The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 23



(Virtue is now but a Ruined Gate to Fame.)

Now when we approach this our dear castle, I first see crowds of men who were streaming thitherward from all the streets of the town; they walked round, endeavouring to spy out how they could reach the summit. Now to that castle only one lofty narrow gate led, but it had fallen into ruins, was covered up with earth, and overgrown with thorns. It was, meseems, called Virtue. Concerning it I was told that in olden times it had been built as the sole entrance to the castle, but that through some accident it had soon afterwards been covered up with earth; therefore some other smaller gates had been made, while this one was abandoned as being inaccessible and too difficult to enter.

(The Side Entrances.)

2. They therefore broke through the walls and made small gates at both sides, and looking at them I see on them inscriptions such as Hypocrisy, Lie, Flattery, Vice, Cunning, Violence, and so forth. But when I called the gates by these names, those who were entering heard me; then were they incensed against me, grumbled, and wanted to throw me down, so that I had to keep my mouth closed. Then looking again, I saw that some still attempted to climb upward by the ancient gate through ruins and thorns. Some succeeded; others did not, and these returned to the side entrances, that were lower, and passed through them.

(Fortuna raises up those on whom by chance she seizes.)

3. Now I enter and see that this was not yet the castle, but that here also there was a market-place, in which stood a crowd of people, who were looking anxiously at the palaces above them, and heaving sighs. When I asked what they were doing there, I was told that these were men who claimed to be admitted to the abode of the gracious Lady Fortuna, and who were waiting for a glance from her and for admission to her castle. "And are they not all to reach it? Surely all have striven bravely for that purpose!" The interpreter answered: "Each one may strive to the best of his power and knowledge; but in the end it depends on the Lady Fortuna, whom she wishes to receive and whom not. Thou mayest indeed wonder at the fashion in which it is done." Then I see that beyond the spot where I was standing there were no longer either gates or steps, but only a wheel, that incessantly turned round and round; he who clung to it was lifted upward to a higher floor, here only received by the Lady Fortuna, and then permitted to proceed farther. But of those below, not everyone who wished to seize the wheel was allowed to do so; indeed, they only whom a functionary of Fortuna, named Chance, led to the wheel or placed on it; all others slipped. Now this administrator, Chance, walked in the midst of the crowd, and whom fortuitously she encountered, him she seized and placed on the wheel: even although some thrust themselves before her eyes, stretched out their hands and entreated her, alleging the hardships they had undergone: their sweat, weals, slashes, and other proofs of their toil. But I affirm that she must have been entirely deaf and blind,[1] for neither did she consider any person nor heed anyone's entreaties.

(The Evil Case of those who seek Felicity.)

4. There were many there of divers estate who, I knew, had grudged nor labour, nor sweat, both in fulfilling their duties and in endeavouring to pass through the gate of Virtue, or, indeed, through the side entrance also; yet could they obtain felicity? Another who thought not of such matters was taken by the hand and lifted upward. But of those who were waiting here, many greatly grieved that their turn never came, and some even became grey-haired. Some, abandoning all hope of happiness, returned to their toilsome labours; then some of these were again seized with the same longing, again climbed upwards towards the castle, turning their eyes and hands in the direction of the Lady Fortuna. Thus I learnt that the fate of these disappointed ones was in all cases wretched and doleful.

  1. Comp. "Verum quam significationem habet ista mulier, quæ opinionem facit quod cæca sit ac mente capta? Insistit autem lapidi rotundo," Hæc, "respondit Fortuna est. Nec cæca tantummodo est, sed surda etiam."—"Tabula Cebetis."