The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 24

CHAPTER XXIV

(The Pilgrim beholds the Ways of the Wealthy.)

Then I said to my guide: "Now would I gladly see what there is on high, and how the Lady Fortuna honours her guests." "It is well," said he, and before I knew it we soared upward to where the Lady Fortuna, standing on a globe, distributed crowns, sceptres, commands, chains, buckles, purses, titles and names, honey and sweetmeats; and she then only allowed them to proceed upward. Now looking at the construction of the castle, which consisted of three floors, I see that they conduct some to the lower, others to the middle, others again to the upper dwellings. Then the interpreter said to me: "Here, in the lowest chambers, dwell those whom the Lady Fortuna hath endowed with gold and with goods; in the middle chambers dwell those whom she feeds with pleasure; in the highest palaces those reside whom she invests with glory, that they may be observed, praised, honoured by the others. Thou seest what a happy thing it is for a man to succeed in coming here."

(The Fetters and Burdens of Wealth.)

2. "Let us then, by all means, go first among these men," quoth I. Then we enter the lower chambers, and behold, there was darkness there and gloom; indeed, at first I saw scarcely anything, and heard but some clinking; and the stink of mould proceeding from all directions overcame me. Then when I somewhat recovered my eyesight, I see that the chamber was full of people of all ranks, who walked, stood, sat, reclined, and each man's feet were loaded with fetters, and his hands bound with chains; some had also beside this a chain round their neck, and on their back a burden of some sort. And I was afeard, and I said: "On my faith, have we then come to some prison-house?" The interpreter answered, laughing: "What folly! These are the gifts of the Lady Fortuna, with which she endows her beloved sons." And looking first at one, then a second, then a third of these gifts, I see steely fetters, iron chains, and leaden or earthen crates. "What strange gifts are these!" quoth I. "I should not desire them!" "But, oh fool! thou seest not rightly," said the interpreter; "for all this is sheer gold." And I look again yet more carefully, and tell him that I none the less see there but iron and clay. "Cavil not too much," he answered, "believe others rather then thyself; see how the others value these things."

(How the Rich are deceived.)

3. And I look, and see to my surprise how these men delighted in being thus fettered; this one counted the rings of his chain; another took them asunder, and then again collected them; another weighed his chain in his hand; another measured it by the span; another took it to his mouth and kissed it; another covered it with a kerchief to preserve it against frost, heat, and injury. Sometimes two or three met together, measured their chains, and weighed them one against the other. He who found his chain the lighter one grieved and envied his neighbour. He who had a larger and heavier one strutted about, puffing himself up, boasting and talking vaingloriously. Yet some, again, sat quietly in corners, rejoicing secretly only over their chains and fetters; for they wished not that others should know of them, fearing, methought, enmity and thievery. Others, again, had trunks full of clods and stones, which they carried with them from place to place. Others did not even put their trust in such trunks; they fastened and hung so many precious goods around their person that they could neither stand nor walk, but merely crept along gasping and panting. Then seeing this, I said: "Are these, then, in the name of all the saints, to be called happy? Even when I beheld the labour and striving of men, I saw nothing more wretched than this happiness!" Searchall said: "It is true (why should I conceal it?) that merely to possess Fortuna's gifts, and not to use them, gives more anxiety than pleasure." "But this is not the fault of the Lady Fortuna," quoth the interpreter, "that some know not how to use her gifts. She is not chary of her goods, but some misers know not how to employ them either for their benefit or for that of others. Lastly, be it as it may, it is great happiness to possess riches." "I desire not such happiness as I see here," I said.