Duc Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, , p. Dieckmann, J. Proust, J. Varloot Paris: Hermann, —. Goethe translated from a copy that has disappeared. It is a kind of metacommentary, not attributed to the speaker in the dialogue ME, but to an Editor. Our interactive edition So we must recognize the still incomplete state of our knowledge about the actual way in which Diderot developed his dialogue. The spelling reminds us of the licentious mythical beast, the goat-man; the work itself has some very funny dirty stories. Henri Coulet Paris: Hermann, , p. Charles Asselineau Paris: Poulet-Malassis, It takes them off, it takes them down, several or every peg they ever climbed.
This kind of edition makes it much easier to understand who these people are, why Diderot may be getting at them. At a click, the reader can cause their portrait and their biography to appear. Likewise, Diderot seems to foretell a transformation outside politics, one of sensibility, of our relation to our own feeling for music. We hope to have made an understanding of this possible in this edition — the digital form has enabled us to embed into the text pieces of music specially selected and directed by Pascal Duc.
This engenders, we hope, an awareness of the musical context of the dialogue, enlarging it well beyond its relation to opera comique. But the clowning, the spilling-over of expression moves with Rameau the nephew from the active and the liberating into almost painful movements, into bows and scrapes which are as if extorted. He is, but he is also made to be. By perfecting his flattery through self-consciousness, by not being identical to what he is made to be by his patrons, he has contrived to turn his very servitude into a kind of liberty, a liberty raised to the second power, arrived at through an awareness of his bonds.
His ironic exploitation of his own turpitude brings it to the level of an art. The form, a dialogue not as face to face but as if skewed, seems to have been invented by Diderot and it is puzzling that, to my knowledge, this form is only found in German authors who actually met Diderot or who were interested in him: Lessing, Wieland, Herder, F.
Each found there a link to his own work. But there are intellectual reasons also. And Diderot throughout this work plays with lists, with different ways of collecting together actions and professions and characteristics. The second area on which Hegel insists is music. What appears to interest him most is the way in which Diderot has, through music, sketched out a kind of movement of history, whereby consciousness and hence sensibility make each moment unique, differentiated from the past by what has been in our past.
Our ears carry our experience, and we cannot have innocent ears, or innocent experience either. Having listened to the music of the Italian comic opera, Diderot suggests through the mouth of HIM, we cannot go back unchanged and listen to the French composers, to Rameau, as before.
There is another attraction for Hegel.
Chamfort - The French Moralists
In this figure of rhetoric, a position negated leads us back to the starting point; we do not move on, but stay as it were blocked by a contradiction. How then does Diderot structure his dialogue, if it is left wide open? Indeed, one wonders if some sections do not recur as variations on a theme. The reader in fact wanders and wonders. We move through a hailstorm of allusions, a multitude of moods.
We hope that the appreciation of this strange work, the route we take as we read, will be made clearer and livelier by this new translation, and the resources of music and images it brings with it. What these comments on editions, including our own, show is how little what Diderot was up to was understood by his very early readers and perhaps by his modern ones. The line between studying different editions of a Diderot text and following his game-play may be very hard, even impossible to draw.
In the case discussed above at p. One can understand why this might have been done if one thinks of his novel Jacques le fataliste, where exactly this sort of remark is part of the game played by the writing, and which Schiller and Goethe so much admired. Charles Asselineau, ed. Diderot, Le Neveu de Rameau Paris, V, Le Neveu de Rameau Paris, Henri Coulet, Le Neveu de Rameau, vol. Varloot, vol. XII Paris: Hermann, Marian Hobson Droz: Geneva, I let it be master and allow it to pursue the first idea that comes to it, good or mad, and to behave just like those young libertines of ours we see chasing some flighty, pretty courtesan with bright eyes and a snub nose along Foy Walk, leaving her for another one, stalking them all and sticking to none.
In my case, my thoughts are my sluts. Moreover, he is possessed of a strong constitution, a singularly heated imagination, and an exceptionally vigorous set of lungs. Heavens, what a terrifying pair of lungs! Nothing is more unlike the man than he himself. Tomorrow, hair powdered and curled, well shod and well dressed, he goes about in public, his head held high, and you would almost take him for a respectable man.
He lives from one day to the next.
Sad or cheery, depending on the circumstances. Nightfall brings its own anxiety. Either he makes his way back, on foot, to his tiny attic, unless his landlady has got fed up with waiting for the rent and asked him to return the key, or he falls back on a tavern on the outskirts of town where he waits for dawn with a bit of bread and a mug of beer.
