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.