Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire

THE DRUIDS.

The Scene is in Tartarus. The Furies Entwined with Serpents, and Whips in Their Hands.

Come along, Barbaquincorix, Celtic druid, and thou, detestable Grecian hierophant, Calchas, the moment of your just punishment has returned again; the hour of vengeance has arrived — the bell has sounded!

the druid and calchas.

Oh, heavens! my head, my sides, my eyes, my ears! pardon, ladies, pardon!

calchas.

Mercy! two vipers are penetrating my eye-balls!

druid.

A serpent is devouring my entrails!

calchas.

Alas, how am I mangled! And must my eyes be every day restored, to be torn again from my head?

druid.

Must my skin be renewed only to dangle in ribbons from my lacerated body?

tisiphone.

It will teach you how to palm off a miserable parasitical plant for a universal remedy another time. Will you still sacrifice boys and girls to your god Theutates, priest? still burn them in osier baskets to the sound of a drum?

druid.

Never, never; dear lady, a little mercy, I beseech you.

tisiphone.

You never had any yourself. Seize him, serpents, and now another lash!

alecto.

Let them curry well this Calchas, who advances towards us, “With cruel eye, dark mien, and bristled hair.”

calchas.

My hair is torn away; I am scorched, flayed, impaled!

alecto.

Wretch! Will you again cut the throat of a beautiful girl, in order to obtain a favorable gale, instead of uniting her to a good husband?

calchas and the druid.

Oh, what torments! and yet we die not.

tisiphone.

Hey-dey! God forgive me, but I hear music! It is Orpheus; why our serpents, sister, have become as gentle as lambs!

calchas.

My sufferings cease; how very strange!

the druid.

I am altogether recovered. Oh, the power of good music! And who are you, divine man, who thus cures wounds, and rejoices hell itself?

orpheus.

My friends, I am a priest like yourselves, but I never deceived anyone, nor cut the throat of either boy or girl in my life. When on earth, instead of making the gods hated, I rendered them beloved, and softened the manners of the men whom you made ferocious. I shall exert myself in the like manner in hell. I met, just now, two barbarous priests whom they were scourging beyond measure; one of them formerly hewed a king in pieces before the Lord, and the other cut the throat of his queen and sovereign at the horse gate. I have terminated their punishment, and, having played to them a tune on the violin, they have promised me that when they return into the world they will live like honest men.

druid and calchas.

We promise the same thing, on the word of a priest.

orpheus.

Yes, but “Passato il pericolo, gabbato il santo.”

[The scene closes with a figure Dance, performed by Orpheus, the Condemned, and the Furies, to light and agreeable music.]

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:25