Sunday, September 9, 2007

"O Most Lame and Impotent Conclusion!"

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 43-44.

P. S. (
15 Thermidor) August 2nd [1798].

I am this moment setting out with General Le Clerc(1) on a secret expedition. Here then I leave grand Cairo, but I hope to return to it.

Sucy is a little better; he wishes to return to France; but he does not seem disposed to take me with him. Write to him on the subject. Once more, I embrace you.

[British Translators' Notes]

(1)“O most lame and impotent conclusion!” Who would have expected to see our Savant, after his pathetic description of the miseries he had already contributed to bring upon this unfortunate country, who would have expected, we say, to find him gaily setting out upon a fresh expedition, of which he avowed (not “secret”) purpose was the most flagitious and cruel robbery that was ever yet attempted! (we speak of the meditated seizure of the caravan.) But this is nature.

Heac ubi locutus faenerator Alphius
Jam jam futurus rusticus,
Omnem relegit Idibus pecuniam—
Quaerit Calendis ponere!!!

When we first found in some of these letters, sentiments of enlarged kindness and humanity, we were inclined to give the writers credit for them, and spoke with cordial approbation (Part I. Introd &c.) of feelings which we imagined to be as sincere as they were well expressed; but a farther acquaintance with this correspondence has almost cured us of our credulity: for we observed, as we proceeded, that there was not one of those moralizing, those humane disclaimers, “however he might write the style of gods,” that did not in some part or the other of his letter, like the Savant before us, betray the same infuriate passion for pillage and destruction, as the General himself, although a keen perception of his own wretched situation, might lead him, at the moment, to deprecate and deplore the wide spreading ruin before him.

1 comment:

David L. Boyle said...

The latin translates roughly to the following:

"When the money-lender Alphius had said these things, now about to be rustic,
he took back all the money from the Ides-
He seeks to place it on the Kalends!"