell is in the Greco-Pompeian style. Stucco satyrs and caryatids support the cornices and landings. The banister is in bronze, depicting intertwined olive and laurel branches, between which caryatids still stand. The light falls from above, through a glazed roof, and fully illuminates the colossal mural painting that occupies the entire transverse wall; whether you go down or up the stairs, your gaze is taken by this painting: it is the Triumph of Achilles, dragging around the walls of Troy the corpse of Hector. In front of this painting, after all that we have just seen, we imagine that the world of beauty is resurrected with Achilles, its personification. The staircase leads down to the first floor, and thence to the atrium; we pass in front of a superb vase on a pedestal, which represents a cave of shells with, inside, a nymph, surrounded by tritons and naiads, who hold each other entwined, the whole rising from the waves.{175}

After showing me the whole castle, the Empress said:

“We will spend as little time as possible at home. We must not consume the precious hours of life within the walls as much as is indispensable, and our homes must be such that they can never destroy the illusions that, each time, from the outside, we bring back there.

Every day, around noon, when the air, intoxicated with sunshine, puts a vermilion halo around each object, crimps each line with purple, and everything is plunged as in an ecstatic reverie, the Empress leaves her palace. And as soon as we cross the gate, to the right and to the left of the main road, which, through the village of Gasturi, leads to the town of Corfu, the olive groves surround us. What peace reigns here, the ethean! What luminous darkness! The sun penetrates the Argentine foliage, fine, as if downy, and always quivering, without heating or, to tell the truth, illuminating. Just as at the bottom of the sea the rays of light fall, dampened in the green waves, so it is in these old Greek forests of olive trees, so old{176}that they are ageless, obstinate in living very close to the ancient sea, the sea too blue, splendid and terrible. What animated power in these trunks, which to our eyes appear not straight and rigid as in the forests of the North, but knotty and twisted, jagged or silently leaning forward and extending open arms, always animated by an interior life; and although these torsos are far apart from each other, the tops cause their hair of foliage to stream together.

Thus one is almost forced to be moved by their feelings so passionately expressed, one feels an affinity with them, one learns to believe in tales of bewitched trees.

“How rich and secure one feels in this forest, so clear in its darkness and so peopled in its solitude,” said the Empress, the first time we entered it.

Around the trees, the earth is heaved in coarse clods. The ground falls and rises in steps which are often lined with stones. And everywhere stretches a green carpet of grass. In the clearings, newly covered with delicate herbage, tall tufts of pink asphodel, crocuses and innumerable hyacinths bloom.{177}

Oh! the secrets of the lonely prairies!

Then there are vast surfaces, all white with pale daisies and chamomile with golden hearts.

“I don’t know why these stars filter so much springtime and light into my bosom,” the Empress said in a low voice, as we trod on one of these flowery tablecloths.

Farther on, we fall into fields full of anemones—the anemones that were born from the blood of Adonis—and into pools of poppies, redder even than the blood: like burning lips, and without words, their petals s open and gently stir in the breath of sleep, consumed in flames of ecstasy.

Sheep were grazing, moving slowly under the olive trees. A young shepherd, bare-legged, was squatting on one of those little walls of heaped stones which border the terraces of the ground, and was eating a piece of bread, with black olives which he had just picked. When we passed him, he saluted without getting up with a “good morning, Queen”, and bit with his white teeth,{178}a big half-moon in its saffron-colored cornbread. And the Empress, smiling, replied, imitating the lilting cadence of the Corfiot voice:

—Καλὴ μέρα σου (hello to you)!

When we were further away, shrill sounds of a shepherd’s flute sounded behind us. I turned and saw the little shepherd blowing in his reed, moving his fingers with passionate slowness: they were some shrill and shrill sounds, which rose in the air and wandered sadly between the trees, until, from fatigue, they fall back on themselves; and again they wavered in pale sighs, towards the distance, between the olive trees, on the side of the clear perspectives from which one could discover the sea. hour, buzzed above the flowers in the half-darkness, nor the birds which, a moment before, were chirping all together and at the top of their voices: nothing more than the voice of the rustic flute, which penetrated everywhere, becoming exasperated in cries of pain, and, then,

Then, on hearing this flute moan, the Empress exclaimed:

—What sadness and what languor in these{179}sounds! The men of old put into it all that ever flowered in their hearts; and that is why one perceives in these few sounds all the bitterness and all the conceivable bliss of the old and the new humanity, at the same time.

Then, almost speaking my own thoughts aloud, she said again:

—Art, certainly, will never create a greater masterpiece than the shepherd’s song; art is only the reflection of the interior life, while these poor flute sobs are the deep life itself.

And I continued, aside from myself, his thought: “By these same sounds, the fauns attracted the nymphs, at the time of the great Pan, when the breast of maternal and mysterious nature opened to a frightful pleasure,—and the shepherd Kurwenal drew the same sounds from his reed, as long as Iseult’s sail on the horizon had not shone.

Paléocastrizza, March 20.
Market, today, for a large part of the day, across the island, to the western coast where there is a very old monastery, it is{180}built almost in the sea, on a rocky and steep promontory, which is attached to the island itself only by a narrow strip of land. Paléocastrizza (that’s her name) means: That (the Virgin) of the old castle . On a granite ridge, behind the cliff of the convent and dominating it, stand, as if desperately leaning over the sea, the ruins of an old fortified castle of the Byzantine despots of Epirus: Angelokastron (the castle of the Angeli) . And these ruins have the effect of hovering in the air.

When our eyes discovered them, I said to the Empress:

“From the galleries and turrets of this castle, Majesty, unfortunate princesses have for years breathed their sighs over the western sea…

—M. de Warsberg, on the contrary, at the sight of these ruins, dreamed of a castle of angels , said the empress, smiling. So many lords of creation — so many romances…

And here we are, back again, in the olive grove. As soon as you leave the main roads, you always come back under the sacred olive trees, which grow as they did thousands of years ago, always on the same beloved soil, always in the neighborhood of the panting sea. Walked a long time,—a{181}hour, four o’clock, I don’t know; during our walks, I never had the slightest notion of time. There is a very indescribable charm in wandering thus, for hours, in this warm and quivering half-light, between these twisted tree trunks as if stirred by thought, on the lawn strewn with innumerable daisies which all stand together, like islands of young raptures in the middle of the gloomy sea of ​​life, where from time to time yellow spots of the sun create a kind of unleashing of joy. This feeling of the immediate vicinity of the sun, from whose gaze, even being in the chilliest shade of the woods, one never escapes completely, makes one happy. What a difference between this forest and the one where Dante entered, halfway through life!

Eh quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
Questa selva selvaggia aspra e forte,
Che nel pensier rinnuova la paura![H]
Here there was neither fear nor fear. As in response to Dante’s verses, swarms of white and yellow and blue butterflies and the color of fire turn{182}billowed from time to time in front of us, with a mute and unbridled flapping of their wings, as if in the vertigo of too great a joy, passing from one island of flowers to another island of flowers, awaited everywhere with delight, in abandonments of ecstasy. And everywhere sheep grazing, and shepherds, and women picking olives, tucked up like the women of Homer’s time, with white veils tied round their heads and black hair artistically plaited in crowns; they collect, in large heaps, under the trees, the fallen olives. And there they are, all of a sudden, quite unexpectedly, they all begin to sing in chorus, each one from the foot of the tree where she is; and the liquid sounds float, and they melt into waves, then overflow into a lake of clear melody. How old is this song, and monotonous and sad, like the first greyness of dawn! But the trees seem to have become accustomed to it since the time of the great Pan, when they heard it from the mouths of the nymphs themselves; and it also strangely evokes the liturgical chants of the Greek Church, which, moreover, are nothing other than those old and pagan Peans glorifying the source of our life. Such primordial sounds often act as a revelation of inscrutable{183}mysteries, as if they opened a way into the hidden realms of our being: I divined this abyss of life, where languor, sadness and joy meet, and from where the essence of our nature, translated into an inner language , rises in an immortal song.

From all these things, waves of bliss spread over us; but they were breaking against HIS black form. Nothing can equal in desolation the discordance of his dark appearance amidst these clear and springtime joys. I often have, in such a case, the feeling that she travels so desperately only to escape from the atmosphere that surrounds her: no doubt she believes she is giving in to things a little, and receiving a perfume from them. and light, in return.

When the women weren’t singing, you could hear the whistling of blackbirds and tits resounding through the forest.

—How instinctive and free all these things, birds, women and trees! I said to the Empress. That if these women or the birds sing, it’s all one: without really knowing why, both do it this way, because it must be so, and their song comes from a living depth (in the same way are born from the blood of Adonis the{184} crocus and the anemone)… They are heralds who announce something exquisite, and who all say the same thing. So I believe more and more in tales where the birds speak so sensibly and predict their destiny to men.

And the Empress, in response, with the gleam of a smile in her eyes:

— Hei, Siegfried erschlug nun den schlimmen Zwerg…
Lustig im Leid sing’ ich von Liebe,
Wonnig im Weh’ web ich mein Lied,
Nur Sehnende kennen den Sinn[I] …
“Does your Majesty not believe,” said I, “that singing is natural to men, as it is to the pines of the forest, and to the waves of the sea?”

“When I heard the Patti, the Nilsson, and the Lucca, I got the impression that the rest of us have lost what all beings in the world still possess. We have unlearned to sing, just as we can also unlearn to smile.

“I believe so too, Majesty. All things have euphony in them, as part of their{185}nature, and even more: it is the essence of their entity. But there is also an inner melody, Majesty, which the hearing hardly perceives. Couldn’t we say that the lines of the human body also sing? From our whole being, the song rises, like incense, towards the soul of the eternal sun.

—But we have lost the serenity of the lines. Life casts sinister shadows, and behind them blows, perennially, a great wind of distress.

I say:

—Baudelaire guessed Your Majesty, when he wrote:

I hate the movement that moves the lines,
And I never laugh and I never cry.
“He was quite right,” she replied. Laughter and tears are like ashes, under which the fire of our soul suffocates…

Suddenly, through the trembling foliage of the olive branches, we divined a gleam, even more delicious than the azure of the ether or the intoxication of the sun in the trees: the sea!—the other sea, that from the west, which cannot be seen on the Pheacian side of the island, but whose proximity is always noticeable. Soon, on the height, we have it in front of us, extended far away, and empty to the end{186}of heaven, most improbably blue, bluer than sky blue, bluer than any idea of ​​blue, and happier than any bliss.

