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« Kierkegaard, "A True Friendship" (part 2) | Main | The Dance of Death »
Wednesday
Jul292009

Kierkegaard, "A True Friendship" (part 1)

The first part of a selection from a work by this Danish man of letters.  You can find the original in this volume.

So we are friends, Edward and I; a true friendship, a beautiful relationship exists between us, one unlike any that has existed since the halcyon days of Ancient Greece.  We soon became confidants and, after having involved him in a plethora of observations regarding Cordelia, I almost succeeded in making him confess his secret.  It is said that as easily as secrets come together, so do they slip away.  Poor fellow, so often has he sighed already.  He decks himself out each time she comes by; from there he walks her home in the evening, his heart throbbing at the thought of her arm grazing his.  And they stroll home, gazing at the stars, he rings the outside doorbell, she disappears, he despairs – but he hopes and waits for next time.  He still has not had the courage to set foot across her threshold, he whose own apartment is so exquisite.  Although I cannot help but silently mock Edward in my mind there is indeed something cute about his childishness.  And although I imagine myself otherwise as rather skilled in all these erotic concepts, I have never observed that condition, a lover's fear or trembling, that is to say, to the degree that it robs me of my composure which I can usually maintain.  But this instance is such that it actually makes me stronger.  Perhaps one would say I have never really been in love – perhaps.  I have reprimanded Edward; I have encouraged him to rely on our friendship.  Tomorrow he shall take a decisive step, personally go over and invite her out.  I have made him keen on the desperate idea of asking me to go with him; this I have promised him.  He takes it as an extraordinary act of friendship.  The apartment is just how I want it, with the door opening into the living room.  Should she have the slightest doubt about the meaning of my appearance, my appearance shall yet again confound everything.

I have not been accustomed previously to preparing myself for conversation, and now I see the necessity of talking with her aunt.  Namely, I have taken upon myself the hateful task of conversing with her, therewith concealing Edward's love-struck movements towards Cordelia.  The aunt used to reside in the country, and from both my painstaking studies of agronomic documents and the aunt's wisdom grounded in experience, I continue to make significant progress in my insights and capabilities.

At her aunt's I do whatever I please; she regards me as a staid and respectable person whom one can always enjoy inviting along – not like one of those waggish Junkers.   With Cordelia I do not think of being particularly well-regarded.  Owing to her purely innocent femininity she is someone who demands that every man pay her courtship, and yet she senses all too greatly the rebelliousness of my existence.

So as I sit in that cozy salon and as she, like some good angel, spreads her charm and grace everywhere and over everyone,  I come into contiguity with her, beyond good and evil, where I sometimes become impatient within and am tempted to abandon my cover.  For even though I sit before everyone's eyes in the living room, I also sit and lurk.  I am tempted to grab her hand, to embrace the entire girl, to hide her within me out of fear that someone will rob me of her.  Or as Edward and I leave them in the evening, as she extends her hand to me to say goodbye, as I hold it in mine, sometimes I find it difficult to let the bird slip out from my fingers.  Patience – quod antea fuit impetus, nunc ratio est ***– may now be spun in a completely different way in my loom, and suddenly I let all of passion's might burst forth.  We do not debase this moment with sweets, with untimely anticipation – and you can thank me for that, my dear Cordelia.  I work on developing contradistinctions, opposites; I tense Cupid's bow to wound even more deeply.  And like an archer I release the string, tense it again, hear its song anew, which is my war anthem, but I still do not aim nor place an arrow on the string.

As a limited number of people often come in contact with one another in the same room, so there develops a tradition as to each person's place, his stage, that remains in one's mind like a picture which can be unrolled at will, a map of the terrain.  This is how we are now in the Wahlske house: a picture all together.  The general scene: seated on the sofa, the aunt moves the little sewing table towards her; Cordelia moves to accommodate her; she moves it up to the coffee table in front of the sofa; then Edward follows, and I follow Edward.  Edward wants secrecy, mysteriousness, he wants to whisper; and in general he whispers so well as to seem completely mute.  I, on the other hand, make no mystery of my effusions to the aunt, market square prices, a calculation as to how many pots of milk would make a pound of butter through the liquid medium and the butter's core dialectic.  These really are things to which every young girl cannot just listen without being harmed; even more rarely does it devolve into a solid, fundamental and constructive conversation that ennobles the head and heart.  I generally have my back to the coffee table and to Edward and Cordelia's chatter, and I chat away with the aunt.  And is it not of our great and undoubted nature in its creations; what is butter if not a delicious gift; what a magnificent result of nature and art.  Her aunt would certainly be in no condition to listen to what is being said between Edward and Cordelia, assuming something is actually being said.  That much I promised Edward and I am a man of my word.  I, however, can hear every word exchanged, every movement.  For me this is paramount because one doesn't know what a person in his despair might venture.  The most cautious and dispirited among us sometimes attempt the most desperate acts. Nevertheless, I have nothing of the kind to undertake with these two people, I can see that on Cordelia's face.  And I am the constant invisible presence between her and Edward.

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*** More properly, "Quod nunc ratio est, impetus ante fuit," from Horace [What we justify today as reasonable, we deemed yesterday an act of violence]. 

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