In the morning, he still has half his mattress in his hair. I have no respect for such oddballs. Other people make close acquaintances out of them, even friends. I had known this one for a long time. He frequented a household that had opened its doors to him because of his talent. They had an only daughter. He kept on swearing to both mother and father that he would marry their daughter. He used to borrow money, which I gave him. He had somehow gained entry to some honest households where a place would always be set for him on the condition he not speak without permission.
He would keep silent and eat with rage. Muzzled in this way, he was a magnificent sight. If ever he got it into his head to break the agreement and open his mouth, no sooner had he uttered a word than everyone round the table would shout: Oh Rameau! And then his eyes would burn with rage, and he would go back to eating even more furiously. There you are, Mister Philosopher, and what are you doing hanging around here with this bunch of layabouts?
What each of them knows is everything that can be taught. I see that only men of sublime genius escape your judgement. But the thing is that you need a lot of people working really hard at something for one man of genius to emerge. He is one in a multitude. What have you been up to? Meanwhile, my beard kept growing, and when it did, I had it shaved off. That was the only thing missing for you to be a sage. My forehead is large and furrowed, my eyes blaze, my nose is prominent, my cheeks are broad, my eyebrows are black and bushy, my mouth is wide, my lips are full, and my jaw is square.
The problem is that the spleen shrivelling up my dear uncle appears to be having the opposite effect on his dear nephew. Apart from that, nothing at all. We need men, but, as for men of genius, no thanks. The world is fine as it is, because the multitude is happy with it. And it must be what made you conceive such a deadly hatred for genius. You have to choose your side and stick to it. Nations which do, will be honoured on their account; sooner or later, statues will be put up to them, and they will be viewed as the benefactors of the human race.
With all due respect to that sublime minister you were talking about, I believe that even if lies can be useful in the short term, they are necessarily harmful in the long term, whereas on the contrary, the truth is necessarily useful in the long term, although it can turn out to be harmful in the short term. All of which leads me to conclude that the man of genius who denounces some widely held view as false, or who helps demonstrate some great truth, will always be worthy of our veneration.
Of Socrates and the judge who made him drink the hemlock, who is dishonoured today? Was he not a most brazen and bizarre individual? A society should not have bad laws, and were it only to have good ones, it would never be in a position to persecute a man of genius. I never said genius was inextricably linked to wickedness, nor wickedness to genius.
A fool is more likely to be wicked than a clever man is. If a man of genius were hard-hearted, prickly, unbearable, and generally difficult to get on with, even truly wicked, what would you say? He may be hard-hearted, violent, inhumane, and grasping. But what about Racine? And what about De Voltaire? Actually, Mister Philosopher, I do understand myself, and I understand myself just like you understand yourself. Why would it be better for him then?
You laugh, but let me speak. No one gets beaten up in a well governed city. Many people, some of them titled, are involved in it. What the devil do you want people to spend their money on, if not on good food, good company, good wine, beautiful women, every pleasure on the spectrum, every species of amusement? But you have to weigh up both sides.
He will inspire them with feelings of humanity, compassion, tenderness, they will want to know who he was, where he came from, and on account of him, France will be the envy of the world. He inflicted suffering on some people who are no more, people in whom we have almost no interest. We have nothing to fear either from his vices or his defects. Doubtless, it would have been better if nature had endowed him with the virtues of a good man and the talents of a great one. He is a mighty tree who starved some other trees growing nearby and stifled the plants at his feet, but his own crown reached the sky; his branches stretched out wide; he provided welcome shade for those who came, still come and always will come in search of rest by his majestic trunk; the fruits he gave were exquisite, and they keep growing back.
He will no longer move you. The important thing is that we should exist, you and me, and that we should exist as you and me. In any case, let everything find its way in the world. I am an envious person. Whenever I hear some degrading detail about their private lives, I prick up my ears in delight. It makes us more alike. It allows me to bear my own mediocrity more easily.
Yes, yes, I admit it, I am mediocre and angry. After a few sweet moments of this repose, he woke up suddenly, stretched his arms, yawned, rubbed his eyes, and started looking around for his witless sycophants. Before he begins, he lets out a deep sigh and clutches his head in both hands. Then, he regains his calm and says: You know that I am an ignoramus, a fool, a madman, an upstart, a hanger-on, what the Burgundians42 call a dirty scally, a cheat, a greedy pig Every word is true.