“Let’s not talk here, we must be listening,” said the Empress.

So, we listen to a kind of symphony that bathes us, and to the soft chords that, in our soul, respond to it.

The sea here blazes, as in a focus of incandescence of its passion, like white molten metal, but all around this blinding fire, and further still, as far as the eye can reach, there is, spread, inconceivable, this immense blue desolation which conceals in itself so much voluptuousness. And rocks, from above, crumble, as if to fulfill a tragic destiny, and other blocks of granite push themselves into the abyss, one on top of the other, forming small sinister cliffs, rigid bleaks of desolation, rush into maddened promontories, stifle their savage ardor in the limpid freshness of the waves. Everything here is agitated by a menadic vertigo, upset by a rage of nameless and limitless desires. And a light of phantasmagoria, pink and golden, intertwines, over the whole extent of this chaotic shore,{187}almost like corporeal beings, which have a mysterious attraction; and the luminous radiance, and the shadows of mystery blend together in a velvety, hydrangea-colored song, in a song of apotheosis.

“What a contrast with the other shore!” said the Empress; there nothing wants to wake up from its slumber.

“There dwell the blessed Phaeacians,” I said, “but here Pan is at home.

“And here we bring a dissonance here, we petty,” she said. And yet all that belongs to our soul, she added, and suits our spirit: this sea, all, immense, silent or passionate—but there are times when this very sea dries up completely.

Between the dark rocks narrow little bays opened, which warmed themselves in the sun, luminous and peaceful. Here the sea rested, the great insatiable one, the one that had eaten away those giant granites, and now caressed their pink stone breasts; and she insinuated herself into these holes of stone and sand and withdrew, again, in little skipping waves which turned around in each corner and made capricious leaps, which slid everywhere, kisses on a beloved face, which, in a moment cheerful and tender{188}chirping, whispering unheard-of and deliciously disturbing things to each other. An irresistible and almost painful fascination emanated from these mystical shells of pleasure, on which the high noon brooded. In these secret braziers, the dark and pink stones fell again and again, victims of their implacable enemy and persecutor. At the bottom of the water there were shadows that were seaweed, supple hairs of greenery, that floated, that rocked limply, and fluctuated, in languid convulsions like in dreams of lust, and played with the rays of the sun. which they had seized. And the path descended towards the shore. So here we are, at the level of the waves, treading on fine, damp gravel, the round pebbles, hot and blindingly white, the thick, silvery layers of dried kelp. Seen from here, the sea was quite different: it was a serene and pure forehead from which a loving hand had driven away all care and all desire, and it breathed very gently, this sea of ​​happiness, and its breath was joy. herself. So it was of another color, all in light green mother-of-pearl, and the waves which, from time to time, tried to wet our feet, were like the fresh laughter of elf children. And not a sail in sight—it was the sea alone, for itself, with its breath. were like the fresh laughter of elf children. And not a sail in sight—it was the sea alone, for itself, with its breath. were like the fresh laughter of elf children. And not a sail in sight—it was the sea alone, for itself, with its breath.{189}Suddenly we saw the convent in front of us, perched high on a cape.

The convent: an assembly of old little buildings glued to each other, intertwined, under a uniform layer of white plaster and dominated by a very small and round tiled dome, a very small paved courtyard, a very small Byzantine church at the back of it, and its door wide open. Two monks were in the courtyard. One was seated on a stone cornice, built around the trunk of an old olive tree; he held a clay bowl on his knees and was peeling lentils. The other was walking slowly and unevenly towards the basilica, swinging a broom in his hand.

All around the courtyard, other small buildings were piled up, scaffolded on top of each other, attics and barns with the monks’ cells which opened onto a small gallery of rotting wood. A rickety staircase led to it. And all that was so old, so old, so damaged in itself, in its immense abandonment! But in this caducity and in this isolation, too, the eternity of these things lay, and by this very fact they gave a more intense notion of the permanence of the feelings, of which they were the expression, than the most powerful monuments of the ecclesiastical architecture. The Empress{190}entered the church, behind the monk who held the broom. At the very back, there was an old wooden iconostasis, the gilding of which was all blackened. In front of the sunburnt holy icons, of which only white eyes could be discerned amid the golden plates of the aureoles, burned, in silver lamps suspended from chains, small flames of nightlights, red and green, tenderly attenuated. and dreamers, blinking in crystalline delight and sinking in on themselves, in languor, only to rise again in fluid desolation. It smelled of honey wax candles, extinguished, old rotten wood, dust and rot. Nowhere and never would one have had the strong impression of being transported back into the past of the soul. From a skylight under the dome, a jet of bright, vibrant sunlight fell obliquely on a stall of carved wood, all polished by use; and she didn’t want this sheaf of light to vanish: it was as if with wonder she had plunged into the mysteries of an unsuspected and incomprehensible world. How far away was this past which shone with all these things, and yet how present it was! The Empress lit two small candles with her own hand before the Mother of God. Our footsteps echoed on the flagstones The Empress lit two small candles with her own hand before the Mother of God. Our footsteps echoed on the flagstones The Empress lit two small candles with her own hand before the Mother of God. Our footsteps echoed on the flagstones{191}like intruder footsteps. It seemed as if this noise fell from the top of the silent cupola. We went out into the yard. There, too, an unheard-of silence weighed heavily, as if all those things that stood around, motionless, had expired, a thousand years ago, from their desolation. Suddenly, a fresh breath of wind came from the mountain to the ruins, and filled the courtyard of the convent with an incense of sage and thyme. The monk with the bowl of lentils had disappeared from his ledge. And now he was just coming back to meet us with another who, apparently, was the prior. The latter offered the Empress some refreshments. Before she could even answer, the monk walked away, and soon reappeared with a tray containing quince jam. The prior, meanwhile, held his high black felt cap in his hands. The Empress begged him to cover himself. She asked him if he was happy here.

“God be praised,” he said, stroking his white beard. We live as it comes and as it pleases God. What more does man need to praise God. Glory to His Grace ![J]

“Do you often go into town?”{192}

-If done! O most splendid Queen. We are obliged to go from time to time to the city, to make purchases. We remain men, and the body is cold and hungry. But what would we do in the city? I’m not saying that it isn’t beautiful over there in the big country , but it’s good here too, and even better.

“And I tell you,” replied the Empress, “that you have chosen the better part.

Then she tasted the refreshments and drank a glass of water, all at once. Whereupon she asked the prior:

“Where do you get this water?” It is very good and very fresh. Does it come from a source or from the well?

“It does not come from the well, Your Royalty. Usually we drink water from the well in the summer, but today we just had some fetched from the spring, a quarter of an hour from here, in the forest.

“Is this the only source around?”

“The only one, Your Royalty. It is completely hidden; we hear it, but we do not see it. Only the birds come to drink there.

“Can’t you tell me where she is?”{193}

“Certainly, certainly. Brother Basilius will accompany your Royalty.

“I will go another time,” said the Empress, “and then I will ask you to have me taken there.” I owe a visit of thanks to the source, since its water was so good.

Then she handed the prior a considerable present for his church; he received it with blessings. He and the other two monks accompanied the Empress to the door. I turned once more, and saw the monks on the threshold of their silent dwelling, at the moment when, on entering it, they were about to disappear from our sight. Then, on their faces, I thought I caught a gleam, and it seemed to me that their features contracted as if their eyes were dazzled, although there was no longer any sun there.

Evening was approaching when we returned home. The sea, an immense rosy delight, as if it had been strewn with rose leaves! And what an enchantment of colors on the solitary mountains of the distance! Below, violets and nocturnal irises; at the heights, an ineffable vermilion smile, like an incan perfume in itself{194}descent; and, for background, another sea of ​​pale green silk, more luminous, even more exquisite than the real sea… In the olive grove the light was already dying. The magic hour of twilight sank slowly over the forests, which it enveloped in its blue veils of phantasmagoria; but under the tops of the trees it was night, as at the bottom of the sea.

—This silence, this suspension of all life, is intoxicating. Something in us is on fire, while everything around us is extinguished, says the Empress.

We passed in front of a hut, situated a little apart from a small farm, in the middle of tall trees whose black trunks rose in the air like ghosts. A faint glow fell from an open doorway into the darkened forest. Suddenly a cry, a single shrill and prolonged cry, cut the air,—a cry which could not be compared to anything, which surpassed all terror in dread, every sword in edge; and it broke, but the air vibrated. Then it sprang up again, and with it a whole chorus of moaning sounds, all in the same pitch, long sustained and plaintive,—and which suddenly, at the same time, sank, tore in two, from top to bottom, like pieces of canvas and vanished.{195}

It was a lamentation of several women, and it came from the lighted hut… A pause—then the lament resumed, again, louder, only to break off once more. This pause was like the temporary suspension of the tempestuous breath of the sea. A furious musical surge. The whole wood was filled with this roar, which collided and broke against the trunks of the trees. And above this wild, but indescribably sweet wave, which rose and fell like the sea, monotonous, with its few notes always the same, rose from time to time, like a sharp reef which the waves sometimes cover and which yet never disappears from among them, a single voice, that voice which to nothing could be compared, which surpassed all terror in dread and every sword in edge; before her all the other voices gave way, exhausting themselves against her harsh impetuosity, and when, left alone, like a soul in pain, she tore herself apart, the trees all quivered; but then, again, the other voices came up, rolling their waves, as if to lament the single, solitary, inaccessible voice.

-What is that? What is that? asked the Empress, as soon as the first sound had reached her ear, in a tone of{196}voice that I did not know him. Come on, see what happened.

In me too, there was something cold, suddenly. I walked up the house into the trail of light and peeked inside! A muffled room, with a background of darkness. Ahead, on the dirt floor, several women were squatting in a circle. An archaic oil bulb, the flame of which smothered in its own smoke, cast patches of dark red light on their faces, devoured by greedily darting tongues of shadow incessantly. In the background, something white was lying, stretched out on a bed. An old woman, her gray hair disheveled, was slumped in the middle of the circle of other women, and screamed at the top of her lungs, breaking in two, beating her face against the earth, lacerating her cheeks with her fingernails. ; in this howl you caught fragments of crushed words, rolling like pebbles… When her voice reached its climax, it suddenly stopped, as if she had no reason to shout, and then she walked around from her indifferent looks. The others did the same. One would have said that from an abyss that would exist there, somewhere, for oneself, these sounds{197}frightful things were rising, bubbling in each of these human forms and then overflowing… I went back to the Empress and said to her:

—Someone is dead: that is the mortuary lament of the Greeks.

