Labor and Bondareff's Theory

Labour: The Divine Command by Leo Tolstoy
Labor and Bondareff's Theory

The work which I now offer to the public is by Timothy Michailovitch Bondareff. I have made no change in it, except to substitute for Bondareff's peculiar orthography one more generally used in books.

One other difference consists in m) division of the work in two parts; reserving under the title of Appendices all that seemed to be a repetition of or digression from the principal subject.

This work is, in my opinion, remarkable for its force and clearness, the beauty of its lan- guage, the sincerity of conviction which each line betrays, and, above all, the importance, the truth, and the profundity of its fundamental idea.

The master-thought of the book is this: Un-


20 Labor.

der all circumstances of life, it is essential not only to know what is good and necessary, but to know which, among these good and neces- sar}^ things, is of the first or second impor- tance. This, which is of supreme need in the affairs of life, is still more so in those of religion, for which faith fixes duties of such great import to humanity.

Tatian,* one of the Fathers of the early

  • Tatian, an apologist of the second century, attracts the

historian by the originality with which he assimilates revealed truths, and the somewhat rude eloquence with which he brands pagan corruption for its lapse from orthodoxy to the Gnostic heresy. He was born in Assyria, as he himself states in his Discourse to the Greeks.

Having vainly sought, as well in the popular faith, in the Ori- ental mysteries, and in the schools of philosophy, for a doctrine that would appease his intellectual doubts and satisfy the more elevated demands of his conscience, he found it ultimately in the Gospel, and described it in his first and most celebrated work, the Discourse to the Greeks, as the motive of his conversion. This apology, which would seem to have been written during a sojourn in Rome, is distinguished from all others that were written at that period by the irreconcilable antagonism it portrays between the pretended wisdom of the pagan and the Gospel. On one side all is light; on the other, utter darkness: here stand mythology with its absurd fables whose subtle alle- gories scarcely conceal their coarseness, art devoted entirely to sensual pleasures, and philosophy with its contradictions and its nothingness ; there, Christianity with its simplicity and universality, its purity of life, and the courage in the presence of death with which its followers were inspired.

After the death of Justin Martyr, Tatian returned to Syria, and affiliated himself with one of the numerous sects to which Oriental fervor of imagination gave rise.

As far as can be ascertained where so much controversy existed, Tatian joined the sect of the Encratites, although he

Labor. 2 1

Church, says that the misfortunes of men come less from their ignorance of the true God than from their faith in false gods. This is equally true in resrard to men's individual duties. Their misfortunes and crimes result not so much from igorance of real duty as from admitting false ideas of duty, and from not regarding as their sole duty that which is highest and most clearly established.

Bondareff affirms that the crimes and mis- fortunes of men result from their accepting as sacred duties precepts that are frivolous and hurtful, while they forget and conceal from themselves and others that which is incontest- ably the first and most important of duties, and which is contained in the first chapter of Holy Scripture : " In the sweat of thy face shalt thou knead bread."*

was not its founder. (E. Strachlin, Encyclopedia of Religious Science.)

The best known of his works of that period, the Diatessaron, must have been a harmony of the four Gospels of which Euse- bius speaks without having seen it. Tatian composed this to expunge from the canonical text the genealogies and other passages which make the Saviour belong to the race of David in the flesh.

  • Tolstoi and Bondareff thus render this verse of Genesis as

better expressing the idea of manual labor. It is usually translated, " In the sweat of thy face shalt shou eat bread." We gi^ a passage translated by Reuss from the Hebrew text: " And the Eternal God said : Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee thou shalt not eat of it, cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy hf$. Thorns also and thistles shalt it bring forth to thee, and thou

22 Labor.

To those who believe in the sacredness and infallibility of the Divine Word as given in the Bible, it will be evident that this command- ment strongly asserts its own truth, since it was given by God and has never been annulled.

As for those who do not believe in Holy Scripture, if they will, without prejudice, con- sider this precept as a simple and natural ex- pression of hunian wisdom, they will see clearly its sense and truth if they also examine the con- ditions of human life: and it is precisely this that Bondareff has done in his book.

They may be prevented making successfully such an examination, because so many are accustomed to the absurd and erroneous expla- nations that theologians give to the Holy Scrip- tures. It will need but to recall to them that a doctrine is susceptible of different interpreta- tions, and they will exclaim with disdain : "What do we care for Holy Scripture? We know that whatever one chooses may be based upon it, and that it is all false."

