Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘satire’

 

MEMNON THE PHILOSOPHER, OR HUMAN WISDOM by Voltaire

 

Memnon one day took it into his head to become a great philosopher. There are few men who have not, at some time or other, conceived the same wild project. Says Memnon to himself, To be a perfect philosopher, and of course to be perfectly happy, I have nothing to do but to divest myself entirely of passions; and nothing is more easy, as everybody knows. In the first place, I will never be in love; for, when I see a beautiful woman, I will say to myself, These cheeks will one day grow wrinkled, these eyes be encircled with vermilion, that bosom become flabby and pendant, that head bald and palsied. Now I have only to consider her at present in imagination, as she will afterwards appear; and certainly a fair face will never turn my head., In the second place, I will be always temperate. It will be in vain to tempt me with good cheer, with delicious wines, or the charms of society. I will have only to figure to myself the consequences of excess, an aching head, a loathing stomach, the loss of reason, of health, and of time. I will then only eat to supply the waste of nature; my health will be always equal, my ideas pure and luminous. All this is so easy that there is no merit in accomplishing it.

But, says Memnon, I must think a little of how I am to regulate my fortune: why, my desires are moderate, my wealth is securely placed with the Receiver General of the finances of Nineveh: I have wherewithal to live independent; and that is the greatest of blessings. I shall never be under the cruel necessity of dancing attendance at court: I will never envy anyone, and nobody will envy me; still, all this is easy. I have friends, continued he, and I will preserve them, for we shall never have any difference; I will never take amiss anything they may say or do; and they will behave in the same way to me. There is no difficulty in all this.

Having thus laid his little plan of philosophy in his closet, Memnon put his head out of the window. He saw two women walking under the plane trees near his house. The one was old, and appeared quite at her ease. The other was young, handsome, and seemingly much agitated: she sighed, she wept, and seemed on that account still more beautiful.

Our philosopher was touched, not, to be sure, with the beauty of the lady (he was too much determined . not to feel any uneasiness of that kind) but with the distress which he saw her in. He came downstairs and accosted the young Ninevite in the design of consoling her with philosophy. That lovely person related to him, with an air of great simplicity, and in the most affecting manner, the injuries she sustained from an imaginary uncle; with what art he had deprived her of some imaginary property, and of the violence which she pretended to dread from him. “You appear to me,” said she, “a man of such wisdom that if you will condescend to come to my house and examine into my affairs, I am persuaded y ou will be able to draw me from the cruel embarrassment I am at present involved in.” Memnon did not hesitate to follow her, to examine her affairs philosophically and to give her sound counsel. .

The afflicted lady led him into a perfumed chamber, and politely made him sit down with her on a large sofa, where they both placed themselves opposite to each other in the attitude of conversation, their legs crossed; the one eager in telling her story, the other listening with devout attention. The lady spoke with downcast eyes, whence there sometimes fell a tear, and which, as she now and then ventured to raise them, always met those of the sage Memnon. Their discourse was full of tenderness, which redoubled as often as their eyes met. Memnon took her affairs exceedingly to heart, and felt himself every instant more and more inclined to oblige a person so virtuous and so unhappy. By degrees, in the warmth of conversation, they ceased to sit opposite; they drew nearer; their legs were no longer crossed. Memnon counseled her so closely and gave her such tender advices that neither of them could talk any longer of business nor well knew what they were about.

At this interesting moment, as may easily be imagined, who should come in but the uncle; he was armed from head to foot, and the first thing he said was, that he would immediately sacrifice, as was just, the sage Memngn and his niece; the latter, who made her escape, knew that he was well enough disposed to pardon, provided a good round sum were offered to him. Memnon was obliged to purchase his safety with all he had about him. In those days people were happy in getting so easily quit.

America was not then discovered, and distressed ladies were not nearly as dangerous as they are now. Memnon, covered with shame and confusion, got home to his own house; there he found a card inviting him to dinner with some of his intimate friends. If I remain at home alone, said he, I shall have my mind so occupied with this vexatious adventure that I shall not be able to eat a bit, and I shall bring upon myself some disease. It will therefore be prudent in me to go to my intimate friends  and partake with them of a frugal repast. I shall forget in the sweets of their society that folly I have this morning been guilty of. Accordingly, he attends the meeting; he is discovered to be uneasy at something, and he is urged to drink and banish care. A little wine, drunk in moderation, comforts the heart of god and man: so reasons Memnon the philosopher, and he becomes intoxicated. After the repast, play is proposed. A little play with one’s intimate friends is a harmless pastime; He plays and loses all that is in his purse, and four times as much on his word. A dispute arises on some circumstances in the game, and the disputants grow warm; one of his intimate friends throws a dice box at his head, and strikes out one of his eyes. The philosopher Memnon is carried home to his house, drunk and penniless, with the loss of an eye.