No one could deny it. Until now, I had always supposed that one would either hide such things from oneself or forgive oneself for them, and that one despised them in others. Despise them in others? Well, my lot were fairer than that, and they had the sort of character that meant I was a great hit with them. I was like a pig in clover. They made a great fuss of me. I was their little Rameau, their pretty Rameau, their Rameau who was such a madman, such an upstart, such an ignoramus, a hanger-on, a greedy-guts, a clown, such a great beast of a Rameau.
Not one of these familiar epithets came without a smile, a caress, a little pat on the shoulder, a slap, a kick, or without, at dinner, a lump of meat being flung onto my plate, and after dinner, the permission to take liberties without there being any consequences, because I am of no consequence. People can do to me, with me, and in front of me whatever they like without me taking offence; and what about those little presents they showered me with?
I lost it all because I succumbed to a moment of common sense, just once in my life. That never happens to me! Oh the foolishness of having shown a bit of taste, a bit of wit, a bit of sense. And off you went biting your lip when it was your tongue you should have bitten. Is the sin you committed so unpardonable? They need you more than you think. I am so sorry! What is funny is that while I was saying this, he was miming along. He had prostrated himself, pressed his face to the ground, he seemed to have his hands round the toe of a slipper, he was weeping, he was sobbing, he was saying: Yes, my little queen, yes, I promise, I will never show any ever again, ever.
She is a good person. Monsieur Viellard46 is always saying what a good person she is. Nevertheless, to have to bow down to that ape-woman! To beg for mercy at the feet of a wretched little diva who is booed by audiences everywhere! Has it come to this? To have to go Honestly, Sir, that cannot be. There should always be a certain dignity bound up with the nature of man, which nothing can stifle.
But, my friend, she is pretty, young, fair-skinned, soft, plump; and it would be an act of humility that a man of yet more delicate taste than you might sometimes stoop to. How many times have I said to myself: Come on, Rameau, how is it that there are ten thousand dinner tables in Paris, and room for fifteen to twenty at each, and no seat for you!
There are purses full of gold, showering in every direction, and not a single coin comes your way! Would you be that stupid? That there is a handsome and wealthy young man, in a suit trimmed with gold, who has a magnificent carriage and six tall footmen, and who, having caught a glimpse of her, has fallen for her charms, been unable to eat or drink ever since, and is now lying awake every night thinking of her, and generally dying of love? But what will my Papa say? And who tells me that the only thing that matters in this world is being a good girl?
But once you go and see him in your lace Her heart was already a-flutter with excitement. Yes, very. She reads. So along he comes; she likes what she sees; and one fine day, at dusk, the girl vanishes, and I am paid my two thousand ecus You are capable of doing all that and yet you go hungry? And what were this lot anyway? So I took heart, felt my soul rise up and my mind soar, and I knew I could do anything. Be that as it may, this is exactly how I often address myself, and you can rearrange the words of my soliloquy however you fancy, so long as you always conclude from it that I am a man acquainted with self-hatred, that I know that tormented conscience which comes from not having been able to use the talents bestowed upon us by heaven above.
It would almost have been better if such a man had never been born. It was painful. Twenty times, I burst out laughing and every time this stopped me from exploding in anger; twenty times, the anger that was bubbling up inside me erupted into laughter. I was dumbfounded by how insightful and at once how sordid what he said was, by how right and then how wrong his ideas were, by how totally perverse his sentiments were, by the spectacle of such utter depravity, and by how uncommonly open about it he was.
Oh, unhappy man! What a state of utter abjection you were born in, or have fallen into! My plan, in speaking openly to you in this way, was not to cause you any distress. I did manage to put a bit aside when I was with those people. We grow a little richer with every day that passes. The important thing is to go easily, freely, pleasurably, copiously and daily each evening on the chamber pot.
O stercus pretiosum [O Precious Turd]! Whether you rot beneath marble or under the ground, you still rot. Whether you have the Boys in Red or the Boys in Blue55 to sing at your funeral, or no one at all, what does it matter? See this wrist, it was as stiff as the devil. But by God, I say you will; and so it shall be. And while he was speaking, he had grabbed his left hand in his right and was pulling his fingers and wrist backwards and forwards so that he made the very tips of his fingers touch his arm; his joints cracked with the effort, and I was worried his bones would be permanently dislocated.
However much they complained, the poor buggers just had to get used to it and learn to land on the right keys and fly up and down the strings. Screen that man off from me, if he must act the part of a man being tortured. His ears could truly hear the chords resonating, and so could mine.
