Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. III.: THE APPARITION. - The Ruins: or a Survery of the Revolutions of Empires
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CHAP. III.: THE APPARITION. - Constantin-François Chasseboeuf, marquis de Volney, The Ruins: or a Survery of the Revolutions of Empires 
The Ruins: or a Survery of the Revolutions of Empires, 3rd ed. (London: J. Johnson, 1796).
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In the mean time a noise struck my ear, like to the agitation of a flowing robe, and the slow steps of a foot, upon the dry and rustling grass. Alarmed, I drew my mantle from my head; and casting round me a timid glance, suddenly, by the obscure light of the moon, through the pillars and ruins of a temple, I thought I saw, at my left, a pale apparition, enveloped in an immense drapery, similar to what spectres are painted when issuing out of the tombs. I shuddered; and while in this troubled state, I was hesitating whether to fly, or ascertain the reality of the vision, a hollow voice, in grave and solemn accents, thus addressed me:
How long will man importune the heavens with unjust complaint? How long, with vain clamours, will he accuse Fate as the author of his calamities? Will he then never open his eyes to the light, and his heart to the insinuations of truth and reason! This truth every where presents itself in radiant brightness; and he does not see it! The voice of reason strikes his ear; and he does not hear it! Unjust man! if you can for a moment suspend the delusion which fascinates your senses; if your heart be capable of comprehending the language of argumentation, interrogate these ruins! read the lessons which they present to you!....And you, sacred temples! venerable tombs! walls once glorious! the witnesses of twenty different ages, appear in the cause of nature herself! come to the tribunal of sound understanding, to bear testimony against an unjust accusation, to confound the declamations of false wisdom or hypocritical piety, and avenge the heavens and the earth of man who calumniates them!
What is this blind fatality, that, without order or laws, sports with the lot of mortals? What this unjust necessity, which confounds the issue of actions, be they those of prudence or those of folly? In what consists the maledictions of Heaven denounced against these countries? Where is the divine curse that perpetuates this scene of desolation? Monuments of past ages! say, have the heavens changed their laws, and the earth its course? Has the sun extinguished his fires in the region of space? Do the seas no longer send forth clouds? Are the rain and the dew fixed in the air? Do the mountains retain their springs? Are the streams dried up? and do the plants no more bear fruit and seed? Answer, race of falsehood and iniquity, has God troubled the primitive and invariable order which he himself assigned to nature? Has heaven denied to the earth, and the earth to its inhabitants, the blessings that were formerly dispensed? If the creation has remained the same, if its sources and its instruments are exactly what they once were, wherefore should not the present race have every thing within their reach that their ancestors enjoyed? Falsely do you accuse Fate and the Divinity: injuriously do you refer to God the cause of your evils. Tell me, perverse and hypocritical race, if these places are desolate, if powerful cities are reduced to solitude, is it he that has occasioned the ruin? Is it his hand that has thrown down these walls, sapped these temples, mutilated these pillars? or is it the hand of man? Is it the arm of God that has introduced the sword into the city and set fire to the country, murdered the people, burned the harvests, rooted up the trees, and ravaged the pastures? or is it the arm of man? And when, after this devastation, famine has started up, is it the vengeance of God that has sent it, or the mad fury of mortals? When, during the famine, the people are fed with unwholesome provision, and pestilence ensues, is it inflicted by the anger of Heaven, or brought about by human imprudence! When war, famine, and pestilence united have swept away the inhabitants, and the land is become a desert, is it God who has depopulated it? Is it his rapacity that plunders the labourer, ravages the productive fields, and lays waste the country; or the rapacity of those who govern? Is it his pride that creates murderous wars, or the pride of kings and their ministers? Is it the venality of his decisions that overthrows the fortune of families, or the venality of the organs of the laws? Are they his passions that, under a thousand forms, torment individuals and nations; or the passions of human beings? And if in the anguish of their misfortunes they perceive not the remedies, is it the ignorance of God that is in fault, or their own ignorance? Cease, then, to accuse the decrees of Fate or the judgments of Heaven! If God is good, will he be the author of your punishment? If he is just, will he be the accomplice of your crimes? No, no; the caprice of which man complains, is not the caprice of destiny: the darkness that misleads his reason, is not the darkness of God; the source of his calamities, is not in the distant heavens, but near to him upon the earth; it is not concealed in the bosom of the divinity; it resides in himself, man bears it in his heart.
You murmur, and say: Why have an unbelieving people enjoyed the blessings of heaven and of the earth? Why is a holy and chosen race less fortunate than impious generations? Deluded man! where is the contradiction at which you take offence? Where the inconsistency in which you suppose the justice of God to be involved? Take the balance of blessings and calamities, of causes and effects, and tell me—When those infidels observed the laws of the earth and the heavens, when they regulated their intelligent labours by the order of the seasons and the course of the stars, ought God to have troubled the equilibrium of the world to defeat their prudence? When they cultivated with care and toil the face of the country around you, ought he to have turned aside the rain, to have withheld the sertilizing dews, and caused thorns to spring up? When, to render this parched and barren soil productive, their industry constructed aqueducts, dug canals, and brought the distant waters across the deserts, ought he to have blighted the harvests which art had created; to have desolated a country that had been peopled in peace; to have demolished the towns which labour had caused to flourish; in fine, to have deranged and confounded the order established by the wisdom of man? And what is this infidelity which founded empires by prudence, defended them by courage, and strengthened them by justice; which raised magnificent cities, formed vast ports, drained pestilential marshes, covered the sea with ships, the earth with inhabitants, and, like the creative spirit, diffused life and motion through the world. If such is impiety, what is true belief? Does holiness consist in destruction? Is then the God that peoples the air with birds, the earth with animals, and the waters with reptiles; the God that animates universal nature, a God that delights in ruins and sepulchres? Does he ask devastation for homage, and conflagration for sacrifice? Would he have groans for hymns, murderers to worship him, and a desert and ravaged world for his temple? Yet such, holy and faithful generation, are your works! These are the fruits of your piety! You have massacred the people, reduced cities to ashes, destroyed all traces of cultivation, made the earth a solitude; and you demand the reward of your labours! Miracles are not too much for your advantage! For you the peasants that you have murdered should be revived; the walls you have thrown down should rise again; the harvests you have ravaged should flourish; the conduits that you have broken down should be renewed; the laws of heaven and earth, those laws which God has established for the display of his greatness and his magnificence, those laws anterior to all revelations and to all prophets, those laws which passion cannot alter, and ignorance cannot pervert, should be superseded. Passion knows them not; ignorance, which observes no cause and predicts no effect, has said in the foolishness of her heart: “Every thing comes from chance; a blind fatality distributes good and evil upon the earth; success is not to the prudent, nor felicity to the wise.” Or else, assuming the language of hypocrisy, she has said: “Every thing comes from God; and it is his sovereign pleasure to deceive the sage, and to confound the judicious.” And she has contemplated the imaginary scene with complacency. Good!” she has exclaimed. “I then am as well endowed as the science that despises me! The cold prudence which evermore haunts and torments me, I will render useless by a lucky intervention of Providence.” Cupidity has joined the chorus. “I too will oppress the weak; I will wring from him the fruits of his labour: for such is the decree of Heaven, such the omnipotent will of fate.”—For myself, I swear by all laws human and divine, by the laws of the human heart, that the hypocrite and the deceiver shall be themselves deceived; the unjust man shall perish in his rapacity, and the tyrant in his usurpation: the sun shall change its course, before folly shall prevail over wisdom and science, before stupidity shall surpass prudence in the delicate art of procuring to man his true enjoyments, and of building his happiness upon a solid foundation.