Voltaire: “A Poem on the Lisbon Disaster”

Finding myself, for the time being, without access to my library, I reproduce here an unverified English translation of Voltaire’s “A Poem on the Lisbon Disaster, or:  An Examination of that Axiom ‘All Is Well,'” which dates from 1755.  The text can be found at http://geophysics-old.tau.ac.il/personal/shmulik/LisbonEq-letters.htm

Oh, miserable mortals!  Oh wretched earth!

Oh, dreadful assembly of all mankind!

Eternal sermon of useless sufferings!

Deluded philosophers who cry, “All is well,”

Hasten, contemplate these frightful ruins,

This wreck, these shreds, these wretched ashes of the dead;

These women and children heaped on one another,

These scattered members under broken marble;

One hundred thousand unfortunates devoured by the earth

Who, bleeding, lacerated, and still alive,

Buried under their roofs without aid in their anguish,

End their sad days!

In answer to the half-formed cries of their dying voices,

At the frightful sight of their smoking ashes,

Will you say:  “This is result of eternal laws

Directing the acts of a free and good God!”

Will you say, in seeing this mass of victims:

“God is revenged, their death is the price for their crimes?”

What crime, what error did these children,

Crushed and bloody on their mothers’ breasts, commit?

Did Lisbon, which is no more, have more vices

Than London and Paris immersed in their pleasures?

Lisbon is destroyed, and they dance in Paris!

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Filed under Books, Current events, Death, History and historiography, Reading and writing

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