And, as she asked me who was dead, I said to her:

—I think it’s an old woman lying on the bed (but I was convinced that a mother was mourning her dead son).

“You are wrong,” replied the Empress in a very low voice (at the sound of which I imagined myself, without needing to raise my eyes to her, her face ravaged by an unspeakable pain), “it must be a child of that woman who screams more horribly than all the rest—perhaps her son. Go find out one more time.

But she called me back immediately.

—No, it’s not worth it, I know it’s his son… And we went on our way. After a few moments of silence, suddenly she said:

—For this woman, nothing more, nothing more than that, no more room in her for anything else whatsoever. Now she is exhausting all her old soul.

After these trembling words, she was silent for the whole evening. More and more we drifted away from{198}this sinister ocean of suffering, but the plaintive surge continued to pursue us from afar. Now it seemed he had grown weaker, as if weary, and his single blows were drowning in each other. Now also an echo had risen in my soul, and it resounded louder than the roar of those distant waves… The trees above were silent, not a leaf stirred… Suddenly the crickets began to sizzle, first one in the distance, then several near us, all together, delicate and fine voices, which soon resounded in the silence soft and sad, by the hundreds, in chorus, as in a single, inextinguishable breath, always resuming again. The spell was broken. A breath of deliciously fresh air rushed over the tops of the olive trees;

We were talking today about Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina , from which I had just read a few passages to the Empress.{199}

She tells me:

—The happiness that men seek in the truth and demand from the truth is subject to tragic laws. We live on the edge of an abyss of misery and pain, which the lie of social morality has dug. It is the abyss between our state of today and this other, in which we should find ourselves. An abyss always remains an abyss. As soon as we want to cross it, we rush into it and smash into it. When this chasm is once filled with human suffering and corpses of happiness, then we will cross it without danger.

From the Isle of Death , we returned to the shore of Hyllean Haven. Backwater seeping from the ground here makes the whole coast impassable. The evening silvered the marshes which gleamed through the black reeds, as if behind funereal veils. One of these little pale lakes was covered with nymphaeums. We had to go around its bank to gain a footing on firm ground. And then we saw the water lilies, which, one after another, closed their calyxes and plunged. A perfume of harsh and intoxicating sweetness hovered, like a heavy, sleepy cloud.{200}slow, on these fading flowers. At the bottom of the lake, heads of reeds could be discerned—dark red blossoms.

“We must go away,” said the Empress; this fragrance, here, gives a headache.

—The nymphaeum exhale their soul, Majesty, before sinking into the empire of Persephone.

“Usually it is the souls that descend into hell and the bodies that remain behind,” said the Empress. Here it is the opposite. It is rather, I believe, their feelings that the nymphaeum scatters to the winds. No one is grateful to them; they do not yet know that one must shut up one’s most intimate movements within oneself.

Today we stayed for a long time near the fountain with gushing water: a small channel leads the water noiselessly towards the heart of an old cypress. As for the fountain, it sang and sang ceaselessly, always the same unconscious complaint, like a delighted lute player, fallen, it seemed to me, into the delirium of her own sadness. Did the nearby fountain no longer sing as before, or did this direct melody{201}ment from SHE sprang? All things around her recognize the supremacy of her personality. What connects them to her are the relationships between these very mysteries that are familiar to them all and that they share with her.

Aji Deka.
Today, when we had climbed the blue peak which falls so softly on all sides, like the folds of a trailing silk dress, the afternoon was already well advanced. Here lonely granites in the sun lay, swept by the wind. Sessile oaks, black and dwarfed, and other stunted bushes squeezed into the crevices of the rocks, as if to cling firmly to them, for furious winds blow on this peak, ceaselessly.

“As on an island,” said the Empress, “although we are on solid ground. This summit certainly needs nothing but itself—neither mountains, nor valleys, nor men; and yet it is linked to all that… But you can always get there, if you want…

“What does your Majesty mean?”{202}

—To make an island of yourself.

“Only the wind,” I said, “cannot be prevented by the summit from coming up to it.”

-Oh! the wind, I wouldn’t want to deprive myself of it, if I were the summit, nor of the clouds either. All the gold of the sun should be mine, and the secrets of the clouds and the warm rain. And then this struggle, this superb struggle! Look at these poor plants, she said, pointing to the bushes which, anguished under the wind, quivered; see how they cling and hide in the holes in the rock; why also did they want to climb so high? They are not made for mountain air. Only the rock remains firm and spreads its chest…

While she was speaking thus, a verse from Solomon came to my memory, which I had heard sung marvelously one day in a Greek monastery:

Wake up, north wind,
And come, oh south wind,
Blow on my garden.
Then she appeared to me like a magician in the mysterious garden of her soul, calling, by the harmonies of her thoughts, on the silvery clouds of her dreams, the hurricane of her desires.{203}

“On these heights,” said the Empress, “I imagine myself, in the moonlight, the nymphs rising from the shallows, for their aerial dances, and the clouds as spectators, lying in a circle, around the dome of the mountain. , and then the wind blowing and scattering them all, and the moon laughing with all its face.

A moment later she said with a smile:

“Some time ago a hermit lived here. The people of Corfu claimed that he was a madman and that he chatted with bees and clouds and that he had no dealings except with witches. Perhaps he thought the people of Corfu himself mad… But the wind killed him too—all the same.

Under the peristyle.
A warm night full of stars and dazzle. Above the cone of the Aja Kyriaki and its black crown of cypresses stood the great bear, and from its great stars streamed an icy light which one felt distilled into the soul. Farther off, the calm and virginal Pleiades trembled. Berenice’s hair was also visible floating{204}in a breath of superterrestrial splendor. All the constellations appeared on the surface of the sky with a clarity and intensity that was almost frightening, because they brought the sensation of a distant and hidden life, full of overwhelming passions. The great Milky Way meandered quietly between all these brilliant stars, and then bent towards the distant other skies: in its Lethean waves, innumerable tiny stars swam to meet more eternal mysteries… There! Suddenly, a star lit up for a second, white and raw, beyond measure, so that the others around it paled. And there were red balls, as if on fire, that their own fire was devouring. And green and blue stars sailed happily on the celestial black waves without ever looking back. I said this to the Empress, and she replied:

—And of all these stars, there are thousands and thousands…

And still there were stars which would not close their eyes, although their eyelids were droopy, because they were waiting for the moon; and others whose tears prevented them from making out their way, and who, irresolute, looked in all directions.{205}

And the Empress said again:

—And of all these stars, there are thousands and thousands…

And there were still many of them, large superb stars, which wore a crown of rays around their heads, and which the others only dared to admire from afar; one of these beauties, light green in color, was closely followed by another, very small, dark blue, indefatigably, step by step, without the latter turning around. And there were some that were so left in the middle of a big dark patch of sky, and they were the saddest of all. And the Empress said:

“There must be thousands and thousands of these stars too.

And you could hear the sea rustling softly, just like the breath of a sleeper. The cypresses on the terrace stood out against the sky, like black tears falling ceaselessly; and they exhaled a bitter and balsamic perfume. From the mountain too, violent essences of wild flowers arrived, evoking the exquisite tints of their corollas… who raised her hand, landed on a fold of the veil of another who,{206} invisible, stood in shadow, and kissed Apollo on the forehead; besides, it spread more darkness than light. The Empress walked back and forth under the peristyle, and she was the embodiment of that almost transcendental beauty which here appeared on the surface of life. Tonight I read a few more pages of Peer Gynt : Asa ‘s Death .

When I stop the eyes of my soul on what in such hours I lived, I feel dazzled.

A glance at HIM is enough to know something. You can then tell him anything you want, nothing changes his first judgment. We were talking about a person whose devotion she questioned, and whom I wanted to defend. She says:

“No one can influence me for good or ill, for I leave everything to my inner voices and my destiny.

Later she added:

“Haven’t you noticed that I know more about you than you do yourself?” At first glance, I know what men are worth. Someone could come and tell me that someone is a Dante and show me his{207} Divine Comedy , I would not believe it, if I had not realized that it could be such. But there are also men who are magnificent and prodigious like mountains, and in front of whom we pass without understanding them, as in front of the mountains.

As we were crossing a meadow today, the Empress said:

“Have you ever considered all that is the work of herbs?” The flowers dream in their arms their ephemeral dream; Shakespeare’s nymphs and elves dance among them; the shepherds stifle the sobs of their flutes in their down; the streams sing their songs for them, and the flocks that graze there spread their rest; the butterflies surprise them with the shade of their wings, and the bees on their twigs rock themselves until they doze off. This is the work and the life of grasslands.

Today, suddenly, we found ourselves in the middle of a group of almond trees, which, lonely, made like a white island:{208}

“A cradle,” said the Empress, “where one could be reborn, if it were worth the trouble.

“How the clouds rush with rage after the sun,” SHE exclaimed today, during the setting sun. They look like witches chasing a young girl with golden hair.

Then she added:

—The passions of heaven, which we contemplate every day, make us forget our own cares.

Yesterday, as we had climbed the summit of Aja Kyriaki , the Empress said:

“See, now we are one desire poorer, and certainly ten more rich. It’s like with men: for one death, ten newborns. Each time a wish dies in us, a part of our intimate being dies, and we are born to new wishes, like humanity to new sufferings. But we will never stop wanting or suffering.


She would like to climb every mountain she sees.

“There are so few places on earth,” she said to me today, “which are not trodden by men, and which have thus preserved, pure of profanation, their primitive character.” I count among these the summits of the mountains—I do not mean precisely the Swiss Alps: it is not at all necessary to climb only one mountain in the Alps. The hills are enough; they are always islands of solitude; they even have more to tell us, because the relations between them and us are less troubled. And you immediately feel the difference. On the highest and loneliest peaks of the mountains, I can breathe, more freely breathe, where others would feel lost. It is therefore not to follow a treatment that I go to the mountains. You, on the other hand, must, perhaps reluctantly, tolerate this treatment. And there is something else with me: the physical pleasure of climbing; I got it, no doubt, from the goats whose milk I love so much to drink. I don’t worry, like tourists, about how many meters I climb; I just want to ride. Climbing is more attractive than any peak one reaches. For me, a peak is not{210}not a goal, but an obstacle, as in horse racing.