He sleeps out his debauch, and when his head has got a little clear, he sends his servant to the Receiver General of the finances of Nineveh to draw a little money to pay his debts of honor to his intimate friends. The servant returns and informs him that the Receiver General had that morning been declared a fraudulent bankrupt and that by this means an hundred families are reduced to poverty and despair. Memnon, almost beside himself, puts a plaster on his eye and a petition in his pocket, and goes to court to solicit justice from the king against the bankrupt. In the saloon he meets a number of ladies all in the highest spirits, and sailing along with hoops four-and-twenty feet in circumference. One of them, who knew him a little, eyed him askance, and cried aloud, “Ah! What a horrid monster!” Another, who was better acquainted with him, thus accosts him, “Good-morrow, Mr. Memnon. I hope you are very .well, Mr. Memnon. La, Mr. Memnon, how did you lose your eye?”

And, turning upon her heel, she tripped away without waiting an answer. Memnon hid himself in a corner and waited for the moment when he could throw himself at the fee t of the monarch. That moment at last arrived. Three times he kissed the earth, and* presented his petition. His gracious majesty received him very favorably, and referred the paper to one of his satraps, that he might give him an account of it. The satrap takes Memnon aside and says to him with a haughty air and satirical grin, “Hark ye, you fellow with the one eye, you must be a comical dog indeed, to address yourself to the king rather than to me; and still more so, to dare to demand justice against an honest bankrupt, whom I honor with my protection, and who is nephew to the waiting-maid of my mistress. Proceed no further in this business, my good friend, if you .wish to preserve the eye you have left.”

Memnon, having thus in his closet resolved to renounce women, the excesses of the table, play and quarreling, but especially having determined never to go to court, had been in the short space of four-and-twenty hours, duped and robbed by a gentle dame, had got drunk, had gamed, had been engaged in a quarrel, had got his eye knocked out, and had been at court where he was sneered at and insulted.

Petrified with astonishment, and his heart broken with grief, Memnon returns homeward in despair. As he was about to enter his house, he is repulsed by a number of officers who are carrying off his furniture for the benefit of his creditors: he falls down almost lifeless under a plane tree. There he finds the fair dame, of the morning, who was walking with her dear uncle; and both set up a loud laugh on seeing Memnon with his plaster. The night approached, and Memnon made his bed on some straw near the walls of his house. Here the ague seized him, and he fell asleep in one of the fits, when a celestial spirit appeared to him in a dream.

It was all resplendent with light: it had six beautiful wings, but neither feet nor head nor tail, and could be likened to nothing. “What art thou?” said Memnon. “Thy good genius,” replied the spirit. “Rest tore to me then my eye, my health, my fortune, my reason,” said Memnon; and he related how he had lost them all in one day. “These are adventures which never happen to us in the world we inhabit,” said the spirit.

“And what world do you inhabit?” said the man of affliction. “My native country,” replied the other, “is five hundred millions of leagues distant from the sun, in a little star near Sirius, which you see from hence.”

“Charming country!” said Memnon. “And are there indeed no jades to dupe a poor devil, no intimate friends that win his money, and knock out an eye for him, no fraudulent bankrupts, no satraps that make a jest of you while they refuse you justice?” “No,” said the inhabitant of the star, “we have nothing of what you talk of; we are never duped by women, because we have none among us; we never commit excesses at table, because we neither eat nor drink; we have no bankrupts, because with us there is neither silver nor gold; our eyes cannot be knocked out because we have not bodies in the form of yours; and satraps never do us injustice because in our world we are all equal.” “Pray, my lord,”then said Memnon, “without women and without eating how do you spend your time?” “In watching,” said the genius, “over the other worlds that are entrusted to us; and I am now come to give you consolation.”

