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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/138

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

It is the effort which the world makes to speak; it is the lisping of the wonderful. In this wail is manifested vaguely all that the vast, dark palpitation endures, suffers, accepts, rejects. For the most part it talks nonsense; it is like an attack of chronic sickness. We fancy that we are witnessing the descent of supreme evil into the infinite. At moments we seem to discern a reclamation of the elements, some vain effort of chaos to re-assert itself over creation. At times it is a despairing moan; the void bewails and justifies itself. It is the pleading of the world's cause: we can fancy that the universe is engaged in a law-suit; we listen, we try to grasp the reasons given, the redoubtable for and against. Such a moaning among the shadows has the tenacity of a syllogism. Here is a vast field for thought; here is the raison d'être of mythologies and polytheisms. To the terror of these wild murmurs are added superhuman outlines melting away as they appear,—Eumenides which are almost distinct, throats of furies shaped in the clouds, Plutonian chimeras almost defined. No horrors can equal those sobs, those laughs, those tricks of tumult, those inscrutable questions and answers, those appeals to unknown aid. Man is utterly bewildered in the presence of that awful incantation; he bows under the enigma of those Draconian intonations. What latent meaning have they; what do they signify; what do they threaten; what do they implore? It would seem as though all bonds were loosened. Vociferations from precipice to precipice, from air to water, from wind to wave, from rain to rock, from zenith to nadir, from stars to foam; the abyss unmuzzled,—such is this tumult, complicated by some mysterious contest with evil consciences.

The loquacity of night is not less lugubrious than its silence. One feels in it the wrath of the unknown.