I have recently been digging through my bookshelf and came across my well-loved copy of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Flipping through the beloved pages, I rediscovered a section of the text that I forgot is one of my favorite passages from any book. One of my all-time favorite literary couples is Marius and Cosette from Les Miserables, partly because of the beautiful language of Victor Hugo, partly because of their touching idealism and innocence together, but mostly because of the letter M writes to C. Because I would rather share the literary genius of Hugo rather than try to wax poetical with my poor prose, here it is, Marius’ letter in full from Les Miserables. Full citation provided below. -Wilber

The reduction of the universe to one single being, the expansion of one single being into God: That is what love is.

Love is the angels’ greeting to the stars.

How sad the soul when it is sad out of love! What a void is the absence of the being who alone fills the world! Oh, how true it is that the loved being becomes God! You would understand God becoming jealous if the Father of all had not evidently made Creation for the soul, and the soul for love.

A glimpse of a smile down there under a white crepe hat with a lilac veil is enough for the soul to enter the palace of dreams.

God is behind all things, but all things hide God. Things are black, human beings opaque. To love someone is to make them transparent.

Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the body’s position, the soul is on its knees.

Lovers who are separated cheat absence by a thousand chimeras that, nonetheless, have their reality. They are prevented from seeing each other, they can’t write to each other, yet they find a whole host of mysterious ways of communicating. They send each other birdsong, the perfume of flowers, the laughter of children, the sun’s rays, the wind’s sighs, starlight, all of Creation. And why not? All God’s works are made to serve love. Love is powerful enough to lad the whole of nature with its messages. O spring, you are a letter I write to her.

The future belongs even more to hearts than to minds. Loving is the only thing that can occupy and fill eternity. The infinite requires the inexhaustible.

Love partakes of the soul itself. It is of the same nature. Like the soul, it is a divine spark, like the soul, it is incorruptible, indivisible, imperishable. It is a point of fire that is inside us, tat is everlasting and infinite, that nothing can limit and that nothing can extinguish. You feel it burn right to the marrow of your bones and you see it shine out to the back of the sky.

O love! Adoration! Sensual joy of two minds that understand each other, of two hearts that are exchanged, of two glances that pierce each other through! You will come to me, won’t you, happiness? Strolling together in lonely expanses! blessed sparkling days! I hae sometimes dreamed that now and then the hours broke away from the life of the angels and came down here below to traverse the destiny of men.

God cannot add anything to the happiness of those who love each other except by giving them endless duration. After a life of love, an eternity of love is, indeed, an increase; but to increase the intensity itself of the ineffable felicity that love brings to the soul–that is impossible, even for God. God is the fullness of heaven; love is the fullness of mankind.

You look at a star for two reasons, because it is bright and because it is impenetrable. You have beside you a softer radiance and a greater mystery, that of women.

All of us, whoever we may be, have beings we breathe in like air. If they are lacking, air is lacking, we suffocate. Then we die. To die for lack of love is appalling. The suffocation of the soul!

When love has melted and blended two beings in an angelic and sacred unity, the secret of life is open to them; they are nothing more, then, than the two sides of a single destiny; they are nothing more than the two wings of a single spirit. Love, soar!

The day a woman who passes you by radiates light as she walks, you are lost, you love. There is only one thing left for you to do and that is to think of her so unwaveringly that she is forced to think of you.

What love starts only God can end.

True love feels despair or delight over a glove lost or a handkerchief found and it needs eternity for all its devotion and its hopes. It is composed at once of the infinitely big and the infinitely small.

If you are stone, be a magnet; if you are a plant, be sensitive; if you are man, be love.

Nothing is enough for love. We have happiness, we want paradise; we have paradise, we want heaven.

O, you who love each other, all these things are contained in love. Know how to find them in it. Love entails contemplation, as much as the heavens, and, more than the heavens, sensual delight.

“Will she come again to the Luxembourg?” “No, Monsieur.” “It’s in this church that she hears mass, is it not?” “She no longer comes.” “Does she still live in this house?” “She moved.” “Where has she moved to?” “She didn’t say.” What a dismal thing not to know the address of one’s soul!

Love has its childish side, the other passions have their petty side. Shame on passions that make man petty! Glory be to the passion that makes him a child!

It is a strange thing, you know? I am in darkness. There is a being that has taken the heavens with her in moving away.

Oh! To be lying down side by side in the same grave, hand in hand, and from time to time gently to stroke each other’s fingertip in the dark, that will do for my eternity.

You who suffer because you love, love still more. To die of love is to live from it.

Love. A somber starry transfiguration is involved in this torture. There is ecstasy in agony.

O, joy of the birds! It’s because they have a nest that they are able to sing.

Love is breathing in the heavenly air of paradise.

Deep hearts, wise spirits, take life the way God made it. It is a long ordeal, an unintelligible preparation for an unknown destiny. This destiny, the true one, begins for man at the first step inside the grave. Then something appears to him and he begins to discern finality. Finality, think about that word. The living see infinity; finality only lets itself be seen by the dead. Meanwhile, love and suffer, hope and contemplate. Woe, alas! to whoever has loved only bodies, forms, appearances! Death will take everything from him. Try to love souls and you will find them again.

I met in the street a very poor young man who loved. His hat was old, his coat was worn; there were holes at his elbows; the water got into his hoes and the stars got into his soul.

What a great thing, to be loved! What an even great thing, to love! The heart becomes heroic through passion. It is no longer made up of anything but what is pure; it no longer relies on anything but what is elevated and grand. An unworthy thought can no more germinate in it than a nettle on a glacier. The lofty and serene soul, out of reach of vulgar passions and emotions, rises above the clouds and shadows of this world, the follies, the lies, the hatreds, the vanities, the miseries, and inhabits the endless skies and feels only the deep and subterranean rumblings of destiny, as the mountain peak feels earthquakes.

If there wasn’t someone who loved, the sun would go out.

***

Hugo, Victor. “A Heart Under a Stone.” In Les Miserables, 766-69. New York: Random House, Inc., 2008.

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