And straightaway, he squatted like a musician seating himself at the harpsichord. Mercy, I implore you, for both our sakes, I said. Since there was no point me pitying my man who was still drenched in sweat following his violin sonata, I decided to let him get on with it. His voice swooped up and down and his fingers tripped along the keys, sometimes skipping from the upper keys to the lower, sometimes moving from the accompaniment back to the tune. After all, in this land of ours, do we have to understand the things we teach?
How very true! Now, Mister Philosopher, hand on heart, tell me straight.
Damn it! I did have a wife. How old is your child? I have never come across anything as pig-headed as a philosopher. Might one be permitted to make a most humble request of Your Worship the Philosopher, that he kindly convey to one the approximate age that her little ladyship his daughter might be? Then it should have already been fingering the keys for four years. No dance lessons? What am I saying, useless? They may well be dangerous. You need a profound understanding of any art or science to have a real grasp of the basics.
Textbooks can only be done properly by men who have grown old and white-haired on the job. I exclaimed. How can there be so many good ideas jumbled up with so many outrageous ones in that wicked head of yours? Chance throws them at you, and they stick. Can you be a good teacher if you lack method? And method, where does that come from? Listen, my dear philosopher, in my head, physics will always be a poor science, a droplet of water lifted out of the vast ocean on the point of a needle, a speck of earth removed from the Alpine range.
And the reasons behind natural phenomena? What are you thinking about? The streets are so exhausting! Well now, Mademoiselle, do you want to get your music out? He always dies a fortnight before he does that. What else have I got to tell you? I was playing the fool.
They listened to me. They laughed. Mademoiselle sits down at the harpsichord. To begin with she would clatter about all by herself. Then I would go over, having signalled to the mother how pleased I was. The mother: Not bad at all; if only we were willing to practice a little more, but we appear not to be. We prefer to waste our time chatting, messing about with our dresses, running about, doing goodness knows what. No sooner do you leave than the music gets put away again not to be opened until your next visit. And yet you never tell her off So, as I did have to do something, I took her hands and placed them for her.
This is so painful for Monsieur. You never listen to what he tells you. You are too good. And so the hour would pass. I would be putting it in my pocket while the mother was saying: Very good, Mademoiselle. I should say so. I arrive. I am serious. I quickly remove my jacket; I open the lid of the harpsichord; I try the keys. But, Mister Philosopher, there is such a thing as a general conscience, just as there is a general grammar, and exceptions to it in every language, which you, you and your learned friends, refer to, I believe, as Similarly, every walk of life has its own particular exceptions to the general conscience that I think we might call its peculiarity.
Fontenelle74 is a good speaker and a good writer, although his style teems with French peculiarities. And so we talk up our profession as much as we can. And so there is one peculiarity that we find in almost all walks of life, because there are some which are actually common to all countries and all times, just as there are common idiocies, and that common peculiarity is to secure as many jobs as possible, and the common idiocy is to believe that the best man is the one with the most jobs.
And these are two exceptions to the general conscience and we should go along with them. They say A good reputation is worth its weight in gold. And yet the person with a good reputation is never the one with the gold, and I have noticed that these days the person with the gold is never without a reputation. What you have to have, if you can, is both the lustre and the lucre. These days, I earn my fee, that is, as much as anyone does. They say that when a robber is robbed, the devil steals a smile. The parents were up to their necks in wealth, acquired God knows how; there were courtiers, bankers, wholesalers, accountants, businessmen.
I helped them redistribute their wealth, me and a load of other people they also employed. In nature, all species prey on each other; in society, people of all stations prey on each other too. In the midst of all this, only the imbecile or the idler get hurt without having offended anyone, and quite right too.
Which just goes to show that these exceptions to the general conscience, or these moral peculiarities, which people have been up in arms about and calling perks of the job, are nothing to get worked up about at all, and when it comes right down to it, the only thing you really need is a good eye. The voice of conscience and honour can barely be heard over the sound of hunger gnawing at the guts.
I like being in control, and I will be. I like being praised, and I will be. And will there be music? Now you know where you stand, you and your friends. You believe happiness is made the same for everyone. What a strange vision! Your happiness presupposes a certain romantic turn of mind that we do not have, a singular soul, a peculiar taste. You confer the title of virtue on this weirdness; you call it philosophy. But are virtue and philosophy made for everyone?
