« ElőzőTovább »
The author of the Spirit of Laws asserts, that in the caste of Nairs,* on the coast of Malabar, a man can have only one wife, while a woman may have several husbands. He cites doubtful authors, and above all Picard; but it is impossible to speak of strange customs without having long witnessed them; and if they are mentioned, it ought to be doubtingly: but what lively spirit knows how to doubt?
“The lubricity of women,” he observes," is so great at Patan, the men are constrained to adopt certain garniture, in order to be safe against their amorous enterprises.”+
The president Montesquieu was never at Patan. Is not the remark of M. Linguet judicious, who observes, that this story has been told by travellers who were either deceived themselves, or who wished to laugh at their readers ? Let us be just, love truth, and judge by facts, not by names.
End of the Reflections on Polygamy. It appears, that
power rather than agreement makes laws everywhere, but especially in the east. We there beheld the first slaves, the first eunuchs, and the treasury of the prince directly composed of that which is taken from the people.
He who can clothe, support, and amuse a number of women, shuts them up in a menagerie, and commands them despotically.
Ben Aboul Kiba, in his “Mirror of the Faithful,” relates, that one of the vizirs of the great Solimans addressed the following discourse to an agent of Charles V:
“ Dog of a christian! for whom however I have a particular esteem,-canst thou reproach me with possessing four wives, according to our holy laws, whilst thou emptiest a dozen barrels a year, and I drink not a single glass of wine? What good dost thou effect by passing more hours at table than I do in bed? I
may get four children a year for the service of my august master, whilst thou canst scarcely produce one, and that
only the child of a drunkard, whose brain will be obscured by the vapours of the wine which has been drunk by his father. What, moreover, wouldst thou have me do, when two of my wives are in child-bed? Must I not attend to the other two, as my law commands me? What becomes of them ? what part dost thou perform, in the latter months of the pregnancy of thy only wife, and during her lyings-in and sexual maladies?' Thou either remainest idle, or thou repairest to another woman. Behold thyself between two mortal sins, which will infallibly cause thee to fall headlong from the narrow bridge into the pit of hell.
“ I will suppose, that in our wars against the dogs of christians we have a hundred thousand soldiers; behold a hundred thousand girls to provide for. Is it not for the wealthy to take care of them? Evil betide every Mussulman so cold-hearted as not to give shelter to four pretty girls, in the character of legitimate wives, or to treat them according to their merits !
" What is done in thy country by the trumpeter of day, which thou callest the cock; the honest ram, the leader of the flock; the bull, sovereign of the heifers; has not every one of them his seraglio? It becomes thee, truly, to reproach me with my one wife, whilst our great prophet had eighteen, the Jew David as many, and the Jew Solomon, seven hundred, all told, with three hundred concubines! Thou perceivest that I am modest. Cease then to reproach a sage with luxury, who is content with so moderate a repast. I permit thee to drink; allow me to love. Thou changest thy wines ; permit me to change my females. Let every one suffer others to live according to the customs of their country. Thy hat was not made to give laws to my turban ; thy ruff and thy curtailed doublets are not to command my doliman. Make an end of thy coffee, and go and caress thy German spouse, since thou art allowed to have no other.”
Reply of the German. Dog of a Mussulman! for whom I retain a profound veneration; before I finish my coffee, I will confute
all thy arguments. He who possesses four wives, possess four harpies, always ready to calumniate, to annoy, and to fight one another. Thy house is the den of discord, and none of them can love thee. Each has only a quarter of thy person, and in return can bestow only a quarter of her heart. None of them can serve to render thy life agreeable; they are prisoners who, never having seen anything, have nothing to say; and, knowing only thee, are in consequence thy enemies. Thou art their absolute master; they therefore hate thee. Thou art obliged to guard them with eunuchs, who whip them when they are too happy. Thou pretendest to compare thyself to a cock, but a cock never has his pullets whipped by a capon. Take animals for thy examples, and copy them as much as thou pleasest; for my part I love like a man; I would give all my heart, and receive an entire heart in return. I will give an account of this conversation to my wife tonight, and I hope she will be satisfied. As to the wine with which thou reproachest me, if it is evil to drink it in Arabia, it is a very praiseworthy habit in Germany. Adieu !”
