The Marmot with the Collar
Diary of a Philosopher

Part II - Withered Moon
Second Summer

M.02.03.01.01 / M.086 - M.02.03.04.07 / M.101

LANGUAGE

English

New Moon

new_moon

First Day

M.02.03.01.01 / M.086

I thought to be certain of my success today. I was already underway. I had covered half the distance that separates us, when I saw three whiskers of a moustache appear above the snow. The old wife again!

Second Day

M.02.03.01.02 / M.087

The snow is melting, no more hope!

Third Day

M.02.03.01.03 / M.088

This new disappointment has revived the pain of the first. I don’t have the heart for anything.

Seventh Day

M.02.03.01.07 / M.089

Here at last is the real spring. The ground is once again clear. What does it matter?

First Quarter

first_quarter

Third Day

M.02.03.02.03 / M.090

The snows are melting quickly in the little valley of the Golden Clover. All the meadows are adorned. The pale yellow Pasqueflowers, the pink Cowslips and the Gentians with their blue cups glister in competition.

 

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.

Fourth Day

M.02.03.02.04 / M.091

Never has a couple of young married Marmots begun to frolick with less concern for appearance than my neighbours. They call to each other, they flee and chase one another, they gaze into one another’s eyes, they whisper sweet nothings into one another’s ears, they take turns to groom one another’s fur, they caress one another, they embrace.

 

Do they wish, perchance, to insult my Philosophy?

Fifth Day

M.02.03.02.05 / M.092

Although I have tried to nourish myself from wisdom, the spring is the spring. I valiantly upheld my widowerhood last month. What is coming over me now?

Sixth Day

M.02.03.02.06 / M.093

I am determined to undertake a little journey. I am in need of distraction.

 

Tomorrow, if the weather is fine, I will scale one of the peaks that command the valley floor, the Becca de l’Oura, for example. I wish to know what lies on the other side. To travel the world, one must take advantage of the time when Men are still far away.

Full Moon

full_moon

First Day

M.02.03.03.01 / M.094

I enjoyed yesterday a morning of pure delight, perfectly beautiful. At dawn, I had breakfasted and was underway. My neighbours were already simpering and flirting. I cast them a glance of disdain. Apart from a certain Vulture whom I saw circling in the air, I had not the slightest reason for the slightest unrest. I was able to crouch under a rock.

 

Perhaps we are too fearful. With a little prudence, we could travel, like the White Hare. We travel well enough on leaving the Long Night, when hunger compels us. Even so, it is the most dangerous moment of the year. Where to take refuge when the snow covers the ground and how to hide oneself on this tapestry of white?

 

First, I descended as far as the torrent; then I clomb back along its course as far as the little valley where I had hoped, last year, to find my wife and my children. From there, I skirted the glacier by the moraines. When I arrived on the pass from which the Becca de l’Oura rises up, I took the ridge and followed it without turning aside, except to skirt a few rocky outcrops. It was three hours to the summit.

 

I don’t remember ever having tramped with lighter paws. They are tired, even so. This is enough for today.

Second Day

M.02.03.03.02 / M.095

The sun was already high over the horizon when I reached the summit of the Becca de l’Oura; but the sky was still clear, and there was not a cloud in the sky. Gods, how vast is the sky! And the world!

 

I wished to know what lies on the other side, I saw it. There is another valley, then mountains again, on the other side of which is scooped out yet another valley, and so on to infinity. I looked to the four points of the horizon, and I saw only mountains followed by mountains, always greyer, always paler. What is it, then, that we call the “flat land”? I tried to see the flat land from up above. I saw nothing that deserves this name.

Third Day

M.02.03.03.03 / M.096

The mountains that one sees from the Becca de l’Oura are hardly alike. Some are higher, others lower. I did not see two which had the same profile. There are those which are green as far as the summit; others are crowned with sharp cliffs, of every hue, from white to black. I have seen yellow needles, even red. The flanks of some peaks are laden with great masses of snow. One loses oneself in this variety and this immensity.

 

In other respects, it is everywhere the same as where we live. Man dwells on the valley floors, where his houses shine like white points, sometimes gathered in groups, sometimes scattered at random. Higher up, the habitations of Men yield place to our burrows. I saw several families of Marmots on the other side of the mountain, but at a great distance below me. Highest of all, there arise the peaks, inhospitable country, where no trace of life is to be seen, except for the Mountain Goats who venture there and the Eagles who fly up to heaven.

 

Accordingly, the earth is divided into three zones, that of Men, that of Marmots, and the Upper Desert. The fairest is the second.

