Raphael - Pages of the Book of Life at Twenty

Alphonse de Lamartine
Raphael - Pages of the Book of
Life at Twenty

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Raphael, by Alphonse de Lamartine
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Title: Raphael Pages Of The Book Of Life At Twenty
Author: Alphonse de Lamartine
Release Date: July 25, 2004 [EBook #13019]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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Comédie d'Amour Series

It is all very well for Lamartine to explain, in his original prologue, that
the touching, fascinating and pathetic story of Raphael was the
experience of another man. It is well known that these feeling pages are
but transcripts of an episode of his own heart-history. That the tale is
one of almost feminine sentimentality is due, in some measure, perhaps,
to the fact that, during his earliest and most impressionable years,
Lamartine was educated by his mother and was greatly influenced by
her ardent and poetical character. Who shall say how much depends on
one's environment during these tender years of childhood, and how
often has it not been proved that "the child is father to the man?" The
marvel of it is that a man so exquisitely sensitive, of such extraordinary
delicacy of feeling, should have been able, in later years, to stand the
storm and stress of political life and the grave responsibilities of
Although not written in metrical form, Raphael is really a poem--a
prose poem. Never upon canvas of painter were spread more delicate
tints, hues, colors, shadings, blendings and suggestions, than in these
pages. Not only do we find ourselves, in the descriptions of scenery,
near to Nature's heart, but, in the story itself, near to the heart of man.
Aix in Savoy was, in Lamartine's time, a fashionable resort for
valitudinarians and invalids. Among the patrons of the place was
Madame Charles, whose memory Lamartine has immortalized as
"Julie" in Raphael and as "Elvire" in the beautiful lines of the
_Méditations_. In drawing the character "Julie," idealism and
sentimentalism have full play. The whole story is romantic in the
extreme. The influence of Byron is clearly to be seen. The beautiful
hills of Savoy, tinged with the melancholy tints of autumn, were a fit
setting for the meeting with the fair invalid. Besides physical
invalidism, the pair were soul-sick and heart-sick. Such were their
points of sympathy, an affinity was the most natural thing in the world.
"Ships that pass in the night" were these two creatures, stranded by

illness, "out of the world's way, hidden apart." At the feast of pure,
unselfish, romantic love that followed, there was always a death's-head
present, always the sinking fear, always the mute resignation on one
side or the other. Death and love have been a combination that poets
have used since the world began. And so, as the early snow whitened
the pines on the hilltops of Savoy, this pathetic and ultra-sentimental
love-affair between the banished Parisienne and the poet had its
beginning. That it could have but one ending the reader knows from the
start. But with what breathless interest do we follow this history of love!
We seem to be admitted to the confidences of beings of another sphere,
to celestial heights of affection. We hear the heart-beats and see the
glances of the languid, languorous eyes. The universe itself seems to
stand still for these two lovers. Their heads are among the stars, their
hearts in heaven. Their love is as pure as a sonnet of Keats, as ineffable
as shimmering starlight. Day by day we trace its current, we cannot say
growth because it sprang into life full-grown. Although Julie said that
"her life was not worth a tear," she caused torrents of tears to flow.
From the first, their love seemed centuries old, so entirely was it a part
of their being. Day after day their souls were revealed to each other,
their hearts became more united. Every pure chord of psychic affection
was struck, even almost to the distracting discord of suicide together,
that they might never part, and from which they were saved as by a
miracle. In such unsullied love, there is an element of worship. It is the
sublimation of passion, freed from sensuous dross, a spiritual
efflorescence, a white flame of the soul.
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