“Alas!” replied Memnon, “why did you not come yesterday to hinder me from committing so many indiscretions?” “I was with your elder brother Hassan,” said the celestial being. “He is still more to be pitied than you are. His Most Gracious Majesty the Sultan of the Indies, in whose court he has the honor to serve, has caused both his eyes to be put out for some small indiscretion ; and he is now in a dungeon, his hands and feet loaded with chains.” ” ‘Tis a happy thing truly,” said Memnon, “to have a good genius in one’s family, when out of two brothers one is blind of an eye, the other blind of both: one stretched upon straw, the other in a dungeon.” “Your fate will soon change,” said the animal of the star. “It is true, you will never recover your eye, but, except that, you may be sufficiently happy if you never again take it into your head to be a perfect philosopher.” “It is then impossible?” said Memnon.

“As impossible as to be perfectly wise, perfectly strong, perfectly powerful, perfectly happy. We ourselves are very far from it. There is a world indeed where all this is possible; but, in the hundred thousand millions of worlds dispersed over the regions of space, everything goes on by degrees. There is less philosophy, and less enjoyment on the second than in the first, less in the third than in the second, and so forth till the last in the scale, where all are completely fools.” “I am afraid said Memnon, “that our little terraqueous globe here is the madhouse of those hundred thousand millions of worlds of which Your Lordship does me the honor to speak.” “Not quite,” said the spirit, “but very nearly: everything must be in its proper place.” “But are those poets and philosophers wrong, then, who tell us that everything is for the best?””No, they are right, when we consider things in relation to the gradation to the whole universe.” “Oh! I shall never believe it till I recover my eye again,” said poor Memnon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

candide-1 kopie

In a castle of Americana, Vermont , belonging to the banker Jonas Rosenberg, lived a youth, whom nature had endowed with the most gentle manners.  I suppose, of his being called Candide owes to his transparency to the point of being gullible. He was eager to be taught. He did not mind what as long as it was what passed for facts. Oh his tutor Pangloss never tired of making this impressionable youth know facts of this life and of world to come; he led him with precepts he had learnt at the cost of life experience. They would be seen at all hours during the day under all kinds of weather. The castle grounds were extensive and there were parks and benches that took care of the weariness of walking. Dr. Pangloss was sure to drill into the head of his pupil why the banker was the most blessed. ‘You are the most lucky to have found the Castle of Americana for growing up. He belongs to the One Percent Club  and you have a head start on all other youths of your generation.

candide-2 kopie

Pangloss was professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology. He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Banker’s castle was the most magnificent of castles.

“It is demonstrable,” said he, “that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for all being created for an end, all is necessarily for the best end. Observe, that the nose has been formed to bear spectacles—thus we have spectacles’. Mind you, do not dismiss your guardians wealth is a cause.

“So do I spend it all, Dr. Pangloss, so we honor the cause -effect?

For Dr. Pangloss it sounded reasonable since money was the cause for all misery for 99 Percent Muppets.

(To be continued)

Read Full Post »

It was Lamartine who said,’If we judge of men by what they have done, then Voltaire is incontestably the greatest writer of Modern Europe’. At a time the arrant knave of superstition had possessed minds of men he made them look silly with some well chosen words. His pen dealt not with poison or vitriol but with ridicule. How lightly he could causing merriment all around make man take a look at himself more closely! Naturally his forte was in molding public opinion. Especially as the case of Jean Calais is an ample proof to it.
Jean Calais case was as sensational as of Dreyfus in another time and convulsed the entire Europe. His only crime was that he was a Protestant as Colonel Dreyfus was a Jew!

Jean Calais kept a small shop in Toulouse. One day while he was at supper with his family above the shop Marc Antoine, his scapegrace son hanged himself. It was an open and shut case of suicide. But the priests and the party got wind of it and turned it around as murder. The Protestant or Huguenot parents were charged with murdering their son in order to prevent him from becoming a Catholic. A circus followed what with White Penitents and their cohorts holding vigil and prayers for the repose of Antoine’s soul.
Under duress some witnesses were found but despite their vagueness the poor old man was stretched till his limbs were torn out of the sockets. Next was the water torture and water pumped into through a horn made his body swell double the size. He still was alive and the Priests and the interested parties saw to that he was hauled to the scaffold and limbs systematically broken by an iron bar. Poor Calais had no confession to make and the executioner himself put a stop to this Ecclesiastical farce by strangling him. What of the poor man’s family? Two daughters were thrust into a convent and a son feigned conversion and got released. Another son escaped to Geneva while the mother disappeared.
At a time when men dared not challenge the Church Voltaire got into the act. He took Poor Calais into his family and got the powerful of the realm interested. At a great cost of his time and money he made restitution to the members of the family in practical ways. He also employed the best lawyers he could find to put the miscarriage of justice aright. He found Mama Calais and housed her in comfortable circumstances. His influence was such those who protested at the travesty of justice were the Queen of England, Catherine of Russia and Frederick the great.
There were quite a few religious crimes where the crimes of the accused were the same. These were Huguenots. Voltaire tilted lances with the monsters; unlike the Man of La Mancha this was real and Voltaire did not come off worse in the engagement.
To this Evil which the Church perpetuated he was a Martin Luther of letters and how he ridiculed the rascals in purple and made their pretensions as silly as the Emperor’s new clothes. I wonder what would he have said in this age when the clergy are the great abusers of the young!
benny

