The Majesty of Trifles

By Victor Hugo

Nothing, in fact, is small, and any one who is affected by the profound penetrations of nature is aware of this fact. Although no absolute satisfaction is granted to philosophy, and though it can no more circumscribe the cause than limit the effect, the contemplator falls into unfathomable ecstasy when he watches all those decompositions of force which result in a bounteous unity. Everything of the planet benefits the rose, and no thinker would dare to say that the perfume of the hawthorn is useless to the constellations.

Who can calculate the passage of a molecule? Who among us knows whether the creations of worlds are not determined by the fall of grains of sand? Who is acquainted with the reciprocal ebb and flow of the infinitely great and the infinitely little? A maggot is of importance, the little is great and the great little, all is in a state of equilibrium in nature. This is a terrific vision for the mind. There are prodigious relations between beings and things; and in this inexhaustible total, from the flea to the sun, nothing despises the other, for all have need of each other.

Light does not bear into the sky terrestrial perfumes without knowing what to do with them, and night distributes the planetary essence to the sleepy flowers. Every bird that flies has ‘round its foot the thread of infinity; germination is equally displayed in the outburst of a meteor and the peck of the swallow breaking the egg, and it places the birth of a worm and the advent of Socrates in the same parallel. Where the telescope ends the microscope begins, and which of the two has the grandest sight? You can choose. A patch of green mold is a pleiad of flowers, and a nebula is an ant-hill of stars.

This translation of Hugo’s work comes from The Peerless Reciter, Allison Publishing Co, Ohio, 1894. Edited and compiled by Henry Davenport Northrop.

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