It’s rather hard to believe that I’m still on CANDIDE. Voltaire’s work, I fear, has taken a turn for the worse. Well, actually, it hasn’t taken any sort of turn which is why it and its predictable nature has grown tiresome as I come to its end. I did want to share an excerpt from Chapter 25 with you.
Let me first mention that for the past year, I’ve been trying to read several of the “classics.” Admittedly, some have been more enjoyable than others. With each, I sought to learn some tidbit to improve my writing. A few great works, admittedly, bordered on the tedious. Despite its outstanding start, I now lump Candide (written in 1759) into this latter category, which is why I find this particular excerpt so amusing. In it, young Candide has asked the noble Venetian, Pococurante, about his vast library. Pococurante criticizes all the “classic” works such as those by Milton, Cicero, and Virgil. Anyway, here’s what Pococurante says about my esteemed Greek poet:
"Homer is no favorite of mine," answered Pococurante, coolly, "I was made to believe once that I took a pleasure in reading him; but his continual repetitions of battles have all such a resemblance with each other; his gods that are forever in haste and bustle, without ever doing anything; his Helen, who is the cause of the war, and yet hardly acts in the whole performance; his Troy, that holds out so long, without being taken: in short, all these things together make the poem very insipid to me.
I have asked some learned men, whether they are not in reality as much tired as myself with reading this poet: those who spoke ingenuously, assured me that he had made them fall asleep, and yet that they could not well avoid giving him a place in their libraries; but that it was merely as they would do an antique, or those rusty medals which are kept only for curiosity, and are of no manner of use in commerce."
Some of you will probably give a hearty amen to Seignor Pococurante’s appraisal of Homer, one of my favorites. In fact, no one on this blog will hold that against you (wink, wink). As for me, I laughed when reading the second paragraph, if only because I wonder what Voltaire would think if he had known that the same would be said about his satire 250 years later?
Do you have some books that are just sitting in your library for show? Perhaps, these form our literary, rusty ‘badges of honor.’ We proudly set these conquered trophies aside in a place of honor on our bookshelf to let everyone know that we did, in fact, survive reading Voltaire, Milton, etc.