Zadig; Or, The Book of Fate

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Zadig; Or, The Book of Fate

– Quo fata trahunt, retrahuntque sequamur.

Per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum,

Tendimus in Latium. – Virg.


Thou Joy of ev’ry Eye! Thou Torment of every Heart! Thou Intellectual Light! I do not kiss the Dust of thy Feet; because thou seldom art seen out of the Seraglio, and when thou art, thou walkest only on the Carpets of Iran, or on Beds of Roses.

I here present you with a Translation of the Work of an ancient Sage, who having the Happiness of living free from all Avocations, thought proper, by Way of Amusement, to write the History of Zadig; a Performance, that comprehends in it more Instruction than, ’tis possible, you may at first be aware of. I beg you would indulge me so far as to read it over, and then pass your impartial Judgment upon it: For notwithstanding you are in the Bloom of your Life; tho’ ev’ry Pleasure courts you; tho’ you are Nature’s Darling, and have internal Qualities in proportion to your Beauty; tho’ the World resounds your Praises from Morning till Night, and consequently you must have a just Title to a superior Degree of Understanding than the rest of your Sex; Yet your Wit is no ways flashy; Your Taste is refin’d, and I have had the Honour to hear you talk more learnedly than the wisest Dervise, with his venerable Beard, and pointed Bonnet: You are discreet, and yet not mistrustful; you are easy, but not weak; you are beneficent with Discretion; you love your Friends, and create yourself no Enemies. Your most sprightly Flights borrow no Graces from Detraction; you never speak a misbecoming Word, nor do an ill-natur’d Action, tho’ ’tis always in your Power. In a Word, your Soul is as spotless as your Person. You have, moreover, a little Fund of Philosophy, which gives me just Grounds to hope that you’ll relish this Historical Performance better than any other Lady of your Quality would do.

It was originally compos’d in the Chaldean Language, to which both you and my self are perfect Strangers. It was translated, however, into Arabic, for the Amusement of the celebrated Sultan Ouloug-beg. It first appear’d in Public, when the Arabian and Persian Tales of One Thousand and One Nights, and One Thousand and One Days, were most in Vogue: Ouloug chose rather to entertain himself with the Adventures of Zadig. The Sultanas indeed were more fond of the former. How can you, said the judicious Ouloug, be so partial, as to prefer a Set of Tales, that are no ways interesting or instructive, to a Work, that has a Variety of Beauties to recommend it? Oh! replied the Sultanas, the less Sense there is in them, the more they are in Taste; and the less their Merit, the greater their Commendation.

I flatter my self, thou Patroness of Wisdom, that thou wilt not copy after those thoughtless Sultanas, but give into the Sentiments of Ouloug. I am in hopes likewise, when you are tir’d with the Conversation of such as make those senseless Romances abovemention’d their favourite Amusements, you will vouchsafe to listen for one Minute or two, to the Dictates of solid Sense. Had you been Thalestris in the Days of Scander, the Son of Philip; had you been the Queen of Sheba, in the Reign of Solomon, those Kings would have been proud to have taken a Tour to visit you.

May the Celestial Virtues grant, that your Pleasures may meet with no Interruption; your Charms know no Decay; and may your Felicity be everlasting!

SADI.

I, Who have subscrib’d my Name hereto, ambitious of being thought a Man of Wit and Learning, have perus’d this Manuscript, which I find, to my great Mortification, amusing, moral, philosophical, and fit to be read, even by those who have an utter Aversion to Romances; for which Reason, I have depretiated it, as it deserves, and have in direct Terms told the Cadi-Lesquier, that ’tis a most detestable Performance.

