Elogio de la soledad / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

In Praise of Solitude

Some would deem solitude the sinecure of the cowardly and the indifferent, in opposition to the criteria of the saints who renounced the world and by which they had a stopover of perfection and a port of contentment. In the dispute the authors of the ascetic opinion accredit superior wisdom. It will always be necessary for the cultivators of beauty and good, those consecrated by misfortune, to take shelter in the mute asylum of solitude, perhaps the only refuge of those who seem to be from another time, disconcerted by progress. Too tall for egotism, they are not obeyed by many who separate themselves from their fellow men. Such a resolution often favors the opposite cause, because it was thus invoked by a man in his discharge:
     Indifference does not taint my solitary life; past and present pains move me; I have felt myself a prisoner in the slave quarters; I have staggered with the drunk helots to inspire a love of restraint; I blush from ignominious slavery; I am hurt by the invincible melancholy of the conquered races. The captives of Muslim barbarism, the persecuted Jews in Russia, the miserable who are piled up at night like the dead in the city of the Thames, are my brothers and I love them. I take up the newspaper, not like the financier to have news of his fortune, but rather so I can have news of my family, which is all of humanity. I don’t avoid my sentinel’s duty toward all that is weak and is beautiful, retiring to my cell of study; I am the friend to the paladins who vainly sought death in the risk of the final long and disgraced battle, and my memory is the forsaken cypress over the grave of the anonymous heroes. I am not ashamed of chivalrous tributes nor of antiquated gallantries, nor do I abstain from plucking in the mud of vice the dislodged pearl of dew. I avoid the parallel abysses of flesh and death, taking pleasure in the pure affection of glory; at night in dreams I hear its promises and I am, by the miracle of that love, as free from earthly ties as that mystic when he knew he was loved by the mother of Jesus. History has told me that in the Middle Ages the noble souls were all extinguished in the cloisters, and that the evil were left with the dominion and population of the world; and experience, which confirms this teaching, when it gives me proof of the veracity that Cervantes made his hero sterile, forces me to imitate the Sun, singular, generous and proud.
     Thus was solitude defended by one, whose afflicted spirit was so sensible, that he could be represented by the image of a lake in accord even with the most tenuous aura, and in whose heart would be prolonged all noises, until they sounded remote.

La torre de Timón (1925)

{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }

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