Enjoy them if you can, hold onto them if you can. What else is there? The rest is vanity. Do any of us have any friends? And if we did, why would we want to make them ungrateful? Gratitude is a burden, and all burdens are made to be shaken off. Fulfilling your duties, what does that get you? Jealousy, trouble, persecution.
Is that how to get ahead? Pay court, damn it! I never enjoy an evening more than when I am pleased with my morning. Their souls stagnate. Boredom takes hold of them. Hemmed in as they are by an overwhelming abundance of riches, anyone who does away with them would be doing them a service. The only aspect of happiness they recognize is the bit that froths up quickest. I too have a palate, and it is tempted by a delicate morsel or a delicious wine. Every so often, I am not averse to an evening of debauchery amongst friends, even quite a riotous one.
But I will not conceal from you that I find it infinitely more delightful to come to the aid of someone in need, to bring a fraught situation to an end, to give a salutary piece of advice, to read something pleasant, go for a walk with a man or woman dear to my heart, spend a couple of instructive hours with my children, write a good page, fulfil the duties of my position, say some tender loving words to the one I love and receive her embrace in return.
There are some things I would give anything to have done. Mahomet is a sublime piece of work,82 but I would rather have cleared the Calas83 name. A man I know of fled to Carthagena. So what does he do now, this younger son, who had been so harshly treated by his parents, and had gone to seek his fortune far away? He sends them help; he hurriedly winds up his affairs. He comes back wealthy. He restores his father and mother to their home.
He arranges for his sisters to be married. My dear Rameau, this man looked upon this as the happiest period of his life. He told me about it with tears in his eyes; and as I tell you this story, I can feel my heart fill with joy, and it gives me such pleasure I can hardly speak. But the way you see it, then, is that we ought to be decent and honourable? They are suffering, and when you suffer, you make other people suffer too.
Virtue commands respect, and respect is uncomfortable. Virtue commands admiration, and admiration is no fun. How do you make him lower his voice? Raise your own. And if good old Rameau were, one day, to start looking as if he despised money, women, feasting, idleness, and start behaving like a little Cato88 instead, what would that make him? A hypocrite. Rameau has to be who he is: a happy thief in the company of wealthy thieves, and not someone who trumpets his virtue or who is actually virtuous, chewing his crust of bread on his own or with other beggars.
Just as well. Are you laughing? Should people be able to say to me: Crawl, and then I have to crawl? I have had my tail stepped on, and I shall rear up. Will he laugh? My lord hypochondriac, his head stuffed up inside a nightcap which comes right down over his eyes, looks like some kind of paralyzed puppet91 sitting in an armchair with a string attached to its chin dangling down all the way to the floor.
I love a nice bit of flesh myself, but there is such a thing as too much, and motion is an essential quality of matter, after all. And another thing, it has no idea about anything, and it also gets to decide things. How do women learn all that? Untutored, by sheer force of instinct, by natural insight alone: it seems miraculous. Bowing ten times a day, one knee bent in front of the other, the other leg stuck out behind, arms outstretched towards the goddess, trying to read her every look, hanging on her every word, awaiting her command, and shooting off in a flash.
What sort of a person is it who can subject themselves to such a role, if not the wretch who has no other way of appeasing the torment of his intestines two or three times a week? When I was starting out, I would watch what the others were doing, and I would do the same, but better, because I am more openly brazen, a better actor, hungrier, and possessed of a better pair of lungs.
Apparently, I am directly descended from the famous Stentor. That really gives our pretty little wits something to think about. Nobody is more skilful at this than I am.
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But my most surprising skills are at the other end of the scale; I can produce tiny sounds which I accompany with a smile, an infinite variety of approving expressions; my nose, my mouth, my forehead, my eyes can all come into play; I can bend my back with ease, I have a way of twisting my spine, of raising and lowering my shoulders, extending my fingers, inclining my head, closing my eyes and being awestruck as if I had just heard an angelic and divine voice coming down from heaven. I am not sure you entirely appreciate the impact of this last pose. I am far from having invented it, but nobody has surpassed me in its execution.
Look, look I have to agree that you have taken the art of playing the fool and abasing yourself as far as it can go. Even the best of them, Palissot, for instance, will never be more than a good apprentice. Thought and skill have their limits. Only God and a few rare geniuses can have careers that keep stretching out before them as they advance. Remember Bouret was adored by his dog; remember that the bizarre clothes the minister wore terrified the little animal; remember that Bouret only had a week to overcome these obstacles.