Later she added:

“Isn’t that curious?” When I am in Switzerland, I have no desire for the mountains, perhaps because everyone does. So, I prefer to stroll in the cities, especially in Geneva. Geneva is my favorite stay, because I feel completely lost there, among the cosmopolitans; this gives the illusion of the true condition of beings.

The wonders of twilight were beginning to unfold. The sunset sky blazed in an infernal red; the mountains of Albania: an immensity of vermilion dreams; and evening fell like a distant and desolate song about the abandonment of the sea. We went down to the shore, to share in its solitude. O the brilliance of lost pearls!—the long pallors that no one sees!

“Look,” said the Empress to me, pointing to two big white clouds, which had fallen up there on the summit of a mountain and which were now descending slowly towards the sea,{211}clouds are like us; they also go to the sea, to rest there from their existence. The sea is like a mother, on whose bosom we forget everything.

While she spoke thus, the clouds descended more and more on the mirror of the waters. And the evening, however, had strewn them with roses.

O the pale anguished moon, which lingers hesitantly above the crest of the mountains! We walked along the peristyle, while, in front of each column, the Muses, gazing towards the garden, stood, pale and attentive, in a dying half-light, each of them expressing by their crystallized gesture a particular side of universal beauty. We talked about things that had nothing to do with it, but our words were, I believe, only veils with which we decked out priceless treasures.

Today I read to the Empress Peer Gynt , and first the couplet of Solweig :

Now everything is ready for Pentecost,
Dear boy, always far,—
When will you come?{212}
. . . . . .
I want to wait, wait,
However long it still is.
So she says:

“Why wait for him?” Maybe he wasn’t the one she had to love and for whom she was born. We are so often mistaken in our youth, and we want to make our own destiny! It may well be that the true chosen one was waiting for him too?…


(rolling at the feet of Peer Gynt).
We are thoughts
You must have thought of us…

(he kicks them away).
I gave my life up to one.
The Empress:

—You shouldn’t give up your life to anyone, but live it in everything and ride with everything.


(whirled in the wind).
We are one word,
You should say it:{213}
Desiccated endlessly, we had to waste away,
We have become neither crowns
Or fruit protectors…
The Empress:

—The leaves are something incidental, dead desires forgotten and unfulfilled, while the fruits are the direct goal of creation achieved. Homer is right when he compares the men who fight around the heroes to the leaves of the forest. They are only there to vegetate next to the sublime ones:

We are the works,
You should exercise them.
It’s all over with strength.
You didn’t want to love.
The Empress says:

—More magnificent than anything is what has not happened. The non-arrival is the permanent state of truth in the paradise of eternal duration, while the fact is its banishment into instability… And, as far as love is concerned—it has a bitter enemy , and that’s the irony.{214}


(falling from branches).
We are the tears
You had to mourn them.
We could get together
Hate and desire…
“This time again he is wrong,” said the Empress; I know it from experience: one cannot weep real tears, and those that one weeps all flow in vain.

She stood near the fountain, and listened to the water, which murmured, without cease or end. The sea wind rustled through the quivering cypresses, which moaned melodiously like aeolian harps—longings without memory. High in the sky, the gentle Pleiades vibrated; and they rose swiftly through the nocturnal ether—and time fell, into the abyss, forever. Suddenly she says:

“Do you know why I like to travel incognito so much?” Because I would like to be like the Earth and the Sea. The names given to them by men only apply to men themselves;{215}they nevertheless keep their anonymity, and where they are freest and most solitary, there men do not reach with their nomenclatures.

I think of a saying of Ruskin: The most sublime works of art represent men and women at rest, clouds and mountains in appeasement, men and women nobly modeled, mountains and clouds magnificently beautiful. ” Oh! what truth in these words! Here, with HER , I grasp this whole truth. Everything is there in front of me, and is, is, is , because it was , because it will be. And, now, I also know what in her I find of these mountains, and these meadows, and these trees, and these clouds, which makes her a synthesis of the particular physiognomies of these eternal beings: c It is the great appeasement which is in it, and which emanates from its lines, as in sound rays of suave harmony.


Excursion to Lakonès.
Today, redo the splendid route of Paléocastrizza. We passed in front of the convent, then climbed the steep hill which rises behind it and dominates it. Up there, on the slope of the rock veiled by olive trees and cypresses, we saw the village of Lakonès, like a necklace of white pearls. Behind, rocks still rise, hidden under yellow and lilac flowers, but the tops are bare and round and smooth like young breasts. The village of Lakones itself consists of miserable little huts, whitewashed, which hang from the rocks, like birds’ nests, stuck together. On the flat roofs, carnations and geraniums set their flowering flame, beautiful and melancholy women are squatting before the doors of their airy dwellings; a few fat pigs are basking in the sun,

“They do no harm! back! here! Fire! Love! Shame on you!”—and the dogs are chased into the houses by women with languid eyes and who smile benevolently, women in white clothes, with white handkerchiefs of{217}head, with hair artistically plaited in crowns. All of them hold a distaff in their hands, like Queen Arete’s servants. Then the men come out in their turn from their oil presses, and take off their round straw hats, recognizing the Empress; and all, and all they pursue her with shining looks of admiration and their blessings:

“Ora kali vasilissa! Aï sto kalo! (Hail to you, O Queen! Go to happiness!)”

And the Empress, bowing with swan-like grace, her head, for a bow, glides past them and disappears into the clear darkness of HER forests.

Whenever we reach the end of one of our walks—and it is generally the crest of the mountains from which we have a view of the two seas at once—then it really is as if it made a triumphal entry into her kingdom, as if she were becoming, for the first time, empress over herself; so it’s as if she, grieved and funereal in her mourning, wore radiant clothes. It becomes youth and life itself. Like Mélusine in her silent udder{218}Sylvester cinema, far from the eyes of the profane, it manifests its true form and lives its own life…

Met today, on the way from the castle to the bay of Benizze, an Italian engineer, who was in charge of some repairs at the Achilleion and whom the Empress had already known. She ordered me to approach him and tell him in Italian that he looked good, that he had put on weight, and that the country air seemed to do him good. I asked:

“Does your Majesty not speak Italian?” Your Majesty is nevertheless the Queen of Venice.

—Ah! yes, for example, a long time ago, she replied, laughing amusedly, with a vague gesture. The Emperor still expresses himself very well in Italian: that is all that has remained to us of our kingdom—more than we need. I too had to learn the language of if , but I was never able to familiarize myself with it. Besides, all my trouble would have been wasted.


In the light of the mystical moon, we once again made the pilgrimage to the temple of Heine. The olive trees above our heads throbbed, the stars faded, drowned in dreamy mists. The Empress, for a few moments, stood silent before the dear, weary and nostalgic marble which represents the poet—and we returned without speaking any more.

Of the warm night, vaporously deployed, like a torpid veil, on the foliage of the trees and on the bushes at our feet. The Muses all twinkled: under the dripping light, one would have said that they were moving. In the distance of the gardens shone the white nymphs. The white moon, the enamored moon stood, vibrant, high in the sky.

“What calm, Majesty! The moon cannot take her eyes off it!

“We mustn’t talk,” she said, “everything is so silent that Endymion won’t wake up.

She is the most lonely of all lonely women. This should not be taken only in the symbolic sense.{220}bolique. From time to time, and at certain periodic intervals, it is a necessity, for her almost a vital function, to isolate herself even outwardly. She has the almost painful desire to be alone, and to dream face to face with the secret forces of her soul. So she goes to oases of solitude, where no one has access. From five o’clock in the morning, she walks through the gardens of the Château d’Achille ; everything sleeps, she alone is awake and vague by the limpid tranquility that surrounds her… Yesterday, I got up at dawn, and went—without quite knowing why—by the staircase of the gods , on the terrace of ‘Hermes. A whitish glint in the east loomed, behind the black ridges of the mountains, whose bases plunged into the darkness of their own shadows. From the sea (you guessed it, more than you saw it, in an immense drowned pallor) rose the humid morning freshness. In the sky, almost all the stars had gone out; only one, of terrifying grandeur and magnificence, blazed at the zenith: Sirius, rather like a little white sun, which swelled in brightness and then sank down on itself. Below the star rose, in the palpitating and icy penumbra, the silhouette of a large black cypress, whose top, under a breeze that one neither felt nor heard,{221}swayed slightly… Suddenly SHE appeared to me, sliding like a furtive shadow between the columns of the white palace. I was extremely surprised to find her there at this hour, and I wanted to retire; but she approached, quickly, like a black angel who would have to defend a paradise, and said to me:

“I’m always here before sunrise, to see how everything wakes up. You must never come here at this hour again; it’s the only time I’m completely alone.

I walked away in silence; I was terrified and as if lost in a dream: it was as if I had lived the tale of Mélusine.

Today again we were on the Aja-Kyriaki .

“It’s only here that I am quite happy,” said the Empress. Here I could even deny my principle and remain attached forever to this clod of earth. “The sea today is like a lake,” she said after a moment, and she smiled. I feel so at home here that I can’t help but think of Lake Starnberg and Possenhofen.

I say to myself: “Here’s what a childhood memory made{222}smile his soul.” It was poignant to think that she who now dwelt in the dark halls of understanding, where the human creature, indeed, is at its end, had also once been a child, and had played with her sisters on the dear green shore of this lake which exercised a tragic fascination on her and on all her race. “In truth she has never ceased to be what she was,” I thought to myself; from her lake she, like her sisters, received this presentiment of drowning. Then, over the years, from this lake, for her, the sea unfolded.

New promenade on the shore.

She says:

“The sea is my confessor, to whom I must have recourse every day. She gives me back my youth, because she removes all that is foreign from me and gives me her thoughts—only immortal youth. The sea itself cannot die, and that is why it rejuvenates all around it. From her comes all wisdom to me. In Gödöllö too there is a tree which is the best friend I have in this world. Every time I get there, and before I leave, I go find him, and we look at each other for a few{223}minutes in silence: he is the confidant of my life; he knows all that is in me, and all that happens between my visits, while we are apart; and he won’t tell anyone.

Look,—said the Empress after a moment, with a harmonious gesture toward the horizon of the happy little islands that swam on golden waters:—where an island hollows out its bosom into a bay, there all the sorrows of the world s deliciously spoil.

