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

      BEAUTEOUS princess often may
      Languish in pleasure's season gay;
      The empty forms of haughty state
      Oft make life tedious to the great.
      It must the greatest king confound,
      With all his courtiers circled round,
      Amidst a splendid court to find,
      That grandeur can't give peace of mind.
      Some think that play can give delight,
      But soon it grows insipid quite;
      And monarchs have been often seen,
      While gaming, tortured with the spleen.
      A king oft feasts with heavy heart,
      Pleasures to him no joy impart;
      While the dull vulgar contemplate,
      Like gazing idiots, pomp and state,
      And fondly think who is possessed
      Of them with bliss supreme is blessed.
      Soon as the sun's refulgent rays,
      Spread o'er the hemisphere their blaze;
      The king begins another day,
      Yet knows not where to take his way:
      Tired of himself he straight repairs
      To company, to soothe his cares.
      But pleasure flies from his embrace,
      It rises not from change of place;
      This day's insipid as the last,
      At night he knows not how it passed.
      Time's loss is not to be repaired,
      Life's to an instant well compared;
      What, when life posts away so fast,
      Can days appear so long at last?
      Princess, whose worth above thy age,
      All hearts at two courts can engage;
      You usefully that time employ,
      By youth consumed in rapid joy.
      The genius given by heaven benign,
      You strive to polish and refine,
      By studies which at once unite
      Instructions solid, with delight.
      'Tis best the mind should be employed,
      Indolence leaves a craving void;
      The soul is like a subtle fire,
      Which if not fed must soon expire.

This English translation by William F. Fleming of 'To Her Royal Highness, the Princess of ***' is reprinted from The Works of Voltaire, Volume XXXVI. Trans. William F. Fleming. New York: E.R. DuMONT, 1901.




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