Random Quote #75 topic: voltaire-dict, Philosophical Dictionary by Voltaire, 1694-1778


Traverse the whole earth, you will find that theft, murder, adultery,
calumny are regarded as crimes which society condemns and curbs; but
should what is approved in England, and condemned in Italy, be punished
in Italy as an outrage against the whole of humanity? That is what I
call a local crime. Does not that which is criminal only in the
enclosure of some mountains, or between two rivers, demand of judges
more indulgence than those outrages which are held in horror in all
countries? Should not the judge say to himself: "I should not dare
punish at Ragusa what I punish at Loretto"? Should not this reflection
soften in his heart the hardness that it is only too easy to contract
during the long exercise of his office?

You know the _kermesses_ in Flanders; in the last century they were
carried to a point of indecency which might revolt eyes unaccustomed to
these spectacles. This is how Christmas was celebrated in some towns.
First there appeared a young man half naked, with wings on his back; he
recited the _Ave Maria_ to a young girl who answered him _fiat_, and the
angel kissed her on the mouth: then a child enclosed in a great
cardboard cock cried, imitating the cock's cry: _Puer natus est nobis._
A big ox bellowed _ubi_, which it pronounced _oubi_; a sheep bleated

_Bethlehem_. An ass cried _hihanus_, to signify _eamus_; a long
procession, preceded by four fools with baubles and rattles, closed the
performance. There remain to-day traces of these popular devotions,
which among more educated peoples would be taken for profanations. A
bad-tempered Swiss, more drunk maybe than those who played the roles of
ox and ass, came to words with them in Louvain; blows were given; the
people wanted to hang the Swiss, who escaped with difficulty.

The same man had a violent quarrel at the Hague in Holland for having
stoutly taken Barneveldt's part against an extravagant Gomarist. He was
put into prison in Amsterdam for having said that priests are the
scourge of humanity and the source of all our misfortunes. "What!" he
said. "If one believes that good works make for salvation, one finds
oneself in a dungeon; if one laughs at a cock and an ass, one risks
being hanged." This adventure, burlesque though it is, makes it quite
clear that one can be reprehensible on one or two points in our
hemisphere, and be absolutely innocent in the rest of the world.


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