Today, we stayed a long time contemplating the noisy stormy sea, magnificent and mysterious, and we were silent all the time, sitting on the beach, while the sea, alone, cried out; she cried, distraught, for us, taciturn. And we knew that our silence, our rest, expressed the same thing that made the sea roar so horribly.


The longer I stay with her, the stronger the thought grows in me that her existence wavers between two worlds. When we wander, for hours, on the Homeric beach, it slipping along the clear shore of life, like a shadow having taken shape, and the eternal waves assail us with their clamors, then I have the feeling that ‘she embodies something that lies between death and life, or in one and the other at the same time. She herself, in the solemn address that the sea holds to the sands, never distinguishes but one thing: that is, that forces and powers more imperishable than those we know on this island of life claim us for them.

—The sea wishes to possess me always; she knows I belong to her, she tells me almost every time we go to the sea.

Also, I cannot imagine either, that it can come out of life in the common way, since it does not pertain to real and vulgar life. The atmosphere where she lives is different from that where we breathe. From our point of view, her life is really a non-living: one could say that she finds herself, even as a living creature, in a state that excludes life. This mystery which surrounds her, which makes her an enigma for people, is for her a{225}source of evidence; and she wraps herself in it, she clothes herself in it with a sheath or an armor, to preserve her psychic essence from any volatilization and any damage by external relations with men.

We passed in front of a slope of granite rock in the colors of very bright scoria, which rose like a petrified ogress above the wooded plain. Into what curves of delicious softness did beauty bend this rigid and ardent stone! Spread out for a long time, the golden curls of a broom, dazzling yellow, covered the head of the rock, while broad blue veins ran, tangled, on his blood-red forehead. The Empress says:

—Behold the thoughts of the rock; even in their stiffness, they lend it beauty; for they are the rock itself, and not something foreign to it.

In the cool calm of the evening, we crossed the forest, then we climbed a rocky slope, which{226}carpeted bushes of mastic trees and blooming thyme. The bitter perfumes of loneliness hovered slowly over this hillside, the desolation of which no sound disturbed. Lizards glided on the little paths that opened between the brushwood, and birds, too, skipped in these maze of sadness or fluttered from one twig to another, from one stone to another, without chirping. Something overwhelming rested on the chest, and the Empress said:

“Some soul is hurting right now.

“Our intimate feelings,” said the Empress lately, “are more precious than all the titles and all the dignities, the motley rags with which we deck ourselves out and by which we believe we hide nakedness.” Our nature is in no way changed. What is valuable in us, we bring into the life of our previous spiritual existences. But people don’t want to understand, otherwise everyone would get up and run, without worrying about anyone, without even looking behind them.

It’s curious, she said after a while: where men reach, everything, inevitably, is devastated.{227}Men always do wrong to things; only where things exist for themselves do they retain their eternal beauty. That’s why I don’t show people my castle. After a few months, there would not be a stone left standing; they write their names everywhere, as if to imprint on the stones themselves the seal of their nothingness, to drag them into their own ruin. See, there are only ruins where there were cities; in the cities, the trees are also withering. But the tops of the mountains are as God created them.

Today we talked about modern philosophical systems, especially Nietzsche, which SHE had never read or even heard of. She says:

—We are a ridiculous part of this world, why do we want to know everything and rack our brains? Do you believe that olive trees wonder why the poppies are red or why the clouds shine in the evening? These rocks also have no idea of ​​the weather. All these things live at a depth{228}where there are no more secrets,—because they live with each other and in each other; we alone are placed outside the world; we have broken all bridges and ties. The real superman would be the one who would forget that he is a man. Our mind and our reason should give us that sense of the world that other beings, in their unconsciousness, possess.

She is the lonely of all lonely; because she belongs entirely to herself.

“People don’t know how to deal with me,” she said yesterday, “because I don’t conform to any of their traditions or their long-established ideas. They do not want us to upset their drawers. So I belong entirely to myself. In my walks, I am little exposed to the danger of meeting civilized men; for they do not follow me into the deserts; they have better things to do! So, it is my long solitudes that make me recognize that one feels the heaviness of one’s existence above all when one is in contact with men. The sea and the trees take away from us all that is terrestrial. We become ourselves{229}even one of the numberless beings. On the other hand, any interaction with human society makes us deviate in this ascent, sharpens the feeling of our individuality, which always, and above all, causes suffering. But there are men who are as pleasant to me as the trees or the sea, because they are like the trees and like the sea. crowd of men and trade much with perennial things. They give me more than I could ever give them as Empress. That is why I always leave them with great gratitude: they deliver me from something foreign and distressing, which clings to me and oppresses me.

Benizze, Sunday March 27.
Early today we walked through the village. It smelled of young grass and violets—countless violets. The sea lay serene in a very unspeakable Sunday joy, luminous and ecstatic. The old little church, with its gray Venetian steeple, was open and filled with devotees who had come to high mass, overflowing{230}down to the street. The women all in their Sunday best, with snow-white head kerchiefs, with new flame-red ribbons intertwined in crowns of hair, and long gold pendants in their ears; the men with freshly washed shirts, blue breeches, and Homeric cnemids of white wool.

From the door of the church, gaping and dark, a bluish smoke of incense poured out in heavy waves of dark perfume that the breath of spring carried slowly towards the countryside and, over the sea, out to sea: double breath , intoxicating, of two different worlds whose meeting symbolized deep life.

And then, clearly, up to us, resounded the chants of the Greek liturgy, dragging themselves in a desolate laziness, one would have said shadows, on this clear landscape. These sounds, spontaneously, arose from the darkness, climbed with slow and weary steps a height, lingered for a few seconds on the summit, irresolute or calling for help, then collapsed, smothered in inner tears. Or else they arrived in a single wave, which buried everything, in germ. Suddenly a voice, a sharp cry of distress, out of this den of darkness and lassitude, sprang up, flew away towards the sky, with the vehemence of a luminous{231}rocket, wandered like a shooting star in the green spaces of the sky, remained suspended there and died out. And then the song repeated itself with a monotony that was as overpowering as the incessant and unifying rippling of the waves. It was like tears that could not be cried, because a power, from outside, would drive them back, as if spring, with its white fragrant hands, had closed the dark singing mouth of this church. But when those hands of life and of youth without strength fell, then the sounds compressed, again, in fiery sheaves sprang up, and (jet of water which blossoms in the adoring air) they opened in clear chalices, and shed their leaves in a wind of desperate ecstasy, and dripped on the ground, a sonorous rain of jeweled tears.

When we approached the church, an old man came out of it, in front of whom all the assistants moved aside, as if to make room for him: he held in his two trembling hands a small candle of yellow wax, lit, and stared fixedly in front of him. , smiling, as if transfigured. The little flame looked like a dark spot in the sun, but the old man’s face, his white head, were as though haloed by a radiance which apparently did not come from the candle. All the people were looking{232} him, and several women and children bowed to kiss his hands as he passed. This struck the Empress. She told me to ask who this man was. I spoke to a fat peasant woman, with heavy gold rings in her ears, who was standing there with her hands on her stomach, talking in a low voice with a neighbor.

“He’s old Spyros Aulonitis,” she replied. “It’s his way, but he’s a holy man. He saw the Lord face to face. For ten days he was dead, and he was still in his coffin, when his daughter-in-law went into pain; and she gave birth to a healthy child, heavy and fat like a little lamb. And suddenly the dead man opened his eyes, and he jumped down from the coffin and, immediately, the child died. Now he never speaks to anyone, added the chattering peasant, but he comes and goes calmly, and he laughs, incessantly, as if he saw the sky for you; and he always keeps near him, night and day, this little lighted candle. It is only to his daughter-in-law that he sometimes speaks; when she torments herself too much, he says to her: “Leave it, leave it, all that has nothing to do with it, gone with the wind. Because, you know, he’s as attached to her as if she were his mother. See, there she is, his daughter-in-law.{233}

And she showed me a very pale young woman, with hair braided in a crown, which enveloped her forehead like a shadow of witchcraft.

“Here is old Spyros’ daughter-in-law.”

The Empress, however, approached and listened. People recognized her and gathered around her. The empress had no doubt intended to speak to the pale woman, but the presence of so many people frightened her and turned her away. However, the church was emptying. A barefoot urchin nimbly crossed the crowd, and hung with all his weight from the bell-rope. And the voice of the bell sprang and flowed like fluid silver, leapt through the rays of peaceful light, like those white pebbles that children throw on the mirror of the waters, swelled and melted into a sound of air one inhales, undulated in an ebb and flow, wavered in the ether, and filled everything with an unleashed flood of liquid and crystalline joy. Oh! those frenetic nuptials of light,


Today again, passed by the Heine temple. Its aspect is always moving: in the eternity of the environment, it is the monument of fragility, which is also eternal. I asked the Empress which Heine poem she preferred. She says:

—I adore them all; for all are but one poem: one and the same. Heine’s disbelief in his own sentimentality and his own enthusiasm is my belief too. Journalists give me great credit for being his admirer; they are proud that I love their Heine, but I love in him his infinite contempt for his own humanity and the sadness with which the things of this Earth filled him.

Today, SHE was not herself.

She kept blushing and turning pale, without any apparent external cause, and took visible pains to talk about trivial things. During the lesson, she had read and re-read, many times, a letter, and seemed completely absent.

I need not look at her to know that the harmonies which weave the fibers of her being have suffered some disturbance; always, and{235}immediately, I feel the quiverings which run on the stagnant, disturbed wave, of its heart, as if the last vibrating circles which deviate from it came to expire in my own heart. Let the lightest breath of what people call life reaches the floods of inexhaustible sorrow which stagnate in her and under which her soul is numb, and a wave of red blood rises from her heart to her temples, to the roots of her hair, and veils her face with the purple of her intimate royalty, as if to protect it from any insult from without. And always there are things that must penetrate these waves of sadness to awaken his soul. And each time, his awakened soul rises to the surface, bathed in painful waves. How many times have I seen, under the forever closed features of the archaic earthly beauty granted to her by Artemis, the goddess of the silent night, this inner effigy shine through, similar to the petrifying appearance of a Gorgon’s head. All these unspeakable visions condense in me into endless melodies,


Today something interesting happened.

By the gentle adolescent hills which stretch from the Achilleion to the bay of Kanoni , we descended to the shore. The Empress wanted the ferryman who usually takes care of the crossing to Mouse Island, Böcklin’s “ Isle of Death ”, and who was just coming back to the shore, to take us on his boat to Kanoni . I asked him what he wanted for that (a habit of mine which has the Empress’s full approval). He demanded two tallira (hundred-sou coins); he had recognized the empress whom every child of Corfu points to: “The Queen! The Queen!”

