by: Voltaire (François
Marie Arouet, 1694-1778)
- TRIUMPHED, love's victorious
- Prevailed, and near approached the hour
- Which should have crowned our mutual flame,
- Just then your tyrant husband came.
- That hoary Jailer was too hard,
- To love he all access has barred,
- And all our wishes to defeat,
- Secures the key of pleasure's seat;
- For such strange matters to account,
- Our tale to ancient days should mount;
- Ceres must to you sure be known,
- Ceres one daughter had alone,
- Who much resembled you in face,
- Beauteous, adorned with every grace,
- To the soft passion much inclined,
- And guided by a Cupid blind.
- Hymen, a god as blind as he,
- Treated him as he treated thee;
- Pluto, the rich and old, in hell
- Made her his wife, and forced to dwell;
- But she the jealous miser scorned,
- And Pluto, though a god, was horned;
- Pirithous, his rival bright,
- Young, handsome, generous, and polite,
- Found means to get to hell ere dead,
- And clapped huge horns upon his head.
- This as a fable you'll deride,
- But love a man to hell may guide;
- In hell, as here, by some strange spite,
- Intrigues are always brought to light;
- In a hot hole a spy concealed,
- Saw all, and all he saw revealed;
- And added, that the royal dame,
- With half the damned had done the same.
- The horned god on this report
- Convokes at his infernal court,
- Each odious, black, and cursed soul,
- Sainted below for actions foul,
- Each cuckold's soul, who during life
- Did all he could to plague his wife.
- Then thus declared a Florentine,
- "Most mighty monarch, I'd opine
- For death, for once a wife is dead,
- She can't defile the marriage bed;
- But ah, sir, an immortal wife
- Can never be deprived of life;
- A padlock, therefore, I'd invent,
- Which should such accidents prevent;
- She must be virtuous, of course,
- When under the restraint of force;
- Not to be come at by her elf,
- You're sure to have her to yourself;
- Would I had thought before I died,
- Such a convenience to provide."
- This sage advice a loud applause
- From all the damned assembly draws;
- And straight by order of the state,
- Was registered on brass by fate.
- That moment in the shades below,
- They anvils beat, and bellows blow;
- Tisiphone the blacksmith's trade
- Well understood, the locks she made.
- Proserpina, from Pluto's hand
- Receiving, wore it by command.
- Sometimes the hardest hearts relent,
- Even Pluto's self some pity felt,
- When spouse's virtue he made fast,
- And said, "you'll now perforce be chaste."
- This lock which hell could frame alone,
- Soon to the human race was known;
- In Venice, Rome, and all about it,
- No gentleman or cit's without it;
- 'Tis always thought a method sure,
- All female honor to secure.
- There husbands, though some sneerers mock,
- Keep virtue safe and under lock.
- But now to bring the matter home,
- Your spouse, you know, lived long at Rome;
- With bad men few infection 'scape,
- He has learned the Roman modes to ape.
- But all his jealous care is vain,
- Love always knows his ends to gain;
- That god will sure espouse our cause,
- He still protects who keeps his laws;
- For you have given me your heart,
- And can't refuse me any part.
POEMS BY VOLTAIRE
This English translation by William
F. Fleming of 'The Padlock' is reprinted from The Works of
Voltaire, Volume XXXVI. Trans. William F. Fleming. New York:
E.R. DuMONT, 1901.