Nothing could be more unjust; for we must not take for Holy Scripture man's mistaken views of it, and he who really speaks the truth may well do so in the words of the Scriptures.

shalt eat the herb of the field, in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till ihoii retu n to the ground; for out of it wast thou taken, dust thou art. and unto dust shalt thou return."

We see this interpretation of Tolstoi and Kondartffis not in- exact. They have reason to believe that Genesis teaches us that the natural condition of man is to labor in liie ground.

Labor. 23

If we admit that what we call Holy Scrip- tures is not the work of God, but of men, and if, on the other hand, while it is purely and simply the work of men, it is regarded as com- ing from God, let us not forget there is a reason for its continued existence.

It is easy to perceive this reason.

Superstitious men call it God's work because it is more profound than all human science, and because, notwithstanding continual attacks upon its verity, it remains to this day without losing its divine authority. It is called divine, and is transmitted to us, because it contains the great- est possible wisdom. And this is true of the greater part of what we call the Bible.

This in fact, and in a literal sense, is what Bondareff takes for his text, in proclaiming the commandment that the human race has for- gotten, or has so interpreted as to destroy its force.

One usually regards this sentence of God and all Adam's life in paradise as a real and historic event, although we should also give it an alle- gorical aspect, as showing the contrary tenden- cies that God has placed in human nature.

Man fears death and is subject to it. One who knows of neither good nor evil would seem to us most happy, and yet we are eager to know everything. Man loves the pleasures and the gratifying of his wants which bring no pain with them, and yet it is by pain and suffering that he and all his race attain life.

34 Labor.

These words, "Knead thy bread in the sweat of thy face," are important, not only because it is claimed that God himself uttered them to our father Adam, but because \\\ty are true, because they affirm an irrevocable law of human exist- ence.

The law of gravitation is not true only be- cause Newton discovered it; but, on the con- trar}^ we know of Newton because he made this discovery, and we are grateful to him for show- ing us an eternal law which serves to explain a whole class of phenomena.

It is the same with the law, " In the sweat of thy face shalt thou knead bread." It is also a law which explains a whole class of phenomena. Having known it once, we can never forget it, and we are full of gratitude to him who discov- ered it.

This law would seem to be simple and Avell known ; but that is but a delusion, as we discover on looking around us. Not only is it not recognized, but another that is diametrically opposed to it prevails. All who believe in God, from the emperor to the beggar, seek to evade rather than to obey it.

To show its eternity and immutability, and to explain how its infringement must necessarily result in misfortune, is what Bondareff has un- dertaken in his book.

Bondareff calls it the primitive law, the first commandment, and places it above all others. He shows that sin and all faults and disloyal

Labor. 25

actions belong to those only who break it. In his eyes, the principal of humanity's positive duties, the first and incontestable need of each individual, is to work with his hands for bread ; he understands by it that each man, by long and painful labor, should preserve himself from dy- ing of cold and hunger, and that he should pro- cure by manual labor food, clothing, warmth, and shelter.

Bondareff's fundamental idea is that this law (man must work to live), now regarded as merely necessar}-, should be considered as the highest of all. It ought to be held as a relig- ious duty, like observing the Sabbath and cir- cumcision are among the Israelites, fasting and the sacraments among Christians, and the pray- ing five times a day and other practices among the Mahometans.

He claims that if men regarded working for bread as a religious duty, no other occupation would deter them from fulfilling it, even as nothing can deter believers from celebrating the feasts prescribed by the^r religion.

We have more than eighty feast-days in the year, while working for bread only requires, according to Bondareff's calculation, about forty days.

How extraordinary it seems, at first glance, that a means so simple, so easy to be understood by airthe world, and requiring neither skill nor science to accomplish it, should be able to save humanity from all terrestrial evils, no matter

26 Labor.

how numerous they may be! But how much more surprising- is it that, having in our hands a means so simple, so clear, so long known to all the world, we should neglect it, and seek to cure our woes by various false and subtle theo- ries !

It is acting like one who, instead of putting a new bottom in a broken cask, tries to invent all sorts of artifices to make it hold water. And our efforts to cure our own woes are like these vain artifices.

Whence come, then, all the misfortunes of men, excepting those which result in assassina- tions, prisons, combats, and all the cruelties of which they become guilty because they cannot forbear to use violence?

