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The Persian Letters in seven English translations © Philip Stewart - page 6 / 16

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céder ces charmes empruntés à des grâces plus naturelles : tu détruisis tout notre ouvrage : il fallut nous dépouiller de ces ornements, qui t’étaient devenus incommodes : il fallut paraître à ta vue dans la simplicité de la nature : Je comptai pour rien la pudeur ; Je ne pensai qu’à ma gloire. Heureux Usbek, que de charmes furent étalés à tes yeux : nous te vîmes longtemps errer d’enchantements en enchantements : ton âme incertaine demeura longtemps sans se fixer : chaque grâce nouvelle te demandait un tribut : nous fûmes en un moment toutes couvertes de tes baisers : tu portas tes curieux regards dans les lieux les plus secrets : tu nous fis passer en un instant dans mille situations différentes : toujours de nouveaux commandements ; et une obéissance toujours nouvelle. (Zacchi to Usbek, Letter 3)

While appartement sometimes becomes “room” (D, B, M), it is the simple opening J’errais that produces unexpected variety: “I wandered” (L, H, B) but also, with change of tense, “I wander” (O and D), “I would wander” (M), and “I range” (F). Once again, the singular in O and F leads to what now seem some rather awkward constructions, such as “Thou admiredst the ardency of our passion” (O) and “thou contemplatedst with pleasure the prodigies of our art” (F) for tu vis avec plaisir les miracles de notre art. Some variations are interesting stylistically without seeming to do violence one way or another to the meaning:

un cruel souvenir de ma félicité passée:

  • (O)

    a cruel remembrance of my lost happiness

  • (F)

    meet with an afflictive remembrance of my past happiness

  • (D)

    the cruel memory of my vanished bliss

  • (L)

    the cruel memory of my past felicity

  • (H)

    some cruel memory of my departed joy

  • (B)

    cruel memories of my former happiness

  • (M)

    some cruel reminder of my past felicity

[…] nous nous présentâmes devant toi, après avoir épuisé tout ce que l’imagination peut fournir de parures, et d’ornements: (O) We presented ourselves before thee, after having put our inventions to the rack, to dress ourselves out to the best advantage. (F) we presented ourselves before thee, after having exerted our imaginations to the utmost to provide ourselves with every advantageous ornament (D) We came just before you, after having exhausted our fancy in decking ourselves with jewelry and adornments. (L) We all appeared before after having exhausted our imaginations in finery and ornament. (H) we presented ourselves to you after exhausting our imaginations on dress and ornament. (B) When we appeared before you we had used up every kind of ornament or embellishment that imagination could supply. (M) after adorning ourselves with every garment and ornament that the imagination could devise, we paraded before you

Somewhat more complicated is the combination of pudeur with another rather un-English, Corneillian term gloire in another sentence:

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