The Disputes And The Audiences
In this manner he daily discovered the subtilty of his genius and the
goodness of his heart. The people at once admired and loved him. He
passed for the happiest man in the world. The whole empire resounded
with his name. All the ladies ogled him. All the men praised him for
his justice. The learned regarded him as an oracle; and even the
priests confessed that he knew more than the old arch-magi Yebor. They
were now so far from prosecuting him on account of the griffin, that
they believed nothing but what he thought credible.
There had reigned in Babylon, for the space of fifteen hundred years, a
violent contest that had divided the empire into two sects. The one
pretended that they ought to enter the temple of Mitra with the left
foot foremost; the other held this custom in detestation and always
entered with the right foot first. The people waited with great
impatience for the day on which the solemn feast of the sacred fire was
to be celebrated, to see which sect Zadig would favor. All the world
had their eyes fixed on his two feet, and the whole city was in the
utmost suspense and perturbation. Zadig jumped into the temple with his
feet joined together, and afterwards proved, in an eloquent discourse,
that the Sovereign of heaven and earth, who accepted not the persons of
men, makes no distinction between the right and left foot. The envious
man and his wife alleged that his discourse was not figurative enough,
and that he did not make the rocks and mountains to dance with
"He is dry," said they, "and void of genius; he does not make the flea
to fly, and stars to fall, nor the sun to melt wax; he has not the true
Oriental style." Zadig contented himself with having the style of
reason. All the world favored him, not because he was in the right road
or followed the dictates of reason, or was a man of real merit, but
because he was prime vizier.
He terminated with the same happy address the grand difference between
the white and the black magi. The former maintained that it was the
height of impiety to pray to God with the face turned toward the east
in winter; the latter asserted that God abhorred the prayers of those
who turned toward the west in summer. Zadig decreed that every man
should be allowed to turn as he pleased.
Thus he found out the happy secret of finishing all affairs, whether of
a private or public nature, in the morning. The rest of the day he
employed in superintending and promoting the embellishments of Babylon.
He exhibited tragedies that drew tears from the eyes of the spectators,
and comedies that shook their sides with laughter; a custom which had
long been disused, and which his good taste now induced him to revive.
He never affected to be more knowing in the polite arts than the
artists themselves; he encouraged them by rewards and honors, and was
never jealous of their talents. In the evening the king was highly
entertained with his conversation, and the queen still more. "Great
minister!" said the king. "Amiable minister!" said the queen; and both
of them added, "It would have been a great loss to the state had such a
man been hanged."
Never was man in power obliged to give so many audiences to the ladies.
Most of them came to consult him about no business at all, that so they
might have some business with him. But none of them won his attention.
Meanwhile Zadig perceived that his thoughts were always distracted, as
well when he gave audience as when he sat in judgment. He did not know
to what to attribute this absence of mind; and that was his only
He had a dream in which he imagined that he laid himself down upon a
heap of dry herbs, among which there were many prickly ones that gave
him great uneasiness, and that he afterwards reposed himself on a soft
bed of roses from which there sprung a serpent that wounded him to the
heart with its sharp and venomed tongue. "Alas," said he, "I have long
lain on these dry and prickly herbs, I am now on the bed of roses; but
what shall be the serpent?"
Previous: The Minister