Himalaya: Listen. Learn. Grow.
"Iscarcely know. It was strange and fantastic. It was a vision of the beginningsof the world, the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve -- que sais-je? -- it was ahymn to the beauty of the human form, male and female, and the praise ofNature, sublime, indifferent, lovely, and cruel. It gave you an awful sense ofthe infinity of space and of the endlessness of time. Because he painted thetrees I see about me every day, the cocoa-nuts, the banyans, the flamboyants,the alligator-pears, I have seen them ever since differently, as though therewere in them a spirit and a mystery which I am ever on the point of seizing andwhich forever escapes me. The colours were the colours familiar to me, and yetthey were different. They had a significance which was all their own. And thosenude men and women. They were of the earth, and yet apart from it. They seemedto possess something of the clay of which they were created, and at the sametime something divine. You saw man in the nakedness of his primeval instincts,and you were afraid, for you saw yourself. "
Dr. Coutrasshrugged his shoulders and smiled.
"You willlaugh at me. I am a materialist, and I am a gross, fat man -- Falstaff, eh? --the lyrical mode does not become me. I make myself ridiculous. But I have neverseen painting which made so deep an impression upon me. Tenez, I had just thesame feeling as when I went to the Sistine Chapel in Rome. There too I was awedby the greatness of the man who had painted that ceiling. It was genius, and itwas stupendous and overwhelming. I felt small and insignificant. But you areprepared for the greatness of Michael Angelo. Nothing had prepared me for theimmense surprise of these pictures in a native hut, far away from civilisation,in a fold of the mountain above Taravao. And Michael Angelo is sane andhealthy. Those great works of his have the calm of the sublime; but here,notwithstanding beauty, was something troubling. I do not know what it was. Itmade me uneasy. It gave me the impression you get when you are sitting nextdoor to a room that you know is empty, but in which, you know not why, you havea dreadful consciousness that notwithstanding there is someone. You scoldyourself; you know it is only your nerves -- and yet, and yet. . . In a littlewhile it is impossible to resist the terror that seizes you, and you arehelpless in the clutch of an unseen horror. Yes; I confess I was not altogethersorry when I heard that those strange masterpieces had been destroyed. "