Marianna Alcoforado.

The Letters of a Portuguese Nun online

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her whom you love. Your bad treatment and disdain have broken me down
so far that at times I do not dare to think I could be jealous and yet
not displease you, and I go so far as to think that I should be doing
the greatest wrong in the world were I to upbraid you. I am often
convinced that I ought not to let you see, so madly as I do, feelings
which you disown. An officer has now been waiting long for this letter.
I had resolved to write it in such a way that you might receive it
without annoyance, but as it is, it is too extravagant, and I must
close it. Alas! I cannot bring myself to this. I seem to be speaking
to you whilst I write, and you seem to be more present to me. The
next[31] letter shall neither be so long nor so troublesome; you may
open and read it assured of this. It is true that I ought not to speak
of a passion which displeases you, and I will not speak of it again.
In a few days it will be a year since I gave myself up to you without
reserve. Your love seemed to me very warm and sincere, and I should
never have thought that my favours would so annoy you as to oblige
you to voyage five hundred leagues and expose yourself to the risk of
shipwreck to escape from them. I have not deserved such treatment as
this at any man’s hands. You may remember my modesty, my shame, and my
confusion, but you do not remember what would make you love me in spite
of yourself. The officer who is to carry you this letter sends to me
for the fourth time to say that he wishes to be gone. How pressing he
is! doubtless he is leaving some unhappy lady in this country.

Good-bye. It costs me more to finish this letter than it cost you to
quit me, perhaps for ever. Good-bye. I do not dare give you a thousand
names of love, nor abandon myself to all my feelings without restraint.
I love you a thousand times more than my life, and a thousand times
more than I think for. How dear you are to me, and yet how cruel! You
do not write to me. I could not help saying this to you again. But I
am beginning afresh, and the officer will be gone. What matters it?
Let him go. ’Tis not so much for your sake that I write as for my own.
I only seek some solace. Besides, the very length of my letter will
frighten you, and you will not read it. What have I done to be so
unhappy? And why have you poisoned my life? Why was I not born in some
other country? Good-bye, and forgive me. I dare not now pray you to
love me. See to what my fate has brought me. Good-bye!




THIRD LETTER

... Que este pequeno penhor de meus longos suspiros vá ante
os seus olhos. Muitas outras cousas desejo, mas esta me seria
assaz.’ - BERNARDIM RIBEIRO, _Saudades_, cap. i.


What will become of me, and what would you have me do? How far I am now
from all that I had looked forward to! I hoped that you would write me
from every place you passed through, and that your letters would be
very long ones, - that you would feed my love by the hope of seeing
you again, that full trust in your fidelity would give me some sort of
rest, and that I should then remain in a state bearable enough, and
without the extremes of sorrow. I had even thought of some poor plans
of endeavouring, as far as possible, my own cure, in case I could but
once assure myself that you had entirely forgotten me. The distance
which you are at, certain impulses of devotion, the fear of entirely
destroying the remainder of my health by so many wakeful nights and
so many cares, the improbability of your return, the coldness of your
love, and your last good-byes, your departure based on such cruel
pretexts, and a thousand other reasons which are only too good and
too useless, seemed to offer me a safe refuge if I needed one. Having
indeed only myself to reckon with, I could never have been on my guard
against all my weaknesses, nor foresee all that I now suffer. Ah! how
pitiful it is for me, - I that am not able to share with you my sorrows,
and must be all alone in my grief! This thought is killing me, and I
almost die of horror when I think that you were never really affected
by all the bliss that we shared. Yes, I understand now the untruth of
all your transports. You betrayed me every time you told me that your
supreme delight was to be alone with me. It is to my importunities
alone that I owe your warmth and passion. Deliberately and in cold
blood you formed a design to kindle my love; you only regarded my
passion as your triumph, and your heart was never deeply touched. Are
you not very wretched? and have you so little delicacy that you made no
other use of my love but this?

