by: Voltaire (François Marie Arouet, 1694-1778)

      HELEMA'S lively, all admire
      Her charms, but she's too full of fire;
      Impatience ever racks her breast,
      Her heart a stranger is to rest.
      A jocund youth of bulky size
      This nymph beheld with tender eyes,
      From hers his humor differed quite,
      Black does not differ more from white.
      On his broad face and open mien
      There dwelt tranquility serene;
      His converse is from languor free
      And boisterous vivacity.
      His sleep was sound and sweet at night,
      Active he was at morn like light;
      As day advanced he pleased still more,
      Macareus was the name he bore.
      His mistress void of thought as fair
      Tormented him with too much care:
      She adoration thought her due,
      And into fierce reproaches flew;
      Her Macareus with laughter left,
      And of all hopes of bliss bereft.
      From clime to clime like mad she ran
      To seek the dear, the faithless man:
      From him she could not live content,
      So first of all to court she went.
      There she of every one inquired,
      "Is Macareus with you retired?"
      Hearing that name the witlings there
      To laugh and smile could scarce forbear.
      "Madam," said they, "who is this squire
      Macareus, for whom you inquire?
      Madam, his character display,
      Or else we shan't know what to say."
      "He is a man," returned the fair,
      "Possessed of each endowment rare,
      A man of virtue so refined,
      He hated none of human kind;
      To whom no man e'er owed a spite,
      Who always knew to reason right,
      Who void of care lived still at ease,
      And knew all human kind to please."
      The courtiers answered with a sneer,
      "You are not like to find him here,
      Mortals with such endowments rare
      But seldom to the court repair."
      The fair then to the city bent
      Her way, and stopped a convent.
      She thought that in that calm retreat
      She might her tranquil lover meet.
      "Madam," then said the under-prior,
      The man for whom you thus inquire
      We long have waited for in vain,
      To visit us he ne'er did deign.
      But such a loss to compensate,
      We've idle time and vigils late;
      We have our stated days of fasting
      With discord and divisions lasting."
      A short monk then with crown shaved o'er,
      Said, "Madam, seek this man no more;
      For I'm by false reports misled,
      Or else your lover's long since dead."
      What the monk insolently said
      Made Thelema with rage grow red:
      "Brother," said she, "I'd have you know
      The man who has caused all my woe
      Was made for me, and me alone,
      He's in this world on which I'm thrown;
      With me he'll live and die content,
      I'm propery his element:
      Who aught else told you, on my word,
      Has said a thing that's most absurd."
      This said, away the fair one ran,
      Resolved to find the inconstant man.
      "At Paris, where the wits abound,
      Perhaps," said she, "he may be found,
      The wits speak of him as a sage;"
      On of them said: "You by our page,
      Madam, perhaps have been misled;
      When there of Macareus you read,
      We spoke of one we never knew."
      Then near she to the law-court drew,
      Shutting her eyes, quick passed the fair,
      "My love," she cried, "can't sure be there;
      There's some attraction in the Court,
      But who'd to this vile place resort?
      Themis' black followers needs must prove
      Eternal foes to him I love."
      Fair Thelema at Rameau's shrine,
      Where the muse utters strains divine,
      The man who her so much neglected
      There to meet, was what she expected.
      At those feasts oft she was a guest,
      Where meet gay people richly dressed;
      Such people as we all agree
      To call the best of company.
      People of an address polite,
      She looked upon at the first sight
      As perfect copies of her lover;
      But she soon after could discover,
      That striving most to appear the same,
      They still were widest of their aim.
      At last the fair one in despair,
      Finding how vain was all her care,
      And grown of her inquiries tired,
      To her retreat would have retired:
      The object which she there first spied
      Was Macareus by her bedside;
      He waited there, hid from her eyes,
      That he the fair one might surprise:
      "Henceforward," said he, "live with me,
      From all inquietude be free,
      Do not, like vain and haughty dames,
      Be too assuming in your claims;
      And if you would henceforth possess
      My person and my tenderness,
      Never more make demands more high
      Than suits me with them to comply."
      Who's understood by either name,
      Both of the lover and the dame,
      The folks who are profound in Greek
      Cannot be very far to seek.
      Taught by this emblem they'll relate
      What's to be every mortal's fate,
      Thee, Macareus, though all men choose,
      Though much they love thee, oft they lose;
      And I'm persuaded that you dwell
      With me, though this I fear to tell.
      Who boasts that with thee he is blessed,
      By envy oft is dispossessed;
      A man should know, to make thee sure,
      How to live happy while obscure.

This English translation by William F. Fleming of 'Thelema and Macareus' is reprinted from The Works of Voltaire, Volume XXXVI. Trans. William F. Fleming. New York: E.R. DuMONT, 1901.




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