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Chapter 1

The Blind EYE.


In the Reign of King _Moabdar_, there was a young Man, a Native of
_Babylon_, by name _Zadig_; who was not only endowed by Nature with
an uncommon Genius, but born of illustrious Parents, who bestowed on
him an Education no ways inferior to his Birth. Tho' rich and young,
he knew how to give a Check to his Passions; he was no ways
self-conceited; he didn't always act up to the strictest Rules of
Reason himself, and knew how to look on the Foibles of others, with
an Eye of Indulgence. Every one was surpriz'd to find, that
notwithstanding he had such a Fund of Wit, he never insulted; nay,
never so much as rallied any of his Companions, for that Tittle
Tattle, which was so vague and empty, so noisy and confus'd; for
those rash Reflections, those illiterate Conclusions, and those
insipid Jokes; and, in short, for that Flow of unmeaning Words,
which was call'd polite Conversation in _Babylon_. He had learned
from the first Book of _Zoroaster_, that Self-love is like a Bladder
full blown, which when once prick'd, discharges a kind of petty
Tempest. _Zadig_, in particular, never boasted of his Contempt of
the Fair Sex, or of his Facility to make Conquests amongst them. He
was of a generous Spirit; insomuch, that he was not afraid of
obliging even an ungrateful Man; strictly adhering to that wise
Maxim of _Zoroaster_. _When you are eating, throw an Offal to the
Dogs that are under the Table, lest they should be tempted to bite
you._ He was as wise as he could well be wish'd; since he was fond
of no Company, but such as were distinguish'd for Men of Sense. As
he was well-grounded, in all the Sciences of the antient
_Chaldeans_, he was no Stranger to those Principles of Natural
Philosophy, which were then known: And understood as much of
Metaphysics as any one in all Ages after him; that is to say, he
knew little or nothing of the Matter. He was firmly convinc'd, that
the Year consisted of 365 Days and an half, tho' directly repugnant
to the new Philosophy of the Age he liv'd in; and that the Sun was
situated in the Center of the Earth; And when the Chief Magi told
him, with an imperious Air, that he maintain'd erroneous Principles;
and that it was an Indignity offered to the Government under which
he liv'd, to imagine the Sun should roll round its own Axis, and
that the Year consisted of twelve Months, he knew how to sit still
and quiet, without shewing the least Tokens of Resentment or
Contempt.

