Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
Letter VII
Fatme to Usbek, at Erzeroum
YOU have been gone for two months, my dear Usbek, and I am so dejected that I cannot yet persuade myself you have been so long away. I wander through every corner of the seraglio as if you were there; I cherish that sweet delusion. What is there left to do for a woman who loves you; who has been accustomed to clasp you in her arms; whose only desire was to give you new proofs of her affection; who was born to the blessings of freedom, but became a slave through the ardor of her passion?  1
  When I married you, my eyes had not yet seen the face of man; and you are still the only man whom I have been permitted to look on: 1 for I do not count as men those frightful eunuchs whose least imperfection is that they are not men. When I compare the beauty of your countenance with the deformity of theirs, I cannot forbear esteeming myself a happy woman: my imagination can conceive no more ravishing idea than the bewitching charms of your person. I pledge you my word, Usbek, that were I allowed to leave this place in which the necessity of my condition detains me; could I escape from the guards who hem me in on all sides—even if I were allowed to choose among all the men who dwell in this capital of nations—Usbek, I swear to you, I would choose none but you: there is no man else in the wide world worthy a woman’s love.  2
  Do not think that your absence has led me to neglect those charms which have endeared me to you: although I may not be seen by any one, and the ornaments with which I deck myself do not affect your happiness, I strive notwithstanding to omit no art that can arouse delight; I never go to rest until I am all perfumed with the sweetest essences. I recall that happy time when you came to my arms; a flattering dream deceives me, and shows me the dear object of my love; my fond imagination is whelmed in its desires; sometimes I think that, disgusted with the trials of your journey, you are hurrying home: between waking and sleeping the night is spent in such vague dreams; I seek for you at my side, and you seem to flee from me; until at last the very fire which burns me disperses these unsubstantial joys, and I am broad awake. Then my agitation knows no bounds.… You will not believe me, Usbek, but it is impossible to live like this; liquid fire courses in my veins: why cannot I find words to tell you all I feel, and why do I feel so deeply what I cannot utter? In such moments, Usbek, I would give the world for a single kiss. What an unhappy woman is she who, having such passionate desires as these, is deprived of the company of him who alone can satisfy them! Abandoned to herself, with nothing to divert her, her whole life is spent in sighs and in the frenzy of a goading passion. Instead of being happy, she has not even the privilege of ministering to the happiness of another: a useless ornament of a seraglio, she is kept for her husband’s credit merely, and not for his enjoyment! You men are the most cruel creatures! Delighted when we have desires that we cannot gratify, you treat us as if we had no emotions—though you would be very sorry if that were so: you imagine that our long repressed love will be quickened when we behold you. It is very difficult for a man to make himself beloved; the easiest plan is to obtain from our constitutional weakness what you dare not hope to obtain through your own merit.  3
  Farewell, my dear Usbek, farewell. Believe that I live only to adore you: the thought of you fills my soul; and your absence, far from making me forget you, would make my love more vehement, if that were possible.

  THE SERAGLIO AT ISPAHAN, the 12th of the first moon of Rebiab, 1711.
Note 1. In Persia the women are confined much more closely than among the Turks or Indians.—(M.) [back]

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.