Showing posts with label Georges Sand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Georges Sand. Show all posts

17 August 2022

Translation: Georges Sand on the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by Artists outside of Paris - Part 4

Camille Corot, Barbizon, 1850

Well, when you have lead him through all the centers from which social life radiates, or on all the pathways through which it functions, when you have taught him what industry, science, art and politics are, there is still one thing which he will not think of if you do not show him, and this thing is religious respect for beauty in nature. Therein lies a deep source of calm and everlasting joy, an immersion of one’s being in the mysterious sources from which it has arisen, a notion of life both positive and pious, the clear and complete idea of which your machines, ships, manufacturing industries, theaters and churches will not have given him. He will have learned how life yields or wastes itself, how man uses himself up; he will not know how life reproduces and renews itself, how man feels and how he belongs. Most of the time, the disorder of social existence makes us act without knowing why and makes us mistake our passions and appetites for real needs. Looking inward is the thing that we are most lacking and from which everything turns us away. Society has launched itself full-steam into an artificial life in every way. We need to answer our appetites and vanities, which come in all shapes and sizes. Life has no other goal, no other illusion, no other promise in the esteem of the masses.

Let’s react a little, that is, as much as we can, because, alas, it will still be too little against this torrent that sweeps our offspring into its muddy waters. Let us not reduce our horizons to the delimited space of a field or the fence around a vegetable garden. Let us open space to the child’s thinking; let us make him drink the poetry of this creation that our industries tend to denature completely at a frightening speed. What? Until now, the young man who deeply feels this poetry is an exceptional being, because, in most families nowadays, we are convinced that contemplation is a waste of time, that dreaming is a lazy habit or a tendency toward madness. Yet, we are sensitive to the beauty of a landscape, and would not want our pupil to be so brutal as to not see it.

I know this, I recognize it, because I am not among those who systematically make war on the bourgeoisie. I have never crusaded against local greengrocers. I am convinced that one can sell capers and cloves, and still be well aware that they are lovable plants, not only because they bring in money, but also because they are gracious and charming. I believe that one can be a good peasant and make a deep furrow without being deaf to the lark’s song or insensitive to the smell of the hawthorn. I would even prefer it this way. I wish that one could be a perfect notary and poet, from time to time, while walking through the countryside or crossing the Seine. I want all men to be complete and that no one prohibits them from any kind of initiation. It is a preconception to believe that one must acquaint oneself with the delicacies of language, with the color arrays of the palette, the technique of the arts for becoming oneself a nuanced critic and an exquisitely sensitive person. Self-expression is a learned ability, but appreciation is a need, and therefore a universal right. It is the mission of artists to bring it to light and to consecrate it; but let us invite all men to a helping of it, in order to experience its joy and to learn to seek to savor it, without thinking that they must give up being good local greengrocers, good farm workers or impeccable notaries, if that be their vocation.

07 December 2021

Translation: Georges Sand on the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by Artists outside of Paris - Part 3

Augustin Enfantin, An Artist Painting in the Forest of Fontainebleau

The Fontainebleau forest is not just beautiful because of its vegetation; its terrain features extremely graceful and elegant movements. At each step, its rock formations offer a magnificent decor, austere or delightful. However, these lovely clearings, this unexpected chaos, these melancholic sands would become sad, perhaps even vulgar if they were denuded. The natural sciences also have the right to protest against the destruction of the ground-level plants, which would disappear with the drying of the atmosphere when the tall trees fall. The botanist and the entomologist are serious people who count just as much as the painter and the poet; but even more important than these elites is, I repeat, human kind, whose noble enjoyments we should not impoverish, especially so soon after the atrocious wars that have spoiled and destroyed so many sacred things in nature and civilization. We are all French and we all have, or nearly all of us, children or grandchildren whom we take by the hand to go on walks, with the idea of—regardless of whether we belong to the well-off or not so well-off classes—initiating them to the feeling of life that is in us. In all the places we are with them, we make them observe everything they are supposed to understand, a ship, a train on its tracks, a marketplace, a church, a river, a mountain, or a town. From the gingerbread shop where the lower proletariat look at simple shapes of men and animals, to the museums where the bourgeois leads his progeny and explains what he admires as well as he can; from the furrow where the peasant’s child picks up a flower or a stone all the way to the great royal parks and our public gardens, where both rich and poor can learn by looking; all of these places are a sanctuary for the initiation of a child or the adult who has been developmentally deprived, who wants to exit this childhood that has lasted too long. I know very well that there is a dark or chattering, evil or impassioned proletariat that only dreams of social struggle, looks at nothing and does not take any care to elevate its spirit to the level of the destiny it seeks; but there is also a universal proletariat, the child, the ignorant among all the classes, those we can still shape for social life and for the struggles of the future that are better understood and better positioned. Each one of us has this particular one close at hand because it’s his favorite pupil, or the infant he carries in his arms. We take him on walks, begin his education, explain new objects to him; if the pupil is intelligent, soon he shows an interest in all the things that existence offers for possession, by its very nature or in thought.

23 November 2021

Translation: Georges Sand on the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by Artists outside of Paris - Part 2

The Edge of the Woods at Monts-Girard, Fontainebleau Forest, Théodore Rousseau

Therefore, the great plants are central to life, spreading their benefits near and far. And while it is dangerous or harmful to live under their direct shadow eternally, it is well-proven that foregoing the oxygen they release would fatally change the atmospheric conditions that support human life. It would be like removing large fans that recirculate the air and break up the electricity over our heads; it would also be impoverishing the soil and it subcutaneous circulation, if you will.

