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The Death of the Moth, and Other Essays
Immediately preceding this poem I have given a translation of Voltaire’s philosophical essay, This was written by him in 1772, six years before his death, and is the most succinct expression of his mature religious views. It is really directed against his atheistic friends at Paris, such as d’Holbach. Condorcet said of it that it contained the most powerful argumentation for the existence of God that had yet been advanced. Its remarkable lucidity and terseness enable us to identify his views at once. He did not believe in the spirituality or immortality of the soul, but he had an unshakable conviction of the existence of God. It is sometimes said that the Lisbon earthquake shook his theism. This is inaccurate, as a careful comparison of the two works will show. He never believed that the supreme intelligence was infinite in power, and the haunting problem of evil always made him hesitate to ascribe more than limited moral attributes to his deity. His one unwavering dogma—it does not waver for an instant in the poem—is that the world was designed by a supreme intelligence and is moved by a supreme power. Had he lived one hundred years later, when evolution began to throw its magical illumination upon the order of the universe and the wonderful adaptation of its parts, his position would clearly have been modified. As it was, he, with constant sincerity, avowed that he could not understand the world without a great architect and a prime mover of all moving things. In all his works the uglier features of the world, which, unlike many theists, he steadfastly confronted, forbid him to add any other and warmer attributes to this bleak intelligence and mysterious power.
The daughters were taken from the mother and put in a convent. The mother, almost sprinkled with the blood of her husband, her eldest son dead, the younger banished, deprived of her daughters and all her property, was alone in the world, without bread, without hope, dying of the intolerable misery. Certain persons, having carefully examined the circumstances of this horrible adventure, were so impressed that they urged the widow, who had retired into solitude, to go and demand justice at the feet of the throne. At the time she shrank from publicity; moreover, being English by birth, and having been transplanted into a French province in early youth, the name of Paris terrified her. She imagine that the capital of the kingdom would be still more barbaric than the capital of Languedoc. At length the duty of clearing the memory of her husband prevailed over her weakness. She reached Paris almost at the point of death. She was astonished at her reception, at the help and the tears that were given to her.
The Death of the Moth, and other essays, by Virginia Woolf
What will you say of the holy King David, the king who found favour in the eyes of the God of the Jews, and merited to be an ancestor of the Messiah? This good king is at first a brigand, capturing and pillaging all he finds. Among others, he despoils a rich man named Nabal, marries his wife, and flies to King Achish. During the night he descends upon the villages of King Achish, his benefactor, with fire and sword. He slaughters men, women, and children, says the sacred text, lest there be any one left to take the news. When he is made king he ravishes the wife of Uriah, and has the husband put to death; and it is from this adulterous homicide that the Messiah—God himself—descends. What blasphemy! This David, who thus becomes an ancestor of God as a reward of his horrible crime, is punished for the one good and wise action which he did. There is no good and prudent prince who ought not to know the number of his people, as the shepherd should know the number of his flock. David has them enumerated—though we are not told what the number was—and for making this wise and useful enumeration a prophet comes from God to give him the choice of war, pestilence, or famine.
We will not insist on the falsehood of Isaac, the father of the just, who says that his wife is his sister; whether he was merely repeating the falsehood of Abraham, or Abraham was really guilty of taking his sister to wife. But let us dwell for a moment on the patriarch Jacob, who is offered to us as a model man. He compels his brother, who is dying of hunger, to give up his birthright for a dish of lentils. He afterwards deceives his aged father on his death-bed. After deceiving his father, he deceives and robs his father-in-law Laban. Not content with wedding two sisters, he lies with all his servants; and God blesses this licentiousness and trickery. Who are the children of such a father? His daughter Dinah pleases a prince of Sichem, and it is probable that she loves the prince, since she lies with him. The prince asks her in marriage, and she is promised on condition that he and all his people are circumcised. The prince accepts the condition; but as soon as he and his people undergo this painful operation—which, nevertheless, leaves them strong enough to defend themselves—Jacob’s family murder all the men of Sichem and enslave their women and children.
