Sylvain Maréchal, “The Ordeal” (1788)

APOLOGUES MODERNES.

LEÇON III.

L’ÉPREUVE.

En ce temps-là ; il étoit un roi orgueilleux qui se croyait pétri d’un autre limon que ceux qui voulaient bien lui obéir. Le sénat, placé entre lui & le peuple pour servir de médiateur, s’assembla, & convint de lui faire une remontrance à ce sujet. La reine étoit enceinte & prête d’accoucher. Un vieux magistrat se leva du milieu de l’assemblée & proposa l’expédient suivant, pour corriger le prince. Au moment de la naissance de l’enfant royal, on présentera au père trois enfants nés à la même heure, & on lui laissera le soin de choisir quel est le sien. On lui dira en même temps que, puisque les rois & leurs successeurs naissent pour le trône, pétris d’un autre limon que le reste de leurs sujets, il n’aura point de peine à distinguer l’enfant royal qui lui appartient. Le roi furieux, mais fort embarrassé hésita longtemps & choisit enfin pour son fils le fils du concierge du château. Alors le chef du sénat lui dit : Si l’œil du père balance, & même se trompe sur le choix de fon propre enfant, avouez prince que le fils du pâtre naît l’égal du fils du roi; qu’un homme ne peut se dire roi-né ; qu’il ne sort pas du ventre de sa mère tout coëffé d’une couronne ; que c’est le peuple qui la confie à qui bon lui semble; en un mot qu’un souverain n’est que primus inter pares.

MODERN APOLOGUES.

LESSON III.

THE ORDEAL.

In those times there was an arrogant king, who believed himself molded from a different clay than those who were prepared to obey him. The senate, placed between him & and the people, in order to serve as a mediator, assembled, & agreed to reprimand to him on this subject. The queen was pregnant & ready to give birth. An old magistrate rose in the midst of the assembly & proposed the following expedient to correct the prince. At the moment of the birth of the royal child, they presented the father with three infants born in the same hour, & left it to him to choose which was his own. At the same time, they said to him that, since the kings & their successors are born for the throne, molded from another clay than the rest of their subjects, he would have no trouble distinguishing the royal child that belonged to him. The king, furious, but seriously embarrassed, hesitated for a long time & finally chose as his own the son of the castle’s caretaker. Then the head of the senate said to him: If the eye of the father swings, & is even mistaken in the choice of his own child, admit, prince, that the son of the shepherd is the equal of the son of the king; that a man cannot call himself a born king; that he does not come from his mother’s womb with a crown already on his head; that it is the people who entrust it to whomever seems good; in short, that a sovereign is only primus inter pares [first among equals].

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Independent scholar, translator and archivist.