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Is everything error? Do we live in a dream, surrounded by shadowy chimeras ?. We see the sun setting, when he is already below the horizon: before he has yet risen, we see him appear. A square tower seems to be round. A straight stick, thrust into the water, seems to be bent.
You see your face in a mirror, and the image appears to be behind the glass : it is, however, neither behind nor before it. This glass, which to the sight and the touch is so smooth and even, is no other than an unequal congregation of projections and cavities. The finest and fairest skin is a kind of bristled net-work, the openings of which are incomparably larger than the threads, and enclose an infinite number of minute hairs. Under this net-work there are liquors incessantly passing, and from it there issue continual exha, lations which cover the whole surface. What we call large is to an elephant very small; and what we call small, is to insects a world.
The same motion which would be rapid to a snail, would be
slow in the eye of an eagle. This rock, which is impenetrable by steel, is a sieve consisting of more pores than matter, and containing a thousand avenues of prodigious width leading to its centre, in which are lodged multitudes of animals, which may, for aught we know, think themselves the masters of the universe.
Nothing is either as it appears to be, or in the place where we believe it to be.
Several philosophers, tired of being constantly deceived by bodies, have in their spleen pronounced that bodies do not exist, and that there is nothing real but our minds. As well might they have concluded that, all appearances being false, and the nature of the soul being as little known as that of matter, there is no reality in either body or soul.
Perhaps it is this despair of knowing anything which has caused some Chinese philosophers to say, that Nothing is the beginning and the end of all things.
This philosophy, so destructive to being, was well known in Molière's time. Doctor Macphurius repre
sents the school; when teaching Sganarelle, he says, “ You must not say, I am come,' but it seems to me that I am come;' for it may seem to you, without such being really the case."
But at the present day, a comic scene is not an argument, though it is sometimes better than an argument; and there is often as much pleasure in seeking after truth as in laughing at philosophy.
You do not see the net-work, the cavities, the threads, the inequalities, the exhalations of that white and delicate skin which
idolize. Animals a thousand times less than a mite discern all these objects which escape your vision; they lodge, feed, and travel about in them, as in an extensive country, and those on the right arm are perfectly ignorant that there are creatures
of their own species on the left. If you were so unfortunate as to see what they see, your charming skin would strike you with horror.
The harmony of a concert, to which you listen with delight, must have on certain classes of minute animals the effect of terrible thunder; and perhaps it kills them. We see, touch, hear, feel things, only in the way in which they ought to be seen, touched, heard, or felt by ourselves.
All is in due proportion. The laws of optics, which show you an object in the water where it is not, and break a right line, are in entire accordance with those which make the sun appear to you with a diameter of two feet, although it is a million times larger than the earth. To see it in its true dimensions, would require an eye collecting his rays at an angle as great as his disk, which is impossible. Our senses, then, assist much more than they deceive us.
Motion, time, hardness, softness, dimensions, distance, approximation, strength, weakness, appear ances of whatever kind, -all is relative. And who has created these relations?
À-PROPOS. All great successes, of whatever kind, are founded upon things done or said d-propos.
Arnold of Brescia, John Huss, and Jerome of Prague, did not come quite d-propos: the people were not then sufficiently enlightened; the invention of printing had not then laid the abuses complained of before the
eyes of every one. But when men began to read -when the populace, who were solicitous to escape purgatory, but at the same time wished not to pay too dear for indulgences, began to open their eyes, the reformers of the sixteenth century came quite d-propos, and succeeded.
It has been elsewhere observed, that Cromwell under Elizabeth or Charles the Second, or Cardinal De Retz when Louis XIV. governed by himself, would have been very ordinary persons.
Had Cæsar been born in the time of Scipio Africanus, he would not have subjugated the Roman commonwealth ; nor would Mahomet, could he rise again at the present day, be more than sheriff of Mecca. But if Archimedes and Virgil were restored, one would still be the best mathematician, the other the best poet of his country.