The Death Of Moth And Other Essays Virginia Woolf
It is evident, moreover, that he was the victim of a furious party, angered against him. He had made irreconcilable enemies of the sophists, orators. and poets who taught in the schools, and of all the teachers in charge of the children of distinguished men. He himself admits, in his discourse given to us by Plato, that he went from house to house proving to the teachers that they were ignorant. Such conduct was hardly worthy of one whom an oracle had declared to be the wisest of men. A priest and a councillor of the Five Hundred were put forward to accuse him. I must confess that I do not know what the precise accusation was; I find only vagueness in his apology. He is made to say, in general, that he was accused of instilling into young men sentiments in opposition to the religion and government. It is the usual method of calumniators, but a court would demand accredited facts and precise charges. Of these there is no trace in the trial of Socrates. We know only that at first there were two hundred and twenty votes in his favour. From this we may infer that the court of the Five Hundred included two hundred and twenty philosophers; I doubt if so many could be found elsewhere. The majority at length condemned him to drink the hemlock; but let us remember that, when the Athenians returned to their senses, they regarded both the accusers and the judges with horror; that Melitus, the chief author of the sentence, was condemned to death for his injustice; and that the others were banished, and a temple was erected to Socrates. Never was philosophy so much avenged and honoured. The case of Socrates is really the most terrible argument that can be used against intolerance. The Athenians had an altar dedicated to foreign gods—the gods they knew not. Could there be a stronger proof, not merely of their indulgence to all nations, but even of respect for their cults?
On the sixth day God makes man and woman; but the author, forgetting that woman has been made already, afterwards derives her from one of Adam’s ribs. Adam and Eve are put in a garden from which four rivers issue; and of these rivers there are two, the Euphrates and the Nile, which have their sources a thousand miles from each other. The serpent then spoke like a man; it was the most cunning of animals. It persuades the woman to eat an apple, and so has her driven from paradise. The human race increases, and the children of God fall in love with the daughters of men. There were giants on the earth, and God was sorry that he had made man. He determined to exterminate him by a flood; but wished to save Noah, and ordered him to make a vessel of poplar wood, three hundred cubits in length. Into this vessel were to be brought seven pairs of all the clean animals, and two pairs of the unclean. It was necessary to feed them during the ten months that the water covered the earth. You can imagine what would be needed to feed fourteen elephants, fourteen camels, fourteen buffaloes, and as many horses, asses, deer, serpents, ostriches—in a word, more than two thousand species. You will ask me whence came the water to cover the whole earth and rise fifteen cubits above the highest mountains? The text replies that it came from the cataracts of heaven. Heaven knows where these cataracts are. After the deluge God enters into an alliance with Noah and with all the animals; and in confirmation of this alliance he institutes the rainbow.
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Essay about Virginia Woolf - the Death of the Moth - 696 …
(Although the film’s director decided to use the pupa of another species because it looked more dramatic!).The Death’s head hawk-moth was even rumoured to be a tormentor of the notoriously unstable King George III who was thrown into one of his infamous bouts of ‘madness’ when two large moths were discovered in his bedroom in his residence in Kew, London in 1801.Their presence caused quite a stir at Court and conspiracy theories started immediately after the sighting.
Virginia Woolf - the Death of the Moth
While they were doing this, and the father and mother sobbed and wept, the people of Toulouse gathered round the house. They are superstitious and impulsive people; they regard as monsters their brothers who do not share their religion. It was at Toulouse that solemn thanks were offered to God for the death of Henry III., and that an oath was taken to kill any man who should propose to recognise the great and good Henry IV. This city still celebrates every year, by a procession and fireworks, the day on which it massacred four thousand heretical citizens two hundred years ago. Six decrees of the Council have been passed in vain for the suppression of this odious festival; the people of Toulouse celebrate it still like a floral festival.
The moth flew from one side, to the other, ..
They fear no longer in Holland that disputes about predestination will end in heads being cut off. They fear no longer at London that the quarrels of Presbyterians and Episcopalians about liturgies and surplices will lead to the death of a king on the scaffold. A populous and wealthier Ireland will no longer see its Catholic citizens sacrifice its Protestant citizens to God during two months, bury them alive, hang their mothers to gibbets, tie the girls to the necks of their mothers, and see them expire together; or put swords in the hands of their prisoners and guide their hands to the bosoms of their wives, their fathers, their mothers, and their daughters, thinking to make parricides of them, and damn them as well as exterminate them. Such is the account given by Rapin Thoyras, an officer in Ireland, and almost a contemporary; so we find in all the annals and histories of England. It will never be repeated. Philosophy, the sister of religion, has disarmed the hands that superstition had so long stained with blood; and the human mind, awakening from its intoxication, is amazed at the excesses into which fanaticism had led it.
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