CHAP. I.
The Blind Eye

In the Reign of King Moabdar, there was a young Man, a Native of Babylon, by name Zadig; who was not only endowed by Nature with an uncommon Genius, but born of illustrious Parents, who bestowed on him an Education no ways inferior to his Birth. Tho’ rich and young, he knew how to give a Check to his Passions; he was no ways self-conceited; he didn’t always act up to the strictest Rules of Reason himself, and knew how to look on the Foibles of others, with an Eye of Indulgence. Every one was surpriz’d to find, that notwithstanding he had such a Fund of Wit, he never insulted; nay, never so much as rallied any of his Companions, for that Tittle Tattle, which was so vague and empty, so noisy and confus’d; for those rash Reflections, those illiterate Conclusions, and those insipid Jokes; and, in short, for that Flow of unmeaning Words, which was call’d polite Conversation in Babylon. He had learned from the first Book of Zoroaster, that Self-love is like a Bladder full blown, which when once prick’d, discharges a kind of petty Tempest. Zadig, in particular, never boasted of his Contempt of the Fair Sex, or of his Facility to make Conquests amongst them. He was of a generous Spirit; insomuch, that he was not afraid of obliging even an ungrateful Man; strictly adhering to that wise Maxim of Zoroaster. When you are eating, throw an Offal to the Dogs that are under the Table, lest they should be tempted to bite you. He was as wise as he could well be wish’d; since he was fond of no Company, but such as were distinguish’d for Men of Sense. As he was well-grounded, in all the Sciences of the antient Chaldeans, he was no Stranger to those Principles of Natural Philosophy, which were then known: And understood as much of Metaphysics as any one in all Ages after him; that is to say, he knew little or nothing of the Matter. He was firmly convinc’d, that the Year consisted of 365 Days and an half, tho’ directly repugnant to the new Philosophy of the Age he liv’d in; and that the Sun was situated in the Center of the Earth; And when the Chief Magi told him, with an imperious Air, that he maintain’d erroneous Principles; and that it was an Indignity offered to the Government under which he liv’d, to imagine the Sun should roll round its own Axis, and that the Year consisted of twelve Months, he knew how to sit still and quiet, without shewing the least Tokens of Resentment or Contempt.

