Notre-Dame de Paris

By Victor Hugo ; Alban Krailsheimer | Go to book overview

III
MONSIEUR LE CARDINAL

POOR Gringoire! The crash of all the great double petards on St John's day, a volley from a score of arquebuses, the detonation of that famous serpentine in the Billy tower, which killed seven Burgundians in one go on Sunday, 29 December 1465 during the siege of Paris, the explosion of all the gunpowder in the magazine at the Porte du Temple, none of that could have split his eardrums more brutally at that solemn and dramatic moment than those few words from an usher's mouth: 'His Eminence Monseigneur the Cardinal de Bourbon.'

Not that Pierre Gringoire felt any fear, or contempt, for the cardinal. He was neither so weak nor so arrogant. A genuine eclectic, as we should say today, Gringoire was one of those spirits, at once elevated, firm, moderate, and calm, who always manage to preserve a balance (stare in dimidio rerum) full of reason and liberal philosophy, while paying cardinals their due. Wisdom, like a second Ariadne, seems to have given this precious, unbroken line of philosophers a ball of thread which they have been unwinding since the world began through the labyrinth of human affairs. They are to be found in every age, always the same, that is always in tune with the age. Setting aside our Pierre Gringoire, who would be their representative in the fifteenth century if we succeeded in restoring to him the renown he deserves, it was certainly their spirit which inspired Father Du Breul in the sixteenth century when he wrote these sublimely simple words, worthy of any century: 'I am a Parisian by nation and a parrhesian by speech, since parrhesia in Greek means liberty of speech; thus have I dealt even with my lords the cardinals, uncle and brother of my lord the Prince de Conti; albeit respecting their greatness and without offending anyone in their entourage, no mean feat.'

-38-

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