Solitaires So Dazzling Bright

Statue of Voltaire

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Voltaire

To a Lady Very Well Known to the Whole Town

by Voltaire

Phillis, how much the times are changed,
Since in a hack the town you ranged, …..

Not all your carpets, and your plate,
Not all your proud parade of state,
Those goblets which so brightly shine,
Graved by Germain with art divine;
Those closets nobly furnished, where
Martin’s exceeds the China ware,
Your vases of Japan, and all
The brittle wonders of your hall;
Your diamond pendants which appear
With such bright lustre at each ear;
Your solitaires so dazzling bright,
Your pomp which strikes the gazer’s sight,
Are worth one quarter of that bliss,
Which once you imparted by a kiss.


Francois-Marie Arouet – known today by his pen name Voltaire – was a distinguished member of the Enlightenment movement in France during the 18th century.  As if often the case with history, our view is in stark contrast to those that lived it.  The modern view of the Enlightenment era is positive; a critical transformative evolution in ideas and personal liberties.  But for some early  proponents, there were severe consequences.  Voltaire’s work criticized French authorities, both church and state,  and his writings landed him in prison at the Bastille twice for short stints.  Voltaire would not be dissuaded and on the precipice of being sentenced to a longer third term, Voltaire choose exile and fled to England.   Interestingly, it is in part the result of his exile why Voltaire’s influence spread globally and the reason he learned English.  Voltaire’s writing was translated in many languages and Voltaire is one of the first modern global writers of influence during his life time.  

Voltaire’s best known work is Candide, but like many writers, his first published work was poetry.  Prolific beyond comprehension, he is said to have written more than 20,000 letters, and more than 2,000 other published works, from books, to plays, to pamphlets.   For a man who died at age 63 it would mean that from age 16 on he had to write and send more than one letter a day.  Voltaire’s poetry is playful, filled with inside jokes between him and friends and obviously a well deserved break from the more serious politically infused satire for which he is better known. 

 

From Love To Friendship

by Voltaire

If you would have me love once more,
The blissful age of love restore;

Life’s loss may easily be borne,
Of love bereft man is forlorn.
‘Twas thus those pleasures I lamented,
Which I so oft in youth repented;
My soul replete with soft desire,
Vainly regretted youthful fire.
But friendship then, celestial maid,
From heaven descended to my aid;
Less lively than the amorous flame,
Although her tenderness the same.
The charms of friendship I admired,
My soul was with new beauty fired;
I then made one in friendship’s train,
But destitute of love, complain.