Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Woman In The Bud Is Sacred

Javert is my favorite character by far in Les Miserables. Despite this, I reread this passage (which speaks of Cosette) and laughed out loud because of how much it reminded me of my friend The Tragedian's views. And also because of how well it could fit into all sorts of Jewish propaganda regarding women.


In extreme cases, we may introduce the reader into a nuptial chamber, but not into a virgin's bedroom. Verse would hardly dare, prose should not.

It is the interior of a flower still in the bud, it is a whiteness in the shade, it is the innermost cell of a closed lily that should not be seen by man, while it has not yet been looked upon by the sun. Woman in the bud is sacred. The innocent bed thrown open, the adorable semi-nudity that is afraid of itself, the white foot taking refuge in a slipper, the breast that veils itself before a mirror as if that mirror were an eye; the slip that hurries to hide the shoulder at the creaking of a piece of furniture or the passing of a wagon, the ribbons tied, the hooks done up, the lacings drawn, the starts, the shivers of cold and modesty, the exquisite shyness in every movement, the almost winged anxiety when there is no cause for fear; the successive phases of the clothing as charming as the clouds of the dawn; it is not fitting for all this to be described, and it is even too much to refer to it.

The eye of man should be still more reverent before the rising of a young maiden than before the rising of a star. The possibility of touch should increase respect. The down of the peach, the dust of the plum, the radiated crystal of snow, the butterfly's wing powdered with feathers, are gross things beside that chastity that does not even know it is chaste. The young maiden is only the glimmer of a dream and is not yet statue. Her alcove is hidden in the shadows of the ideal. The indiscreet touch of the eye desecrates this dim penumbra. Here, to gaze is profane.

We will show nothing, then, of all that pleasant little confusion attendant on Cosette's waking.

An Eastern tale says that the rose was made white by God, but since Adam looked at it while it was half open, it was ashamed and blushed. We are among those who feel speechless in the presence of young maidens and flowers, finding them almost sacred.

~Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, page 1204 (Signet Classic Edition)


Anonymous said...

Very funny indeed!

St. Agnes said...

You have a friend who thinks that way about women?

inkstainedhands said...

Wow, I can't believe I still remember this part, even though it's been over a year since I read it.