I told him that was too much, that we would give him only one room. But he was unshakable and ended up heaping insults on me: “You’re a chick! a malevolent! The Queen gives their bread to the poor people, but you want to keep her money in your pocket!” The Empress laughed and said:

“Leave it, we’ll go on foot along the coast.”

On the way we met a child of fishermen who offered to lead us along a dry path. When we arrived, the Empress ordered me to reward the little boy with a gold coin.

—If it had been a matter of overcoming a greater{237}obstacle, I would have given ten times more, she said with the satisfied smile of an interior triumph.

It is said that sovereigns do not know the value of money; I believe that SHE gave money the only course it should have: it depends on the intensity of its desire.

“We should pay for all things according to the value they have for us. There is nothing absolute in our environment. For a book I would like or for a flower, perched high on a hedge, I would spend more than for a palace.

On the terrace of Hermès.
Tonight, thoughts of gold and purple were stirring behind the marble of her forehead, and SHE did not reveal them. But from her shady hair, a radiance emanated, and I transported this hair to the sky of my soul, just like that of Queen Berenice, which soft quivering stars keep visibly attached to the starry sky.{238}

“The perfume of the meadows rises up to here,” said the Empress to me, “on the terrace of Hermes . and she completely replaces it. From then on we can no longer think, perhaps because we are getting closer to nature. So you have to be silent like the flowers. For much of the beauty and substance of these eternal things is to be silent.

She said, and the music of her voice sang the mysterious songs of the soul.

The peasants were stirring up the earth around the olive trees, which, under their pickaxe, was crumbling into large balls… A few white goats were pulling on the young shoots of a quince tree, whose branches were hanging very low from a hedge. … Further on, in the middle of the road, two dogs, lying in the dust, were sleeping in the sun, watching us with blinking eyes. An old woman, her dress hitched up and a small knife in her hand, was bending over an embankment, looking for chicory or herbs… Swarms of flies and mosquitoes, carried away{239}They danced in a sudden and unbridled intoxication above the white road, to the distance… Then came a wall, behind which a black cypress rose like a funeral candle; and he was entwined by an old ivy, which bloomed in tiny yellowish stars, among which black berries, in clusters, hung; behind the wall could be heard the creaking and rattling of ironwork of a noria, turned by an old blindfolded horse. A stream flowed noiselessly in front of us, towards the fields; at every turn he stopped as if to look back, while the little flowers on the bank nodded to him; blue dragonflies wheeled, silent and passionate, above the limpid mirror, and long-legged cousins ​​glided, skating, along the water… An abandoned chapel stood there, whitewashed, with, in a niche above the door, an icon of a saint with blue and red robes and a golden halo; one wall of the chapel was in the sun, the other in the shade; here, on a stone seated, an old man was sleeping; above his head, a lizard descended along the wall, his neck outstretched, spying around him…

“How exquisitely sad and mysterious all these simple things are,” I said to the Empress.{240}

-All, without being aware of it, but surely, walk towards a goal, she answered. We flatter ourselves that we alone recognize, by reason, our goal, whereas we can never reach it otherwise than in common with other beings—all together. We should, first, be like those lizards or those ageless sleepless cypresses; only then would we come to know the mysteries that are in the world. Our goal is at the same time the way to the goal, while we seek this goal beyond, and further, and we pass it without realizing it. See, they call me selfish, and I really don’t have time to think about myself.

Olive trees, olive trees! trees sacred to Beauty and Light, which listen to the breath of the sea! Is it possible that the dryads in you no longer flinch? Around us you breathe like bewitched living beings! If it were not so, would they wave in the breeze so silky, would they exhale such an aroma, your shining leaves, soft disheveled curls, and would the sun pour on you all its gold, in profusion?… .{241}

The sea was smooth and luminous like a mirror. The Empress stood on a block of rock that jutted out into the sea. reflected in the waters.

“See,” said the Empress, “how the leaves live in the waves and the waves in the leaves! As if in the rapture of a union, as if they had shaken off the matter which imposes on them the torture of separation, and had found their true state in the fusion of the essences of their self! Thus one could quietly await suffering and death, for it would be a fluid penetration of sympathetic elements—without any struggle.

“I also see your Majesty’s image.

“You know,” she replied cheerfully, “all mirrors are patient. However, she added, becoming sad again, what is given to trees is denied me, was taken from me.

“Have you ever seen a dead man?” asked the Empress after a moment. On all the faces of the dead you will find grief with contempt: it is contempt for the victory over life, over this life that has hurt so much.{242}

I leaned from the top of the pitfall. An intoxication took hold of me, emanating, perhaps, from the penetrating exhalations of the sea and the fragrant breath of the olive trees. Suddenly innumerable murmurs and laughter arose in the foliage. The waves darkened, and from the mirror of their eyes faded the clear and living visions. And then, there was a gentle swelling of the breasts, and a long band of white foam, wild flowering, came to beat the pebbles of the shore. However, the Empress was still standing on the rock and contemplating the vague confusions which had lost all their tender brilliance. As for me, it was as if, gripped by the same passion as the waves, I had to squeeze to my chest the trunk of the olive tree leaning above me, squeeze it until I felt, under the black and hard bark, the hidden life wringing out. Ah!

Then we returned to the grove of deified olive trees where the sleeping dryads, under their silvery hair, bathed us in their breath. Women in a long line, in white clothes and white flowing veils, carrying baskets and amphorae on their heads, advanced slowly between the dark trunks of the trees towards the distance.{243}misted with gold: Eleusinian mysteries on sacred roads!

A flock of white sheep was grazing on a blue moor. Peaceful, the moor rested; peacefully, the sheep grazed, buried in the moor, as if in mutual contemplation and penetration.

“If we were sheep, living in herds would be the truth,” said the Empress, picking up an old conversation at Schoenbrunn. But we are unfortunately very far from this blessed state. This is why our herd laws are only utopias. The sheep live according to their nature in the pastures. When they are pushed on the dusty highway, they experience terror and despair, as at the sight of an abyss. But we, we perpetually walk on this road, hostile to our nature; worse still, we find ourselves in a cage of pain and misery that our own demands and those of others upon us, as human creatures, have forged on us. We must, first, be free and solitary to become what the sheep already are, for a long time and forever.


Today I saw, again, HIS form reflected in the still sea. How comprehensible this image seemed to me in this element of eternity! The fluidity of its lines on the waves, its darkness absorbed by the clear wave whose light itself dries up in its own depth! And thus revived in me an idea which I had lately had, when she stood by the fountain and listened to the murmur of the water, and that murmur of the water grew louder and more plaintive. than ever, so I attributed that to his neighborhood. I then thought to myself: “She is the queen of the living waters.” And now I’m like, “She’s even more; she is the queen of the sea.”

Young fig trees swarmed over an old wall. Cypresses sadly looked out over the distant sea. (Ah, less sad are the cypresses of the tombs!) The luminous little islands around Corfu lay like sparkling precious stones in the mist of the sun, on the infinite blue of the sea; and so musical was the sensation evoked by the sight of them, that one might have thought they were singing in the{245}distant. As if she had divined my thoughts, the Empress said:

“Isn’t that right, they deceive us, and deceive us again, these magicians, like the Ulysses Sirens!”

Sails could be seen on the sea, some like white birds which, with outstretched wings, would have fallen on the waves, and would glide over them, as in a dream, others red or black, souls in mourning and in flames. So I recited a verse from a poem:

A red sail passes over the sea,
A red sail floats on the evening sea,
On the swaying blades…
The boat! The boat!
As her veil of desire swells…
That with a fugitive wing he flies away…
Ah! that he is far, far—
And he will never come back…
He takes from here
The countless smiles of the royal sun
And all that ever was…
When we looked away from the sea, the immense tranquility of the countryside enveloped us.


The frogs are croaking in the swamps, even before evening has come. They croak in a completely aristophanesque way, when you listen to them closely:

Kōăx, kōăx! Brĕkĕkĕkēx!
But the croaking of each of them flows into that of all the others. Thus is formed a fluid sheet of sounds, as if the damp marsh rose above itself and became perceptible to the ear. And the voice of the twilight marsh dominates everything…

When the frogs are silent, the heavy breathing of the sea swells and rises.

“Everything complains, complains, in the universe,” said the Empress. Only men laugh without ever stopping.

We continued our walk under the great complaint of the frogs; it had nothing frightening for us, but was rather like a sweet deliverance.

“All these beings,” said the Empress, “who do not stray from the eternal elements of life, know that sadness perfects existence in its deepest manifestations. But we are constantly turned away from it. We are as if repelled from a paradise, because of our futilities.{247}

Then we descended to the beach, where the nearest waves foamed feebly. We walked, melancholy, like yesterday, like every day, along the edge of this great isolation of the sea, which was not consoled even by the dream of a sail. The bank was strewn with poppy flowers whose petals had already closed for sleep, and which, in the confused pallor of this desolate twilight, darkened mysteriously.

“When you think,” said the Empress, “that in a hundred years there will not be a single human creature of our time, not a single one—and probably not a king’s throne either—and everything seems, now, necessary and lasting and great will have been only in order to be no more in that time,—while these poppies will always be here, these same waves will always rustle and so alone!… We depart from our eternity, because each of us wants to be here for himself alone, wants to bury the other and flatters himself that he alone incarnates the world, while we are nothing more than a poppy flower or a wave. We are eternal only in the mass, where neither the death nor the birth of the individual mark.


The moon had risen: the disc, which had killed Hyacinthe, rolled slowly from behind the black mountains. Dark stains of blood showed on its shiny surface. Or was it not a face of death? A bluish fire exhaled from its golden outline, and all the things it lit up went numb as in an opiate vapour, while still, at sunset, a dear rosy reminiscence expired.

Big stars blazed, far from each other: soft star eyes, blue and green, looked at each other from afar. The crickets wailed in high, inextinguishable moans.

What an exquisite night, full of the transparencies of an imaginary crystalline world!

The Empress says:

—Then it seems to you, to you too, that the earth is already dead, and that we are the last human creatures there, in a solitude of glass, contemplating with glass eyes the landscapes of the moon, dead itself the first one? We drive over a corpse, accompanied by another corpse through the ether. The stars too are all but distant gleaming corpses.


