The Ruins HTML version

Part I, Chapter 6
Formed naked in body and in mind, man at first found himself thrown, as it were by
chance, on a rough and savage land: an orphan, abandoned by the unknown power which
had produced him, he saw not by his side beings descended from heaven to warn him of
those wants which arise only from his senses, nor to instruct him in those duties which
spring only from his wants. Like to other animals, without experience of the past, without
foresight of the future, he wandered in the bosom of the forest, guided only and governed
by the affections of his nature. By the pain of hunger, he was led to seek food and provide
for his subsistence; by the inclemency of the air, he was urged to cover his body, and he
made him clothes; by the attraction of a powerful pleasure, he approached a being like
himself, and he perpetuated his kind.
Thus the impressions which he received from every object, awakening his faculties,
developed by degrees his understanding, and began to instruct his profound ignorance:
his wants excited industry, dangers formed his courage; he learned to distinguish useful
from noxious plants, to combat the elements, to seize his prey, to defend his life; and thus
he alleviated its miseries.
Thus self-love, aversion to pain, the desire of happiness, were the simple and powerful
excitements which drew man from the savage and barbarous condition in which nature
had placed him. And now, when his life is replete with enjoyments, when he may count
each day by the comforts it brings, he may applaud himself and say:
"It is I who have produced the comforts which surround me; it is I who am the author of
my own happiness; a safe dwelling, convenient clothing, abundant and wholesome
nourishment, smiling fields, fertile hills, populous empires, all is my work; without me
this earth, given up to disorder, would have been but a filthy fen, a wild wood, a dreary
Yes, creative man, receive my homage! Thou hast measured the span of the heavens,
calculated the volume of the stars, arrested the lightning in its clouds, subdued seas and
storms, subjected all the elements. Ah! how are so many sublime energies allied to so
many errors?