Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne was written during the early days of December 1755. It was a work of accretion, the final version published in 1756 one hundred and eighty lines in length. Voltaire's poem properly may be called an indispensable introduction to Candide; in both works he came to grips with reality. Practically every question advanced in the poem appears at least implicitly in the prose tale. Both are savage attacks upon optimism. Aside from form and medium, the essential difference between the two works lies in the fact that irony, mockery, ridicule, high spirits, and broad humor have no place in the poem. Voltaire was deadly serious throughout, and the tone is one of deep pity for the lot of humanity in a world where both the innocent and the guilty are pawns of fate. Quite as interesting as the poem itself is the preface that Voltaire provided. In the words of Ira O.
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