« EelmineJätka »
moderation, and justice, virtues which his example in.culcated still more forcibly.
In the Anti-Lucretius, this great man is thus apostrophised
Si virtutis eras avidus, rectique bonique
If virtue, justice, goodness, were thy care,
To find a refuge for the guilty soul, &c. But Epicurus might reply to the cardinal: “If I had had the happiness of knowing, like you, the true God,--of being born, like you, in a pure and holy religion, I should certainly not have rejected that revealed God, whose tenets were necessarily unknown to my mind, but whose morality was in my heart. I could not admit the existence of such gods as were announced to me by paganism. I was too rational to adore divinities made to spring from a father and a mother, like mortals, and like them, to make war upon one another. I was too great a friend to virtue, not to hate a religion which now invited to crime by the example of those gods themselves, and now sold for money the remission of the most horrible enormities. I beheld, on one hand, infatuated men, stained with vices, and seeking to purify themselves before impure gods; and on the other, knaves who boasted that they could justify the most perverse by initiating them in mysteries, by dropping bullock's blood on their heads, or by dipping them in the waters of the Ganges. I beheld the most unjust wars undertaken with perfect sanctity, so soon as a ram's liver was found unspotted, or a woman, with hair dishevelled and roll
ing eyes, uttered words of which neither she nor any one else knew the meaning. In short, I beheld all the countries of the earth stained with the blood of human victims, sacrificed by barbarous pontiffs to barbarous gods. I consider that I did well to detest such religions. Mine is virtue. I exhorted my disciples not
to meddle with the affairs of this world, because they were horribly governed. A true Epicurean was mild, moderate, just, amiable- -a man of whom no society had to complain-one who did not pay executioners to assassinate in public those who thought differently from himself. From hence to the holy religion in which you have been bred, there is but one step. I destroyed the false gods; and, had I lived in your day, I would have recognized the true ones. Thus might Epicurus justify himself concerning his
He might even entitle himself to pardon respecting the dogma of the immortality of the soul, by saying: “ Pity me for having combated a truth which God revealed five hundred years after
birth. I thought like all the first. Pagan legislators of the world; and they were all ignorant of this truth."
I wish then, that Cardinal Polignac had pitied while he condemned Epicurus: it would have been no detriment to fine poetry.
With regard to physics, it appears to me that the author has lost much time and many verses in refuting the declination of atoms and the other absurdities which swarm in the poem of Lucretius. This is employing artillery to destroy a cottage. Besides, why remove Lucretius's reveries to substitute those of Descartes ?
Cardinal Polignac has inserted in his poem some very fine lines on the discoveries of Newton; but in these, unfortunately for himself, he combats demonstrated truths. The philosophy of Newton is not to be discussed in verse; it is scarcely to be approached in prose. Founded altogether on geometry, the genius of poetry is not fit to assail it. The surface of these truths may be decorated with fine verses; but to fathom them, calculation is requisite, and not verse.
Have you not sometimes seen, in a village, Pierré Aoudri and his wife Peronelle striving to go before their neighbours in a procession ? “ Our grandfathers,” say they, “ rung the bells, before those who elbow us now had so much as a stable of their own."
The vanity of Pierre Aoudri, his wife, and his neighbours, knows no better. They grow warm. The quarrel is an important one, for honour is in question. Proofs must now be found. Some learned churchsinger discovers an old rusty iron pot, marked with an A, the initial of the brazier's name who made the pot. Pierre Aoudri persuades himself that it was the helmet of one of his ancestors. So Cæsar descended from a hero and from the goddess Venus. Such is the history of nations; such is, very nearly, the knowledge of early antiquity.
