The Mysteries of the little phrase by Vinteuil

   A ravishing young woman who greeted Swann had a sapphire head-dress in her hair that had been given by the Austrian Emperor to the King of Rome's governess as compensation for the loss of her pupil (to be verified) and the fortune of her husband, a primogeniture that came to him from the Emperor, consisted in shares of M...
   In the meantime the order of the programme announced the orchestral suite that Swann had come to hear. Nothing in this suite, as I discovered later, not even the delightful little phrase that recurs twice and which I was anticipating, recalled to him any of his sufferings from that time, of his love for the one that he had long ago ceased to be in love with. But everything of that moral suffering from that time, the physical malaise of his body then devoured by anguish and fever, had prevented him from feeling it then, and that in some way had remained materially preserved in his organs, waiting for the moment when it could penetrate his soul - like the words spoken in a conversation that have not reached our lapsed attention but which, if someone says to us: "I'm sure you haven't been listening" - we can find the exact sounds that made their way to our ear - all of this, the coolness of the woods, the nocturnal foliage where, invited by the Verdurins, he had spent hours without noticing, anxious to know if his lover was going to be there, if she was about to leave, if she was thinking about him, where he thought only of the moment when he would see his lover, now that his love, his dead sorrows, taken up once more by nature, having become foliage themselves again and no longer placing any obstacles before him, all of this was reawoken there and then by the little phrase that was obliged to keep it associated within for ever, that, hardly had it begun - poplars, Japanese birches (?), lake, currant bushes and roses - came to take their places and to paint themselves with delightful purity for the whole length of the unfolding motif. But the charm that they released was nothing but an impression of nature that was soon drowned under another stronger one, but more disordered and forced. These woods, these waters this evening breeze surrounded the melody, not as if the melody alone had evoked them, but as if it were interior to them, as if effectively living inside them the imaginary voluptuousness, as unreal as the sensations that we experience in a dream, which was the very same charm of the little phrase and from which it produced a feeling of nostalgia - as if by going through the same night to sit down under the same trees we encountered the particular happiness that is not of this world, whose melody was like a revelation. (Take care that this corresponds with the happiness indicated in the analysis of Fauré's canticle.) How, after having heard it to return to a world of reality where there is no mention of it; opium smoker, sleeper awoken from an enchanting dream, he wanted to see once more that which, at least, had in some form unconsciously assisted in his dream, the trees, the summer night, even the diners in the restaurant in the wood. And at the same time he smiled to rediscover within himself not his past love and its sorrows, but specific ways of loving and feeling that he then had, that he had forgotten he ever had, and that the little phrase, like a servant who has placed beside us an object from the past that we thought was lost, returned and showed the way to his astonished soul, now made tender.
   "Would you care to dine with me tomorrow in the wood," he asked me, "or lunch in one of the gardens. Would you care to come to Combray for twenty four hours to look at my currant bushes and roses?" I told him that unfortunately I was not free. There was a short break before the second part of the programme, and, leaving him to his reverie, I made my way to the door, wanting to take another look at the marvellous golden bowls that were helmets and at the mosaic table. The Prince de Guermantes was just being announced.

Unused manuscript passage from Un Amour de Swann. First printed in Le Figaro littéraire, 16 Nov 1946.


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