2 balzacian metaphors

Two Balzacian Metaphors


The sheer volume of Balzac’s writings hint that some of it at least must have been automatic in the surrealist sense. In testimony thereof note two metaphors from an otherwise thoroughly negligible conte  philosophique entitled La Messe de l’athée. The exhibits:

Quand un chef de clinique prend dans son giron un jeune homme, ce jeune homme a, comme on dit, le pied dans l’étrier. (p. 309)

It is striking enough that any medical authority should take a young intern on his lap with anything but questionable intent. But how the intern could be expected to put his foot in a stirrup while in someone’s lap would profit from explanation. Balzac seems to be quite taken with the foot in the stirrup expression since he plays with it a few times in this story, once to the effect that when an exceptional young man gets his foot in the stirrup les envieux are more likely than not to sabotage his saddle.


…j’avais ce lit de bons sentiments et de sensibilité vive qui sera toujours l’apanage des hommes assez forts pour grimper sur un sommet quelconque, après avoir piétiné longtemps dans les marécages de la misère. (pp. 317-318)

Desplein is quite confident that one can negotiate both a swamp and a mountain while remaining in bed.