How then can it be that with such love I have not been able to make
you entirely happy? It is solely for love of you that I regret the
infinite pleasures you have lost. Can it be that you did not care to
enjoy them? Ah! if you only knew them you would doubtless find them
much greater than that of having deceived me, and you would have
experienced how much happier it is, and how much more poignant it is
to love violently than to be loved. I know not what I am, or what I do,
or what I wish for. I am torn asunder by a thousand contrary emotions.
Can a more deplorable state be imagined? I love you to distraction,
and therefore I spare you sufficiently not to dare to wish that the
same emotions should trouble you. I should kill myself or die of grief
without were I to be assured that you were never having any rest, that
your life was as anxious and disturbed as mine, that you were weeping
ceaselessly, and that everything was hateful to you. I cannot bear my
own sufferings, how then could I support the sorrow a thousand times
more grievous which yours would give me? I cannot, on the other hand,
make up my mind to wish that you should think no more of me; and to
speak frankly, I am furiously jealous of all that gives you pleasure,
and comes near to your heart and fancy in France. I know not why I
write to you. I perceive that you will only pity me, and I wish for
none of your pity. I hate myself when I look back on all that I have
sacrificed for you. I have lost my honour. I have exposed myself to the
anger of my parents, to all the severity of the laws of this country
against religious, and finally to your ingratitude, which has seemed
to me the greatest of all my evils. Withal, I feel that my remorse
is not real, and that I would willingly, with all my heart, have run
the greatest risks for the love of you, and that I experience a sad
pleasure in having risked my life and honour in your service. Ought not
all that I hold most dear to be at your disposal? Ought I not to be
satisfied at having employed it as I have done? Methinks, even, I am
not at all content with my sorrows, or the excess of my love, although
I cannot, alas! flatter myself sufficiently to be content with you. I
live, unfaithful that I am; I do as much to preserve my life as to lose
it. Ah! I am dying of shame. Is my despair then only in my letters? If
I loved you, as I have told you a thousand times, should I not have
been dead long ago? I have deceived you, and you may rightly complain
of me. Alas! why do you not complain of me? I saw you leave, I can
never hope to see you come back, and in spite of all I yet breathe! I
have deluded you. I ask your pardon, but do not grant it me. Treat me
harshly - say my love for you is too weak; be more hard to please; tell
me that you would have me die of love for your sake. Help me thus, I
conjure you, to overcome the weakness of my sex, and to put an end to
all my wavering in real despair. Doubtless a tragic end would force you
to think of me often, my memory would become dear to you, and perhaps
you would be really touched by so uncommon a death. Would not death be
better than the state to which you have brought me? Good-bye. How I
wish that I had never seen you. Ah! I feel how false this phrase is,
and I know at the very moment in which I write it that I had far rather
be unhappy in my love for you than never have seen you. Willingly, and
without a murmur, I consent to my evil fate, since it has not been your
wish to make it happier. Good-bye; promise me a few tender regrets if
I die of grief, or at least that you will let the violence of my love
give you a disgust and repulsion for everything else. This consolation
will suffice me, and if I must leave you for ever, I would wish not to
leave you to another woman. Would it not be very cruel indeed of you to
make use of my despair to render yourself more agreeable, and to let
it be seen that you have inspired the greatest passion in the world?
Good-bye once again. My letters are too long, and I do not regard you
sufficiently. I ask your pardon, and dare hope that you will show some
indulgence to a poor mad woman who was not so, as you know, before
she loved you. Good-bye. Methinks I too often speak to you of the
insufferable state in which I am, yet I thank you from the bottom of my
heart for the despair which you cause me, and I hate the peace which I
lived in before I knew you.

Good-bye! My love grows stronger each moment. Oh what a world of things
I have to tell you of!




FOURTH LETTER[32]

Ai gostos fugitivos!
Ai gloria já acabada e consumida!
Ai males tão esquivos!
Qual me deixais a vida!
Quão cheia de pezar! quão destruida!

CAMÕES, _Ode_ iii.


