Sylvain Maréchal, “The Dwarf King” and “A Lesson in Architecture” (1788)

APOLOGUES MODERNES.

LEÇON V.

LE ROI NAIN.

En ce temps-là ; un jeune roi étoit enclin à la débauche, même à la crapule ; c’étoit un vice héréditaire. The états-généraux, tuteurs-nés du souverain, qui n’étoit jamais émancipé pour eux, s’assemblèrent & concertèrent un moyen de corriger le jeune prince. Un jour qu’il s’étoit livré tout entier à son penchant ignoble, plongé dans un profond sommeil, on se saisit de sa personne royale ; de son palais, on le transporta tout endormi dans une étable, sur une litière. A son réveil, le jeune prince put à peine en croire ses yeux. Il ne fait s’il rêve encore. Il ne retrouve plus son trône, sa couronne, son sceptre, ni ses maîtresses pour le caresser, ni ses valets pour le servir, ni ses flatteurs pour l’exciter à de nouveaux excès. Il veut commander ; des pâtres prévenus accourent à sa voix, & le traitent sur le pied de la plus parfaite égalité. En vain le prince menace & réclame son autorité. On l’accuse d’avoir la tête aliénée, & on l’entraîne, malgré lui, à la garde du plus vil des troupeaux. Enfin, après quelques jours de cette épreuve, on saisit un moment de sommeil pour le replacer sur son trône. Le Prince ne fut point tout-à-fait dupe de tout cela ; mais il n’eut pas le bon esprit de profiter de la leçon tacite. Il retomba bientôt dans son vice héréditaire. Alors les états-généraux conclurent à le dépouiller tout-à-fait de sa dignité, pour laquelle il ne paraissait pas né & le condamnèrent, tout de bon, à passer le reste de ses jours au milieu du vil troupeau dont il avoit les mœurs.

LEÇON VI.

LEÇON D’ARCHITECTURE.

Comment appelle-t-on ces figures humaines qui servent de colonnes pour soutenir l’architrave de ce palais ? demanda un jour un jeune prince à son gouverneur.

On les appelle Cariatides.

Que veut dire ce mot ?

C’est le nom des habitans de la Carie.

Pourquoi avoir donné cette forme & ce nom à ces pilastres?

Pour éterniser le châtiment de ce peuple traître, qui s’étant ligué avec les Perses contre ses frères, les autres Grecs, fut passé au fil de l’épée; on réduisit les femmes en servitude.

Les architectes modernes, qui n’avoient pas le même motif que les anciens de conserver cet ordre, en firent cependant usage dans une autre intention. Comme ces figures colossales ne s’emploient ordinairement qu’aux palais des rois, les rois ne peuvent jetter les yeux sur leurs palais, sans réfléchir que leurs sujets ressemblent aux Cariatides qui soutiennent le balcon où ils se promènent. Si la charge est trop lourde, le peuple ploye & se brise ; mais dans sa chûte, il entraîne ceux qui pesoient sur lui.

 

MODERN APOLOGUES.

LESSON V.

THE DWARF KING.

In those days, a young king was inclined to dissipation, even to villainy; it was a hereditary vice. The états-généraux, natural guardians of the sovereign, who had never been emancipated from them, assembled & agreed on a means of correcting the young prince. One day, when he had abandoned himself completely to his foul penchants, and was plunged into a deep sleep, they seized his royal person; from his palace, they transported him on a litter, still sleeping, to a stable. When he awoke, the young prince could hardly believe his eyes. He didn’t know if he was still dreaming. He could no longer find his throne, his crown, his scepter, nor his mistresses to caress him, nor his valets to serve him, nor his flatterers to arouse him to new excesses. He wished to command; some shepherds, forewarned, came running at his call, & dealt with him on a footing of the most perfect equality. In vain, the prince threatened & claimed his authority. They accused him of being out of his head, & led him, despite his protestations, to watch over the most vile of the flocks. Finally, after some days of this ordeal, they seized a moment of slumber to replace him on his throne. The Prince was not altogether taken in by all this; but he did not have the good sense to profit from the tacit lesson. He soon lapsed back into his hereditary vice. Then the états-généraux to strip him entirely of his titles and honors, for which it appeared he was not born & condemned him, for good measure, to spend the rest of his days amongst the vile herd whose manners he shared.

LESSON VI.

A LESSON IN ARCHITECTURE.

What is the name of those human figures that serve as columns to support the architrave of this palace? asked a young prince of his tutor one day.

We call them Caryatids.

What does that word mean?

It is the name of the inhabitants of Karyai.

Why have we given that form & that name to these pilasters?

To perpetuate the punishment of that traitorous people, who having joined forces with the Persians against their brothers, the other Greeks, were put to the sword; the women were reduced to slavery.

The modern architects, who did not have the same motive as the ancients for preserving that order, made use of it, however, with another intention. As these figures were ordinarily only employed in the palaces of the kings, the kings cannot cast an eye on their palaces without reflecting that their subjects resemble the Caryatids who support the balcony where they promenade. If the load is to heavy, the people bend & shatter; but in their fall, they carry off those who weigh on them.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2215 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.