Passions of the youth of the heart

“There is, in sooth, a boundless enjoyment in the possession of a young, scarce-budded soul! It is like a floweret which exhales its best perfume at the kiss of the first ray of the sun. You should pluck the flower at that moment, and, breathing its fragrance to the full, cast it upon the road: perchance someone will pick it up! I feel within me that insatiate hunger which devours everything it meets upon the way; I look upon the sufferings and joys of others only from the point of view of their relation to myself, regarding them as the nutriment which sustains my spiritual forces. I myself am no longer capable of committing follies under the influence of passion; with me, ambition has been repressed by circumstances, but it has emerged in another form, because ambition is nothing more nor less than a thirst for power, and my chief pleasure is to make everything that surrounds me subject to my will. To arouse the feeling of love, devotion and awe towards oneself—is not that the first sign, and the greatest triumph, of power? To be the cause of suffering and joy to another—without in the least possessing any definite right to be so—is not that the sweetest food for our pride? And what is happiness?–Satisfied pride. Were I to consider myself the best, the most powerful man in the world, I should be happy; were all to love me, I should find within me inexhaustible springs of love. Evil begets evil; the first suffering gives us the conception of the satisfaction of torturing another. The idea of evil cannot enter the mind without arousing a desire to put it actually into practice. “Ideas are organic entities,” someone has said. The very fact of their birth endows them with form, and that form is action. He in whose brain the most ideas are born accomplishes the most. From that cause a genius, chained to an official desk, must die or go mad, just as it often happens that a man of powerful constitution, and at the same time of sedentary life and simple habits, dies of an apoplectic stroke.

Passions are naught but ideas in their first development; they are an attribute of the youth of the heart, and foolish is he who thinks that he will be agitated by them all his life. Many quiet rivers begin their course as noisy waterfalls, and there is not a single stream which will leap or foam throughout its way to the sea. That quietness, however, is frequently the sign of great, though latent, strength. The fulness and depth of feelings and thoughts do not admit of frenzied outbursts. In suffering and in enjoyment the soul renders itself a strict account of all it experiences and convinces itself that such things must be. It knows that, but for storms, the constant heat of the sun would dry it up! It imbues itself with its own life—pets and punishes itself like a favourite child. It is only in that highest state of self-knowledge that a man can appreciate the divine justice.”

Mikhail Lermontov, A Hero of our Time (DOWNLOAD free ebook)

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