The Marmot with the Collar
Diary of a Philosopher

Part II - [Unhappy Moon]
Second Summer

M.02.07.01.01 / M.147 - M.02.07.03.04b / M.163

LANGUAGE

English

New Moon

new_moon

First Day

M.02.07.01.01 / M.147

All went well. Nothing untoward disrupted my journey. I had scarcely arrived when I set to work. It took me eight days to reach the end of this burrow. There is none larger, none more comfortable, none deeper, none more secure, in the whole valley. Its entrance is immediately under the cliff, hidden by a thicket of Yew. Rainwater cannot enter, because the cliff overhangs it. I have taken advantage of this to give the gallery at the onset a swift incline. It descends to a depth of six Marmots. There it winds between two boulders, which narrow it sufficiently to make the passage impossible for a Dog even of the smallest race; then it continues horizontally for five Marmot lengths, ending in a very spacious chamber, which I had no need to dig; it is a natural cavity. I confined myself to compacting enough earth to smooth out the irregularity of the ground. A second gallery, for escape, opens a path amidst a labyrinth of roots and boulders; I had great trouble digging it; at every turn there was a new obstacle. Its line is broken by several sharp corners. Finally, it comes out at the foot of the cliff, like the first, but on the other side of a great boulder; it is scarcely possible to pass from one opening to the other except underground. I have walled up the escape gallery, because of the flow of air; but at the least danger I can open it in a few instants.

 

It is more like a fortress than a burrow.

 

I found several slates while I was excavating it.

Second Day

M.02.07.01.02 / M.148

I began today my harvest of hay. I cut grasses and moss, which I laid out in the sun, under the rock.

 

The water that oozes out along this cliff, a few pawsteps from my burrow, is not the equal of the spring of Black Mosses. Great also is the difference between the grasses of this country and the flowers of the Golden Clover.

Third Day

M.02.07.01.03 / M.149

The chamber which I am stuffing with hay could contain ten Marmots. If I had excavated it myself, would I have made it smaller?... It is not certain that I will pass the Long Night alone. If I can take between my two paws a frozen Marmot, why could I not bring him back here? Why not two?

Fifth Day

M.02.07.01.05 / M.150

I am approaching the end, and that is happy, because the roof of my mouth is bloody. – It is a disagreeable manner of carrying that we Marmots pass down, from generation unto generation. Filling oneself, stuffing the mouth with hay, only to disgorge it in one’s burrow!... Still, I accept the hay up there. This is too coarse.

Sixth Day

M.02.07.01.06 / M.151

The Men have left. I hear only the noise of the torrent.

 

I have carpeted with hay not only the bedroom, but the galleries as well. I wish to be warm, very warm. I have manufactured doors from slate. I believe I am ready.

Seventh Day

M.02.07.01.07 / M.152

An idea has come to me, a bright idea that is also heroic. I will sow the hay of my bedroom with Holly leaves. They will prick me into sensibility.

First Quarter

first_quarter

Second Day

M.02.07.02.02 / M.153

It took me two days of searching to find a Holly tree. I am bringing back two branches, laden with leaves.

Third Day

M.02.07.02.03 / M.154

I have passed my day in laying down my Holly. I can hold myself upright in my bedroom, without injuring my rear paws; but I cannot lie down without the whole weight of my body resting on these leaves that are armed with sharp teeth. When I feel threatened by the sleep of torpor, I will go to await it in my bedroom. A very small chamber, which I excavated today, a mere bulge in the gallery, will suffice me until then.

 

This time, I am ready.

Fourth Day

M.02.07.02.04 / M.155

I cannot get this poor White Hare out of my memory. And still, it is good that he is dead. I would not have known how to decline to share his form, and it would have been cold with him. My present measures are well taken. Any other system would be false. Besides, is it not something – not to have to share the glory of the discovery and of reaching the success of one’s undertaking on one’s own? Couldn’t he return to life on the day following the Long Night! With what pleasure would I describe to him this burrow, and my hay sown with Holly, and the journey that I will undertake and what I will have found up above, in the country where one sleeps! With what pleasure would I speak to him in my own turn of winter, as a Philosopher who slept not!

Fifth Day

M.02.07.02.05 / M.156

Last year, at the same time, I saw the sun no more. From here I can see it still for several hours a day.

Sixth Day

M.02.07.02.06 / M.157

The weather is fine, the Long Night is overdue.

 

There was noise at the head of the valley. Dogs gave voice and the hunters’ thunder rumbled.

 

Bad news. Now is not the moment to empty the mountain!

Seventh Day

M.02.07.02.07 / M.158

The temperature has fallen suddenly. I made a reconnaissance to discover what was happening. Marmots are in hiding. I suppose that several have walled up their burrows even today.

Full Moon

full_moon

First Day

M.02.07.03.01 / M.159

Change in sight. Abundant snow. Yesterday evening, the peaks were free from snow. This morning, the snow is twice my height just a few pawsteps from my burrow. I am not sleepy, even so.

Second Day

M.02.07.03.02 / M.160

It snows ever more.

Third Day

M.02.07.03.03 / M.161

Still snow! Impatience starts to gain on me. Happily, I am not sleepy.

Fourth Day

M.02.07.03.04a / M.162

I have been held prisoner for three days and three nights by the snow and by the wind that chased it in whirlwinds capable of burying Marmot legions. Today, the sky is visible through great blue gashes among the grey clouds, remnants of yesterday’s storm. Unless ill chance pursues me, this night will determine everything. These clouds will disperse with the setting of the sun. The surface of the snow will harden, and I will begin my journey as soon as the moon has risen.

 

It is clear that everything on the mountain sleeps; but I myself sleep not. I have had some buzzing in my ears and some shivers along my spine. The rear quarters begin also to be heavy; but I do not have to fight against sleep; all is lucid in my mind, and I am scratching gaily with my right paw.

 

I had not counted on this snow. No matter. There are two burrows at least whose position I know precisely enough to find them without groping. The first is under a certain pyramid of granite, which snow has never buried. I am there in an hour, if the snow settles. Once above these places, one is free to excavate a gallery.

 

Nothing will be merrier, on my return, than to send a frozen Marmot sliding down the slope. He will reach the bottom by himself; I will have only to prevent him from reaching it too quickly. Who knows? With the help of the snow, it would be possible to carry away a whole family. I can see them tumbling over each other.

On the Same Day

M.02.07.03.04b / M.163

Today, the Fourth Day of the Full Moon, I will set out to visit the frozen Marmots, buried under the snows of the high mountain.

 

I am awaiting only the first beam of the moon to set out. It will not be long, because for a long time now the moon has been outlining the mountain tops.

 

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. It is difficult to understand how one can sleep on a night like this.

 

This is the appointed hour. May the Gods assist me!

E. Rambert: La marmotte au collier (1889)

trans. R. L. Hewitt: The Marmot with the Collar (2020)

The Marmot with the Collar
A Trilingual Edition

Part 02.07 (English)

Richard L. Hewitt
Kamuzu Academy, Malawi

2020