As Zadig was immensely rich, and had consequently Friends without Number; and as he was a Gentleman of a robust Constitution, and remarkably handsome; as he was endowed with a plentiful Share of ready and inoffensive Wit: And, in a Word, as his Heart was perfectly sincere and open, he imagin’d himself, in some Measure, qualified to be perfectly happy. For which Purpose he determin’d to marry a gay young Lady (one Semira by name) whose Beauty, Birth and Fortune, render’d her the most desirable Person in all Babylon. He had a sincere Affection for her, grounded on Honour, and Semira conceiv’d as tender a Passion for him. They were just upon the critical Minute of a mutual Conjunction in the Bands of Matrimony, when, as they were walking Hand in Hand together towards one of the Gates of Babylon, under the Shade of a Row of Palm-trees, that grew on the Banks of the River Euphrates, they were beset by a Band of Ruffians, arm’d with Sabres, Bows and Arrows. They were the Guards, it seems, of young Orcan (Nephew of a certain Minister of State) whom the Parasites, kept by his Uncle, had buoy’d up with a Permission to do, with Impunity, whatever he thought proper. This young Rival, tho’ he had none of those internal Qualities to boast of that Zadig had, yet he imagin’d himself a Man of more Power; and for that Reason, was perfectly outrageous to see the other preferr’d before him. This Fit of Jealousy, the Result of mere Vanity, prompted him to think that he was deeply in Love with the fair Semira; and fir’d with that amorous Notion, he was determin’d to take her away from Zadig, by Dint of Arms. The Ravishers rush’d rudely upon her, and in the Transport of their Rage, drew the Blood of a Beauty, the Sight of whose Charms would have soften’d the very Tigers of Mount Imaüs. The injur’d Lady rent the very Heavens with her Exclamations. Where’s my dear Husband, she cried? They have torn me from the Arms of the only Man whom I adore. She never reflected on the Danger to which she was expos’d; her sole Concern was for her beloved Zadig. At the same Time, he defended her, like a Lover, and a Man of Integrity and Courage. With the Assistance only of two domestic Servants, he put those Sons of Violence to Flight, and conducted Semira, bloody as she was, and in fainting Fits, to her own House. No sooner was she come to her self, but she fix’d her lovely Eyes on her Dear Deliverer. O Zadig, said she, I love thee as affectionately, as if I were actually thy Bride: I love thee, as the Man, to whom I owe my Life, and what is dearer to me, the Preservation of my Honour. No Heart sure could be more deeply smitten than that of Semira. Never did the Lips of the fairest Creature living utter softer Sounds; never did the most enamoured Lady breathe such tender Sentiments of Love and Gratitude for his signal Service; never, in short, did the most affectionate Bride express such Transports of Joy for the fondest Husband. Her Wounds, however, were but very superficial, and she was soon recover’d. Zadig receiv’d a Wound that was much more dangerous: An unlucky Arrow had graz’d one of his Eyes, and the Orifice was deep. Semira was incessant in her Prayers to the Gods that they might restore her Zadig. Her Eyes were Night and Day overwhelm’d with Tears. She waited with Impatience for the happy Moment, when those of Zadig might dart their Fires upon her; but alas! the wounded Eye grew so inflam’d and swell’d, that she was terrified to the last Degree. She sent as far as Memphis for Hermes, the celebrated Physician there, who instantly attended his new Patient with a numerous Retinue. Upon his first Visit, he peremptorily declared that Zadig would lose his Eye; and foretold not only the Day, but the very Hour when that woful Disaster would befal him. Had it been, said that Great Man, his right Eye, I could have administred an infallible Specific; but as it is, his Misfortune is beyond the Art of Man to cure. Tho’ all Babylon pitied the hard Case of Zadig, they equally stood astonish’d at the profound Penetration of Hermes. Two Days after the Imposthume broke, without any Application, and Zadig soon after was perfectly recover’d. Hermes thereupon wrote a very long and elaborate Treatise, to prove that his Wound ought not to have been heal’d. Zadig, however, never thought it worth his while to peruse his learned Lucubrations; but, as soon as ever he could get abroad, determin’d to pay the Lady a Visit, who had testified such uncommon Concern for his Welfare, and for whose Sake alone he wish’d for the Restoration of his Sight. Semira he found had been out of Town for three Days; but was inform’d, by the bye, that his intended Spouse, having conceived an implacable Aversion to a one-ey’d Man, was that very Night to be married to Orcan. At this unexpected ill News, poor Zadig was perfectly thunder-struck: He laid his Disappointment so far to Heart, that in a short Time he was become a mere Skeleton, and was sick almost to death for some Months afterwards. At last, however, by Dint of Reflection, he got the better of his Distemper; and the Acuteness of the Pain he underwent, in some Measure, contributed towards his Consolation.

 

Since I have met with such an unexpected Repulse, said he, from a capricious Court-Lady, I am determin’d to marry some substantial Citizen’s Daughter. He pitch’d accordingly upon Azora, a young Gentlewoman extremely well-bred, an excellent Oeconomist, and one, whose Parents were very rich.

Their Nuptials accordingly were soon after solemniz’d, and for a whole Month successively, no two Turtles were ever more fond of each other. In Process of Time, however, he perceiv’d she was a little Coquettish, and too much inclin’d to think, that the handsomest young Fellows were always the most virtuous and the greatest Wits.

CHAP. II.
The Nose

One Day Azora, as she was just return’d home from taking a short Country airing, threw herself into a violent Passion, and swell’d with Invectives. What, in God’s Name, my Dear, said Zadig, has thus ruffled your Temper? What can be the Meaning of all these warm Exclamations? Alas! said she, you would have been disgusted as much as I am, had you been an Eye-witness of that Scene of Female Falshood, as I was Yesterday. I went, you must know, to visit the disconsolate Widow Cosrou, who has been these two Days erecting a Monument to the Memory of her young deceased Husband, near the Brook that runs on one side of her Meadow. She made the most solemn Vow, in the Height of her Affliction, never to stir from that Tomb, as long as ever that Rivulet took its usual Course. – Well! and wherein, pray, said Zadig, is the good Woman so much to blame? Is it not an incontestable Mark of her superior Merit and Conjugal-Affection? But, Zadig, said Azora, was you to know how her Thoughts were employ’d when I made my Visit, you’d never forget or forgive her. Pray, my dearest Azora, what then was she about? Why, the Creature, said Azora, was studying, to be sure, to find out Ways and Means to turn the Current of the River.

