LITERATURE: Confessions – Loss

Augustine, on the death of someone very close to him, a boyhood friend:

‘Grief darkened my heart.’ (Lam. 5:17) Everything on which I set my gaze was death.  My home town became a torture to me; my father’s house a strange world of unhappiness; all that I had shared with him was without him transformed into a cruel torment.  My eyes looked for him everywhere, and he was not there.  I hated everything because they did not have him, nor could they now tell me ‘look, he is on the way’, as used to be the case when he was alive and absent from me.  I had become to myself a vast problem, and questioned my soul ‘Why are you sad, and why are you very distressed?’ but my soul did not know what reply to give.  If I had said to my soul ‘Put your trust in God’ (Ps.41:6,12) it would have had good reason not to obey.  For the very dear friend I had lost was a better and more real person than the [Manichee] phantom in which I would have been telling my soul to trust.  Only tears were sweet to me, and in my ‘soul’s delights’ (Ps.138:11) weeping had replaced my friend. (III.9)

One intriguing statement here is "as used to be the case when he was alive and absent from me." Of course, the preceding phrase, "nor could they tell me ‘look, he is on the way," defines the difference.  That difference is what fascinates.  Is "away" so very different than "gone" but for the possibility of reunion?   

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2 Responses to LITERATURE: Confessions – Loss

  1. Creechman says:

    I like the word arrangement, even in translation.

  2. susan says:

    Yes, that’s one thing that I hadn’t brought up in my reading of Confessions: the writing style and eloquence of the text. Perhaps because I’m not sure who to credit and would indeed love to be able to read Augustine knowing that not only are the thoughts, but the presentation his alone.

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