Today again we saw old Spyros, outside the village. He was going, bent over, with his little candle, but the wind had extinguished the candle, and now he was clutching it feverishly in his hand, and his face was as if plunged into shadow. And at the very end of the village, in front of the door of a house surrounded by hedges of fantastic cacti with fruits in the shape of caterpillars, red and yellow, and which a large black cypress watched, stood, leaning against it, the beautiful daughter of Spyros, but even paler than when we last saw her: she followed the old man with such a dark gaze that her eyes seemed extinguished; and she no doubt noticed that there was something wrong with him, for she entered the house and soon came out with a lighted ember, with which she began to run after the old man. The Empress stopped to watch her relighting the extinguished candle. Then the old man continued on his way, smiling, and his white head was shrouded in a glow. The young woman, however, returned with slow and weary steps, and on her forehead were gathered even thicker shadows.


Villa Capo d’Istria.
Wandered for hours along the beach, through a wood of orange trees. The sea was covered with foam and sun: it howled at the top of its voice and without taking breath. Thus it stifled not only all sounds, but also our feelings and our thoughts; its incessant bellowing suppressed even the feeling of bodily existence; we no longer lived except in him. The Empress says:

—This great rustling of the sea is the true vital atmosphere of our soul: only then does it begin to sing.

At the Villa Capo d’Istria,—the old patrimonial estate of the famous Count Capo d’Istria, who was the first regent of Greece,—the steward with his young daughter came out of the old country house, in Venetian style, all crumbled, to come to meet us. A giant magnolia, covered with pale lilac flowering calyxes, which fragrantly fragrant, shaded the courtyard. Two cypress trees stood guard in front of a window whose wooden shutters, painted green, but very dilapidated, were closed. The garden was uncultivated, full of the confused melancholy of plants that grow erratically in solitude after being used to being taken care of.{251}of them. The house, for the most part uninhabited, the courtyard, paved with mosaic pebbles, resonant with silence and deliciously perfumed, the neglected garden, from all this spread the most indescribable voluptuousness of abandonment.

The Empress questioned the young girl:

“Have you lived here long?” It’s very beautiful where you are.

The child replied:

“Certainly, madam, only one is far too alone.

“Aren’t you going to town?”

“I would like to, but the father doesn’t go there often, and when he does, he always has a lot to do. The masters come once every ten years, and we are always alone with the trees. Were it not for the nightingales, we would have to die of isolation.

The Empress says:

“Ah, the nightingales! They keep you company?

“Yes, ma’am!” they come in the evening and sing all night; there are two, one on the cypress and the other on the magnolia. They sing so loud that you can’t hear the sea. In the beginning, there was no way to sleep a wink; now,{252}I couldn’t fall asleep if they weren’t singing!

But the Empress said, with an expression of sorrowful delight on her features:

“It’s a pity that the nightingales don’t come to my garden too, at the Achilleion .

Then the scales fell from the girl’s eyes; she opened her mouth wide.

“You are the Queen,” she murmured in an expiring voice!

And his father, who was standing nearby, his eyes widened. The child escaped at a run, and from an orange tree which, although heavy with golden fruits, was already blooming again, she cut a branch laden with oranges and flowers. The steward brought us a knife to peel the oranges. The Empress peeled her own from her fingers—a purple orange, the juice dripping like blood down the white fingers on the floor.

She says to the girl:

—I have never tasted oranges so sweet before, they are like honey. I’ll send here to bring back some, if you want to give me some. I will send you, in exchange, something else that you do not have.

I watched the Empress savor her orange,{253}and I thought to myself, as had often happened to me when I saw her eat: “She doesn’t eat like other humans. His gestures then have almost mystical meanings; they would perhaps seem unmotivated to anyone who had not noticed it. When she brings the fruit to her lips, it is as if she and the fruit were going to dissolve into each other, as if their essences were both going to combine and mutually perfect each other. She is like a child who melts entirely into gentleness; it recalls butterflies getting drunk in the calyxes of flowers. Especially when she drinks her milk, the preparation and preservation of which she watches over with an almost religious ceremonial, she throws her head back, as if under a spiritual abduction or as a result of the intensity of a psychic touch.

The Empress took a walk with me in the desolate garden; between the trees the sea appeared, a dark band of infinite mysteries. And she abandoned herself entirely to these delicious vegetable sadnesses.

“Everything here is so wonderful,” she said, “that you really wish the whole world was in ruins.

I thought of Love under the Ruins , by Burne-{254}Jones. It was the same psychic note, but even more sensitive, if ever there was one, and more painful. On leaving, she gave the young girl a truly imperial present. I say:

“You made her happy, Majesty.

“All the treasures in the world wouldn’t equal the enchantments I owe her.

We came back along the sunny sea. A particular aroma came to us, continually, from the wood that followed the sea: incense, according to an invisible censer, which veiled the accomplishment of sacred mysteries and announced them in the distance with balsamic vapors.

I told him about Count Capo d’Istria and his sad fate. She says:

—I have had great sympathy for this man for a long time, to whom life has hurt so much[K] ; it has increased still further since I saw his villa. I believe that it is a parcel of sublime truth that we have recognized there. There is one thing that I cannot forgive men for, although they find themselves lying, they consider this situation natural and are completely satisfied with themselves.


Today we surprised young girls dancing in the olive grove: they were holding hands—one behind the other—and meandering, as in ritual steps, slowly back and forth, swinging , at the same time, very slightly, to the right and to the left, their upper body on the hips. A beautiful child with black braids led the dance, and pulled after her the whole chain to a red silk handkerchief. The young girls’ madras were untied and floated in the air, their crowned hair glowed with red ribbons, and their breasts quivered with each sudden movement. The one who led the dance sang, and the others, all together, repeated each stanza of the song:

I lost a red handkerchief,
I wore it on my bosom—
I lost a red handkerchief…
(Ah! how cold my heart is!…)
I looked for him under the apple tree
where long you kissed me—
I looked for it under the apple tree…
(Ah! was it really only a dream?…){256}
I run towards the sad sea,
Where I have so much—and so much cried—
I run towards the sad sea…
(Ah! why do I feel so bad?…)
You can keep the red handkerchief.
But give me back my poor heart—
You can keep the red handkerchief…
We were a long time contemplating this charming spectacle, and on the face of the Empress I saw, for the first time, radiate the rapture of a deep and intimate joy, and she said:

“We danced the same way, my sisters and I, at Possenhofen, although we weren’t Greeks.

The bees buzzed around the flowering bramble hedges… Wherever we came, I felt his former presence floating everywhere. It has spread over all the paths where we have walked, on each shore along which we have been silent, on all the meadows we have walked, holding our breath, so as not to startle their slow loneliness, in all them{257}breezes which come from the sea and glide over the forests to impregnate themselves with their perfumes, and will expire on other seas… We found ourselves in front of a hedge which blocked the sunken road; it had to be skipped. I wanted to help her, but she refused my support; so I wanted to hand her a branch of a tree, which she could help herself, for I had no cane with me, but she said:

-It’s not necessary. You will see that I could have done an acrobat too.

And she jumped over the hedge. The delicate and elegant movements that her body then executed were truly surprising: one would have said gestures of beauty rising above itself: thus the waves swell on the shore and bloom into foam, surpassing each other. themselves.

SHE must drink from every spring she meets on her way.

“It’s always a new flavor,” she tells me, and she drinks, preferably, from the palm of her hand, although she always has a golden goblet on her.

She wants to draw from the very heart of nature these{258}elements which she needs to support her bodily forces and, to tell the truth, less for the support of her bodily forces than for the maintenance of her links with the great maternal whole. In this she cannot tolerate any barrier, and sees enemies in all those who wish to intervene in such mysteries.

As we climbed the mound of Aja Kyriaki today , on the top of which stands the small chapel surrounded by cypresses (which, apparently, have climbed up there to wrap its solitude near the sky, with their sighs), the empress says:

—When I was for the first time in Corfu, I often visited the villa of Baila: it was delightful, because it was completely abandoned in the middle of its tall trees; and it attracted me so much that I made it the Achilleion . But I destroyed its ancient melancholy. Now, to be honest, I regret it. Our dreams are always more beautiful when we don’t realize them. It is also because of the neighborhood of the Aja Kyriaki that I wanted so much to live here. And I want to be buried there,{259}if ever I should drown in the sea. My sisters also believe they will die this way. Up there there will be only the stars above me, and the cypresses will have enough sighs for me, more than men can have: I will find a surer eternity in these lamentations of the cypresses than in the memory of my subjects. In cypresses sadness and complaining are a vital function, as in men nasty talk and slander.

Then, her eyes reassured, she added:

“The first time, I came up here alone. My lady-in-waiting was a young and very beautiful lady and I didn’t want to tire her. She was also very afraid of the sun, for her complexion.

“Your Majesty was, even then, intrepid,” I said.

“More than today!” And why would I be afraid? Where there was no one! And those you might meet there are all such civil people, so full of culture. I noticed later that the English governor had sent me some gendarmes, but I sent them away immediately. I walk always in search of my Destiny; I know that nothing can prevent me from meeting her, the day when I have to meet her. All men must, at some point,{260}set out to meet their Destiny. Destiny, for a long time, keeps its eyes closed but, one day, it sees us all the same. The steps that one should abstain from taking in order not to fall on him, these steps, precisely, are taken inevitably. And me, I take these steps all the time.

After a few seconds, she says again:

“What would happen if one day I drowned?” People would say, “What did she need to go to sea, in the middle of winter, she, an empress, instead of remaining quiet, in Vienna, in her Burg?” Yet it will happen to me even more surprisingly, perhaps, even for an Empress. Fate sometimes blows the certainties and the infatuation of men. He is often like the Cyclops who wanted to devour Odysseus with special honor—who would gladly have made a poem out of this meal. Such an end would compensate me for many things.