Cultural forces scrape, comb and cleanse this delicate bark. This is a necessary kind of upkeep; however, certain parts of rocky or forested areas must be spared this monumental razing and thus conserve the moisture that fertilizes the subsoil over great distances. There is very little visible water in the sands and rocks of Fontainebleau, but the subsoil that has made it possible for trees to live there for so long possesses an unusual richness with extensive repercussions. If you remove the trees that, through their shadows, provide the earth with the coolness their roots drink, you destroy a necessary harmony, essential to the environment you inhabit.

But let us not narrow down the scope of the issue. Not everyone is capable of conducting a detailed study of the oak trees and sandstones of Fontainebleau. Not everyone even wants to try, but everyone has the right to admire the beauty of such things. And there are many more people who are able to feel such beauty than artists interested in communicating it. Everyone has a seedling of intelligence and poetry within them, things that do not require a great deal of education or specialization. Therefore, everyone has a right to admire the beauty and poetry of our forests, and especially this one, one of the marvels of the world. Destroying it would be, morally speaking, legal theft, a truly savage attack on this right to intellectual property, which makes whomever possesses nothing but the sight of beautiful things equal to and, sometimes superior to, their owner.

There should be certain limits, dictated by nature, to the craze for individual property. Can we claim that those who have the means to buy it can share, sell and monopolize the atmosphere? If this were possible, can you imagine each proprietor sweeping his corner of the sky, piling the clouds in his neighbor’s yard, or according to his tastes, parking them in front of his property and demanding a law that would prevent those without money from watching golden sunsets or the amazing splendor of clouds chased away by a storm? I hope that this “happy” era will never dawn, but I believe that the destruction of the beautiful forests is an equally monstrous dream and that we should not withdraw the great trees from the intellectual public domain more than we should do away with their salubrious effects on public hygiene. They are just as sacred as the fecund clouds with which they constantly communicate; we must protect and respect them and never give them up to the barbaric whims or egotistical needs of the individual. Beautiful and majestic until their deaths, they belong to our descendants just like they did to our ancestors. They are the eternal temples whose powerful architecture and ornamental leafs always renew themselves, the sanctuaries of silence and reverie, where successive generations have the right to go and reflect, searching for this serious notion of grandeur, which every human being can feel and needs deep inside.  

Read Part III

04 November 2021

Translation: Georges Sand on the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by Artists outside of Paris - Part 1

Theodore Rousseau, Forest of Fontainebleau, 

Here is a letter I received:

“The President of the Republic most favorably received the artists’ petition; nevertheless, the tender for most of the lots took place on the originally planned day.”

“In order to prevent such great mutilations in the future, the signatories of the petition formed an artistic committee for the protection of the Fontainebleau forest, and, in order to better clarify their goal, unanimously voted on the following resolution:

“The forest of Fontainebleau must become part of our national and historic monuments, and it is most important to conserve it so artists and tourists can continue to admire it. Furthermore, it’s current division into two parts, of artistic and not-of-artistic interest, should not be accepted. The content of this letter cannot be used against its authors.”

I don’t really know what has happened as far as the forest of Fontainebleau is concerned, but that is not important. I am not criticizing something of which I am unaware, but supporting every effort made to conserve this natural monument, which the petitioners have very logically classified among our national monuments. Dividing it, selling it, would be destroying it, and I do not hesitate to swear that that is sacrilegious. It would be yet another shameful act to add to the fires that consumed Paris. 

It is indeed a sad era when, on the one hand, riots have destroyed the archives of civilization, while, on the other hand, the State, which represents order and conservation, destroys or threatens the great works of time and nature. Whether both are transformed to ruins or cash does not minimize the reality of the destruction, and I am not sure I can say that, in comparing both these vandalisms, the one carried out in cold blood, legally, and after deliberation would be the more stupid or shameful. 

The petitioners who are asking me to join my efforts to theirs, and to whom I hereby pronounce my adhesion publicly, are right to invoke the needs of the artists and the enjoyment of tourists; but there are yet other reasons to invoke, because public opinion is made up of the perfectly disdainful mediocrity of the small number of lovers who are attracted to nature. I think we can aim a little higher on this issue and appeal to the experts to show that our centuries-old forests are an essential element of our physical balance, that they conserve in their sanctuaries principles of life that we cannot just neutralize with impunity, and that all of the inhabitants of France have an immediate interest in not allowing France to be denuded of its vast shadow-casters, its humidity reservoirs that are necessary to the air they breathe and the soil they work.

An illustrious friend, the world-class poet that has just passed away, Théophile Gautier, lived with paradoxes he did not just blindly believe. One fine day, he said to us that, as compared to us, plants were sucking up our breathable air, and that his personal hygienic ideal was to live in a garden made up of asphalt-laden alleys with upholstered chairs and constantly lit houkas in place of flowerbeds.

Someone asked him to take note that, while plants absorb part of our air supply, they also give us back a hundredfold nutritious molecular elements without which we would die. He knew this very well, because he knew a lot, and he could uphold theses against himself that no one else could have better argued.   

Read Part II