Methinks I do the greatest possible wrong to the feelings of my heart
in trying to make them known to you in writing. How happy should I be
could you judge of my passion by the violence of yours! But I must
not compare my feelings with yours, though I cannot help telling you,
much less strongly than I feel it, it is true, that you ought not to
maltreat me as you do by a forgetfulness which thrusts me into despair,
and which even for you is dishonourable. It is but fair that you should
allow me to complain of the evils which I clearly foresaw when I
perceived that you were resolved to forsake me. I well know now that I
deluded myself, thinking as I did that you would deal with me in better
faith than is usually the case, because the excess of my love put me,
it seemed, above all kind of suspicion, and merited more fidelity than
is ordinarily met with. But your wish to deceive me overruled the
justice you owe me for all that I have done for you. I should still be
unhappy even if you only loved me because I love you, and I would wish
to owe it all to your inclination alone. But so far is this from being
the case that I have not received a single letter from you for the last
six months. I put down all my misfortunes to the blindness with which I
gave myself up to love of you. Should I not have foreseen that the end
of my pleasure would come before that of my love? Could I expect you to
stay all your life in Portugal and give up both country and career and
think only of me? Nothing can lighten my sorrow, and the remembrance
of all that I enjoyed fills me with despair. What! is all my desire
then to be in vain? and shall I never see you again in my room with all
the ardour and passion which you once showed? But, alas! I am deceiving
myself, and I know too well that all the feelings that filled my head
and heart were only excited in you by a few pleasures, and that they
both ended at the same time. I ought then in those moments of supreme
happiness to have called reason to my aid to moderate the deadly excess
of my delight, and to foretell to me all that I am now suffering. But
I gave myself up to you entirely, and I was not in a state to think
of anything which would have poisoned my pleasure and prevented me
from fully enjoying the pledges of your ardent love. I was too much
delighted to feel that I was with you to think that you would one day
be far from me. I remember, however, having told you sometimes that
you would make me unhappy, but these fears were soon dissipated, and I
took pleasure in sacrificing them to you, and in giving myself up to
the enchantment and the faithlessness of your protests. I see clearly
the remedy for all the evils which I suffer, and I should be soon rid
of them if I loved you no more. But alas! what a remedy! I had rather
suffer still more than forget you. Does that, alas! depend on me? I
cannot reproach myself with having for a single moment wished to cease
to love you. You are more to be pitied than I am, and all my sufferings
are better than the cold pleasures which your French mistresses give
you. I do not envy you your indifference, and you make me pity you. I
defy you to forget me entirely. I flatter myself that I have put you in
a state in which you can enjoy but imperfect pleasures without me, and
I am happier than you because I am more occupied. Some little time ago
I was made portress of this convent. All who speak to me think that I
am mad. I know not what I answer them. The religious must be as mad as
myself to have thought me capable of taking care of anything. Oh how I
envy the good fortune of Manoel and Francisco![33] Why am I not always
with you, as they are? I would have followed you and waited upon you
with more goodwill, it is certain. To see you is all that I desire in
this world. At least remember me; for you to remember me will content
me, but I dare not make sure even of this. I used not to limit my hopes
to your remembrance of me when I saw you daily, but you have taught
me the necessity of submitting to all that you wish. Withal I do not
repent of having adored you; I am glad that you betrayed me, and your
absence, cruel though it is, and perhaps eternal, diminishes in no way
the violence of my love. I wish everybody to know it; I make no mystery
of it; and I pride myself on having done for you all that I did against
every kind of decorum. My honour and religion consist but in loving you
to distraction all my life through, since I have begun to love you. I
am not telling you all this to oblige you to write to me. Oh do not
force yourself; I only wish from you what comes spontaneously, and I
reject all the testimonies of your love which you can control. I shall
find pleasure in excusing you, because you will perhaps be glad not
to have the trouble of writing to me, and I feel deeply disposed to
pardon you all your faults. A French officer had the charity to talk
to me of you for three hours this morning; he told me that peace was
made with France.[34] If this is so could you not come and see me, and
take me to France? But I do not deserve it. Do as you please, for my
love no longer depends on the way in which you may treat me. I have
not been well for a single moment since you left, and my only pleasure
has been that of repeating your name a thousand times each day. Some
religious who know the deplorable state into which you have plunged me
often speak to me of you. I leave my room, where you so often used to
come to see me, as little as possible, and I constantly look at your
likeness, which is to me a thousand times clearer than life itself. It
gives me some pleasure, but also much sorrow, when I consider that I
shall perchance never see you again.