All human misfortunes, direct violence ex, cepted, result on the one hand from hunger and privation of all sorts, and from discouragement in labor, and on the other from riches, idleness, and the vices they engender. .Ought we not to endeavor to destroy this inequality by which some are plunged into the evils of misery and want, and others into those which belong to the temptations of wealth? , How can we do this but by taking part in the labor which satisfies our wants, and in abandoning wealth and idleness, which are the parents of vice and temptation ; in other words, in obeying the law which com- mands men to labor each for his own bread, and to earn their living with their own hands? We are so overwhelmed with the multitude of

Labor. 27

religious, social, and domestic laws that are im- posed upon us ; we have invented so many com- mandments in announcing, as Isaiah says, "line upon line, precept upon precept," one rule for this, another for that, that we have lost all clear perception of good and evil. One says mass, an- other recruits for the army, or collects taxes, a third is a judge, a fourth is a student, a fifth cures disorders, a sixth teaches ; all, in fine, by these or similar pretexts evade the law of labor, leaving it for others, and forgetting that there are around them men who are dying with hunger and fatigue. But before giving the people priests, soldiers, judges, doctors, and professors, we should know that they are not perishing with hunger. Not onl}' do we forget that many duties may present themselves for fulfilment, but also that there is a first and a last duty, and that we cannot undertake the last till the first is ful- filled, any more than we can harrow the ground before it has been ploughed.

It is to accomplish the duty which is the first in practical order that Bondareff's doctrine is given.

Bondareff shows that the accomplishment of this duty does not interfere with any other occupation, presents no difficulties, and saves m^n from poverty, want, and temptation.

It destro3^s above all the odious division of man into two classes who hate each other and hide under a veil of humility their mutual dis- likeg

28 Labor.

Labor for bread, says Bondareff, renders all men equal, and clips the wings of luxury and covetousness.

One cannot cultivate the ground or dig wells in rich clothing, with white hands, or on delicate food.

By giving themselves up to an occupation that is good and holy for ever}^ one, men come nearer to each other. Labor for bread restores intelligence to those who have lost it or have led unworthy lives ; and it also bestows joy and happiness ; for God and nature have reserved this as a glad and interesting work for mankind.

Labor for bread is a remedy that saves man- kind. If men would recognize this primitive law as divine and immutable, and regard labor for bread as an indispensable duty, all would then be nourished by their own work, be united by the same faith in God and in love for one another, and thus destroy the poverty from which so many suffer.

We are so accustomed to a contrary state of affairs, and to regard wealth, freedom from the need to labor, and high social position as gifts of Heaven, that we do not choose to see how unjust and incomplete it is.

Let us analyze it with care, and see if it is just.

There are on this point religious and political theories to suit all tastes. Let us judge Bon- dareff's theory as a mere theory. Let us con- sider what would happen if, following Bon- dareff's wish, all the clergy should undertake in

Labor. 29

their sermons to explain this first command- ment, and if all men should accept the holy law of labor. What would be the result?

All the world would labor and eat the fruit of their labor, and bread, being an object of necessity, would neither be bought nor sold. What then ? No one would die of hunger. If a man could not earn enough for himself and his family, his neighbor would help him. He would do so because he would have no other use for products that he could not sell. It would follow that man would have no more temptations ; he would have no occasion to obtain by ruse or violence the bread he could not otherwise procure.

Violence and deceit would not then be neces- sary as they are now; and he who resorted to them would do so from evil impulse, and not, as now, from want or privation.

Those who are weak and cannot earn their bread would no longer need to sell their labor, and perhaps their souls, to obtain food.

No one would then, as now, seek to escape from the burden of labor or to throw it on others ; nor endeavor to crush the feeble with it, while on the strong they heap all manner of work. We would no longer find men devot- ing all their intellectual forces to facilitate, not labor for laborers, but idleness for the idle.

In taking part in the labor for bread, and in recognizing it as the principal human occupa- tion, we act as one who, seeing a carriage drawn

30 Labor.

by fools with the wheels in the air, turned it over and replaced it on its wheels. It then went smoothly.

The life we lead in scorning labor, and in try- ing to reform it contrary to nature, is as this upset carriage with the wheels in the air. And all our efforts will be vain till we place the carriage in its proper position, and our- selves in ours.

This is Bondareff's doctrine, in which I entire- ly believe.

Let me further explain his notion.

There was once a time when men devoured each other. The idea of equality gradually developed among them, however, so that this state of affairs did not continue. Thus canni- balism was abandoned.

Then followed a period in which they made slaves of their fellow-beings, and possessed themselves of the fruits of their labor. But in time human consciences became too enlightened for this, and slavery was abolished.

