by: Voltaire (François
Marie Arouet, 1694-1778)
- T VILLAGE lived, in days of yore,
- A youth bred in Mahomet's lore;
- His well-turned limbs were formed with grace,
- With blooming beauty glowed his face;
- His name was Azolan, with care
- The Koran he had written fair;
- Was on its study ever bent,
- To get it all by heart he meant.
- From the most early youth his breast
- By zeal for Gabriel was possessed;
- This minister of the most high
- Descended to him from the sky.
- "The zeal that in thy bosom glows,"
- Said he, "thy guardian Gabriel knows:
- To Gabriel gratitude is dear,
- To make your fortune I'm come here;
- You'll in short time as first divine
- Of Medina and Mecca shine;
- This, next to his place who is chief
- Of all who hold the true belief,
- Is the most high and wealthy station
- In holy Mahomet's donation.
- When you your duties once begin,
- Honors on all sides will pour in;
- But you a solemn oath must make
- The whole sex female to forsake;
- To lead a life most chaste, and ne'er
- But through a grate to view the fair."
- Too hastily the beauteous boy,
- That he church treasures might enjoy,
- Fell easily into the snare,
- Nor of his folly was aware.
- Our new-made imam was elate,
- Seeing himself become so great;
- His joy the salary enhanced,
- Which was immediately advanced
- by a clerk of important air,
- Who with him still went share and share.
- No joy can dignity supply,
- Nor wealth, should love his aid deny.
- Amina fair by chance he spies,
- With youthful bloom and charming eyes;
- He loves Amina, she in turn
- For him feels love's flame equal burn.
- Each morning as the day returned,
- The youth, who with love's flames still burned,
- Being by his cursed oath enchained,
- Of his sad slavery complained,
- Avowing freely in his heart,
- That he had played a foolish part.
- "Then, Medina, farewell," he cried,
- "Mecca, vain pomp and foolish pride;
- Amina, mistress of my breast,
- We'll both live in my village blessed."
- From heaven the archangel made descent,
- Severely to reproach him bent:
- The tender lover thus replies:
- "Do but behold my mistress' eyes;
- I find of me you've made a jest,
- I'm by your contract quite distressed;
- With all you gave I'll freely part,
- I ask alone Amina's heart.
- The prudent and the sacred lore
- Of Mahomet I must adore;
- Love's joys he grants to the elect,
- Nay, he allows them to expect
- Aminas and eternal love,
- In his bright Paradise above.
- To heaven again, dear Gabriel, go,
- My zeal for you shall still o'erflow;
- To the empyrean then repair;
- Without my love I'd not go there."
POEMS BY VOLTAIRE
This English translation by William
F. Fleming of 'Azolan' is reprinted from The Works of Voltaire,
Volume XXXVI. Trans. William F. Fleming. New York: E.R. DuMONT,