6th April 1830 Sâles VD - 21st November 1886 Lausanne
The Marmot with the CollarDiary of a Philosopher
Conrad Gessner’s Thierbuch (1563) provides the masthead for our work to restore the Tablets of the Philosophical Marmot to readers of today.
Here is presented a neglected classic of nineteenth century Swiss literature, Eugène Rambert’s La marmotte au collier (1889), together with its German translation by M. Rambert’s fellow Swiss, Alfred Graber, Das Murmeltier mit dem Halsband (1929). For the first time the Tablets of the Philosophical Marmot appear also in English.
Both Titivillus and distance from a French library will have left their mark. However, I think it best to publish this trilingual edition of The Marmot with the Collar now and to revise over the coming months and years, as the pandemic and commitment elsewhere afford leisure for Marmotology.
Feast of the Assumption * 2020
* Dry Moon,Fourth Day of the Last Quarter
Edition / Auflage
La marmotte au collier
Das Murmeltier mit dem Halsband
The Marmot with the Collar
R. L. Hewitt
(To whom the Gods have revealed the way to this Cave of the Crystals of Violet) –
Our fathers’ fathers had learned from the elders of their time that a Man (likewise abroad from England) once addressed his aftercomers thus:
Hic, rogo, pauxillum veniens subsiste viator,
Et mea scrutare pectore dicta tuo.
Here, I pray thee, o pilgrim that passest, stand for a short space,
And in thy heart turn o’er words that I utter in death.
Would that all Men who are Friends of Marmots might repay this Diary the same courtesy!
Your Eternal and Philosophical MarmotTwelfth Day * 2022
* The "Long Night"
Partie I / Teil I
Partie II / Teil II
Partie III / Teil III
I am the unhappiest of husbands. I have a wife who loves me too much.
Marmots, you are no more than a crowd. When will you be a people?
I am determined to undertake a little journey.
Wisdom consists in seeing things as they are, not in moulding them to our whims and fancies.
All Marmots are taught, in their tenderest youth, that there exists a Providence, that the Gods exercise justice on earth and in the heavens, that they favour the designs of the just and are sure to punish the guilty.
Man is the greatest mystery of Nature – after the Marmot.
But the Golden Clover, with succulent leaves, the Lovage, whose umbel cracks and bursts under the tooth, the Cinquefoil, the Saxifrages, the Orchid with its voluptuous perfumes, the Daisy with its blue gleam, the slender Fleabanes, the Yarrow with its bitter and fortifying scent, and the Wormwood whose aroma intoxicates: this is the menu of a Marmot luncheon… Never did a coarse eater think delicately.
What is all this glory to me? There is no more Spring for me. Why did I not hold fast during the Long Night! Why did I not keep vigil while the others slept! This would have been my Spring.
It is one Moon ago today that I married an adored wife; I adore her still, she loves me, and we are not happy.
The Dogs again! Life is a school of patience.
A White Hare dreams that there is a Winter, that the Sun rises, that he sees it rise; a Marmot dreams that there is a Long Night, during which strange things happen. A White Hare dreams that he is awake, whereas I dream that I sleep.
The world allures me.
The most important of all the principles of Wisdom is to observe the hierarchy of affections.
Nothing will be merrier, on my return, than to send a frozen Marmot sliding down the slope.
It is evidently the design of Nature that we should be white like the Snow. But it seems that she has too much to do to succeed in everything that she undertakes. She makes a start and not an end. Look closely, and in most of her works you will discover the black spot at the tips of the ears.
Her husband is a happy-go-lucky young fellow, who seems always to be standing agape, awkward, shy, distracted. My neighbour will correct him of these distractions.
Nature used to amuse me; today I contemplate her.
If the Gods wish that my tribulations should be known to them, they will reveal the way to the Cave of the Crystals of Violet.
Other Marmots have their ladies and their little ones; I have a friend.
Now are days that are truly beautiful, days that are worthy of the Dry Moon and such as Marmots love… They know not that our life contains a mystery, and they play. I, who know the mystery, play no longer.
Divine Providence, thus is it ever that you have exercised justice! Innocents are born only to make sinners fat.
May your soul rest in peace, my friend, you who are the only being in the world who, since my misfortune, shewed me any goodwill, who could have been the confidant of my most secret thoughts, the companion of all my labours, my guide, perhaps, in the paths of knowledge!
If I were a fierce beast, I would eat lots of Men.
But what can one expect of a race that persecutes its philosophers?
The sky is magnificent, absolutely cloudless; the air is calm, the Snow settles; but it is not especially cold. I feel in good cheer, full of ardour and of hope… This is the appointed hour. May the Gods assist me!
How I pity you, common Marmots, you for whom nothing relieves either your pleasures or your cares!... Sacred and glorious study! Can one still be alive if one does not live for study?
