So here is a sentence by Montaigne, I can get the overall meaning of it but I really can not figure out the meaning of "un pareil soin" here, and as for the "de" before "un pareil soin", I think it goes with "désespèrent"? Besides, what exactly does "il advient de" mean?

The sentence goes like this:

Il advient du mariage ce qui se voit aux cages: les oiseaux qui en sont hors désespèrent d'y entrer; et d'un pareil soin en sortir, ceux qui sont au-dedans. – Montaigne

3 Answers 3


En français contemporain. "Il en est du mariage comme des oiseaux en cage : ceux qui sont en dehors désespèrent d'y entrer ; ceux qui sont au-dedans veulent à tout prix en sortir."

  • Merci!!!!! Mais... Qu'est-ce que le mot «en» remplace au début? «il EN est du mariage» Jul 11, 2019 at 9:45
  • C'est une locution habituelle qui permet de raccourcir une expression plus lourde et un peu différente comme "Pour ce qui concerne le mariage, on peut comparer les protagonistes (mari et femme) à des oiseaux en cage".
    – Bazin
    Jul 11, 2019 at 11:45
  • Merci, c'est totalement clair! Jul 11, 2019 at 14:31

For your first question, d'un pareil soin.

Soin has an old meaning, almost never used today, that means worry, anxiety. So, it means that the birds outside the cage suffer from the same pain as the birds inside, the firsts wanting to go in, the seconds to go out.

  • Thanks hahahaha, that's much clearer for me! Jul 11, 2019 at 9:47

"D'un pareil soin" is a turn from the old French language and it would not be used nowadays. We could find in a contemporary translation something like this, in which the idea is not explicit as the expression has been simply omitted;

  • … Le fait qu'il s'en voit si peu de bons est un signe de prix et de valeur. Il en advient comme aux cages: les oiseaux qui sont dehors cherchent désespérément à y entrer, et ceux qui sont dedans cherchent tout autant à en sortir.

"D'un pareil soin" signifies "in reason of the the same state affairs", this implicitly stated state of affairs being the imprisonnement by means of a cage, which is also a means of isolation of the "prisoners" from the outside world. Interestingly enough, there is a chinese proverb that rhymes strangely with Montaigne's thought, and that I think worthwhile mentioning;

  • Le mariage est comme une place assiégée ; ceux qui sont dehors veulent y entrer et ceux qui sont dedans veulent en sortir.

As per Littré, "advient" comes from the initial form of "advenir" (avenir) and this verb meant "échoir", "se faire"; "se faire" can be translated as "to come about".

  • Thanks hahaha very good explanation now I understand! And since I am Chinese I know quite well that Chinese sentence, which is, "婚姻是一座围城, 城外的人想进去, 城里的人想出来。" It's from a novel titled 《围城》, written by 钱钟书. Here it draws an analogy between marriage and a city under siege, instead of bird cages. Jul 11, 2019 at 9:52
  • @user98163 Interesting … Qian Zhongshu, né le 21 novembre 1910 à Wuxi dans le Jiangsu et mort le 19 décembre 1998 à Pékin; do you think Qian Zhongshu had read some of Montaigne ?
    – LPH
    Jul 11, 2019 at 9:57
  • Emmmmmm actually I had no idea either, so I just looked it up from some Chinese websites, it is said in several articles that Qian Zhongshu did get this idea from what Montaigne said, after all, Montaigne lived in an era way much earlier than that of Qian Zhongshu's. But in China, when people talk about marriage, Qian Zhongshu's sentence is very often quoted. Jul 11, 2019 at 10:12
  • @user98163 Thanks for this research; it would have been difficult or impossible as such details are likely to be available in Chinese and not in French or English.
    – LPH
    Jul 11, 2019 at 14:28
  • Hahahhahahaa alg Jul 11, 2019 at 14:33

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