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Voltaire on the Benefits which Trade and Economic Abundance bring to People living in the Present Age (1736)

Voltaire’s poem celebrating the fact that he was living in an age of developing commerce and markets:

Others may with regret complain That ’tis not fair Astrea’s reign, That the famed golden age is o’er That Saturn, Rhea rule no more: Or, to speak in another style, That Eden’s groves no longer smile. For my part, I thank Nature sage, That she has placed me in this age… I have, I own, a worldly mind, That’s pleased abundance here to find; Abundance, mother of all arts, Which with new wants new joys imparts The treasures of the earth and main, With all the creatures they contain: These, luxury and pleasures raise; This iron age brings happy days.

Others may with regret complain
That ’tis not fair Astrea’s reign,
That the famed golden age is o’er
That Saturn, Rhea rule no more:
Or, to speak in another style,
That Eden’s groves no longer smile.
For my part, I thank Nature sage,
That she has placed me in this age:
Religionists may rail in vain;
I own, I like this age profane;
I love the pleasures of a court;
I love the arts of every sort;
Magnificence, fine buildings, strike me;
In this, each man of sense is like me.
I have, I own, a worldly mind,
That’s pleased abundance here to find;
Abundance, mother of all arts,
Which with new wants new joys imparts
The treasures of the earth and main,
With all the creatures they contain:
These, luxury and pleasures raise;
This iron age brings happy days.

Needful superfluous things appear;
They have joined together either sphere.
See how that fleet, with canvas wings,
From Texel, Bordeaux, London brings,
By happy commerce to our shores,
All Indus, and all Ganges stores;
Whilst France, that pierced the Turkish lines,
Sultans make drunk with rich French wines.

About this Quotation:

Voltaire was best known in his lifetime as an author of poetry and plays. To us in the 21st century he is best known for his satirical work Candide (1759) and the Philosophical Dictionary (1764). Yet as this quote shows even in his poetry and plays Voltaire had sharp observations about political and economic matters.

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