 

This has reminded me of what our fathers’ fathers used to say, that the Marmot nation was once infinitely more numerous and that it covered one half of the earth with its tribes. The world, evidently, was created for us. What are these holes where Men live, these tops where Eagles nest, in comparison with the vast flanks that are propitious for our burrows? Why then this decadence? Why do our tribes dwindle from generation unto generation? Are our ladies less fecund? No. But egotism separates us from one another. Each of us thinks only of his family, his loves, his burrow, so that our enemies defeat us as individuals. Matters would be quite otherwise if all Marmots lived for wisdom. They would have one common goal; they would form a single and great nation. But what can one expect of a race that persecutes its philosophers?

Fourth Day

M.02.03.03.04 / M.097

There was no longer any grassy sward atop the summit of the Becca de l’Oura; but between the rocks there pushed up a few poor grasses and flowering mosses of a marvellous beauty, one of which, among others, was completely unknown to me and transported me with admiration. We have in this region some blue flowers, toothed very prettily, which my late wife used to call, I believe, “Forget-me-nots”. – My wife knew the names of all the flowers of the mountain. – The ones I admired up there closely resemble them; but they are larger, of a richer shade of blue, and the plant that bears them is a species of moss, which tapestries the hollows of the rocks. Each mossy shoot has its own flower, and as the shoots of moss touch each other, one sees only carpets of blue. They exhale a discreet perfume, subtle, at once soft and fierce, light like the air they breathe, the air of heaven. I know nothing of their taste. It would have been a sin to browse on even a single one, they were so beautiful! Why, one would say they have eyes. One bends toward them, low down, to look at them closer up, and it is they who are looking at you.

 

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.

Fifth Day

M.02.03.03.05 / M.098

Since I clambered up the Becca de l’Oura I am seized with an infinite desire to see and to know. I would like to pass beyond the mountains which border this country and get to know those of other skies and other peoples. The universe is larger than we think. I see here only one torrent; there are a thousand torrents in the world. I see here only a few peaks; it is by thousands upon thousands that the peaks of the earth are counted. If only I could see all the torrents whose waters course in the valleys, all the peaks that scale the heavens! Perhaps each peak has its own flower, blue or pink. I suspect that Nature is inexhaustible.

 

One must, even so, exercise judgement and not wish for everything at once. Let us start by concluding the great problem, after which we leap from peak to peak and from torrent to torrent.

Sixth Day

M.02.03.03.06 / M.099

I have just passed twenty-four hours in serious meditations. An idea has smiled on me. I know only vaguely, by the rumour that circulates, what other animals think of our sleep and what they have to say about the Long Night. I must try to understand this in a more precise manner. Their witness is suspect; no matter, it is a witness. Whom to turn to? Marmots lead a life apart; they have nearly no contacts. How to chat with a Mountain Goat? He moves too quickly. A Badger is an uncouth creature. In his nocturnal prowlings he has never done a good turn to anyone. A Fox knows only how to lie and to burgle the burrows of others. Partridges, red and white, are always hopping about and fluttering. Nothing holds their attention. A deadly Viper, a prickly Hedgehog, a Mouse who slips between your fingers… Whom, then, to turn to?

 

There is still, of course, the White Hare, whose reputation for Philosophy, exaggerated perhaps, is bruited far and wide among the other animals. He passes one half of his life in his “form”, to meditate and to muse. What does he have so much to daydream about? I know not; but it is already something to daydream, it is a pathway to wisdom. We Marmots do not daydream at all. Unhappily, in no way does his Philosophy give him courage. He is the most timid of animals; he fears everything, he flees at any approach. I don’t recall having ever been able to exchange ten words with a White Hare. They always give one the slip. How will it be when they see my collar? I wish to make the attempt even so. I saw one recently. His form cannot be very far. I will try to win him over.

Seventh Day

M.02.03.03.07 / M.100

Men and their herds have taken possession of the highest pasturage. Two baying Dogs have coursed the mountain the whole day. I left my hole only to go and browse at ten pawsteps.

Last Quarter

last_quarter

Seventh Day

M.02.03.04.07 / M.101

An unhappy end to the Withered Moon! I have done nothing for eight days other than to follow from the elevation of my look-out the hunting of these cursed Dogs. Most of the Marmots of the valley have remained huddled in their burrows. I wager that several have not eaten ten Clover flowers during this time. It went ill with two young Marmots who ventured onto the meadow. Their retreat was cut off; they were seized and slaughtered in place. I was witness to this hideous spectacle. For two long days these bloodthirsty brigands scraped at a burrow. There was a whole tribe in this hole. It was able to escape the following night.

 

All this time was lost for Philosophy. These Marmots who have refused to recognise me are no less my brothers and sisters, my children, my own flesh and blood. Blood is thicker than water.  When they are persecuted, it is as if it were I myself. Of what else could I think?

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 02.03 (English)

Richard L. Hewitt
Kamuzu Academy, Malawi

2020