You need to understand all the background to really appreciate how ingenious the solution was. So come on then! I must confess that even the slightest thing of this kind is too much for me. He has a mask made that looks just like the Keeper of the Seals; he borrows the voluminous robe99 from a valet. He covers his face with the mask. He puts on the robe. He calls his dog, he strokes him.
He gives him a little biscuit. In under two or three days of doing this morning to night, the dog knows to run away from Bouret the Tax Farmer and run towards Bouret the Keeper of the Seals. Even the cobblestones know about them, so go and ask them; you should take advantage of happening to find yourself in my company to discover things that nobody knows apart from me.
Having a mask made to look like him! But role models like these are depressing. You feel sorry for yourself, and you get discouraged. The mask! I believe it may well have been in use before me; but who ever realized how well-suited it would be for having a secret laugh while bowing down before some upstart?
I have ten different ways of forcing people to snatch them from me, and among those ways, I flatter myself that some of them are novel. I have a particular talent for encouraging shy young men; guided by me, even men as thick as two short planks and as ugly as sin have been successful.
If it were ever written down, I believe people would acknowledge I had some genius. It would be a pity if it were lost. Geniuses read little, do a lot, and are their own creators. No one. Do you think the dog and the mask is written down anywhere? That idiotic audience claps until it hurts and does not realize what a mass of charms we are; it is true that the mass is increasing a bit, but what does that matter? Are you being ironic or are you telling the truth? But let me tell you because I know, I really do, that she has lots of feeling. I am a decent man; kindly have the decency to be more straightforward with me, and leave out the clever stuff.
But, however egregious such things seem to you, believe you me, the people to whom they are addressed are far more used to hearing them than we are to venturing them. And besides, we look so convinced, so sincere! Not at all. I take every opportunity to speak my mind. Never in my life have I reflected, before, during or after speaking. So I never give offence. We have, as you know, more friends than anyone else and ours are the best.
We are a school for humanity, we revive the hospitality of the Ancients. All those failed poets, we give them a home. They hardly take up any space! We appear cheerful; but deep down, we are resentful and voracious. Wolves are not as hungry, nor tigers as cruel. We are as ravenous as wolves after the long winter snows; we rip to pieces anyone or anything that is at all successful.
None shall have wit unless he be as foolish as thee and me. We insult everybody and upset nobody. If things get too riotous, he yawns, stretches his arms, rubs his eyes and says: Well, now! Between you and me, that sort of poetry is nothing but a hullabaloo, a whole load of noises jumbled up, like the barbaric squawking coming from the Tower of Babel. The reason is, he replied, that there are rewards to be had from keeping bad company just as there are from following your fancies.
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You lose your innocence but the compensation is that you also lose your prejudices. Vice itself only occasionally causes harm, but a character displaying obvious signs of it causes permanent offence. Perhaps it would be better to be contemptuous than to have a contemptuous physiognomy; the contemptuous character is only insulting from time to time, whereas the contemptuous physiognomy is continuously insulting.
The only merit I can claim for myself is that I have a system, based on clear thinking and rational, true observation, for doing what most people do instinctively. Besides, remember that when it comes to a subject as variable as morals, there are no absolute, essential or general rights or wrongs except the law of self-interest, according to which we must always be what it wants us to be, good or bad, wise or foolish, decent or ridiculous, honest or wicked.
If virtue had happened to offer a route to fortune, I would have been virtuous or pretended to be, like everyone else. He appeared over our horizon yesterday for the first time; he arrived at the moment when we all come out of our dens: dinnertime. One of our number made fun of another for having arrived in the morning all spattered in mud and completely wet through, but when he went home in the evening, exactly the same thing happened to him. They had set up a running account; the creditor wanted the debtor to settle up, and the latter was not in funds.
I come in, I see him. So we ate dinner; I ate up every last bit. I had given my word in front of so many people that I had no choice but to keep it. Was I any different from how I normally am? Even a puppet made of steel would get worn out if its strings got pulled all day and all night. Sure, there are plenty of basic fools. But stupidity is more demanding than talent or virtue. I am uncommon in my species, yes, very uncommon. I am an endless source of rude remarks. I was always ready with a quip that would make them weep with laughter, I was their own personal little Bedlam.
Do you know her, by any chance? What I used to do was make a few snide remarks to stop them ridiculing my solitary applause, which they then interpreted as the opposite. We make our familiars privy to our every movement, and back then, I can tell you, I was more familiar than anyone. I am the apostle of familiarity and of privy movements. I used to practice what I preached, without anyone taking offence; the only thing they could do was to let me get on with it. And anyway, is it my fault if they degrade themselves? And is it my fault, if, once they have degraded themselves, they get betrayed and cast aside?
