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第六卷小比克布斯 第11章小比克布斯的结局

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CHAPTER XI END OF THE PETIT-PICPUS



At the beginning of the Restoration, the convent of the Petit-Picpus was in its decay; this forms a part of the general death of the order, which, after the eighteenth century, has been disappearing like all the religious orders. Contemplation is, like prayer, one of humanity's needs; but, like everything which the Revolution touched, it will be transformed, and from being hostile to social progress, it will become favorable to it.

The house of the Petit-Picpus was becoming rapidly depopulated. In 1840, the Little Convent had disappeared, the school had disappeared. There were no longer any old women, nor young girls; the first were dead, the latter had taken their departure. Volaverunt.

The rule of the Perpetual Adoration is so rigid in its nature that it alarms, vocations recoil before it, the order receives no recruits. In 1845, it still obtained lay-sisters here and there. But of professed nuns, none at all. Forty years ago, the nuns numbered nearly a hundred; fifteen years ago there were not more than twenty-eight of them. How many are there to-day? In 1847, the prioress was young, a sign that the circle of choice was restricted. She was not forty years old. In proportion as the number diminishes, the fatigue increases, the service of each becomes more painful; the moment could then be seen drawing near when there would be but a dozen bent and aching shoulders to bear the heavy rule of Saint-Benoit. The burden is implacable, and remains the same for the few as for the many. It weighs down, it crushes. Thus they die. At the period when the author of this book still lived in Paris, two died. One was twenty-five years old, the other twenty-three. This latter can say, like Julia Alpinula: "Hic jaceo. Vixi annos viginti et tres." It is in consequence of this decay that the convent gave up the education of girls.

We have not felt able to pass before this extraordinary house without entering it, and without introducing the minds which accompany us, and which are listening to our tale, to the profit of some, perchance, of the melancholy history of Jean Valjean. We have penetrated into this community, full of those old practices which seem so novel to-day. It is the closed garden, hortus conclusus. We have spoken of this singular place in detail, but with respect, in so far, at least, as detail and respect are compatible. We do not understand all, but we insult nothing. We are equally far removed from the hosanna of Joseph de Maistre, who wound up by anointing the executioner, and from the sneer of Voltaire, who even goes so far as to ridicule the cross.

An illogical act on Voltaire's part, we may remark, by the way; for Voltaire would have defended Jesus as he defended Calas; and even for those who deny superhuman incarnations, what does the crucifix represent? The assassinated sage.

In this nineteenth century, the religious idea is undergoing a crisis. People are unlearning certain things, and they do well, provided that, while unlearning them they learn this: There is no vacuum in the human heart. Certain demolitions take place, and it is well that they do, but on condition that they are followed by reconstructions.

In the meantime, let us study things which are no more. It is necessary to know them, if only for the purpose of avoiding them. The counterfeits of the past assume false names, and gladly call themselves the future. This spectre, this past, is given to falsifying its own passport. Let us inform ourselves of the trap. Let us be on our guard. The past has a visage, superstition, and a mask, hypocrisy. Let us denounce the visage and let us tear off the mask.

As for convents, they present a complex problem,--a question of civilization, which condemns them; a question of liberty, which protects them.


十一 小比克布斯的结局




一到王朝复辟时期,小比克布斯修院便渐渐衰败下去了,那是它那支系所有修会全面死亡的局部现象,那一支系,到了十八世纪以后,也随着所有其他宗教团体一同进入了衰亡期。静观和祈祷一样,也是人类的一种需要,可是,也和所有一切经革命接触过的事物一样,它自己也会转变,并且会由敌视社会的进步,转变为有利于社会的进步。

小比克布斯院里的人口减得很快。到一八四○年,小院消灭了,寄读学校消灭了。那里既没有老妇,也没有小姑娘,老的死了,小的走了。天各一方。

永敬会的规章严厉到了令人望而生畏的地步,有愿望的人畏缩不前,会中人找不到新生力量。到一八四五年,担任杂务的修女还多少可以找到几个,至于唱诗的修女,绝对没有。四十年前,修女的人数几乎到一百,十五年前,只有二十八个人了。今天还有多少呢?一八四七年,院长是个年轻人,这说明选择的范围缩小了。她当时还不到四十岁。人数减少,负担便越重,每个人的任务也更加艰苦,当时大家已经预见到不久就会只剩下十来个人、压弯伤痛的肩头来扛圣伯努瓦的那套沉重的教规。那副重担子是一成不变的,人少人多都一样。它压着,狠狠地压着,于是她们死了。在本书作者还住在巴黎时,死了两个。一个二十五岁,一个二十三岁。后面的那个可以象朱利亚·阿尔比尼拉所说:“我葬在这里,享年二十三。”正是由于那种萧条,修院才放弃了对小姑娘们的教养。

我们从那所不平凡的没人知道的黑院子门前经过,不能不拐进去看看,不能不领着我们的同伴和听我们叙述冉阿让伤心史的人的思想一同进去走走,这对某些人来说也许是有益的。我们已对那有着许多古老习惯的团体望了一眼,在今天看来,那些古老习惯是够新奇的了。那是个封闭了的园子,是座禁宫。对那奇特场所我们谈得相当详细,但仍然是怀着恭敬的心情来谈的,至少是在详细和恭敬还能协调起来的范围内谈的。我们并不是一概全懂,但是我们不污蔑任何东西。约瑟夫·德·梅斯特尔大声疾呼,他连刽子手也歌颂,伏尔泰则喜笑怒骂,连耶稣受难像也讥诮,我们是站在他们两人相等距离之间的。

伏尔泰缺少逻辑,这是顺便谈谈,因为伏尔泰很可能用为卡拉斯①辩护的态度同样来为耶稣辩护,而且,对那些根本否认神的化身的人,耶稣受难像又能代表什么呢?一个被害的哲人而已。

①卡拉斯(Calas),十八世纪法国商人,被人诬告因不让其子脱离新教而将其杀害,被判处轮刑。死后三年,伏尔泰为他申雪,追判无罪。 

到十九世纪,宗教思想处于危机阶段。人们忘记了某些事物,那是好的,只要在忘记那些事物的同时又能学到另一些事物就好了。人的心里不能有空虚感。某些破坏行动在进行,进行得好,但是破坏之后必须有建设。

在此期间,让我们研究研究那些已经不存在的东西,认识那些东西是必要的,即使仅仅是为了避开它们。人们对复古的行动常爱加上一个伪造的名称,叫做维新。古,是个还魂鬼,惯于制造假护照。我们要提防陷阱,提高警惕。古有副真面目,那就是迷信,也有套假面具,那就是虚伪。让我们揭露它的真面目,撕破它的假面具。

至于修院,那是个错综复杂的问题。这是个文化问题,而文化排斥它;这是个自由问题,而自由又袒护它。
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