Discovered today a new meadow: on all sides olive trees had advanced to the edge of the clearing; and they stood in a circle, and they held their breath, as if they wanted{261}listen to the flowers that had gathered inside the enclosure of this Edenian meadow to give the mute and intoxicating spectacle of their ephemeral existence. There were innumerable tulips of iris, barely raising their heads above the ground, pale lilac with golden stripes, as if the dawn had touched them with her fingers, and tiny carnations that one would have said to have come out of a doll’s garden, white and pink, looking like great garden carnations, but more deliciously fragrant than these, and saffron-yellow silk crocuses, and anemones with too red lips and dark hearts , slender tufts of asphodel, blooming in luxuriant pink flowers, besieged by noisy bumblebees, then fennel and fat dent-de-lions of an excessive yellow, laughing with all their face, and again irises and wild lilies , but of a species never before seen, haughty and magnificent on stiff stems, with petals which drooped sadly and were of a dark violet, like the dawning night; and more tulips, with blood-red spots on their pale cheeks; and then a merry childlike band of daisies, who gazed up into the sky in infinite amazement, and could not separate themselves from each other, and spread out in exquisite white sheets, and circled, and cuddled.{262}they slept in the ditches; and quiet herds of chamomile, grazing sheepishly in the grass: and everywhere, on tall, gently bent stalks, round balls of silky wool, of which, from time to time, threads set off on a journey and, slowly, over all the meadow hovered. All this tangled, lost in a world of delicate grasslands… When, by chance, a wandering sigh of the breeze entered this bay of tender floral reveries and heavenly melancholy, a shiver of indescribable loneliness ran over all these stems. light and on all these living disheveled corollas, and then, as if intoxicated, the flowers began to shake their heads, and to dance, facing each other from afar, and so passionately that more than one of them lost, ( ô the tender stripping!) its most beautiful petals. So the bumblebees, disturbed in their pleasures, flew away, and fluttered, with accents of the double bass, around the dancing flowers. Some, however, clung to the chalices of the flowers, and swayed with them, forgetting themselves in a too long kiss, while a secret laughter ran through the olive trees.

—Every day a new meadow, more beautiful than the meadows contemplated hitherto! said the Empress; it is an inexpressible wonder,{263}something, like a vertigo of loneliness and silence, which I bring back, each time, from these flowery meadows, in my darkness and in the usual clamor of life.

This is how she surprises the secrets of nature, and reveals them, unconsciously, by herself.

On the way back, I again drew the Empress’s attention to the little wild carnations that we met in droves, and which always played the big carnations in the gardens, and also to the bumblebees which clung insatiably to the tender chalices of the flowers or chased each other, jealously. I thought I would cheer her up like this, but she says:

—When we apply our human relations to bumblebees or flowers, which are exquisite and eternal things, we see how ridiculous our humanity is. And to think that our humanities are becoming more and more perfect!

I don’t know why, today, in the shade of the olive trees, I felt the real presence of HIS sadness, as if I saw it, materially, sliding beside her delicate face, so painfully arched.{264}She seemed to me to walk, like Alceste, in the face of death; and she hurried, hurried, as if with Alceste she had sung.

Sun and splendor of the day,
And celestial circle of passing clouds.
. . .. . . . . .
I see the rowing boat, on the lake I see it.
And the ferryman of the dead,
Hand on his perch,
Charon, call me:
“What are you waiting for? Hurry up! because you are delaying us!”
These are the words with which he urges me…
When we came out of the forest, I turned my gaze towards the sunset. There, astonishing white clouds, as if deified, had amorously descended on the dozing breast of a mountain, and the evening enveloped them in its passionate rosy weakness. But on the blue moor of the sky, tender little clouds passed, sheep with golden fleeces, as Alceste had seen them. Behind, sadly the white moon walked, pale shepherdess, her eyes fixed on the sun. However, the sun of life had already sunk into the sea, and only the purple veil of his hair behind him still waved.


We walked on the beach for quite a long time this evening. The sea was lonely, without a sail; it didn’t even rustle. The mountains were invisible, for light vapors had veiled them. The sun had already disappeared, and one guessed more than saw its magnificent agony, behind the purpure curtain of darkness. I still feel an intimate connection between HER and the dying sun; when the last rays linger on the tops of the cypresses, I feel compelled to look up at her. The Empress then says to me:

-It’s already late, it will soon be time for your dinner. I can be left alone and without eating.

“Thank you, Majesty, I’m not hungry either.

“Yes,” she said, “solitude is enough nourishment.

We were on the terrace, at the magic hour, in the melancholy blooming after the sublimities of the setting sun.

“Look,” said the Empress, pointing to the Albanian mountains with her finger.


We were talking today about the Nibelungen , by Richard Wagner.

“I hold Wagner to be a redeemer,” said the Empress. It is nothing other than the musical incarnation of a knowledge of our inner secrets, which has come, unconsciously, within us, to maturity. The word Tondichter ( Poet of sounds ) expresses, in my opinion, only the exterior and sensible form of his revelation, but not what he himself was. It was precisely, and uniquely, the very mysteries of our existence that became liberating science.

Then she says, (perhaps, without realizing it and without meaning to, harmoniously transforming the movements of her thoughts into fluid sounds):

—We must take in the music of everything and merge it into one unity. We must lean into the heart of the earth, and listen to its beating. There, the great harmonies converge, as in a mystical conch: all the sunbeams that never go out, and the dreams that are not yet born, and the joys of flowers, and the melancholy of autumns, the languor distant rivers, and the silences of the clouds. We must, she added,{267} return to where we came from, to the primordial rustling of the Rhine, from which the song of the Rheingold was born . In this way, victors, we will achieve victory over ourselves. What we can only perfect with the help of death, we should accomplish alone and still alive.

Thus she herself created, before my eyes, by the fleeting delicate and magnificent gestures of her soul, the ideal and true image of her being.

I always see her before me, trying to put the song of her interior life in unison with the great chant of the world, which resounds in an interior eternal silence; I see her listening to the waves and the winds, which are silent, sonorous, to the constellations which sing silently, to the gentle flowers which exhale their souls in harmonies. And when on the tragic and ageless beach she sees the waves blooming in ever new white blooms, the flowers quivering in waves on the dozing hills, the clarity of the stars and the breath of the winds around her head gently fluctuating, then also, from the wave of her sadness, she draws unknown virgin corollas, and crowns herself with them like Ophelia.

She discovered the key to life in her nostalgia, and now she lives parallel with the uni{268}towards whose secrets and strengths his soul encloses. She is nature itself in nature; it is the meaning of nature and its laws. The flowers have nothing to ask, because they know nothing. It is the same with her, because she knows everything. Everything that ever existed, that was ever invented and known, is shattered, falls back into nothingness before the eternity of its truths and the strength of its certainties. It has subjugated matter by its inner radiance. She broke the chains of her soul, straying from the humanities cattle yard, refusing to be part of the social herd. It has dissolved its exterior and graspable form into pure lines of beauty, bending to the contours of the mountains, offering itself to the sea, sinking into the rest of the moor. But her dreams, but her wishes and her certainties, she made them promote the worlds of her soul, as if under a cosmic impulse—and she thus became the eternal wanderer , on paths that enclose all past, all present and any future. She is the soul of future men who, through their desolate understanding of the universe, will return to life as a child of the vegetations.

I sometimes find myself having to contain myself so as not to burst into jubilation, so enriched do I feel by the contemplation of his Psyche.{269}

She taught me to discern within me the image of myself and to listen to the music of my thoughts. She gave me her humility and all her disdain.

I discovered with his eyes the beauty that lies, hidden, in life. She showed me the secrets that lie in the mountains or in the waves, she made me understand the intimate links between men and the roses that shed their leaves. She opened the infinity of the ocean to my soul, she lent the blue of the sky to my dreams, she instilled the songs of the pines in my words. It is to her that I owe my being what I am—and everything I have ever imagined or worked has been valid only for her, has only flowed back towards her, as towards the primitive source. It is happiness enough to have lived to acquire what for me it was.

Tomorrow I’m leaving to go find my parents. The date had been set, the day SHE had called me near her.

Naturally, my arrival, my presence, my departure are only an episode for her: “Change is the charm of life!” The beautiful pine{270} Nor did Miramare worry about the quarreling sparrows at its peak. But for me, this episode became life itself. And… I don’t know what’s next.

For the last time, like in a dream, I picked crocuses and anemones beside her, in one of those meadows that SHE made me so fanciful.

“Look at this landscape,” she said to me, with all the strength of your pupils, because perhaps you will never see it like this again.

And I drank the spring and got drunk on it until a sad frenzy, as if it were to be the last, or as if the future springs of my life were to bloom only in the memory of this one …

I took leave of HER in the peristyle. It was ten o’clock in the evening. As an exception, she had called me, once again, at this late hour, so that I could take my leave, because the boat from Patras was leaving very early the next morning, so that I could not have see again. My soul was heavy{271}like a cloud. And a cloud of melancholy rose in me and enveloped me entirely, when I saw his dear and august black form glide, in the bluish light of the triton bulbs, between the white columns of the peristyle, such as never again I should to see her. I didn’t say a word, so as not to frighten something in me, and to prolong the pleasure I took in the bitterness of my own pain. But SHE , she spoke more than usual, in a voice that seemed to me to have never heard so sweet and so doleful. I don’t know what she tells me; I only know that my tears fell on her lilial hand when she held it out to me to kiss. She slipped a red velvet case into my hand, murmuring:

— Be blessed and happy.

I heard those words clearly, but didn’t understand them until later, after I had walked away. In the roar of my blood, which drowned out the sound of my footsteps, I descended the marble steps of the staircase of the gods , and went to my room. There, I felt the box in my hand, otherwise I would not have believed in the reality of this hour; I opened it: a gold pin, a Greek E, set with brilliants and surmounted by the imperial crown, was there. The stones in the clarity of the electric light{272}stick spurted red tears. I remembered then that HIS eyes had looked at me long and as if veiled, when I bowed for the last time on the first step of the staircase, not knowing what I was doing. Then I left—it must have been midnight—my room and the castle, on the road: I began, on this dismal midnight, to climb the steep height opposite. The landscape seemed to me unknown and blurred; I heard my footsteps as if from afar, and it was as if my sadness was outside of me and walked by my side, like a shadow…

I woke up in the night, before dawn had cast its pallor on my windows, and I saw, near my pillow, the lighted candle, which I had forgotten to put out: it was waiting,—it seemed to have waited all night for me to wake up, as if it symbolized my waking sorrow, which had continued to burn itself out while I slept. And my heart was torn in unspeakable desolation…

And then my ship passed the shore of Benizze. Up there, on the top of the hill,{273}held the white castle in the trees, like any foreign edifice, closing its life to the outside. And the small waves, which constantly came back to throw themselves on the shore, were in such a hurry that they did not turn towards me…