While these gross forms of tj^ranny have now disappeared, its spirit is still existing beneath hypocritical deceptions. Man no longer openly avails himself of the labor of others without form of recompense. To-day exists another phase of violence : the rich, profiting by the needs of the poor, still enslave them effectually.

But, according to Bondareff, the time is com- ing when all men will be equal, and one cannot profit by the need of another, or through his

Labor. 3 1

suffering from hunger or cold succeed in enslav- ing him. Man, admitting that labor for bread is a law imposed on all, will consider it a strict duty not to permit the sale of bread (that is, articles of actual necessity), but will nourish, clothe, and care for each other.

I regard Bondareff's work from another point of view, which is this:

You will often hear it said that we must not be content with negative laws and command- ments, that is, the rules which decide what we must not do; but we should have positive laws, which determine in a precise manner what we ought to do.

For example, Jesus Christ gave five negative commandments : *

I St. Never regard any one as a fool or idiot; and never be angry with any one.f

2d. Do not look on marriage as a mere source of pleasure. Let not the husband leave his wife, nor the wife her husband.:}:

  • Tolstoi's moral law is all contained in these Gospel pre-

cepts. See, for the development of this doctrine, and his ex- planation of the Sermon on the Mount, his book entitled My Religion.

f " But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in dan- ger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." (St. Matthew, chap. v. 22.)

^ " It hath been said. Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement;

But I say unto you. That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeih her to commit

32 Labor.

3d. Swear not; do not make promises to any one or for any cause.*

4th. Submit to offence and violence, and do not resist wicked men.f

5th. Do not regard men as enemies. Love your enemies even as you do your neighbors.:}:

It is said these commandments teach us only what we must not do.

It may seem strange that there should not be in the doctrine of Christ a precise command- ment as to what we should do. But whoever

adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, com- mitteth adultery." (Ibid. v. 31, 32.)'

  • " Again, ye have heard that it hath been said, by them of

old lime, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths.

But I say unto you, Swear not at all, neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:

Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusa- lem; for it is the city of the great King.

Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black." (Ibid. v. 33-37)

f " Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.

But I say unto you that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Ibid. v. 38-39-)

^ " Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy:

But I say unto you. Love you renemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you. and pray for them which despitefuUy use you and persecute you.

That ye may be the children of your father which is in heav- en; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Ibid. V. 43-45.)

Labor. 33

believes fully in the doctrine of Christ will find there not only these five negative command- ments, but also the positive doctrine of all truth.

Now, the doctrine of truth, as proclaimed by Jesus Christ, is found not in laws, not in com- mandments, but only in the sense by which we understand life.

It teaches that life and its welfare consist not in personal happiness, as many believe, but in serving God and our neighbor. And this is not a duty to be performed for recompense, it is not a mystical expression of hidden and incom- prehensible meaning, but a revelation of the law of life hitherto ignored, a demonstration that life cannot be good if it is not given its highest phase.

So the doctrine of Christ and of truth is ex- pressed in these words : Love God, and thy neighbor as thyself.

Christ's direct laws and commandments, and the Judaic and Buddhist precepts, indicate the ways in which the world's temptations turn men from the right way.

Thus, there may be many such laws and pre- cepts, while it needs but one positive rule of life to teach us what to do.

The life of every man consists in following some one aim. Whatever it may be, he tends to- wards it, as he sees it more or less clearly. Christ has shown us the right way, and how we may be turned aside from it. For this there are many diverging paths, and the five com-

34 Labor.

mandments are given to guard us from their errors. But only one precept is needed to show us the right way ; and for those who be- lieve Christ's teaching, and know the true way of life that he has pointed out, no positive laws are needed to enforce his doctrine.

The different actions which result from fol- lowing the true path of life are clearly defined for those who accept Christ's teaching. They" are, to use his expression, as a well of pure wa- ter bursting from the soil , and their actions flow naturally from the pure source, in spite of all obstacles.

No man, believing in the doctrine of Jesus Christ, would ask what were his positive duties, any more than the water springing from the earth would ask what it should do. It flows in its abundance to refresh the grass, the trees, and the flowers, while birds, animals, and men par- take of its bounty.

Thus the man who accepts Christ's definition of the path of life goes unquestioning on his way straight to the goal. He need not ask what he has to do. Love, which will become the prin- ciple of his being, will show him clearly the right path, and what duties belong to the present and future.