When they take us on, do they not see us for the self-interested, low-down, treacherous souls that we are? There is a tacit agreement that they will be good to us, and that sooner or later, we will repay them for it by doing them harm. Is this not the same agreement that exists between a man and his monkey or a man and his parrot? Brun is going around screeching that Palissot, his companion and friend, has written some verses attacking him. Poinsinet is going around screeching that Palissot is blaming him for the verses Palissot wrote attacking Brun.
All of this is written down in the tacit agreement. So what did they get? What they deserved.
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What would you think of us if, with our filthy morals, we claimed we were in good standing with the public? That we were out of our minds.
- My Dear Watson!
- Bienvenue dans la musique des années 80's.?
- Entropic Creation: Religious Contexts of Thermodynamics and Cosmology (Science, Technology and Culture, 1700–1945).
And as for those who expect to have honest dealings with people who were born wicked and whose characters are vile and abject, are they being wise? Everything has to be paid for in this world. There are two public prosecutors, and one of them is at your door, punishing crimes against society; the other is nature herself. She is familiar with all those vices that escape the law. The easiest thing to do is to resign yourself to the fairness of these judgements, say to yourself, fair enough; shake yourself down and mend your ways, or stay as you are, albeit in accordance with the aforementioned conditions.
Everyone rushes in to help. We had a lot of trouble getting him out from underneath. What possessed such a little hammer to place itself beneath such a heavy anvil? I more usually congratulate myself on my vices than blame myself for them. You are more consistent in your contempt. We value unity of character in all things. I think you yourself waver from time to time with respect to your principles.
It is unclear whether you were born naturally wicked or whether you learnt it, and indeed, whether your learning has taken you as far as it might. Have I not had the modesty to acknowledge that there are beings more perfect than myself? Bouret is, to my mind, the most admirable man in the world. This one lived with a good and honest man, one of the descendants of Abraham, father of the faithful, whose seed was promised to him numberless as the stars.
How can you possibly expect there not to be lots of ungrateful scroungers when the temptation is there and they can get away with it? He confided in the Renegade that his conscience would not let him eat pork. You will soon see what an inventive mind did with a confession like this. A few months went by in which our Renegade became increasingly affectionate. Once he believed his attentions had so thoroughly moved, ensnared, and convinced his Jew that he had no better friend in all the tribes of Israel, then Admire the lengths the man went to.
He lets the pear ripen before shaking the branch. The point is that, ordinarily, greatness of character is the natural result of two or more opposing qualities balancing each other out. There are some days when I have to muse. Where was I? A traitor has reported us to the Holy Inquisition, you as a Jew and me as a renegade, a vile renegade. It takes more courage than you might think to say out loud what you really are. You have no idea how hard it is to do that.
But what about this vile Renegade? The Jew takes fright, tears his beard, flings himself to the ground, sees the guards already at the door and himself in a sanbenito with his sacrificial pyre ready and waiting. Go out in public, pretend not to have a care in the world, behave as if nothing was wrong. We must make use of this time to sell up. The crucial thing, given our perilous situation, is not to do anything rash. The ship is hired and stocked with provisions and sailors.
During the night, the Renegade gets up, relieves the Jew of his wallet, purse, and jewels, boards the ship, and off he goes. So far, the Renegade is nothing more than that. The Holy Inquisition came for the Jew the next morning, and put him on a nice, big bonfire a few days later. I wanted you to know how brilliant I am at my art, to compel you to admit that at least I have an original way of degrading myself, to make you think of me as the latest in a long line of glorious good-for-nothings, and proclaim: Vivat Mascarillus, fourbum imperator [Long live Mascarillus, Master Trickster].
Come on, Mister Philosopher, make it joyful, all together now: Vivat Mascarillus, fourbum imperator. And at that, he began to sing a fugue, a thoroughly singular one. At times, the melody was serious and full of majesty, at others, light and playful; one moment, he was imitating the bass, the next, the top parts; he would stretch out his arm and neck to show when to hold a note, performing and composing his own triumphal march, and showing he knew more about good music than good morals. I stayed, with the aim of bringing the conversation round to some subject that would clear my soul of the horror that was overwhelming it.
I became sombre despite myself. Are you feeling ill? We were both silent for a while, during which time he walked up and down, whistling and singing. To get him to talk about his talent again, I said: What are you working on at the moment? By God, I can, I swear. You should hear how they sing the words!
