No Comment, Quotation — July 13, 2008, 7:22 am

Boileau – Nothing is Beautiful but the True

troy-allegory-time-truth

Rien n’est beau que le vrai : le vrai seul est aimable ;
Il doit régner partout, et même dans la fable :
De toute fiction l’adroite fausseté
Ne tend qu’à faire aux yeux briller la vérité.

Sais-tu pourquoi mes vers sont lus dans les provinces,
Sont recherchés du peuple, et reçus chez les princes ?
Ce n’est pas que leurs sons, agréables, nombreux,
Soient toujours à l’oreille également heureux ;
Qu’en plus d’un lieu le sens n’y gêne la mesure,
Et qu’un mot quelquefois n’y brave la césure :
Mais c’est qu’en eux le vrai, du mensonge vainqueur,
Partout se montre aux yeux et va saisir le cœur ;
Que le bien et le mal y sont prisés au juste ;
Quejamais un faquin n’y tint un rang auguste ;
Et que mon cœur, toujours conduisant mon esprit,
Ne dit rien aux lecteurs qu’à soi-même il n’ait dit.
Ma pensée au grand jour partout s’offre et s’expose,
Et mon vers, bien ou mal, dit toujours quelque chose.

Nothing is beautiful but the true: the true alone is agreeable;
It must reign everywhere, even in the fable:
The well-turned falsity of all fiction
Serves only to make the truth more readily seen.

Do you know why they read my verses in the countryside?
Why do the people seek them out, indeed, even princes?
It is not simply that they varied and are pleasing to the ear,
Nor because a word occasionally defies the measure:
Rather it is because in them the true vanquishes the false,
Shines through them all and lays hold the heart;
It is because the good and evil are taken in correct measure;
Because never does a scoundrel receive an august position;
And because my heart, always leading my mind,
Says nothing to the readers that it has not already said to itself.
My thought offers and presents itself clearly,
And my verse, good or bad, always has something to say.

Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, Épître IX (1695) in Œuvres, vol. 11, pp. 111-12 (St Surin ed. 1821)(S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2016

Tennis Lessons

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tearing Up the Map

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Land of Sod

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Only an Apocalypse Can Save Us Now

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Watchmen

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Acceptable Losses

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
Andrew Cockburn on the Saudi slaughter in Yemen, Alan Jacobs on the disappearance of Christian intellectuals, a forum on a post-Obama foreign policy, a story by Alice McDermott, and more
Artwork by Ingo Günther
Article
Land of Sod·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Photograph by Mike Slack
Article
The Watchmen·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Illustration by John Ritter
Article
Acceptable Losses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Photograph by Alex Potter
Article
The Origins of Speech·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News

Chances that college students select as “most desirable‚” the same face chosen by the chickens:

49 in 50

Most of the United States’ 36,000 yearly bunk-bed injuries involve male victims.

In Italy, a legislator called for parents who feed their children vegan diets to be sentenced to up to six years in prison, and in Sweden, a woman attempted to vindicate her theft of six pairs of underwear by claiming she had severe diarrhea.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today