Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter XL
Usbek to Ibben, at Smyrna
 
WHEN a great man dies, people assemble in a mosque to hear his funeral oration pronounced—a discourse in his praise from which it would be very difficult to gather a true estimate of the deceased.  1
  I would abolish all funeral pomp. Men should be bewailed at their birth and not their death. What good purpose do these ceremonies serve, with all the doleful shows that are paraded before a dying man in his last moments: the very tears of his family and the grief of his friends exaggerate for him the loss he is about to sustain.  2
  We are so blind that we know neither when to mourn, nor when to rejoice; our mirth and our sadness are nearly always false.  3
  When I see the Great Mogul foolishly place himself once a year in a balance to be weighed like an ox; when I see his people applaud the increase in weight of their prince, that is to say, the decrease in his capacity to govern them, my heart, Ibben, bleeds for the extravagance of humanity.

  PARIS, the 20th of the moon of Rhegeb, 1713.
  4
 
 
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