O Marmots, Marmots, it is to you and not to Men that I owe the darkest hours of my life! Even so, it is for you that I labour.
The moment has come to take courage. The season is advancing. One must either renounce Philosophy or make preparation for the vigil of the Long Night.
Deceit and illusion reign everywhere. It is not by hearsay but experience that one discovers the truth.
The least whiff of Hare or Marmot makes him start suddenly and fills him with a fierce rapture. Then he lurches forward and pursues the spoor with all the speed of his long and slender legs, baying savagely. He has a peculiar cry when he hunts, a sort of music, compounded of frenzy and pleasure. He knows not fatigue. In the remotest deserts, under the most blazing Sun, on Snow or on bare rock, no matter, he runs for hours, for days, panting, his tongue lolling horribly, weary, his paws bloody, but running alway. When his powers fail him, desire sustains him still.
If it please the Gods, this Unhappy Moon will prove the happiest of my life.
To browse on the Snowbell, at dawn, when its little bell, turned toward the earth, is still wet with dew: this is a pleasure that heaven, fair at least this once, has reserved for the race of Marmots alone.
It is not enough to say: I will not sleep! One must remain awake.
The eyes of Men speak always two things at once.
One thought alone saved me. I told myself or rather I heard a voice that told me: “This is a lesson; learn from it”.
But one thing is certain, Man increases, Marmots dwindle… Unless the world has been created for the triumph of his iniquity, Man and his glory will pass.
I wish to be warm, very warm.
Why has Nature deprived Marmot country of these delicate wonders? For whom does she make them bloom in these fierce and solitary places? Is it perhaps for the Vultures? No, it is for us, so that we go to seek them out. She reserves this surprise for the curiosity of those who love Wisdom.
All is decadence today. Perhaps I am the last philosophical Marmot?
Accordingly, the earth is divided into three zones, that of Men, that of Marmots, and the Upper Desert. The fairest is the second.
The wood was hard, but Marmots have good teeth.
Learned Marmots are becoming fewer day by day… Our fathers’ fathers had learned from the elders of their time that Marmots once constituted a powerful people, the friend of knowledge and the pleasures of the intellect.
I make today the vow to devote myself entirely to Philosophy and to the study of the mystery of our existence.
Gods, how vast is the sky! and the world!
Strange divorce between life and thought!... Well then, let us live, since we must… But I feel that I will die from it.
My path was simply one of constant enchantment; it was sown with flashes, beams, sparkled, coloured lights, iridescent spangles, stars that scintillated magically, golden or azure.
He is hungry, and he hunts after animals, just as we do after flowers. He requires Marmots or Hares, just as we do Clover or Snowbells. He drinks the blood of his victims, just as we drink the dew in the cups of the Gentian or in the goblets of the Lady’s-mantle… Happy are the barren, happy the wives who never gave suck, because it is for the Vulture that forms and Burrows are filled!
To browse, to scrape the earth, and to multiply – is that, then, the whole of life?
But to fall asleep in one’s own Burrow and to wake up in another country, among Men, and not to know how one made the journey: this is what confounds all imagination.
Perhaps each peak has its own flower, blue or pink. I suspect that Nature is inexhaustible… Let us start by concluding the great problem, after which we leap from peak to peak and from torrent to torrent.
There is more Philosophy in two ideas, deeply investigated, weighed up, confronted with reality, than in a hundred ideas, dreamed up and thrown to the wind by these games of fantasy.
But the real question is to know whether it is better to philosophize with a friend or with a wife.
The odour of Man follows me everywhere… it is like the curse of the universe. Everything that this execrable race touches is cursed forthwith.
I began today my harvest of hay. I cut grasses and moss, which I laid out in the Sun, under the rock.
The Hare is sufficient unto himself in Winter. A philosophical recluse, he is, in Winter, king of the mountain. Disturb him not, people of Burrows; weigh him not down with ill judged questions.
The world is out of joint. Of two alternatives one must be true: either life is too short, or the path of Wisdom is too long.
There will be mysteries in Nature still when I have penetrated that of Marmots and the Long Night.
Blessed be my ungrateful children! Blessed my captivity! Blessed the hands of Men who violated the sanctuary of my Burrow!
Dr. Stephen Marsh (qd. Kamuzu Academy) and Messrs. Tomali Banda and Andrew Goodson (Kamuzu Academy) kindly assisted with details in the French.
Mr. Barnaby Probert (Plymouth) proved an indefatigable collaborator in the search after the identity of the flora known to the Philosophical Marmot.
Dr. Marsh and Mr. Probert also read drafts of the English translation, as did Ms. Daisy Belfield Santos (qd. Kamuzu Academy).