A little garden

One of the most beau­ti­ful per­sons that Vic­tor Hugo describes in his book Les Mis­érables, is the Bish­op of Digne. This man spends his whole salary on the poor and the ill, and treats every per­son with­out prej­u­dice. The fol­low­ing pas­sage describes how every night he spends some hours in his gar­den before going to bed.

He thought of the grandeur and pres­ence of God; of the future eter­ni­ty, that strange mys­tery; of the eter­ni­ty past, a mys­tery still more strange; of all the infini­ties, which pierced their way into all his sens­es, beneath his eyes; and, with­out seek­ing to com­pre­hend the incom­pre­hen­si­ble, he gazed upon it. He did not study God; he was daz­zled by him. He con­sid­ered those mag­nif­i­cent con­junc­tions of atoms, which com­mu­ni­cate aspects to mat­ter, reveal forces by ver­i­fy­ing them, cre­ate indi­vid­u­al­i­ties in uni­ty, pro­por­tions in extent, the innu­mer­able in the infi­nite, and, through light, pro­duce beau­ty. These con­junc­tions are formed and dis­solved inces­sant­ly; hence life and death.

He seat­ed him­self on a wood­en bench, with his back against a decrepit vine; he gazed at the stars, past the puny and stunt­ed sil­hou­ettes of his fruit-trees. This quar­ter of an acre, so poor­ly plant­ed, so encum­bered with mean build­ings and sheds, was dear to him, and sat­is­fied his wants.

What more was need­ed by this old man, who divid­ed the leisure of his life, where there was so lit­tle leisure, between gar­den­ing in the day­time and con­tem­pla­tion at night? Was not this nar­row enclo­sure, with the heav­ens for a ceil­ing, suf­fi­cient to enable him to adore God in his most divine works, in turn? Does not this com­pre­hend all, in fact? and what is there left to desire beyond it? A lit­tle gar­den in which to walk, and immen­si­ty in which to dream. At one’s feet that which can be cul­ti­vat­ed and plucked; over head that which one can study and med­i­tate upon: some flow­ers on earth, and all the stars in the sky.

Vic­tor Hugo, 1862. Les Mis­érables. Vol. 1, Book 1, Chap­ter 8.