Behlül stretched out his legs, and throwing back his head, laughed in the manner of a man who laughed with difficulty.
‘Ah,’ he said, ‘do you know, my friend? I laugh so as not to cry. Childish ideas of this kind give me the urge to cry. Women imagine poetic love affairs, and are satisfied with poems in their love affairs. A pretty sentence! You may sign your name under it and send it to one of the literary magazines; there will be thousands of naive people like you who would say of this, “oh! How beautiful!…”
Beautiful? Perhaps, but not true. Women imagine love affairs full of poetry, yes, in I don’t know what percentage of women’s brains, probably enough to constitute a majority, there are such romantic dreams with golden smiles above a pale blue heaven; but this dream is particular to only that place, to the clouds of those itty bitty brains. In life, in romance, if you speak of poetry to women, do you know what they will do? They will laugh, and inwardly, perhaps even out and out, say, “fool!”… Poetry? But my dear friend, this thing you say is all very well at fifteen. Then one thinks of walks in thick forests through whose trees the sun streams bit by bit, one dreams of letting go of the boat’s oars on moonlit nights, and of raptures between the warble of the sea and the flowers of the heavens that stretch out to eternity. What more, do I know? I passed over that phase so hastily that I can’t fully remember it. But love, real love, love in the real world, is none of these things. These may perhaps beguile women for a while, once, twice, at most three times they may be amused by these dreams, but a fourth time, never… All those women who hang upon poetry, finally unable to find it, for it is impossible for it to be found, while hiding the disappointment of being unable to find it, and even the hope of perchance finding it one day, look for what is actually found in love: truth. Yes, with all its materiality, the truth that is abstracted from those poems, those dreams, those flowers. Aren’t we men the same? There is a period of our lives such that at that moment, our thoughts depend on flying above the earth, on seeking the ambitious dreams that will satisfy their aspiration in the bounded source of the heavens; they rise, in order to pass these blues that deceive their eyes, in order to find something higher up, the air of another romance, they rise, but as they rise they discover more blues to pass through, those illusory horizons never end… How long does this journey through the heavens stretch out? That is a matter of humour, it can continue for so long that there is no possibility left of returning. Now, you look as if you will never return from there, never fall back to earth a little. I? I never even had a wish to fly. Those who flew and flew and fell, all those who were dragged along the ground with broken wings, and finally sought their soul’s sustenance in the soil, formed such effective lessons before my eyes, that I found it necessary to begin where they left off. I beg you, don’t tell me; I’m privy to the entire philosophy of you dreamers. Look, I understand what you want to say: you will tell me of the auroras of these heavenly journeys, of the milky ways, the rainbows, the colourful suns, the deluges of light, of the headiness of all these beauties. A pile of poetry!… However, women are the true poetry, they are bouquets composed of these flowers, who smile at you with redolent memories, from delicate vases on the gilded shelves of your room. This, I think, is what constitutes love’s philosophy: to be able to tie as many of these bouquets as possible… The love life is a flower garden, and there are some who pass through it with admiring eyes, who, in the hope of being able to pluck something a little further away, pass on, pass on, until finally there is nothing left for them to pluck, and it is impossible to turn back; on their tombstones may be carved, they did not live. This is such a class that it is composed of the inept, the shy, the cowardly. A little above this class are those who exit each with a single bud pinned to their lapel, who have taken in all of the sensations of this love garden: the temperate. Then there are those who, as soon as they come to the edge of the flower garden, say, ‘oh! How beautiful!…’ with empty hands, or who, a few steps further, with a bunch of withered weeds in their palms, fall down and sleep right there, beneath the somnolent shade of a tree: the lazy and the weary… Then the victors, the winners, the Alexanders and the Dariuses, the Genghises and the Tamburlaines, we, I. Yes, I who gather the flowers by the armful, by the skirtful, I who feel an unending, unquenchable desire to gather… If you only saw what beautiful bouquets I have, of flowers pulled up with a strong tug of my hand, or cut with a sharp snap of my teeth, or collected with many difficulties among the bushes, only reached by leaving sacrificial drops of the blood of my desires on its thorns, and occasionally, here and there taken out of kindness. Among these, roses with their sensual laughter, narcissi with their drowsy looks of love, carnations with their hot and passionate breaths, with their thousand meanings wild roses, gillyflowers, tulips, hyacinths, all those flowers that fill the poet’s lexicon, here and there little, itty bitty jasmines and lilies of the valley, even weeds thought to be useless and soulless, those pitiable weeds with their humble, lowly, servile attitudes… These bouquets will accumulate, accumulate so much that at last there will be no empty spaces on the shelves of my room. These will form a memory garden in my room, perpetuating that flower garden of love. Then, and only then, I will place, right in the middle of my room, a lily, a clean, unblemished lily that covers all those memories with the brilliance of its innocence, the white purity of virginity. This, as the others wither, will scatter the dewy breeze of joy and freshness, itself rising with the happiness of being alive, will also give those poor, faded memories a share of delight; so, all together before my eyes, living in an air of heady redolence, I will sleep intoxicated in flowery dreams; do you understand, my friend? Then I will sleep…’
All at once Behlül caught up his walking stick.
‘Do you see, now? It doesn’t do to open this subject with me; I was forgetting my errands. There is a great country outing tomorrow. They asked me to get them a thousand things. If they aren’t got in time, my uncle’s picnic is ruined…’
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