ARABS; AND, OCCASIONALLY, ON THE BOOK OF JOB. If any one be desirous of obtaining a thorough knowledge of the antiquities of Arabia, it may be presumed that he will gain no more information than about those of Auvergne and Poitou. It is, however, certain, that the Arabs were 'of some consequence long before Mahomet. The Jews themselves say that Moses married an Arabian woman; and his father-in-law Jethro seems to have been a man of great good sense.
Mecca is considered, and not without reason, as one of the most ancient cities in the world. It is, indeed, a proof of its antiquity, that nothing but superstition could occasion the building of a town on such a spot; for it is in a sandy desart, where the water is brackish, so that the people die of hunger and thirst. The country a few miles to the east is the most delightful upon earth, the best watered and the most
fertile. There the Arabs should have built, and not at Mecca. But it was enough for some charlatan, some false prophet, to give out his reveries, to make of Mecca a sacred spot and the resort of neighbouring nations. Thus it was that the temple of Jupiter Ammon was built in the midst of sands.
Arabia extends from north-east to south-west, from the desart of Jerusalem to Aden or Eden, about the fiftieth degree of north latitude. It is an immense country, about three times as large as Germany. It is very likely that its desarts of sand were brought thither by the waters of the ocean, and that its marine gulphs were once fertile lands.
The belief in this nation's antiquity is favoured by the circumstance that no historian speaks of its having been subjugated. It was not subdued even by Alexander, nor by any king of Syria, nor by the Romans. The Arabs, on the contrary, subjugated a hundred nations, from the Indus to the Garonne ; and, having afterwards lost their conquests, they retired into their own country, and did not mix with any other people
. Having never been subject to nor mixed with other nations, it is more than probable that they have preserved their manners and their language. Indeed Arabic is, in some sense, the mother-tongue of all Asia as far as the Indus; or rather the prevailing tongue, for mother-tongues have never existed. Their genius has never changed. They still compose their Nights' Entertainments, as they did when they imagined one Bac or Bacchus, who passed through the Red Sea with three millions of men, women, and children; who stopped the sun and moon, and made streams of wine issue forth with a blow of his rod, which, when he chose, he changed into a serpent.
A nation so isolated, and whose blood remains unmixed, cannot change its character. The Arabs of the desart have always been given to robbery, and those
. inhabiting the towns been fond of fables, poetry, and astronomy.
It is said, in the historical preface to the Koran, that when any one of their tribes had a good poet, the other tribes never failed to send deputies to that one on which God had vouchsafed to bestow so great a gift.
The tribes assembled every year, by representatives, in an open place named Ocad, where verses were recited, nearly in the same way as is now done at Rome in the garden of the academy of the Arcadii; and this custom continued until the time of Mahomet. In his time, each one posted his verses on the door of the temple of Mecca.
Labid, son of Rabia, was regarded as the Homer of Mecca; but, having seen the second chapter of the Koran, which Mahomet had posted, he fell on his knees before him, and said, “O Mohammed, son of Abdallah, son of Motalib, son of Achem, thou art a greater poet than I—thou art doubtless the prophet of God."
The Arabs of Maden, Naid, and Sanaa, were no less generous than those of the desart were addicted to plunder. Among them, one friend was dishonoured if he had refused his assistance to another,
In their collection of verses, entitled Tograïd, it is related that “one day, in the temple of Mecca, three Arabs were disputing on generosity and friendship, and could not agree as to which, among those who then set the greatest examples of these virtues, deserved the preference. Some were for Abdallah, son of Giafar, uncle to Mahomet; others for Kaïs, son of Saad ; and others for Arabad, of the tribe of As. After a long dispute, they agreed to send a friend of Abdallah to him, a friend of Kaïs to Kaïs, and a friend of Arabad to Arabad, to try them all three, and to come and make their report to the assembly.
“ Then the friend of Abdallah went and said to him, Son of the uncle of Mahomet, I am on a journey, and am destitute of everything.' Abdallah was mounted on his camel loaded with gold and silk; he dismounted with all speed, gave him his camel, and returned home on foot.
“ The second went to make application to his friend Kaïs, son of Saad. Kaïs was still asleep, and one of