How true it feels! How expressive! What model does the musician choose when he writes a song? What is song? And so it is for all of us. Declamation, if the model is living and thinking; noise, if the model is inanimate. We should consider declamation as one line, and song as another line, winding its serpentine way around the first. The more confident and true the declamation, which in itself is a type of song, the more frequently the song line following it will cross back and forth: the truer the song will be, and the more beautiful.
In these works, there are all sorts of characters, infinite varieties of declamation. This is sublime, I assure you, and I should know. This tells you how difficult and how important it is to know how to do recitative well. Every age has its own apostle. They were convinced that after having cried along with a mother grieving for her son, and trembled at a tyrant ordering a murder, they would not be bored by all their whimsical fairyland, their insipid mythology, their sickly little madrigals which are as much a mark of the bad taste of the poet as they are of the poverty of the art which finds them acceptable.
Oh good people! The true, the good, and the beautiful will always have their way. Yawn away, gentlemen, yawn away at your leisure. The foreign god humbly goes to sit down next to the local idol on the altar; bit by bit, he grows stronger; and one fine day, he gives his companion a little shove, and booboom, down the idol falls. And the Jansenists can say what they like, but this way of doing politics, which achieves its goal without making a stir, without any bloodletting, without creating martyrs, without so much as a tuft of hair being pulled out, seems the best to me.
I just say whatever comes to me. Good grief! Is it beautiful? How can you have two ears on your head and ask such a question? He started getting all impassioned and singing softly. Monseigneur, monseigneur, laissez-moi partir [Your Lordship, Sir, please let me leave] O terre! O Earth!
A Zerbina penserete [Zerbina always on your mind] Sempre in contrasti con te si sta [I never know where I am with you]. He calms down, he is sorry, he complains, he laughs; never a false note, never out of time, always capturing the meaning of the words and the character of the music. All the pawn-pushers had left their chessboards and gathered round him.
The laughter was loud enough to bring the ceiling down. It had everything, exquisite singing, powerful expression, and great sorrow. He emphasised those places where the composer had displayed particular mastery; if he abandoned the sung part, it was so as to pick up the instrumental line, which he would then suddenly drop to go back to the voice, weaving the two together in such a way as to respect the relation between each of the parts as well as the unity of the whole; capturing our souls and keeping them suspended in the strangest state I have ever experienced Was it admiration?
Yes, it was! Was I moved? Yes, I was, but these feelings were tinged with ridicule, and it transformed their nature. The horns and bassoons, he did puffing his cheeks up like balloons, and making hoarse, low sounds; he made a piercing, nasal noise for the oboes; his voice catapulting up and down at incredible speed, he did as close an imitation of the strings as he could; he whistled the piccolos and cooed the flutes; shouting, singing, charging about like a madman, single-handedly doing the dancers, both male and female, the singers, both male and female, a whole orchestra, a whole opera company, dividing himself between twenty different roles; running around, suddenly stopping and looking like a man possessed, his eyes blazing, foaming at the mouth.
What did I not see him do? He wept, he laughed, he sighed; he gazed tenderly or serenely or intensely; he was a woman, overcome with sorrow; he was an unfortunate man, giving in to despair; he was a temple going up; birds falling silent at sunset; water burbling in a cool and solitary grove, or gushing forth in torrents from the mountain tops; a storm, a tempest, the cries of those about to perish, together with the howling of the wind and the crashing of the thunder; he was night in all its darkness, he was shadow and silence, for even silence can be painted in sound.
Worn out with exhaustion, like a man emerging from a long sleep or from deep concentration, he was unable to move, he was stupefied, stunned. He kept on looking around, like a man lost and trying to work out where he was. He waited for his strength and wits to come back; he kept mechanically wiping his face. Why are you laughing and looking so surprised?
I challenge you to improve on the Ah! At this point, his voice swelled; he held the notes; the neighbours came to their windows; we stuck our fingers in our ears. He added: This is when you need really good lungs, proper organs, some serious air capacity. Lyric poetry is yet to be born.
These expressions need to come thick and fast; the phrasing needs to be tight; the meaning cut off, left hanging; the composer needs to be able to freely arrange the whole and each of the parts, to leave out or repeat it, to add what he feels is missing, to twist it and turn it inside out like a polyp, without destroying it; all of which makes French lyric poetry much harder than languages that use inversion, which do these things all by themselves Cruel barbarian, plunge your dagger into my breast.
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