Divine Love and the Refreshing Inn
Clarissa Harlowe, reflecting upon her nasty, brutish and short life, concluded that death should be greeted as a refreshing inn after a fatiguing journey. Prince Andrei’s journey, perhaps more so than any other character in War and Peace, has been particularly fatiguing. He’s been wounded in war twice now. He’s suffered the loss of his father and his wife. Natasha broke his heart. The French have probably chopped his oak tree down for firewood. A refreshing inn, therefore, is exactly what he needs right now. The price of such lodging, however, according to Clarissa Harlowe anyway, is to have lived a virtuous and well-contented life. Unfortunately for Prince Andrei he hasn’t exactly lived his best life. He has been proud, arrogant, cruel and dismissive. Today, however, he comes to understand what it takes to secure a room in Clarissa Harlowe’s refreshing inn.
This is a brilliant chapter, a kaleidoscopic, hallucinatory deathscape of otherworldly imagery, character development and profound insight. In it Prince Andrei, mortally wounded at the Battle of Borodino, struggles against death and toils towards an understanding of the essential truth of life. Oscillating between moments of lucidity and mental confusion he nevertheless maintains a constant meditation on the subject of divine love. This is a love of great power and consequence. He finds within its penumbra the necessity of forgiveness, understanding and compassion. The power of divine love offers him the sweet nectar of reconciling himself to even his great enemy Anatole Kuragin.
This new understanding of the vital importance of divine love for all humanity is emotionally overwhelming. In order to better understand it he desires two things. First, he asks for a copy of the Gospels to read. Secondly, he wants to share his new understanding with Natasha. He wants her to know that he loves her and that she has nothing to apologize for. By the chapter’s end he is granted his wish to commune with Natasha. Nobody gets him a copy of the Gospel though so I’ll close today’s reading out with a relevant passage below.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
The Gospel According to John, 13:33–35(KJV)