afternoon (in a billet).
What shall I say to you on this strange January afternoon, when thunder is followed by snow?
Our billet provides us with many commodities, but above all with an intoxicating beauty and poetry. Imagine a lake in a park sheltered by high hills, and a castle, or, rather, a splendid country house. We lodge in the domestic offices, but I don’t need any wonderful home comforts to perfect the dream-like existence that I have led here for three days. Last night we were visited by some singers. We were very far from the music that I love, but the popular and sentimental tunes were quite able to replace a finer art, because of the ardent conviction of the singer. The workman who sang these songs, which were decent, in fact moral (a rather questionable moral, perhaps, but still a moral), so put his soul into it that the timbre of his voice was altogether too moving for our hostesses. Here are the ideal people: perhaps their ideal may be said not to exist and to be purely negative, but months of suffering have taught me to honour it.
I have just seen that Charles Péguy died at the beginning of the war. How terribly French thought will have been mown down! What surpasses our understanding (and yet what is only natural) is that civilians are able to continue their normal life while we are in torment. I saw in the Cri de Paris, which drifted as far as here, a list of concert programmes. What a contrast! However, mother dear, the essential thing is to have known beauty in moments of grace.
The weather is frightful, but one can feel the coming of spring. At a time like this nothing can speak of individual hope, only of great general certainties.