Why must it be that I shall possibly never see you again? Have you then
left me for ever? I am in despair. Your poor Marianna can no more; she
is almost fainting while she finishes this letter. Good-bye, Good-bye.
Have pity on me.




FIFTH LETTER

Estou pôsto sem medo
A tudo o que o fatal destino ordene:
Póde ser que cansado,
Ou seja tarde, ou cedo,
Com pena de penar-me, me despene.

CAMÕES, _Canção_ ix.


I am writing to you for the last time, and I hope to let you see by the
difference in the terms and manner of this letter that you have at last
persuaded me that you no longer love me, and that therefore I ought no
longer to love you. I will send you on the first opportunity all that
I still have of yours. Do not be afraid that I shall write to you; I
will not even put your name on the packet. With all these details I
have charged Dona Brites,[35] whom I have accustomed to confidences
very different from this. Her care will be less suspected than mine.
She will take all the necessary precautions, that I may be assured that
you have received the portrait and bracelets which you gave me. I wish
you to know, however, that for some days I have felt as if I could burn
and tear up these tokens of your love, once so dear to me. But I have
revealed such weakness to your eyes that you would perhaps never have
believed me capable of going to a like extremity. I wish, however, to
enjoy all the pain I have experienced in separating from them, and
cause you some vexation at least. I confess, to your shame and mine,
that I found myself more attached to these trifles than I should like
to tell you, and I felt that I had again need of all my reasoning
powers to enable me to get rid of each object in spite of my flattering
myself that I cared no more for you. But, provided with such good
reasons as mine, one always achieves the end one seeks. I have placed
them in the hands of Dona Brites. What tears this resolution cost me!
After a thousand different emotions and doubts which you know not of,
and of which I shall certainly not give you an account, I have conjured
her to speak no more to me of these baubles, and never to give them
back to me even though I should beg to see them once again, and, in a
word, to send them you without letting me know.

