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A monologue from the novel by Victor Hugo
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Victor Hugo’s Works. Trans. Isabel F. Hapgood. New York: Kelmscott Society, 1896.
Oh! Have pity upon me! You think yourself unhappy; alas! alas! you know not what unhappiness is. Oh! to love a woman! to be a priest! to be hated! to love with all the fury of one’s soul;
to feel that one would give for the least of her smiles, one’s blood, one’s vitals, one’s fame, one’s salvation, one’s immortality and eternity, this life and the other;
to regret that one is not a king, emperor, archangel, God, in order that one might place a greater slave beneath her feet; to clasp her night and day in one’s dreams and one’s thoughts,
and to behold her in love with the trappings of a soldier and to have nothing to offer her but a priest’s dirty cassock, which will inspire her with fear and disgust!
To be present with one’s jealousy and one’s rage, while she lavishes on a miserable, blustering imbecile, treasures of love and beauty! To behold that body whose form burns you,
that bosom which possesses so much sweetness, that flesh palpitate and blush beneath the kisses of another! Oh heaven! to love her foot, her arm, her shoulder, to think of her blue veins,
of her brown skin, until one writhes for whole nights together on the pavement of one’s cell, and to behold all those caresses which one has dreamed of, end in torture!
To have succeeded only in stretching her upon the leather bed! Oh! these are the veritable pincers, reddened in the fires of hell. Oh! blessed is he who is sawn between two planks, or torn in pieces by four horses!
Do you know what that torture is, which is imposed upon you for long nights by your burning arteries, your bursting heart, your breaking head, your teeth-knawed hands;
mad tormentors which turn you incessantly, as upon a red-hot gridiron, to a thought of love, of jealousy, and of despair! Young girl, mercy! a truce for a moment!
a few ashes on these live coals! Wipe away, I beseech you, the perspiration which trickles in great drops from my brow! Child! torture me with one hand, but caress me with the other!
Have pity, young girl! Have pity upon me!