(The first and most pressing claims of this work of love are to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to succor the sick, and to visit the prisoners. This is the counsel of Christ as well as of our own hearts. And above all are we

Labor. 35

exhorted by reason, by conscience and feeling, to secure to our brother-men their lives, to pre- serve them from the suffering- and death which result from their unequal contest with nature,* and to urge upon them the labor for bread, the most important and most wearisome of all work, and which is distinctly imposed on all men./

Even as the spring may not ask where it shall send its waters, whether it shall sprinkle from above the grass and the leaves of the trees, or seek their roots beneath the earth, so a man who knows the doctrine of truth may not ask in advance what he must do, whether he is to teach men, to defend them from the enemy, to amuse them and give them the pleasures of life, or to succor those who perish in want. fX spring does not flow upon the surface, quench- ing the thirst of animals and filling the ponds,

  • This idea of an incessant struggle with nature as being

man's principal duty and occupation occurs frequently in Tolstoi's works, and notably In What should be done. " The first and most undoubted duty of man," he says, " is to partake in the struggle with nature for his own life and his neighbor's." And again: " Whether it results for good or for ill, this is the decree of God, or the law of nature which created man and the world. The situation of man in the world, as we know it, is such that, being naked, without shelter, and unable to find his food in the fields, — like Robinson Crusoe on his island, — he is under the necessity of contending always with nature for food, cloth- ing, and shelter. Food must be prepared to satisfy his own hunger several times in the day, and also that of the children who are too young for labor, as well as of the feeble old folk."

36 Labor.

till it has first watered the earth ; thus a man, knowing the doctrine of truth, cannot seek to satisfy men's minor needs till he has relieved the greatest want, and has aided to nourish them, and to save them from the death that attends the unequal contest with naturer] The man who professes, not only by words"Dut by actions, the doctrines of truth and love, will not deceive himself as to the object of his life. Never would the man whose idea of existence is to serve others imagine that he can help those who are dying of cold and hunger by making new laws, by casting cannon or work- ing on objects of luxury, or by playing on the piano or violin. Love cannot be so foolish.

Even as love for a person does not consist in reading to him a novel when he is hungry, nor in giving him jewels of great price if he is cold, neither can it consist in amusing those who are satiated, while those who are cold and hungry are left to die in misery. True love, showing itself by actions rather than by words, is far from being wanting in intelligence. On the contrary, it is full of true wisdom and sagacity. So a man in- spired by love will not deceive himself; he will accomplish at once the first duty that his love for mankind points out, in carrying succor to those who suffer, or who are cold or hungry. But to aid the famished and unhappy is to tight hand to hand with nature. Only he who is willing to deceive himself and others in the moment of dangerous contest with misery will refuse to aid

Labor. 37

them, and will augment their misfortunes, while pretending to those who are perishing before him that he has other occupations by which he will seek a means to save them.

A true man, one for whom life consists in do- ing good, could not use such language ; and if he made such a response, his conscience would ever reprove the falsehood ; he can find no defence ior it save in the crafty and diabolical theory of the Division of Labor!*'

Among all the doctrines of human wisdom, from that of Confucius to that of Mahomet, we find this idea strongly expressed only in the Gos- pel. We there find ourselves convinced of the necessity to aid men, not by a theory of division of labor, but by means that are simple, natural, and indispensable. It is the Gospel which teaches us to minister to the sick, the prisoners, and those who perish with cold and hunger.

But we can only do this directly by at once laboring ourselves, for the sick and the famished

  • Tolstoi' has discussed the theory of the division of la-

bor, showing its disastrous effects, in What should be done, at page 104 of the French translation, and those following it.

Without doubt, according to Tolstoi, the division of labor exists in human society, but the question is how to render it just. It has made in our day an admirable progress, but, by some unhappy chance, it has aggravated instead of ame- liorating the condition of the greatest number, who are the la- borers.

How then shall we make a just distribution of labor? To preserve life by a manual labor, common to all, is the first duty ; which is to be personally fulfilled, yet in a manner that aids our neighbor also.

3S Labor.

are still dying for want of aid. The man who practises the doctrine of truth will demonstrate in his life, that is consecrated to the service of his fellow-men, the primitive law which is formu- lated in the Book of Genesis: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou knead bread." This is the primitive law, or the first commandment, as Bondareff calls it, and he shows us that it is a positive law.