The learned of Armenia demonstrate that the terrestrial paradise was in their country. Some profound Swedes demonstrate that it was somewhere about Lake Wenner, which exhibits visible remains of it. Some Spaniards, too, demonstrate that it was in Castile. , While the Japanese, the Chinese, the Tartars, the Indians, the Africans, and the Americans, are so unfortunate as not even to know that a terrestrial paradise once existed at the sources of the Pison, the "Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates, or, which is the same thing, at the sources of the Guadalquivir, the Guadiana, the Douro, and the Ebro. For of Pison we easily make Phæris, and of Phæris we easily make the Bætis, which is the Guadalquivir. The Gihon, it is plain, is the Guadiana, for they both begin with a G. And the Ebro, which is in Catalonia, is unquestionably the Euphrates, both be. ginning with an E.
But a Scotchman comes, and in his turn demonstrates that the garden of Eden was at Edinburgh, which has retained its name; and it is not unlikely that, in a few centuries, this opinion will prevail.
The whole globe was once burned, says a man conversant with ancient and modern history; for I have read in a journal, that charcoal quite black has been found a hundred feet deep, among mountains covered with wood. And it is also suspected that there were charcoal-burners in this place.
Phaëton's adventure sufficiently shows that every thing has been boiled, even to the bottom of the sea. The sulphur of Mount Vesuvius incontrovertibly proves that the banks of the Rhine, the Danube, the Ganges, the Nile, and the Great Yellow River, are nothing but sulphur, nitre, and oil of guiacum, which only wait for the moment of explosion to reduce the earth to ashes, as it has already once been. The sand on which we walk is an evident proof that the universe has vitrified, and that our globe is nothing but a ball of glass,-like our ideas.
But if fire has changed our globe, water has produced still more wonderful revolutions. For it is plain that the sea, the tides of which, in our latitudes, rise eight feet, has produced the mountains, which are sixteen to seventeen thousand feet high.* This is so true, that some learned men, who never were in Switzerland, found a large vessel there, with all its rigging, petrified, either on Mount St. Gothard or at the bottom of a precipice,-it is not positively known which ;t but it is quite certain that it was there. Therefore, men were originally fishes-Q. E. D.
Coming down to antiquity less ancient, let us speak of the times when most barbarous nations quitted their own countries to seek others which were not much better. It is true, if there be any thing true in ancient history, that there were Gaulish robbers, who went to plunder Rome in the time of Camillus. Other robbers from Gaul had, it is said, passed through Illyria to sell their services as murderers to other murderers in the neighbourhood of Thrace: they bartered their blood for bread, and at length settled in Galatia.
* See the articles Sea and MOUNTAIN, + See Telliamed, and all the systems built upon this fine discovery.
But who were these Gauls? Were they natives of Berry and Anjou? They were, doubtless, some of those Gauls, whom the Romans called Cisalpine, and whom we call Transalpine, famishing mountaineers, inhabiting the Alps and the Appennines. The Gauls of the Seine and the Marne did not then know that Rome existed ; and could not resolve to cross Mount Cenis, as was afterwards done by Hannibal, to steal the wardrobes of the Roman senators, whose only moveables were, a gown of bad grey cloth, decorated with a band, the colour of bull's blood; two small knobs of ivory, or rather dog's bone, fixed to the arms of a wooden chair; and a piece of rancid bacon in their kitchens.
The Gauls, who were dying of hunger, finding nothing to eat at Rome, went to try their fortune further off; as the Romans afterwards did, when they ravaged so many countries; and as the people of the North did at a later period, when they destroyed the Roman empire.
And whence have we received our vague information respecting these emigrations? From some lines written at a venture by the Romans; for, as for the Celts, Welches, or Gauls, whom some would have us believe to have been eloquent, neither they nor their bards * could at that time read or write.
But, to infer from these that the Gauls or Celts, afterwards conquered by a few of Cæsar's legions, then by a horde of Goths, then by a horde of Burgundians, and lastly by a horde of Sicambri, under one Clodovic, had before subjugated the whole earth, and given their names and their laws to Asia, seems to me to be inferring a great deal. The thing, however, is not mathematically impossible; and if it be demonstrated, I assent: it would be very uncivil to refuse to the Welches' what is granted to the Tartars.
Bards.--Bardi-recitantes carmina Bardi. They were the poets, the pbilosophers of the Welches.