The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 25



(Effeminate Voluptuaries.)

Searchall said: "Let us then go upward; there wilt thou behold other things, delights only." And we mount the steps and enter the first hall; and behold, there were here rows of couches that were suspended in the air, and rocked to and fro; and they were bestrewed with soft cushions. Now on these couches some men wallowed who had around them a large crowd of servants, ready to render them all services, and carrying fly-flaps, fans, and other implements. If one of these men arose, hands were stretched out from all directions to assist him; if he robed himself, soft silken garments only were handed to him; if he had to go somewhere, he was carried on a chair bestrewed with pillows.[1] "Well, here hast thou that comfort which thou hast sought," said the interpreter. "What more canst thou desire? To have so many good things that you need not heed anything; to put your hand to no labour; to have a plenitude of all things for which the mind craves; and to be not even touched by a breath of cold or evil air, is not that a blessed state?" I answered: "There is indeed more merriness here than in those torture-chambers below; but here, also, not everything pleaseth me." "Of what dost thou again complain?" quoth he. I said: "I see these idlers with prominent eyes bloated faces, swollen bellies and limbs, that cannot be touched, and seem full of sores. If someone knocks or rubs against one of them, or an evil wind blows, incontinently the man sickens. Often have I heard that standing water rots and stinks, but here I see instances of it. Thus these men employ not their life; they sleep through it, and they lounge[2] through it. This is naught for me." "Thou art a wondrous philosopher," quoth the interpreter.

(Games and Plays.)

2. Then they lead me to a second hall, where everything appeared charming to the eyes and ears. I behold delightful gardens, fishponds, and parks, wild beasts, birds, fishes, sweet music of divers sorts, and groups of merry companions who skipped, ran after each other, danced, pursued each other, fenced together, performed plays; and I know not what else they did. "This, at least, is not standing water," said the interpreter. "That is true; but let me look at these things." Then when I had looked, I said: "I see that no one is thoroughly satisfied[3] with these amusements; rather does each one soon become tired, and hurry elsewhere to seek enjoyment in something else. Therefore this seems to me but small delight." "If, then, thou seekest delight in food and drink, let us go there, where they can be found."

(The Revellers.)

3. Then we enter a third hall, and lo! I see the loaded tables and boards of the feasters, who had an abundance of all things before them, and made merry. Stepping near to them, I see how some continually cram and pour down food and drink, so that their bellies sufficed not; they had to loosen their belts. Others . . . . ; others picked out only dainty bits, smacking their lips, and wished that they had necks as long as that of a crane, so that they might enjoy the taste longer. Some boasted that for ten or twenty years they had never seen the sun either rise or set, because when it set they had never been sober any longer; and when it rose, they had never yet become sober again. They sat there, by no means mournfully, for divers music resounded, to which each man joined his own voice; thus songs, as of all birds and beasts, were heard: one howled, a second roared, a third crowed, a fourth barked, a fifth chirped, a sixth twittered, a seventh croaked; and so forth; and at the same time they made strange grimaces.

(What Fare the Pilgrim had among the Feasters.)

4. And then the interpreter asked me how I liked this harmony. "Not a bit," I said. Then he said: "What, then, will please thee? Art thou, then, a log of wood, that not even this merriment can enliven thee?" Meanwhile, some of those who sat round the tables see me; and one began to drink my health, a second winked at me with his eye, inviting me to sit down with them; a third began to cross-question me as to who I was and what I wanted; a fourth asked me, in a menacing manner, why I did not say: "May God bless you!"[4] Then becoming incensed, I said: "What, is God then to bless this swinish feasting?" Then, lo! before I had even finished my speech, plates, dishes, goblets, and glasses begin to hail down upon me; I was hardly able to escape them, and to hurry forth hastily. But it was easier for me, who was sober, to flee, than for those drunkards to strike me. Then the interpreter said: "Well, did I not say to thee long ago: 'Keep thy tongue within thy teeth and cavil not.' Strive to conduct thyself according to man's way, and do not imagine that others will heed thy noddle!"[5]

(The Pilgrim returns to the Hall.)

5. Impudence smiled, and taking me by the hand, "Let us go there again," he said; but I would not. "Thou must, and canst yet behold these many things, if thou art but silent. Come, only act prudently, keeping somewhat aloof." And I allow myself to be persuaded, and enter again; and—why should I deny it?—I sat down among these men, allowed them to drink to me, and also pledged them, wishing at last to discover in what these delights consisted. I also began to sing and skip, and shout with the others; in every way what they did, I did. Yet did I all this somewhat timidly, for it appeared to me that this was by no means fitting for me. Then some who saw that I did not excel in this laughed at me, while others were angered that I did not pledge them. But meanwhile, something under my coat begins to prick me, something under my cap stings me, something presses up my throat, my legs begin to stagger, my tongue rattles, and my head whirls round. I now become incensed against myself and my guides, and declare that this was conduct befitting not men, but beasts; particularly after I had witnessed in others the voluptuousness of the voluptuaries.

(The Wretched Ways of Voluptuaries.)

6. Then I heard some complaining that they could neither relish food, nor drink, nor bring them down their throats; others pitied these men and, to help them, merchants had to hurry to all parts of the world in search of things that might be to the taste of these men; cooks had to examine samples of spices, that were to give the dainties a peculiar smell, colour, taste, and aid in conveying them into the stomachs of these; doctors had … Thus with much trouble and expense that which was to be poured and crammed into them[6] was sought out, and with much learning and cunning given unto them, causing them much pain in the stomach and elsewhere. And thus they constantly suffered of sickness …; they slept badly, hemmed, sneezed, slobbered, and vomited; the tables and corners of the hall were full of divers filth; they walked and wallowed about with …, podagric feet, trembling hands, blear eyes, and so forth. "Are such things, then, to be considered pleasures?" quoth I. "Let us hence, that I may not say somewhat, and evil befall me there through." Then averting my eyes and stopping my nose, I went thence.

(Veneris Regnum.Libidinis æstus Morb…Libido desperationis Præcipetium.…)

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  1. I.e., a litter.
  2. If the word "to loaf" were a recognised one in the English language, it would convey Komensky's meaning better than any other.
  3. Literally eats and drinks to sufficiency ("ne nají a ne napije"). This explains the interpreter's answer.
  4. It was customary in Bohemia to speak these words when entering a room or when sitting down to table.
  5. I.e., pay attention to thy ideas.
  6. I.e., medicines.