As _Zadig_ was immensely rich, and had consequently Friends without
Number; and as he was a Gentleman of a robust Constitution, and
remarkably handsome; as he was endowed with a plentiful Share of
ready and inoffensive Wit: And, in a Word, as his Heart was
perfectly sincere and open, he imagin'd himself, in some Measure,
qualified to be perfectly happy. For which Purpose he determin'd to
marry a gay young Lady (one _Semira_ by name) whose Beauty, Birth
and Fortune, render'd her the most desirable Person in all
_Babylon_. He had a sincere Affection for her, grounded on Honour,
and _Semira_ conceiv'd as tender a Passion for him. They were just
upon the critical Minute of a mutual Conjunction in the Bands of
Matrimony, when, as they were walking Hand in Hand together towards
one of the Gates of _Babylon_, under the Shade of a Row of
Palm-trees, that grew on the Banks of the River _Euphrates_, they
were beset by a Band of Ruffians, arm'd with Sabres, Bows and
Arrows. They were the Guards, it seems, of young _Orcan_ (Nephew of
a certain Minister of State) whom the Parasites, kept by his Uncle,
had buoy'd up with a Permission to do, with Impunity, whatever he
thought proper. This young Rival, tho' he had none of those internal
Qualities to boast of that _Zadig_ had, yet he imagin'd himself a
Man of more Power; and for that Reason, was perfectly outrageous to
see the other preferr'd before him. This Fit of Jealousy, the Result
of mere Vanity, prompted him to think that he was deeply in Love
with the fair _Semira_; and fir'd with that amorous Notion, he was
determin'd to take her away from _Zadig_, by Dint of Arms. The
Ravishers rush'd rudely upon her, and in the Transport of their
Rage, drew the Blood of a Beauty, the Sight of whose Charms would
have soften'd the very Tigers of Mount _Imas_. The injur'd Lady
rent the very Heavens with her Exclamations. Where's my dear
Husband, she cried? They have torn me from the Arms of the only Man
whom I adore. She never reflected on the Danger to which she was
expos'd; her sole Concern was for her beloved _Zadig_. At the same
Time, he defended her, like a Lover, and a Man of Integrity and
Courage. With the Assistance only of two domestic Servants, he put
those Sons of Violence to Flight, and conducted _Semira_, bloody as
she was, and in fainting Fits, to her own House. No sooner was she
come to her self, but she fix'd her lovely Eyes on her Dear
Deliverer. O _Zadig_, said she, I love thee as affectionately, as if
I were actually thy Bride: I love thee, as the Man, to whom I owe my
Life, and what is dearer to me, the Preservation of my Honour. No
Heart sure could be more deeply smitten than that of _Semira_. Never
did the Lips of the fairest Creature living utter softer Sounds;
never did the most enamoured Lady breathe such tender Sentiments of
Love and Gratitude for his signal Service; never, in short, did the
most affectionate Bride express such Transports of Joy for the
fondest Husband. Her Wounds, however, were but very superficial, and
she was soon recover'd. _Zadig_ receiv'd a Wound that was much more
dangerous: An unlucky Arrow had graz'd one of his Eyes, and the
Orifice was deep. _Semira_ was incessant in her Prayers to the Gods
that they might restore her _Zadig_. Her Eyes were Night and Day
overwhelm'd with Tears. She waited with Impatience for the happy
Moment, when those of _Zadig_ might dart their Fires upon her; but
alas! the wounded Eye grew so inflam'd and swell'd, that she was
terrified to the last Degree. She sent as far as _Memphis_ for
_Hermes_, the celebrated Physician there, who instantly attended his
new Patient with a numerous Retinue. Upon his first Visit, he
peremptorily declared that _Zadig_ would lose his Eye; and foretold
not only the Day, but the very Hour when that woful Disaster would
befal him. Had it been, said that Great Man, his right Eye, I could
have administred an infallible Specific; but as it is, his
Misfortune is beyond the Art of Man to cure. Tho' all _Babylon_
pitied the hard Case of _Zadig_, they equally stood astonish'd at
the profound Penetration of _Hermes_. Two Days after the Imposthume
broke, without any Application, and _Zadig_ soon after was perfectly
recover'd. _Hermes_ thereupon wrote a very long and elaborate
Treatise, to prove that his Wound ought not to have been heal'd.
_Zadig_, however, never thought it worth his while to peruse his
learned Lucubrations; but, as soon as ever he could get abroad,
determin'd to pay the Lady a Visit, who had testified such uncommon
Concern for his Welfare, and for whose Sake alone he wish'd for the
Restoration of his Sight. _Semira_ he found had been out of Town for
three Days; but was inform'd, by the bye, that his intended Spouse,
having conceived an implacable Aversion to a one-ey'd Man, was that
very Night to be married to _Orcan_. At this unexpected ill News,
poor _Zadig_ was perfectly thunder-struck: He laid his Disappointment
so far to Heart, that in a short Time he was become a mere Skeleton,
and was sick almost to death for some Months afterwards. At last,
however, by Dint of Reflection, he got the better of his Distemper;
and the Acuteness of the Pain he underwent, in some Measure,
contributed towards his Consolation.

Since I have met with such an unexpected Repulse, said he, from a
capricious Court-Lady, I am determin'd to marry some substantial
Citizen's Daughter. He pitch'd accordingly upon _Azora_, a young
Gentlewoman extremely well-bred, an excellent Oeconomist, and one,
whose Parents were very rich.

Their Nuptials accordingly were soon after solemniz'd, and for a
whole Month successively, no two Turtles were ever more fond of each
other. In Process of Time, however, he perceiv'd she was a little
Coquettish, and too much inclin'd to think, that the handsomest
young Fellows were always the most virtuous and the greatest Wits.

Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire

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