The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 21

CHAPTER XXI

THE ESTATE OF THE KNIGHTS

(Wherefore Nobility and Coats-of-Arms are given.)

"Look now," said the interpreter, "what honour he receives who demeans himself bravely, and fights his way through swords and spears, arrows and bullets." Then they lead me to what appeared a palace, and here I see one who sat under a baldachin, and called to him some of those who bore them bravely in fight. And many came carrying with them skulls, crossbones, ribs, fists that they had hewed off the bodies of their enemies, and pouches and purses that they had taken from them. They were praised for this, and he who sat under the baldachin gave them a painted thing,[1] and peculiar liberties above the others. They carried these things on poles, so that all could see them.

(Others also crowd into this Estate.)

2. Seeing this, many, not only warriors as in the olden days, but others also who busied themselves with trade or book came forward, and unable to show wounds and goods taken from the enemy, as the others did, they drew out and presented their own purses, or writings which had been up into books. And to them also such things were given as to the others—indeed, frequently more gorgeous ones; and then they were admitted into a higher hall.

(The Splendour of Knights.)

3. Entering behind them, I see bands of them who were walking together; they had feathers on their heads, spurs on their heels, and steel around their hips. I did not approach them closely, and I did well so. For I soon saw that others who meddled with them fared not well; for those who approached them too closely, who did not sufficiently make room for them, who did not bend their knees to them sufficiently, who knew not how to pronounce their titles sufficiently correctly, these they struck with their fists. Fearing that this would befall me also, I begged that we might go thence. But Searchall said; "First look better at them, but be careful."

(Knightly Deeds.)

4. So I look from a distance and behold their deeds. Then I see that their work (as they said because of the privileges of their estate) consisted in treading the pavement, sitting astride on the back of a horse, hunting greyhounds, hares and wolves, driving the serfs to soccage,[2] placing them in towers,[3] and then again letting them out, sitting at long tables laden with divers dishes, and keeping their feet under them as long as possible, bowing daintily and kissing hands, playing skilfully at draughts or dice, prattling without shame of all obscene and lewd matters, and other such things. It was, they said, assured to them by their privileges that all they did should be called noble, and no one who was not a man of honour should assort with them. Some also measured each other's shields,[4] comparing the one with the other; and the greater and the more antiquated a man's shield was, the more was he esteemed. But if a man bore a new one, the others shook their heads over him. I saw much more there that appeared to me wondrous and absurd, but I may not tell everything. This only will I say, that after looking sufficiently at the vanities of these men, I again begged my guides to proceed elsewhere, and I obtained their consent.

(The Road to the Castle of Fortune.)

5. While we proceed, the interpreter says to me: "Well, now, thou hast beheld the labour and striving of men, and nothing has pleased thee; perhaps because thou hast thought that these men have naught but labour. Learn then now, that all these labours are the way that leads to that rest to which all who shirked not toil at last attain; for when they obtain estates and wealth, or glory and honour, or comfort and pleasure, their minds have sufficient cause to rejoice. Therefore, then, will we now guide thee to this delightful castle, that thou mayest see what is the purpose of the labours of men." And I rejoiced at this, hoping to find there rest of the mind and consolation.

  1. I.e., coats-of-arms.
  2. In Bohemian, "robota," the enforced labour which the Bohemian lords demanded of their serfs.
  3. I.e., prisons.
  4. I.e., coats-of-arms.