It is only since I have been employing all my efforts to heal myself
that I have come to know the excess of my love, and I fear that I
should not have dared to take it in hand had I foreseen so many
difficulties and such violence. I am persuaded that I should have
experienced less disagreeable emotions in loving you, ungrateful
though you are, than in quitting you for ever. I have found out that
you were less dear to me than my passion; and I have had hard work to
fight against it even after your insulting behaviour made you hateful
to me. The pride natural to my sex has not helped me to resolve aught
against you. Alas! I suffered your scorn, and I could have supported
your hate and all the jealousy which the attachment you might have had
for another woman could have caused me. I should have had at least some
passion to combat, but your indifference is insupportable to me. Your
impertinent protestations of friendship, and the ridiculous civilities
of your last letter, convince me that you have received all those which
I have written to you, that they have stirred no emotions in your
heart, and yet that you have read them. O ungrateful man! I am still
foolish enough to be in despair at not being able to flatter myself
that they have not reached you or been given into your hands. I detest
your frankness. Did I ever ask you to tell me the truth sincerely? Why
did you not leave me my love? You had only not to write; I did not seek
to be enlightened. Am I not unhappy enough with all my inability to
make the task of deceiving me difficult to you, and now at not being
able to exculpate you. Know that I am convinced that you are unworthy
of all my love, and that I understand all your base qualities. If,
however, all that I have done for you deserves that you should pay
some slight regard to the favours I ask of you, write no more to me, I
beg you, and help me to forget you entirely. If you were to show, even
slightly, that you had felt some grief at the reading of this letter,
perchance I should believe you. Perchance, also, your acknowledgment
and assent would vex and anger me, and all that would inflame my love
afresh. Do not then take any account of my life, or you would doubtless
overthrow all my plans, however you entered into them. I care not
to know the result of this letter, and I beg of you not to disturb
the peace which I am preparing for myself. Methinks you may content
yourself with the harm which you have already caused me, whatever be
the intention you formed to make me miserable. Do not tear me from
my state of uncertainty; I hope in time to combine with it something
like peace of heart. I promise not to hate you; indeed I distrust any
violent feelings too much to adventure that. I am persuaded that I
should find, it may be in this country, another lover more faithful and
handsomer; but, alas! who could make me feel love? Would a passion for
another man fill my thoughts? Has mine had any power over you? Have I
not experienced that a tender heart never forgets what first awakened
it to feelings it knew not that it was capable of? I have found that
all the feelings of such a heart are bound up with the idol it has
created for itself - that its first impressions, its first wounds,
can neither be healed nor effaced - that all the passions which offer
their help and attempt to fill and content it promise it but vainly an
emotion which it never feels again - that all the pleasures which it
seeks, without any desire of finding them, serve only to convince it
that nothing is so dear as the remembrance of its sorrows? Why have you
made me feel the imperfection and bitterness of an attachment which
cannot endure for ever, and all the evils that result from a violent
love, when it is not mutual? Why is it that blind inclination and
cruel fate agree as a rule in determining us in favour of those who
could only love others? Even if I could hope for some diversion in a
new engagement, and could find a man of good faith, I pity myself so
much that I should have great scruples in putting the worst man in the
world in the condition to which you have brought me; and although I
may not be obliged to spare you I could not make up my mind to avenge
myself so cruelly, even though it were to depend on me, by a change
which I certainly do not foresee. At this very moment I am seeking
excuses for you, and I understand that a religious is not as a rule
loveable. Methinks, however, if reason guided one’s choice one ought
to be more attached to them than to other women. Nothing prevents their
thinking constantly of their passion, and they are not turned aside by
a thousand things which divert and occupy the mind in the world. Surely
it cannot be very pleasing to see those whom one loves ever distracted
by a thousand trifles, and one must needs have but little delicacy to
suffer them (without being in despair at it) to talk of nothing but
assemblies, dress, and promenades. One is constantly exposed to fresh
jealousies, for they are tied down to attentions, politenesses, and
conversations with all. Who can be assured that they find no pleasure
in all these occasions, and that they always endure their husbands
with extreme disgust and never of their freewill? Ah, how they ought
to distrust a lover who does not make them render an exact account of
all, who believes easily and without disquiet what they tell him, who
in unruffled trust sees them bound to all these society duties. But I
do not seek to prove to you by good reasons that you ought to love me;
these are very ill means, and I have made use of much better, without
success. Too well do I know my fate to try to rise above it. I shall
be miserable all my life. Was I not so even when I saw you daily? I
was dying for fear that you would not be faithful. I wished to see
you every moment, and I could not. The danger you ran in entering
the convent troubled me. I almost died when you were with the army. I
was in despair at not being more beautiful and more worthy of you. I
used to murmur against my modest rank,[36] and I often thought that
the attachment you appeared to cherish for me would be hurtful to you
in some way. Methought I did not love you enough. I feared the anger
of my parents against you, and I was, in a word, in as lamentable a
state then as now. If you had shown me any signs of affection since you
left Portugal I should have made every effort to leave it, and I would
have disguised myself to go and find you. Ah, what would have became
of me if you had troubled no more about me after I had arrived in
France? - what confusion, what a false step, what depths of shame for my
family which is so dear to me since I have ceased to love you! I quite
understand, you see, that I might have been even more wretched than I
am. At least for once in my life I am speaking reasonably to you. How
delighted you will doubtless be at my moderation, and how pleased with
me? But I wish not to know it. I have already prayed you not to write
to me again, and I repeat it now. Have you never reflected on the way
in which you have treated me? Have you never considered that you owe
me more than any one else in the world? I have loved you as a mad woman
might. How I despised everything else!

Besides, you have not acted like an honourable man. You must have had


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Online LibraryMarianna AlcoforadoThe Letters of a Portuguese Nun → online text (page 3 of 8)