Azora, in short, harangu’d so long, and, was so big with her Invectives against the young Widow, that her too affected, vain Shew of Virtue, gave Zadig a secret Disgust.

Zadig had an intimate Friend, one Cador by Name, whose Spouse was perfectly honest, and had in reality a greater Regard for him, than all Mankind besides: This Friend Zadig made his Confident, and bound him to keep a Project of his entirely a Secret, by a Promise of some valuable Token of his Respect. Azora had been visiting a Female Companion for two Days together in the Country, and on the third was returning home: No sooner, however, was she in Sight of the House, but the Servants ran to meet her with Tears in their Eyes, and told her, that their Master dy’d suddenly the Night before; that they durstn’t carry her the doleful Tidings, but were going to bury Zadig in the Sepulchre of his Ancestors, at the Bottom of the Garden. She burst into a Flood of Tears; tore her Hair; and vow’d to die by his Side. As soon as it was dark, young Cador came, and begg’d the Favour of being introduc’d to the Widow. He was so, and they wept together very cordially. Next Day the Storm was somewhat abated, and they din’d together; Cador inform’d her, that his Friend had left him the much greater Part of his Effects, and gave her to understand, that he should think himself the happiest Creature in the World, if she would condescend to be his Partner in that Demise. The Widow wept, sobb’d, and began to melt. More Time was spent in Supper than at Dinner. They discoursed together with a little more Freedom. Azora was lavish of her Encomiums on Zadig; but then, ’twas true, she said, he had some secret Infirmities to which Cador was a Stranger. In the Midst of their Midnight Entertainment, Cador all on a sudden complain’d that he was taken with a most violent pleuretic Fit, and was ready to swoon away. Our Lady being extremely concern’d, and over-officious, flew to her Closet of Cordials, and brought down every Thing she could think of that might be of Service on this emergent Occasion. She was extremely sorry that the famous Hermes was gone from Babylon, and condescended to lay her warm Hand upon the Part affected, in which he felt such an agonizing Pain. Pray Sir, said she, in a soft, languishing Tone, are you subject to this tormenting Malady? Sometimes, Madam, said Cador, so strong, that they bring me almost to Death’s Door; and there is but one Thing can infallibly cure me; and that is, the Application of a dead Man’s Nose to the part affected. An odd Remedy truly, said Azora. Not stranger, Madam, said he, than the Great *Arnon’s* There was at this Time in Babylon, a famous Doctor, nam’d Arnon, who both cur’d Apoplectic Fits, and prevented them from affecting his Patients, as was frequently advertiz’d in the Gazettes, by a little never-failing Purse that he hung round their Necks. infallible Apoplectic Necklaces.

This Assurance of Success, together with Cador’s personal Merit, determin’d Azora in his Favour. After all, said she, when my Husband shall be about to cross the Bridge Tchimavar, from this World of Yesterday, to the other, of To-morrow, will the Angel Asrael, think you, make any Scruple about his Passage, should his Nose prove something shorter in the next Life than ’twas in this? She would venture, however, and taking up a sharp Razor, repair’d to her Husband’s Tomb; water’d it first with her Tears, and then intended to perform the innocent Operation, as he lay extended breathless, as she thought, in his Coffin. Zadig mounted in a Moment; secur’d his Nose with one Hand, and the Incision-Knife with the other. Madam, said he, never more exclaim against the Widow Cosrou. The Scheme for cutting my Nose off was much closer laid than hers of throwing the River into a new Channel.

CHAP. III.
The Dog and the Horse

Zadig found, by Experience, that the first thirty Days of Matrimony (as ’tis written in the Book of Zend) is Honey-Moon; but the second is all Wormwood. He was oblig’d, in short, as Azora grew such a Termagant, to sue out a Bill of Divorce, and to seek his Consolation for the future, in the Study of Nature. Who is happier, said he, than the Philosopher, who peruses with Understanding that spacious Book, which the supreme Being has laid open before his Eyes? The Truths he discovers there, are of infinite Service to him. He thereby cultivates and improves his Mind. He lives in Peace and Tranquility all his Days; he is afraid of Nobody, and he has no tender, indulgent Wife to shorten his Nose for him.

