"But you who have known how to break the chains which my mind itself had forged, how will you break those that tie my hands?"

— Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755)


Date
1721, 1722
Metaphor
"But you who have known how to break the chains which my mind itself had forged, how will you break those that tie my hands?"
Metaphor in Context
I came there again two days after; I said nothing to her, waiting with silence the sentence of my life, or of my death. "Thou art beloved, my brother, said she to me, and by a Guebre. I have struggled a long time; but, Gods! what difficulties doth love remove! How relieved am I! I fear nothing now but loving you too much; I can fix no bounds to my love: but the excess is lawful. Ah, how well does this suit the state of my heart! But you who have known how to break the chains which my mind itself had forged, how will you break those that tie my hands? From this moment I give myself to thee; show by the readiness with which you receive me, how dear this present is to you. My brother, the first time that I embrace you, I believe I shall die in your arms." I can never fully express the joy I felt at these words: I did believe, and actually saw myself, in a moment, the most happy of all mankind: I saw all the wishes which I had been five and twenty years of my life in forming, nearly accomplished, and all those uneasinesses vanished, which had rendered my life so burthensome. But when I had a little enjoyed these delightful thoughts, I found that I was not so near my happiness, as I had so hastily imagined within myself, though I had surmounted the greatest of all obstacles. The vigilance of her guardians was to be deceived: I did not dare to confide this secret of my life with any body; I had nobody but my sister, and she nobody but me, to consult: if my scheme failed, I ran the risque of being imprisoned; but I saw no pain more tormenting than that of miscarrying. [...]

[J'y retournai deux jours après; je ne lui parlai point: j'attendis dans le silence l'arrêt de ma vie ou de ma mort. Vous êtes aimé, mon frère, me dit-elle, et par une Guèbre. J'ai longtemps combattu: mais dieux! que l'amour lève de difficultés! que je suis soulagée! Je ne crains plus de vous trop aimer, je puis ne mettre point de bornes à mon amour; l'excès même en est légitime. Ah! que ceci convient bien à l'état de mon cœur! Mais vous, qui avez su rompre les chaînes que mon esprit s'était forgées, quand romprez-vous celles qui me lient les mains? Dès ce moment je me donne à vous: faites voir, par la promptitude avec laquelle vous m'accepterez, combien ce présent vous est cher. Mon frère, la première fois que je pourrai vous embrasser, je crois que je mourrai dans vos bras. Je n'exprimerois jamais bien la joie que je sentis à ces douces paroles, je me crus et je me vis en effet, en un instant, le plus heureux de tous les hommes; je vis presque accomplir tous les désirs que j'avois formés en vingt-cinq ans de vie, et évanouir tous les chagrins qui me l'avoient rendue si laborieuse. Mais, quand je me fus un peu accoutumé à ces douces idées, je trouvai que je n'étois pas si près de mon bonheur que je m'étois figuré tout à coup, quoique j'eusse surmonté le plus grand de tous les obstacles. Il falloit surprendre la vigilance de ses gardiens; je n'osois confier à personne le secret de ma vie: il falloit que nous fissions tout, elle et moi: si je manquois mon coup, je courois risque d'être empalé; mais je ne voyois pas de peine plus cruelle que de le manquer.]
(Letter LXVII, The History of Apheridon and Astarte.)
Categories
Provenance
Searching at OLL
Citation
The earliest English-language issue is Persian Letters, trans. John Ozell, 2 vols. (London: Printed for J. Tonson, 1722). <Link to ECCO>

12 entries in the ESTC for this title (1722, 1730, 1731, 1736, 1751, 1759, 1760, 1762, 1767, 1773, 1775). Searching The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu, 4 vols. (London: T. Evans, 1777) at Online Library of Liberty <Link to OLL>. French text from Project Gutenberg.

Date of Entry
08/09/2013

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.