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"Dialogues: The Gardener's Catechism" by Voltaire

The following is the complete text of Voltaire's "The Gardener's Catechism, or, A Dialogue between Bashaw Tuctan, and Karpos the Gardener." To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.

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The Black and the White
A Conversation with a Chinese
Dialogues: The Chinese Catechism
Dialogues: The Japanese Catechism
Dialogues: Liberty
The Good Brahmin
Grecian Metamorphoses and Mysteries of the Egyptians
Jeannot and Colin
Memnon, the Philosopher

Of Bacchus
Of Idolatry
Of Miracles
Of Oracles
Of the Egyptian Rites
Of the Greek Sibyls
Of Zaleucus
Plato's Dream
The Study of Nature
The Travels of Scarmentado
The Two Comforters
The World As It Goes

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"Dialogues: The Gardener's Catechism"


Or, A Dialogue between Bashaw Tuctan, and Karpos the Gardener


TUCTAN. You sell your fruit, friend Karpos, very dear; however, it is pretty good. Pray, what religion do you profess now?

KARPOS. Why, indeed, my Lord Bashaw, I cannot very well tell you. When our little island (Samos) belonged to the Greeks, I remember that I was ordered to say, that Agiou pneuma (the sacred Spirit) proceeded only from tou patrou (the Father). I was told to pray to God, standing upright, with my arms across, and was prohibited eating milk in Lent. When the Venetians came, our new Italian curate ordered me to say, that Agiou pneuma proceeded both from tou patrou and from tou uiou (the Son), permitting me to eat milk, and making me pray on my knees. On the return of the Greeks, and their expelling the Venetians, I was obliged again to renounce tou uiou, and milk porridge. You have, at length, expelled the Greeks, and I hear you cry out, as loud as you can, "Allah illa Allah!" For my part, I no longer know what I am; but I love God with all my heart, and sell my fruit very reasonably.

TUCT. You have some fine figs there.

KARP. At your service, my lord.

TUCT. They say you have a fine daughter too.

KARP. Yes, my lord Bashaw; but she is not at your service.

TUCT. Why so? Wretch!

KARP. Because I am an honest man. I may sell my figs, if I please; but I may not sell my daughter.

TUCT. And, pray, by what law are you allowed to sell one kind of fruit and not the other?

KARP. By the law of all honest gardeners. The honor of my daughter is not my property, but hers. It is not, with us, a marketable commodity.

TUCT. You are, then, disloyal to your Bashaw.

KARP. Not at all. I am his faithful servant in every thing that is just, so long as he continues my master.

TUCT. And so, if your Greek patriarch should form a plot against me, and should order you, in the name of tou patrou, to enter into it, you would not have devotion enough to turn traitor? Ha!

KARP. Not I.

TUCT. And, pray, why should you refuse to obey your patriarch on such an occasion?

KARP. Because I have taken an oath of allegiance to you, as my Bashaw; and I know that tou patrou does not command any one to engage in plots and conspiracies.

TUCT. I am glad of that, at least. But what, if the Greeks should retake the isle, and expel your Bashaw; would you be faithful to me still?

KARP. What! when you are no longer my Bashaw?

TUCT. What, then, would become of your oath of allegiance?

KARP. Something like my figs: you would not be any more the better for it. Craving your honor's pardon, it is certain, that if you were now dead, I should owe you no allegiance.

TUCT. The supposition is a little impolite; but, however, your conclusion is true.

KARP. And would it not be the same, my lord, if you were expelled? for you would have a successor, to whom I must take a fresh oath of allegiance. Why should you require fidelity of me, when it would be no longer of use to you? That would be just as if you could not eat my figs yourself, and yet you would prevent my selling them to any body else.

TUCT. You are a reasoner, I see, and have your principles of action.

KARP. Aye, such as they are. They are but few, but they serve me; and, perhaps, if I had more, they would only puzzle me.

TUCT. I should, indeed, much like to know your principles, and the rules that govern your conduct.

KARP. They are -- to be a good husband, a good father, a good neighbor, and a good gardener. I go no further, and hope, for the rest, that God will take every thing in good part, and have mercy on me.

TUCT. And do you think that he will show the same mercy to me, who am governor of this island of Samos?

KARP. And, pray, how do you think I should know that? Is it for me to conjecture how God Almighty behaves to Bashaws? That is an affair between you and him, which I do not intermeddle with in any shape. All that I believe of the matter is, that, if you be as good a Bashaw as I am a gardener, God will be very good to you.

TUCT. By Mahomet, I like this idolater very well! Farewell, friend: Allah be your protection!

KARP. Thank you, my lord Bashaw! God have mercy upon you.

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