Read Full Post »

Five Scholars having won a special grant from King Chat-Pat wanted to write a treatise on the elephant. The king was inclined to think it was a rhino and not an elephant. He didn’t think it was kingly to go searching for an elephant that had no royal blood in it. So you might call him blind in a manner of speaking.
He deputed his scholars to do the job.
The five scholars were blind in the sense they had been entirely sold to an idea, each after his fashion, that they refused to see facts that would make them change from their opinions. Schooling did not change them neither did doctorates from the Nalanda university.
Ram Lal received doctorate in Philosophy by asserting Lord Ram was real. He believed in Hinduvta and he was all for revising the history of the kingdom to fit his idea of Ramraj. Pannalal advocated a vegetarian diet since it made man and animals docile. Rahmatulla believed color blue stood for purity while Ram Lal defended color saffron signified purity.
‘Allah decreed man must live under the vaults of heaven. So purity and the color blue go hand in hand.’ All along the way from Vijaynagar to Allahabad they were fighting like cats and dogs. At one point the sky rained ash. One said it was due to the ash cloud from Mount Merapi. Ram Lal was elated and asked, ‘The sky rained down ash and made us dirty. How can you say blue represents purity?’
Rahmatulla had a hard time trying to wriggle out of it. Luckily while they were in Ajmir the whole city was agog with bombing of a place of worship. The culprit was as the reports went, wore saffron robes. Rahmatulla with a look of triumph asserted that the incident proved saffron was not the sign of purity. Ram Lal shouted at the top of his voice that there was no such thing as saffron terrorist. When Rahmatulla pointed to the reports Ram Lal dismissed it as a conspiracy.
At Benares the three scholars were met by Benami Lal. Benami Lal was the Dewan of King Bhuvan Singh and he hailed from Punjab. He introduced himself with great many salaams and hand wringing. He said he was a scholar who made every problem go away. ‘There was a shortfall in the treasury and could not meet the war expenses. So I made the entire treasury disappear.’ At that moment Sambu from Mysore arrived at the scene. He wanted to know if they were politically minded. They all said they were scholars. ‘I am also a scholar but that does not prevent me from finding out if the ideology of another fit the correct Marxist-Leninist position.’
None had any idea what he meant and said they were going to write a treatise on the elephant.
Sambu also had a grant from the king and was sure that his analysis made the treatise on the animal complete.
After a couple of days they arrived at the park where the elephant was tethered.
They went directly to the animal. Rama Lal said,‘ The animal is not saffron colored so it must be milecha. For once Rahmatuulla agreed with his arch-rival. He concluded that the animal was not blue in color so it was an infidel. Pannalal saw the huge tusks and wrote in his report that the animal was a carnivore. Sambu looked at its trunk and said triumphantly, ‘The elephant is neither Right nor Left but a Centrist. He concluded that the animal could not be trusted. Other scholars were skeptical and asked, ‘Why not?’
‘In case of a Proletarian struggle the animal will prove to be a spy, Quisling, a fifth column’ He detested the sight of it.
Benami Singh said that the animal posed a problem. ‘ I must think it over, my dear sirs, tomorrow I shall give my considered opinion’. Thus they disbanded for the night.
Next morning the four scholars went to call on Benami Singh. There was no sign of Benami Singh. At that moment news spread around the town like a wild fire, ‘The elephant is gone!’
Another one queried, ‘What! Swallowed by the night?’
The four scholars knew Benami Singh had made the problem go away.
This left them with no choice but to write their own treatise.

benny

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,906 other followers