A MIDDLEMARCH EPIGRAPH.

As I mentioned last month, my wife and I are reading Middlemarch, which has epigraphs for each chapter, and the one for Chapter 30 defeated me. It’s in French, a language I allegedly speak, but I couldn’t make head nor tail of it:
Qui veut délasser hors de propos, lasse. —PASCAL.
I think I was mixing up délasser and lasser with délaisser and laisser. At any rate, the internet came to my rescue, I found a translation of the pensée in question, and as a public service for others (like Roger Sutton) who have stumbled over this fragment, I present a translation: “whoever tries to divert us at the wrong time tires us out,” a thought extremely relevant to poor mythology-obsessed Mr. Casaubon being told by his doctor “to be satisfied with moderate work, and to seek variety of relaxation.”
I include below the entire pensée in the original and in a musty online translation:


Dans le discours, il ne faut point détourner l’esprit d’une chose à une autre, si ce n’est pour le délasser, mais dans le temps où cela est à propos, et non autrement ; car qui veut délasser hors de propos, lasse. On se rebute, et on quitte tout là : tant il est difficile de rient obtenir de l’homme que par le plaisir, qui est la monnaie pour laquelle nous donnons tout ce qu’on veut.
24. Language.- We should not turn the mind from one thing to another, except for relaxation, and that when it is necessary and the time suitable, and not otherwise. For he that relaxes out of season wearies, and he who wearies us out of season makes us languid, since we turn quite away. So much does our perverse lust like to do the contrary of what those wish to obtain from us without giving us pleasure, the coin for which we will do whatever is wanted.

Comments

  1. John Emerson says:

    How bad is that translation?
    So much does our perverse lust like to do the contrary of what those wish to obtain from us
    translates
    tant il est difficile de rient obtenir de l’homme.

  2. The translation doesn’t correspond to that particular version of the text though. It’s actually a version of this (Pensée 603 in the Gallimar edition):
    Langage. Il ne faut point détourner l’esprit ailleurs sinon pour le délasser, mais dans le temps où cela est à propos; le délasser quand il le faut et non autrement, car qui délasse hors de propos, il lasse, et qui lasse hors de propos délasse, car on quitte tout là; tant la malice de la concupiscence se plaît à faire tout le contraire de ce qu’on veut obtenir de nous sans nous donner du plaisir, qui est la monnaie pour laquelle nous donnons tout ce qu’on veut.

  3. Wonderful! Now (to go from the sublime to the ridiculous) could someone please do something with this?
    C’est là pourtant que se livre le sens du dire, de ce que, s’y conjuguant le nyania qui bruit des sexes en compagnie, il supplee a ce qu’entre eux, de rapport nyait pas.
    –Jacques Lacan, “L’Etourdit”
    I’ve been using it as a .sig for years, but I have only the vaguest notion of what it’s about.

  4. Thanks, Raminagrobis—I had no idea there were different versions floating around. Live and learn (a thought I’m sure Pascal expressed far more elegantly somewhere).

  5. Jo Uissance says:

    Now [...] could someone please do something with this?

    C’est là pourtant que se livre le sens du dire, de ce que, s’y conjuguant le nyania qui bruit des sexes en compagnie, il supplee a ce qu’entre eux, de rapport nyait pas.
    –Jacques Lacan, “L’Etourdit”

    According to translate.google.com it means:

    This is, however, that engages the sense of say that, it nyania that combining the noise of the sexes in the company, it has supplée that between them, not report nyait.

    A wonderful translation!

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