Monday, August 11, 2014

De Materie, Part IV, Libretto

Dreams of beautiful death and eternal desire,
Splendour of catching and feeling in steady arms,
Beauty, pressed to the loudly pounding heart,

Splendour of holding each other in a fiery embrace,
Blessedness released in wordless compassion,
Blessedness itself in the lifting of all pain.

O, desire! The billow break over me,
By the dark spray of the thrilled waves,
To see how life perishes around me.

But not Love, while staring
At the quiet glow of your open face,
United with you, journeying with you to eternity ....!

Madame Curie (spoken):
... Pierre, my Pierre. There you lie, like a wounded man with bandaged head resting in sleep.

... Your lips that I once called greedy are pale and discoloured. Your little beard is turning gray.

... We placed you in your coffin on Saturday morning, and I supported your head as they carried you. We kissed your cold face for the last time. Then l placed some branches of periwinkle from the garden in the coffin, together with the little portrait of me that you called “the diligent student,” and that you loved.

... Your coffin is closed and I will never see you again. I forbid them to cover it with the terrible black drapes. I cover it with flowers and sit near it.

The importance of radium for the point of view of theories in general has been decisive. The history of the discovery and isolation of the substance has delivered the proof for the hypothesis that I formulated, according to which ... The chemical work needed to isolate the radium in the form of a pure salt, and to characterize it as a new element was above all my work ... And the substances which l have termed radioactive ... l have used ... l have accomplished ... l have determined ... l have obtained ....
This work (…) is very closely related to the work that we performed together. I therefore believe that I correctly interpret the action of the Academy of Sciences when I conclude that the great distinction that they have bestowed upon me has been motivated by this collaborative work, and is therefore also an homage to the memory of Pierre Curie.

My dearest Pierre, you are never for one moment out of my thoughts, my head bursts, and my thoughts are muddled. I cannot comprehend that I must continue to live without seeing you, without smiling as the dear partner of my life. My Pierre, I arose after sleeping quite well, relatively calm. It is scarcely a quarter of an hour later, and I wish to shout like a wild beast.

... The whole world is talking. But I see Pierre on his deathbed.

My little Pierre, I would like to be able to tell you that the golden ram is flowering, that the wisteria and the hawthorn and the irises are in bloom—you would have loved that. I would also like to tell you that I have been appointed to your chair, and that there were even some imbeciles who congratulated me.

I spend all my time in the laboratory. I do not think that there is anything that I will be able to enjoy apart from perhaps scientific work—and no, not even that. For should I succeed, I could not bear it if you were not aware of it.

Excerpts from:
·       Willem Kloos, Verzen (Verses), 1894/1948
·       diary kept by Marie Curie after the death of her husband in 1906
·       Marie Curie’s acceptance speech upon receiving the Nobel Prize in 1911, as recorded in Françoise Giroud, Une femme honorable (Librairie Arthème Fayard, 1981)

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