This is a law as well for those who have not comprehended the true meaning- of life as indi- cated by Jesus Christ ; for those who lived before him, and also for those who have not believed in him. It is a positive law, exacting from all of us, conformably to God's will, as it is manifested in the Bible and to our intelligence, to support our- selves by labor. It preserves this character even when the true meaning of life, as indicated by the doctrine of truth, is unknown to men.

But where men well know this aim of life as pointed out by Jesus Christ, the law of labor for bread will become part of Christ's positive doc- trine (to love one another), and will then have a negative and not a positive meaning.

When men comprehend the true Christian doctrine, this law will show them the old temp- tations which they must avoid, that they be not turned from the true path.

To a believ^er in the Old Testament who does not recognize the doctrine of truth, this law has the following meaning : " Work for bread with your own hands."

Labor. 39

But to the Christian its signification is nega- tive. It says to him : " Do not believe you can do good to mankind while overwhelming them withlaborfor others, and while not earning your food with your own hands."

It shows to the Christian one of the oldest and most criminal temptations that have assailed mankind. Against this temptation, that is so fatal in its consequences, and which we recognize with difficulty as deceitful and contrary to human nature, Bondarefi's book is directed. His words are as obligatory to the believer in the Old Tes- tament as to him who accepts the Gospel, to the man who rejects Scripture and relies on his own reason, as to him who comprehends the doctrine of truth.

Reader, dear brother, whoever thou art, I love thee ! Far from seeking to grieve thee, or to bring evil or offence into thy life, I wish only to serve thee.

I desire to prove fully the truth of this thesis, to refute all the objections that are made against it ; but I might write at greatest length and with ut- most talent, I might give the most logical rea- sons, and yet I could not convince thee, if thy spirit contends with mine, and thy heart remains cold and insensible.

One thing I should fear, lest, in disputing with thee, the pride and coldness of my own spirit should overshadow thine, and I should thus harm thee. Then let us not reason. I only ask of thee one thing: do not discuss or demonstrate the matter, but only question thine own heart.

40 Labor.

MVhoever thou art, whatever may be thy qualities, however good thou art, in whatever condition thou art placed, canst thou take tran- quilly thy tea and eat thy dinner, canst thou oc- cupy thyself with politics, fine arts, science, medicine, or teaching, when thou seest and hear- est the man who is lying at thy door sick and starving? No! But thou wilt say, they are not always there at my door. It maybe so; but they are perhaps but a short distance away from thy house, and thou knowest it. Then thou canst not live tranquilly ; whatever may be thy jo}^ it is poisoned by this knowledge. Not to see those who are miserable, thou ma)^est barricade thy doors, and drive them afar off, or fly thyself to a retreat where there may be no danger of finding them. But they are every- where. And if thou couldst find a place where thou canst not see them, canst thou escape thine own conscience? What then is to be done?

Thou knowest, and Bondareff's book proves it, that thou must descend into the depths, or what appear to thee to be the depths, but which are really the heights. Join thyself to those who feed the hungry and shelter them from the cold. Fear nothing. Far from being worse, thy new estate will be better than that which preceded it. (Place thyself on the level of others ; undertake,^vith thy feeble and unaccustomed hands, the work of nourishing and clothing the needy ; labor for bread, contend with nature, and for the first time thou wilt feel the ground firmly

Labor. 41

with thy feet, thou wilt be filled with a sense of independence, liberty, and strength ; thou wilt no longer think of flying, but thou wilt taste, with a pure joy, innocent pleasures of which the world has never given thee the least notion. Thou wilt know at last those strong, simple-hearted men, thy own brothers, who, notwithstanding the distance at which they have hitherto stood apart from thee, have always nourished thee.j

To thy great satisfaction, thou wilt see in them virtues hitherto unknown; thou wilt find in them a modesty and goodness of which thou wilt feel unworthy. Instead of scorn and hatred from those that wait upon thee, thou wilt receive gratitude and respect, because, after having lived by their services all thy life, thou wilt now remember their miseries and endeavor with feeble hands to succor them. Thou wilt find that the islet on which thou didst seek refuge from the flood that would have engulfed thee is but a heap of rubbish, whilst the seeming sea thou didst fear is the earth itself. Thou wilt now tread it with bold, tranquil, and joyous feet.

It will be thus with thee, because in abandoning the dark, false ways in which thou hast been wandering unwittingly and against thy true intention, thou wilt now enter upon the path of truth and life. Having hitherto disobeyed God's will, thou wilt now faithfully accomplish it.

Lyof Tolstoi
Moscow, March, 1888.
Copyright.svg PD-icon.svg This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.