The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 27

CHAPTER XXVII

(Fama ferme vulgi Opinione constat.)

"Besides," the interpreter further said, "the Lady Fortuna can also honour by immortality those who bear themselves well in the world, or whose merits deserve such a reward." "How, then, is this?" quoth I. "That is, indeed, a glorious thing to become immortal! Show it me, then." And Searchall bids me turn round, and shows me a yet higher hall or balcony that projected to westward from the palace; it was also uncovered, and from the lower hall steps led up to it. At the foot of the steps there was a small door, at which sat one who had eyes and ears all over his body, so that it was monstrous (they called him Censuram vulgi, Judgeall). To him each one who wished to enter the hall of glory had to declare his name, and also to show all the things through which he hoped to be worthy of immortality, and hand them over for examination. Now, when in the man's deeds there was something singular and unusual, be it good or bad, they allowed him to go upward; if not, he was left below. Now, those that arrived at that gate were mostly of the estates of rulers, warriors, scholars; a few only were theologians, tradesmen, husbandmen.

(Indignis quoque confertur.Herostratus.)

2. Then it vexed me much that they admitted as many evil-doers (robbers, tyrants, adulterers, murderers, incendiaries, and so forth) as they did good men. Then I understood that this could but encourage the perverse in their vices; and, indeed, it befell that one arrived claiming immortality who, asked what deed worthy of immortal memory he had done, replied that he had destroyed the most glorious thing in the world of which he knew; for he had purposely burnt down a temple on which seventeen kingdoms had during three centuries bestowed much labour and expense, and wrought its destruction in one day. Then this man Censura was amazed at such infamous audacity, and, judging him unworthy, would not allow him to proceed. But the Lady Fortuna came and ordered that he should be admitted. Then, encouraged by this example, others enumerated all the awful deeds which they had committed. One said that he had shed as much human blood as he could; another imagined a new form of blasphemy; another said that he had sentenced God to death; yet another said that he had torn down the sky from the firmament, and immersed it in an abyss; yet another had founded a new association of incendiaries and murderers through which the race of men was to be destroyed, and so forth. And all these were allowed to mount upward, which, I may say, greatly displeased me.

(The Vanity of Fame.)

3. Yet I followed them upward, and, behold, here an official of the Lady Fortuna, yclept Fama or Rumour, received them, and he consisted entirely of mouths. Indeed, as the one beneath[1] was full of eyes and ears, thus this one was all over full of mouths and tongues, from which no little sound and noise came forth; and this dear "Immortalitatis candidatus" derived at least that advantage therefrom, that through this noise his name became known far and wide. Now when I watched this somewhat carefully, I saw that the outcry that at first was raised over the name of each of these men first decreased and then ceased entirely, while cries referring to someone else were heard. "What immortality, then, is this?" quoth I; "each man abides here but for a span, then he again drifts away from theeyes, the mouths, the minds of men." The interpreter answered: "Thou dost belittle everything; but look, at least, at these men."

(What Honour is there in figuring in History?)

4. Then looking around, I behold painters who were sitting and gazing at these men and portraying them; then I asked: "Why do they this?" The interpreter answered: "That their names may not pass away and vanish as a voice; the memory of these men will endure." Then I gaze, and lo! each one of those who had been painted was then thrown into the abyss, just as the others; they left but the image, and that they placed on a pole, that it might be seen by all. "What immortality, then, is this?" I said. "They leave here only the paper and the ink with which the man's name is daubed on the paper. The man himself perishes as miserably as other men. This is but deceit—dear God, deceit! What is that to me that one bedaubs me[2] on paper, if, meanwhile, I know not what befalls me. I give no import to this." Hearing this, the interpreter chides me as a madman, and asks me what purpose there is in the world for one whose thoughts were thus contrary to those of all others.

(In History also there is much Falsehood.)

5. Then I was silent, and lo! I discover a new falsehood. The image of one whom in life I had seen well shaped and handsome, was deformed; on the other hand, I saw that they had made the most beautiful image they could of one who was hideous; they made two, three, four images of one man, and each one was different; therefore both the carelessness and the faithlessness of these painters enraged me. I witness also the vanity of all this. For when I look at these pictures I see that many were so antiquated, dust-covered, mouldy, rotten, that one could recognise little or nothing at all; some could in the number hardly be distinguished from the others[3]—at some hardly anyone looked. This, then, is fame!

(The Memorials of the Great also perish.)

6. Meanwhile, Fortuna appeared, and ordered that some images, not only old and faded, but also new and fresh ones, should be thrown downward; then I understood that, just as this dear[4] immortality in itself is nothing, so also because of the mad fickleness of Fortuna (for she receives some in her castle, and then again expels them from it), no trust can be put in her; thus she and her gifts became more and more distasteful to me. For she dealt in the same fashion also with her sons when she walked about in her castle; to the voluptuous she sometimes gave delights, and then again took them from them; similarly she now granted the rich men riches; now deprived them of them; sometimes she took all from one and threw him downward out of her castle.

(Then Death at last destroyed all.)

7. Death also increased my terror when I saw her arrive at the castle, and remove now one man, now another, but in divers fashions. She shot at the rich with her usual arrows, or creeping towards them she strangled and suffocated them by means of their chains. She poured poison into the dainties of the voluptuaries. The famous she threw down so that their heads broke, or struck them down by means of swords, muskets, daggers; she led almost all out of the world in some strange fashion.

  1. I.e., Censura.
  2. I.e., my name.
  3. Every student of history will be struck by the accuracy of this remark.
  4. The word "dear" is often used ironically by Komensky.