February is the last month of Winter up here in contrast to the Summer down below in the Southern hemisphere. Also, it is enrobed with all the trappings of romantic love.
Candy, especially chocolate, cards, flowers, songs, and movies, all emphasize what the Greeks referred to as eros. Eros was the god of love whose love arrows did not always bring a happy-ever-after to a couple.
Sometimes Eros’ arrows awakened love in two human hearts, but by nightfall the lily of beauty faded in the moonless darkness. Sadness and loneliness filled the cup of sorrow at sunrise.
Like the words of Let Her Go by Michael David Rosenberg:
Staring at the bottom of your glass
Hoping one day you’ll make a dream last
But dreams come slow and they go so fast
You see her when you close your eyes
Maybe one day you’ll understand why
Everything you touch surely dies
Perhaps, in the classic love story in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, we find a similar feeling about love between the fiery spirited sable-haired beauty Esmeralda and the red-haired hunchback Quasimodo. The gypsy and the bell-ringer were both outcasts of their contemporary society.
The Romani were a nomadic group always in search of a place to call home. What they found in most European lands were persecution, enslavement and death.
A hunchback; sadly, the devout found the deformity a curse from God. The old theory goes that God made man perfect, but sin caused deformity, and the most pronounced deformity manifested the highest degree of sin.
Quasimodo’s physical appearance with his bent back, a massive wart over his left eye and eventually his deafness from the cathedral bells just added to the people’s rejection of him as the creation of Satan. Unfortunately, lovely Esmeralda found him grotesque as well.
However, Quasimodo’s kindness to her and saving her from hanging by giving her sanctuary in the cathedral gave her new insight to the strange creature. He saved her from sexual assault by the Archdeacon who had lusted for her from the moment he saw her in the square.
Esmeralda never came to love the hunchback. Her view of eros was the handsome Captain Phoebus de Chareaupers who saved her from being kidnapped. However, the Captain wanted only one thing from the girl—a night of passion since he was engaged to marry.
Quasimodo loved her deeply like Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones’s lyrics
I’ll be your dream I’ll be your wish I’ll be your fantasy.
I’ll be your hope I’ll be your love be everything that you need.
I’ll love you more with every breath truly madly deeply do
Unfortunately, Esmeralda is betrayed by her Captain and the Archdeacon. One wanted to appease his guilt and the other one to atone for his lust by removing its object.
She is hung and her body cast aside like the contents of the chamber pot. Quasimodo was powerless to save her this last time.
What of the fate of Quasimodo?
“About eighteen months or two years after the events which terminate this story, when search was made in that cavern for the body of Olivier le Daim, who had been hanged two days previously, and to whom Charles VIII. had granted the favor of being buried in Saint Laurent, in better company, they found among all those hideous carcasses two skeletons, one of which held the other in its embrace. One of these skeletons, which was that of a woman, still had a few strips of a garment which had once been white, and around her neck was to be seen a string of adrézarach beads with a little silk bag ornamented with green glass, which was open and empty. These objects were of so little value that the executioner had probably not cared for them. The other, which held this one in a close embrace, was the skeleton of a man. It was noticed that his spinal column was crooked, his head seated on his shoulder blades, and that one leg was shorter than the other. Moreover, there was no fracture of the vertebrae at the nape of the neck, and it was evident that he had not been hanged. Hence, the man to whom it had belonged had come thither and had died there. When they tried to detach the skeleton which he held in his embrace, he fell to dust.”
Unrequited love is a bitter brew to drink. It is one of Eros’ arrows misguided.
Like Quasimodo the result of such love is a return to dust. For life lost in the pursuit of this type of love is like an exquisite vase where the flowers have withered from neglect. Like water is needed to keep flowers flourishing, love is needed to keep a heart beating with its song of life.
G. D. Williams © 2017
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is a novel by Victor Hugo published in 1831. The title refers to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, around which the story is centered.