Wrapped up in these Contemplations, he retir’d to a little Country House on the Banks of the Euphrates; there he never spent his Time in calculating how many Inches of Water run thro’ the Arch of a Bridge in a second of Time, or in enquiring if a Cube Line of Rain falls more in the Mouse-Month, than in that of the Ram. He form’d no Projects for making Silk Gloves and Stockings out of Spiders Webbs, nor of China-Ware out of broken Glass-Bottles; but he pry’d into the Nature and Properties of Animals and Plants, and soon, by his strict and repeated Enquiries, he was capable of discerning a Thousand Variations in visible Objects, that others, less curious, imagin’d were all alike.

One Day, as he was taking a solitary Walk by the Side of a Thicket, he espy’d one of the Queen’s Eunuchs, with several of his Attendants, coming towards him, hunting about, in deep Concern, both here and there, like Persons almost in Despair, and seeking, with Impatience, for something lost of the utmost Importance. Young Man, said the Queen’s chief Eunuch, have not you seen, pray, her Majesty’s Dog? Zadig very cooly replied, you mean her Bitch, I presume. You say very right Sir, said the Eunuch, ’tis a Spaniel-Bitch indeed. – And very small said Zadig: She has had Puppies too lately; she’s a little lame with her left Fore-foot, and has long Ears. By your exact Description, Sir, you must doubtless have seen her, said the Eunuch, almost out of Breath. But I have not Sir, notwithstanding, neither did I know, but by you, that the Queen ever had such a favourite Bitch.

Just at this critical Juncture, so various are the Turns of Fortune’s Wheel! the best Palfrey in all the King’s Stable had broke loose from the Groom, and got upon the Plains of Babylon. The Head Huntsman with all his inferior Officers, were in Pursuit after him, with as much Concern, as the Eunuch about the Bitch. The Head Huntsman address’d himself to Zadig, and ask’d him, whether he hadn’t seen the King’s Palfrey run by him. No Horse, said Zadig, ever gallop’d smoother; he is about five Foot high, his Hoofs are very small; his Tail is about three Foot six Inches long; the studs of his Bit are of pure Gold, about 23 Carats; and his Shoes are of Silver, about Eleven penny Weight a-piece. What Course did he take, pray, Sir? Whereabouts is he, said the Huntsman? I never sat Eyes on him, reply’d Zadig, not I, neither did I ever hear before now, that his Majesty had such a Palfrey.

The Head Huntsman, as well as the Head Eunuch, upon his answering their Interrogatories so very exactly, not doubting in the least, but that Zadig had clandestinely convey’d both the Bitch and the Horse away, secur’d him, and carried him before the grand Desterham, who condemn’d him to the Knout, and to be confin’d for Life in some remote and lonely Part of Siberia. No sooner had the Sentence been pronounc’d, but the Horse and Bitch were both found. The Judges were in some Perplexity in this odd Affair, and yet thought it absolutely necessary, as the Man was innocent, to recal their Decree. However, they laid a Fine upon him of Four Hundred Ounces of Gold, for his false Declaration of his not having seen, what doubtless he did: And the Fine was order’d to be deposited in Court accordingly: On the Payment whereof, he was permitted to bring his Cause on to a Hearing before the grand Desterham.

On the Day appointed for that Purpose he open’d the Cause himself, in Terms to this or the like Effect.

