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The Ruins

Part I, Chapter 3
While thus absorbed, a sound struck my ear, like the agitation of a flowing robe, or that
of slow footsteps on dry and rustling grass. Startled, I opened my mantle, and looking
about with fear and trembling, suddenly, on my left, by the glimmering light of the moon,
through the columns and ruins of a neighboring temple, I thought I saw an apparition,
pale, clothed in large and flowing robes, such as spectres are painted rising from their
tombs. I shuddered: and while agitated and hesitating whether to fly or to advance toward
the object, a distinct voice, in solemn tones, pronounced these words:
How long will man importune heaven with unjust complaint? How long, with vain
clamors, will he accuse Fate as the author of his calamities? Will he forever shut his eyes
to the light, and his heart to the admonitions of truth and reason? The light of truth meets
him everywhere; yet he sees it not! The voice of reason strikes his ear; and he hears it
not! Unjust man! if for a moment thou canst suspend the delusion which fascinates thy
senses, if thy heart can comprehend the language of reason, interrogate these ruins! Read
the lessons which they present to thee! And you, evidences of twenty centuries, holy
temples! venerable tombs! walls once so glorious, appear in the cause of nature herself!
Approach the tribunal of sound reason, and bear testimony against unjust accusations!
Come and confound the declamations of a false wisdom or hypocritical piety, and avenge
the heavens and the earth of man who calumniates them both!
What is that blind fatality, which without order and without law, sports with the destiny
of mortals? What is that unjust necessity, which confounds the effect of actions, whether
of wisdom or of folly? In what consist the anathemas of heaven over this land? Where is
that divine malediction which perpetuates the abandonment of these fields? Say,
monuments of past ages! have the heavens changed their laws and the earth its motion?
Are the fires of the sun extinct in the regions of space? Do the seas no longer emit their
vapors? Are the rains and the dews suspended in the air? Do the mountains withhold their
springs? Are the streams dried up? And do the plants no longer bear fruit and seed?
Answer, generation of falsehood and iniquity, hath God deranged the primitive and
settled order of things which he himself assigned to nature? Hath heaven denied to earth,
and earth to its inhabitants, the blessings they formerly dispensed? If nothing hath
changed in the creation, if the same means now exist which before existed, why then are
not the present what former generations were? Ah! it is falsely that you accuse fate and
heaven! it is unjustly that you accuse God as the cause of your evils! Say, perverse and
hypocritical race! if these places are desolate, if these powerful cities are reduced to
solitude, is it God who has caused their ruin? Is it his hand which has overthrown these
walls, destroyed these temples, mutilated these columns, or is it the hand of man? Is it the
arm of God which has carried the sword into your cities, and fire into your fields, which
has slaughtered the people, burned the harvests, rooted up trees, and ravaged the pastures,
or is it the hand of man? And when, after the destruction of crops, famine has ensued, is it
the vengeance of God which has produced it, or the mad fury of mortals? When, sinking