The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 26



(The Discomforts of the Great.)

We now enter the higher palace, that was quite open, having above it no covering but the firmament. And behold, there were here many seats, some of which were higher than the others; all were close to the verge that they might be seen from the city below. Men sat on them, some higher and some lower, according to the manner in which the Lady Fortuna had placed them. All passers-by gave them honour (though but ostensibly), bent their knees and bowed their heads. And the interpreter said to me: "Is it not a fine thing to be so exalted that you are seen from everywhere, and all have to gaze on you?" And I added: "And also to be so exposed that snow, rain, hail, heat, and cold strike at you." He answered: "What mattereth that? It is, indeed, a fine thing to be on such a spot, in which you attract the attention of all, and wherein all must notice you." "They do, indeed, watch them," quoth I; "but such watching is far more of a burden than of a comfort. That many watch for these men, I already see; they may not and cannot move without all seeing them and passing judgment on them. What comfort is there in this?" I felt the more certain of this when I saw that if before them great respect was rendered to them, there was behind them and at their sides just as much disrespect. Then also behind each of those who was seated on his throne there stood some who looked asquint at him, muttered about him, and shook their heads over him, mocked him, soiled his back with spittle, snivel, and other matters; others, contriving his fall, undermined his throne, and in my presence this and other accidents befell full many.

(The Dangers of the Great.)

2. Now these seats, as I have said, stood on the verge; if one of them was pushed even very slightly, it was immediately overturned, and he who previously puffed himself up now fell downward.[1] The seats were so unstable that if anyone touched them they turned over, and he who sat there found himself on the ground. The higher a seat was, the easier it was to shake it. I found also much malice among these men. They looked at one another jealously; some drove others from their thrones, deprived them of their ruling powers, knocked off their crowns, blotted out their titles. Thus everything was ever changing; one climbed up to a throne,[2] another either crept down or fell down over heels. Beholding this, I said: "Oh, this is evil, that the reward of the long and hard toil that these men had to endure before they secured these seats should be so short! Indeed, before a man has begun to enjoy his honours they have already come to an end." The interpreter answered: "The Lady Fortuna must distribute her gifts in this fashion, that all whom she wishes to favour may receive their share; one must give way to the other.

  1. It has been impossible to render Komensky's pun on the words "douti," (to swell or puff) and "dolu" (downward).
  2. This passage is very characteristic of the period of the Thirty Years' War, and its sudden changes of Government. Thus Frederick of the Palatinate for a time took the place of Ferdinand of Austria as ruler of Bohemia; Wallenstein became Duke of Mecklenburg; Bernhard of Weimar attempted to establish his sovereignty on the banks of the Upper Rhine.