“Le livre de la vie” (“The book of life”), Alphonse de Lamartine

Here’s a beautiful poem, which i will translate:

Le livre de la vie est le livre suprême
Qu’on ne peut ni fermer, ni rouvrir à son choix;
Le passage attachant ne s’y lit pas deux fois,
Mais le feuillet fatal se tourne de lui-même;
On voudrait revenir à la page où l’on aime,
Et la page où l’on meurt est déjà sous vos doigts

Alphonse de Lamartine


“The book of life is the supreme book,

Which we can neither close, nor open as we please;

The chapter we enjoyed can not be read twice,

But the fatal page turns by itself;

We would like to go back to the page where we loved,

But the page where we die is already beneath your fingers.”


This is one of my favourite poems, mainly because of its simplicity and openness in describing something which so many people see as a great mystery. To me, this comparison describes life as simply as it ever could be described. It can be taken many ways, I suppose, depending on what type of person you are: some people may see it as depressing, as it depicts the inevitability of death without holding back, while others may see it as a reason to live life at it’s fullest, because our days are numbered.

The author could be depicting life as predefined by destiny, and maybe it’s true. Fate controls almost everything in life, in such a way that you can never know what will happen before-hand, no matter how carefully you might plan things. Then again, maybe there’s no such thing as fate. My theory is that the thoughts and actions of others, however indirectly, can affect what happens to those around them. At any moment, we might be affecting the life of someone we’ve never even met, simply by deciding to get the bus instead of walking, or by getting in their way in the street, or forgetting to leave a tip at the restaurant… Who knows how our actions, however unconscious they may be, affect other people’s lives? I’m not saying that everything you do will change the course of someone else’s life, but I can also name many occasions in which strangers affected the course of my day, or even allowed me to meet someone who then proceeded to change my life. We’re like parts of a huge machine, and everything that one part does will change what another part does, which then changes what another part does, and so on, and so on. Not that this is strictly true in all situations, but in many I believe that it is, at least until I find a better way to describe it, or until I begin to see things otherwise.