Ye bright Stars of Justice, ye profound Abyss of universal Knowledge, ye Mirrors of Equity, who have in you the Solidity of Lead, the Hardness of Steel, the Lustre of a Diamond, and the Resemblance of the purest Gold! Since ye have condescended so far, as to admit of my Address to this August Assembly, I here, in the most solemn Manner, swear to you by Orosmades, that I never saw the Queen’s illustrious Bitch, nor the sacred Palfrey of the King of Kings. I’ll be ingenuous, however, and declare the Truth, and nothing but the Truth. As I was walking by the Thicket’s Side, where I met with her Majesty’s most venerable chief Eunuch, and the King’s most illustrious chief Huntsman, I perceiv’d upon the Sand the Footsteps of an Animal, and I easily inferr’d that it must be a little one. The several small, tho’ long Ridges of Land between the Footsteps of the Creature, gave me just Grounds to imagine it was a Bitch whose Teats hung down; and for that Reason, I concluded she had but lately pupp’d. As I observ’d likewise some other Traces, in some Degree different, which seem’d to have graz’d all the Way upon the Surface of the Sand, on the Side of the fore-Feet, I knew well enough she must have had long Ears. And forasmuch as I discern’d; with some Degree of Curiosity, that the Sand was every where less hollow’d by one Foot in particular, than by the other three, I conceiv’d that the Bitch of our most august Queen was somewhat lamish, if I may presume to say so.

 

As to the Palfrey of the King of Kings, give me leave to inform you, that as I was walking down the Lane by the Thicket-side, I took particular Notice of the Prints made upon the Sand by a Horse’s Shoes; and found that their Distances were in exact Proportion; from that Observation, I concluded the Palfrey gallop’d well. In the next Place, the Dust of some Trees in a narrow Lane, which was but seven Foot broad, was here and there swept off, both on the Right and on the Left, about three Feet and six Inches from the Middle of the Road. For which Reason I pronounc’d the Tail of the Palfrey to be three Foot and a half long, with which he had whisk’d off the Dust on both Sides as he ran along. Again, I perceiv’d under the Trees, which form’d a Kind of Bower of five Feet high, some Leaves that had been lately fallen on the Ground, and I was sensible the Horse must have shook them off; from whence I conjectur’d he was five Foot high. As to the Bits of his Bridle, I knew they must be of Gold, and of the Value I mention’d; for he had rubb’d the Studs upon a certain Stone, which I knew to be a Touch-stone, by an Experiment that I had made of it. To conclude, by the Prints which his Shoes had left of some Flint-Stones of another Nature, I concluded his Shoes were Silver, and of eleven penny Weight Fineness, as I before mention’d.

The whole Bench of Judges stood astonish’d at the Profundity of Zadig’s nice Discernment. The News was soon carried to the King and the Queen. Zadig was not only the whole Subject of the Court’s Conversation; but his Name was mention’d with the utmost Veneration in the King’s Chambers, and his Privy-Council. And notwithstanding several of their Magi declar’d he ought to be burnt for a Sorcerer; yet the King thought proper, that the Fine he had deposited in Court, should be peremptorily restor’d. The Clerk of the Court, the Tipstaffs, and other petty Officers, waited on him in their proper Habit, in order to refund the four Hundred Ounces of Gold, pursuant to the King’s express Order; modestly reserving only three Hundred and ninety Ounces, part thereof, to defray the Fees of the Court. And the Domesticks swarm’d about him likewise, in Hopes of some small Consideration.

Zadig, upon winding up of the Bottom, was fully convinc’d, that it was very dangerous to be over-wise; and was determin’d to set a Watch before the Door of his Lips for the future.

An Opportunity soon offer’d for the Trial of his Resolution. A Prisoner of State had just made his Escape, and pass’d under the Window of Zadig’s House. Zadig was examin’d thereupon, but was absolutely dumb. However, as it was plainly prov’d upon him, that he did look out of the Window at the same Time, he was sentenc’d to pay five Hundred Ounces of Gold for that Misdemeanor; and moreover, was oblig’d to thank the Court for their Indulgence; a Compliment which the Magistrates of Babylon expect to be paid them. Good God! said he, to himself, have I not substantial Reason to complain, that my impropitious Stars should direct me to walk by a Wood’s-Side, where the Queen’s Bitch and the King’s Palfrey should happen to pass by? How dangerous is it to pop one’s Head out of one’s Window? And, in a Word, how difficult is it for a Man to be happy on this Side the Grave?

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