XENOPHANES. BAYLE has made the article • Xenophanes' a pretext for making a panegyric on the devil; as Simonides formerly, seized the occasion of a wrestler winning the prize of boxing in the Olympic games, to form a fine ode in praise of Castor and Pollux. But, at the bottom, of what consequence to us are the reveries of Xenophanes ? What do we gain by knowing, that he regarded nature as an infinite being, immoveable, composed of an infinite number of small corpuscles, soft little mounds, and small organic molecules? That he moreover thought pretty nearly as Spinosa has since thought? or rather endeavoured to think, for he contradicts himself frequently,—a thing very common to ancient philosophers.
If Anaximenes taught, that the atmosphere was God; if Thales attributed to water the foundation of all
things, because Egypt was rendered fertile by inundation; if Pherecides and Heraclitus give to fire all which Thales attributes to water, to what purpose return to these chimerical reveries?
I wish that Pythagoras had expressed by numbers certain relations, very insufficiently understood, by which he infers, that the world was built by the rules of arithmetic. I allow, that Ocellus Lucanus and Empedocles have arranged everything by moving antagonist forces, but what shall I gather from it? What clear notion will it convey to my feeble mind?
Come, divine Plato! with your archetypal ideas, your androgynes, and your word; establish all these fine things in poetical prose, in your new republic, in which I no more aspire to have a house, than in the Salentum of Telemachus; but in lieu of becoming one of your citizens, I will send you an order to build your town with all the subtle matter of Descartes, all his globular and diffusive matter; and they shall be brought to you by Cyrano de Bergerac.*
Bayle however has exercised all the sagacity of his logic on these ancient fancies ; but it is always by rendering them ridiculous that he instructs and entertains.
O philosopers! Physical experiments, ably conducted, arts and handicraft,--these are the true philosophy. My sage is the conductor of my windmill, which dexterously catches the wind, and receives my corn, deposits it in the hopper, and grinds it equally, for the nourishment of myself and family. My sage is he who, with his shuttle, covers my walls with pictures of linen or of silk, brilliant with the finest colours; or he who
my pocket a chronometer of silver or of gold. My sage is the investigator of natural history. We learn more from the single experiments of the abbé Nollet than from all the philosophical works of antiquity.
* A very middling wit, and slightly insane.
AND THE RETREAT OF THE TEN THOUSAND.
IF Xenophon had no other merit than that of being the friend of the martyr Socrates, he would be interesting; but he was a warrior, philosopher, poet, historian, agriculturist, and amiable in society. There were many Greeks who united these qualities. But why had this free man a Greek
in the pay of the young Chosroes, named Cyrus by the Greeks? This Cyrus was the younger brother and subject of the emperor of Persia, Artaxerxes Mnemon, of whom it was said, that he never forgot anything but injuries. Cyrus had already attempted to assassinate his brother, even in the temple in which the ceremony of his consecration took place (for the kings of Persia were the first who were consecrated.) Artaxerxes had not only the clemency to pardon this villain, but he had the weakness to allow him the absolute government of a great part of Asia Minor, which he held from their father, and of which he at least deserved to be despoiled.
As a return for such surprising mercy, as soon as he could excite his satrapy to revolt against his brother, Cyrus added this second crime to the first. He declared by a manifesto, “ that he was more worthy of the throne of Persia than his brother, because he was a better magus, and drank more wine.” I do not believe that these were the reasons which gained him the Greeks as allies. He took thirteen thousand into his pay, among whom was the young Xenophon, who was then only an adventurer. Each soldier had a daric a month for pay. The daric is equal to about a guinea or a louis d'or of our time, as the chevalier de Jaucourt very well observes, and not ten francs, as Rollin says,
When Cyrus proposed to march them with his other troops to fight his brother towards the Euphrates, they demanded a daric and a half, which he was obliged to grant them. This was thirty-six livres a month, and consequently the highest pay which was ever given.