The Marmot with the Collar
Diary of a Philosopher

Part III - Withered Moon
Third Summer

M. / M.204 - M. / M.220



New Moon


Fifth Day

M. / M.204

My wife is beginning to find that this removal is lasting too long. I will dedicate a few days to it without interruption, so as to have liberty to complete it.

Seventh Day

M. / M.205

For a Marmot of a certain age, five times father of a family, I have committed an unforgivable folly, a folly worthy of a child or a Philosopher. I carry the pain of it.


Chance brought it about that we met the other day the White Hare, who seemed neither surprised nor alarmed by my collar. I believe him the brother of the one who died, my friend. Perhaps I am not completely unknown to him. I offered him a gracious greeting, which he returned at once. My wife inclined her head slightly.


When he had passed, I turned the conversation to his late brother. Although my wife considers my studies and my reflections to be vanity, she does not dislike it when I speak to her of him. She is of her sex, that is, curious. I did not hide from her the regret that the death of a friend had caused me, a friend who would have been a companion in my search after Wisdom. We spoke of Wisdom, in this regard, and as she seemed in one of her better frames of mind and heart, I chanced a few pleasantries on the foolishness of philosophers who marry to seek Wisdom together. She had a reply for everything, always graceful and charming.


“By the way,” she said simpering, “who is stopping you from seeking Wisdom together?”


I plunged headlong into the trap.


“What,” I replied, “you could…?”


I could not finish anything. Words failed me.


She encouraged me to open my whole heart to her. In my naïvety I did this, I opened my whole heart to her, I begged her to allow me a friend. She listened to me with an air of tender indulgence, without letting me suspect for an instant the storm that was about to break.


When I had finished, her manner changed all at once.


“My dear Philosopher,” she addressed me coldly, “I thank you for having opened your heart to me; now, I know you. In your turn, know me. I am not one of those Marmots who, when married, keep girlfriends, societies, gossip. I give all that I am and I demand that you give all that you are. It is up to you to take a decision. You have all my thoughts; will you finally allow me all yours?”


I saw that I was deceived and I was beside myself with anger.


“Madam,” I replied, “when, like myself, one is married for the second time, and, like yourself, for the sixth, it is rather difficult only ever to think of a single person.”


It was then that all the thunders of heaven broke over my head.


“Yes,” she cried, “I have had five husbands, and you are the sixth. Do not think that I am hiding it nor that I am ashamed to have loved them, each one in their turn. Because I loved them all – you ungrateful wretch! – all as much as you. Do you think that, for the love of the sixth, I would wish to repudiate from my memory the first five? They have all their equally sacred place. If the first had survived, I would have loved him alone all my life, and so for each of the others that followed. I wept for all of them sincerely, just as I will weep for you, if you were to die, from which may heaven protect us! But I confess it, there is Spring in my heart, and widowhood is absolutely not for me. It is necessary that I love, that I love alway. Is it my fault if Nature has given me a soul whose youth is always renewed? I do not blush to obey Nature. It is Nature whom I have worshipped in each of those who have shared my bed. Love is consoled by love. There exists no other consolation. What is your Philosophy? It must be that generations should succeed one another and that the breaches of death should be eternally repaired. There is only one crime, which is barrenness. That is why, several times a widow, I have given myself several times in marriage, and it is also why I have always given myself completely. I belong to you not only in part; I do not reserve some other part of myself for a White Hare or for a so-called Wisdom. But I see what it really is. You do not have the strength to love. You have a weak heart and pale blood. You live from distractions. You have a wife, and you must have a friend to seek Wisdom with him!... What will you have left to seek with your wife?... Here is my heart. I do not know how to divide it in twain. Give me also the whole of yours – or let us go each our own way.”


I must confess it, my wife was magnificent in her wrath. She has a divine anger, just like her smile. I felt no less keenly the injury that she had done me. At this moment, I adored her and I hated her.


I replied that this manner of forcing the choice surprised me somewhat, that I had never heard it said that an innocent friendship or honest studies were incompatible with the holy state of matrimony, and that I asked to reflect before making a decision.


She shrugged her shoulders.


I left her with the assurance that I would let her have a reply in three days.


The first of these three days has passed.

First Quarter


First Day

M. / M.206

I found shelter for the night in the chamber where my Tablets were.


I am the unhappiest of husbands. I have a wife who loves me too much.

On the Same Day

M. / M.207

I passed the afternoon carrying what remained of my treasure to the cave. All is up there now, protected for generations to come. 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.

Second Day

M. / M.208

My wife is relentless. She will not take a step to meet me.

On the Same Day

M. / M.209

I have arrived at my decision. She is stronger than I am. I could neither stand up to her nor live without her.

Third Day

M. / M.210

I have spoken to my wife, calmly and with dignity. I begged her to have some consideration for my weaknesses, to think of my age and of the sway of inveterate habits. I beseeched her to be willing to grant me a quarter hour each day for what she calls my chimeras.


My soul was dying. Perhaps she saw that I was suffering; perhaps also she was touched by my humble demeanour; I found her more tractable than I expected.


A quarter hour! O Philosophy, this, then, is what I have left to give you!

Fourth Day

M. / M.211

What will I do with these quarter hours? I passed the first in dreaming.

Fifth Day

M. / M.212

I have tried to renew the thread of my ideas. I did not succeed.


Whatever I do, my life is shattered. I dare not think of it.

Sixth Day

M. / M.213

It is usually at the fall of day that I take my quarter hour. I see the last rays of the Sun reach out and I listen to the noise of the stream.

Seventh Day

M. / M.214

It is one Moon ago today that I married an adored wife; I adore her still, she loves me, and we are not happy.

Full Moon


First Day

M. / M.215

It is one Moon ago today that I wrote on my Tablets:


“The most beautiful day of my life has passed; others are coming which will be no less beautiful.”

Second Day

M. / M.216

I cannot think, I cannot write, I weep. I weep in liberty for a quarter hour each day. This is the only pleasure that remains to me. All other joy is poisoned.

Fourth Day

M. / M.217

The quarter hour is measured by my wife. When it has passed, she whistles or comes to me. Is this passion? is this distraction? I do not know. But the quarter hours of my wife do not possess their full measure.

Sixth Day

M. / M.218

My wife is definitely losing the measure of time.

Seventh Day

M. / M.219

Each day I give to my wife twenty-three hours and three quarters, and I reserve for myself a quarter hour. This quarter hour is nothing, and willingly, she says, she would allow me more; but what is hard for her is that it is reserved, that it constitutes an acquired right. This quarter hour is everything, and the twenty-three hours and three quarters are nothing. She would give them all up in return for this quarter hour.


Poor quarter hour!

Last Quarter


First Day

M. / M.220

I am determined to make an end of it. There is no dignity in this contest.


I pray that the Gods will pardon me. I made a reckless vow.


I love Wisdom still, I love her as much as ever. The most ardent of my desires would be to keep with my wife the vigil of the Long Night.


It is a great sacrifice. I undertake it for her. I love her no less. I endeavour to persuade myself that she has chosen the right lot.


Strange divorce between life and thought!... Well then, let us live, since we must… But I feel that I will die from it.


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 03.03 (English)

Richard L. Hewitt
Kamuzu Academy, Malawi

2020 - 2022