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Jean Baptiste Poquelin Molière (1622–1673).  Tartuffe.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act I
 
Scene VI
 
 
ORGON,  CLÉANTE

Cléante

Brother, she ridicules you to your face;
And I, though I don’t want to make you angry,
Must tell you candidly that she’s quite right.
Was such infatuation ever heard of?
And can a man to-day have charms to make you        5
Forget all else, relieve his poverty,
Give him a home, and then…?
 
Orgon

        Stop there, good brother,
You do not know the man you’re speaking of.
 
Cléante

Since you will have it so, I do not know him;
        10
But after all, to tell what sort of man
He is…
 
Orgon

        Dear brother, you’d be charmed to know him;
Your raptures over him would have no end.
He is a man … who … ah! … in fact … a man        15
Whoever does his will, knows perfect peace,
And counts the whole world else, as so much dung.
His converse has transformed me quite; he weans
My heart from every friendship, teaches me
To have no love for anything on earth;        20
And I could see my brother, children, mother,
And wife, all die, and never care—a snap.
 
Cléante

Your feelings are humane, I must say, brother!
 
Orgon

Ah! If you’d seen him, as I saw him first,
You would have loved him just as much as I        25
He came to church each day, with contrite mien,
Kneeled, on both knees, right opposite my place,
And drew the eyes of all the congregation,
To watch the fervour of his prayers to heaven;
With deep-drawn sighs and great ejaculations,        30
He humbly kissed the earth at every moment;
And when I left the church, he ran before me
To give me holy water at the door.
I learned his poverty, and who he was,
By questioning his servant, who is like him,        35
And gave him gifts; but in his modesty
He always wanted to return a part.
“It is too much,” he’d say, “too much by half;
I am not worthy of your pity.” Then,
When I refused to take it back, he’d go,        40
Before my eyes, and give it to the poor.
At length heaven bade me take him to my home,
And since that day, all seems to prosper here.
He censures everything, and for my sake
He even takes great interest in my wife;        45
He lets me know who ogles her, and seems
Six times as jealous as I am myself.
You’d not believe how far his zeal can go:
He calls himself a sinner just for trifles;
The merest nothing is enough to shock him;        50
So much so, that the other day I heard him
Accuse himself for having, while at prayer,
In too much anger caught and killed a flea.
 
Cléante

Zounds, brother, you are mad, I think! Or else
You’re making sport of me, with such a speech.        55
What are you driving at with all this nonsense…?
 
Orgon

Brother, your language smacks of atheism;
And I suspect your soul’s a little tainted
Therewith. I’ve preached to you a score of times
That you’ll draw down some judgment on your head.        60
 
Cléante

That is the usual strain of all your kind;
They must have every one as blind as they.
They call you atheist if you have good eyes;
And if you don’t adore their vain grimaces,
You’ve neither faith nor care for sacred things.        65
No, no; such talk can’t frighten me; I know
What I am saying; heaven sees my heart.
We’re not the dupes of all your canting mummers;
There are false heroes—and false devotees;
And as true heroes never are the ones        70
Who make much noise about their deeds of honour,
Just so true devotees, whom we should follow,
Are not the ones who make so much vain show.
What! Will you find no difference between
Hypocrisy and genuine devoutness?        75
And will you treat them both alike, and pay
The self-same honour both to masks and faces
Set artifice beside sincerity,
Confuse the semblance with reality,
Esteem a phantom like a living person,        80
And counterfeit as good as honest coin?
Men, for the most part, are strange creatures, truly!
You never find them keep the golden mean;
The limits of good sense, too narrow for them,
Must always be passed by, in each direction;        85
They often spoil the noblest things, because
They go too far, and push them to extremes.
I merely say this by the way, good brother.
 
Orgon

You are the sole expounder of the doctrine;
Wisdom shall die with you, no doubt, good brother,        90
You are the only wise, the sole enlightened,
The oracle, the Cato, of our age.
All men, compared to you, are downright fools.
 
Cléante

I’m not the sole expounder of the doctrine,
And wisdom shall not die with me, good brother.        95
But this I know, though it be all my knowledge,
That there’s a difference ’twixt false and true.
And as I find no kind of hero more
To be admired than men of true religion,
Nothing more noble or more beautiful        100
Than is the holy zeal of true devoutness;
Just so I think there’s naught more odious
Than whited sepulchres of outward unction,
Those barefaced charlatans, those hireling zealots,
Whose sacrilegious, treacherous pretence        105
Deceives at will, and with impunity
Makes mockery of all that men hold sacred;
Men who, enslaved to selfish interests,
Make trade and merchandise of godliness,
And try to purchase influence and office        110
With false eye-rollings and affected raptures;
Those men, I say, who with uncommon zeal
Seek their own fortunes on the road to heaven;
Who, skilled in prayer, have always much to ask,
And live at court to preach retirement;        115
Who reconcile religion with their vices,
Are quick to anger, vengeful, faithless, tricky,
And, to destroy a man, will have the boldness
To call their private grudge the cause of heaven;
All the more dangerous, since in their anger        120
They use against us weapons men revere,
And since they make the world applaud their passion,
And seek to stab us with a sacred sword.
There are too many of this canting kind.
Still, the sincere are easy to distinguish;        125
And many splendid patterns may be found,
In our own time, before our very eyes
Look at Ariston, Périandre, Oronte,
Alcidamas, Clitandre, and Polydore;
No one denies their claim to true religion;        130
Yet they’re no braggadocios of virtue,
They do not make insufferable display,
And their religion’s human, tractable;
They are not always judging all our actions,
They’d think such judgment savoured of presumption;        135
And, leaving pride of words to other men,
’Tis by their deeds alone they censure ours.
Evil appearances find little credit
With them; they even incline to think the best
Of others. No caballers, no intriguers,        140
They mind the business of their own right living.
They don’t attack a sinner tooth and nail,
For sin’s the only object of their hatred;
Nor are they over-zealous to attempt
Far more in heaven’s behalf than heaven would have ’em.        145
That is my kind of man, that is true living,
That is the pattern we should set ourselves.
Your fellow was not fashioned on this model;
You’re quite sincere in boasting of his zeal;
But you’re deceived, I think, by false pretences.        150
 
Orgon

My dear good brother-in-law, have you quite done?
 
Cléante

Yes.
 
Orgon

        I’m your humble servant.
 
(Starts to go.)
Cléante

        Just a word.
We’ll drop that other subject. But you know        155
Valere has had the promise of your daughter.
 
Orgon

Yes.
 
Cléante

        You had named the happy day.
 
Orgon

        ’Tis true.
 
Cléante

Then why put off the celebration of it?
        160
 
Orgon

I can’t say.
 
Cléante

        Can you have some other plan
In mind?
 
Orgon

        Perhaps
 
Cléante

        You mean to break your word?
        165
 
Orgon

I don’t say that.
 
Cléante

        I hope no obstacle
Can keep you from performing what you’ve promised.
 
Orgon

Well, that depends.
 
Cléante

        Why must you beat about?
        170
Valere has sent me here to settle matters.
 
Orgon

Heaven be praised!
 
Cléante

        What answer shall I take him?
 
Orgon

Why, anything you please.
 
Cléante

        But we must know
        175
Your plans. What are they?
 
Orgon

        I shall do the will
Of Heaven.
 
Cléante

        Come, be serious. You’ve given
Your promise to Valère. Now will you keep it?        180
 
Orgon

Good-bye.
 
Cléante  (alone)

        His love, methinks, has much to fear;
I must go let him know what’s happening here.
 

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