Prose poem for Mme Lemaire1

   To Madame Madeleine Lemaire. To the grace of her flowers - to the flowers of her graces (the only ones she is unable to paint). 

   In days gone by, melancholy at being beautiful for so short a time, in the gardens that so soon after seeing them born see them die, the flowers were grieving and into the heart of their every calyx they wept tears of dew. One day, barely lifting its pretty slender head above the earth, the violet hinted that perhaps they might be allowed to make themselves heard by God Almighty. Thoughts reverberated, and questions arose between themselves as they bent their dark eyes on the means to achieve it; a formal petition was proposed. The dahlia, the collar of its corolla giving it the necessary gravity, was charged with drawing it up, the dahlia, formal and stiff in its lovely frilled collar. And it was decided that it be conferred on the dandelion to convey it to the Almighty Lord. At the first favourable wind to blow upon its seed head, the petition rose up, buoyant, with the white pollen of its flower. And the petition reached the Lord Almighty. Monsieur the Lord God Almighty, the lilies said, what use to us is our splendid purity [changed to: our robe of purity is splendid, but yet it ought to be durable. How quickly it finds itself dulled and soiled. This is not a good example.] We are sad to die so young. Might it not be too much trouble for you to make us live longer [...]

[Madeleine Lemaire's admirer then enumerates the arguments advanced before God by the lilies, peonies, hydrangeas, tea roses, etc. to "live for ever". Just as man has his paradise, God created...]

Madame and Mademoiselle Lemaire in whose charming hands flowers before they die are born to another life that has all the grace of the other and which will endure.

1. Lot 162, Marcel Proust collection Patricia Mante-Proust, Sotheby's, 31 May 2016. The 4 page manuscript is only partially transcribed in the catalogue. The dedication to Mme Lemaire is crossed out and replaced with "To Léon Bailby". Bailby was editor of La Presse 1896 - 1906. All the available evidence seems to suggest that this is the "little story" mentioned in a letter to Suzette Lemaire, 20 May? 1895 and assumed to be lost by Philip Kolb.

 


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Created 15.05.2016