The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 32



Now I soon understood that those matters common to all estates only were administered here; the more private ones were settled, each in its own place, in town-halls, law-courts, consistories, and so forth. But what now befell in my presence I will make known as briefly as possible.

(Complaints of the Disorders of the World.)

2. First, the two officials or vice-regents of the world, Industria and Fortuna, came forward and spake of the disorders that come to pass in all the estates; these, they said, were caused by the general faithlessness, craftiness, plots and frauds; and they begged that in some manner this be righted. And I rejoiced, seeing that they also understood what I understood, namely, that there is no order in this world. Remarking this, the interpreter said: "Thou hadst then believed that thou alone hast eyes, and that except thee no man seeth aught. Well, see now how carefully those to whom this duty is entrusted attend to those matters!" "Gladly do I hear this," I said. "May God but grant that the right path be found!"

(They seek for the Causes of the Disorders of the World.)

3. Then I saw that the councillors assembled, and after they had held council together they decided that through the chancellor Prudence the question he put whence these disorders arose. And after much investigation it was stated that some rioters and mutineers had stolen in who secretly and openly spread disorder. The greatest blame was awarded (for they were all mentioned by name) to Drunkenness, Greed, Usury, Lust, Pride, Cruelty, Laziness, Idleness, and some others.

(A Decree is issued against the Causers of these Disorders.)

4. They then again took council about these, and at last they came to a decision that was read out, and that declared that it should, through open charters, that were to be hung up in certain places and sent to all parts of the land, be made known that her majesty, Queen Wisdom, had remarked that through the many strangers who had slyly stolen into the land, many disorders also had found entrance into it. Therefore she declared that those who were found to be the ring-leaders should, for all times, be expelled from her kingdom, particularly Drunkenness, Greed, Usury, Lust, and others; from this very hour they should no longer allow themselves to be seen, under penalty of immediate death. When this decree was issued by means of the charters that had been prepared, wondrous jubilation began among the joyful people; each one—and I also—now looked forward to the golden age.

(New Complaints and New Decrees.)

5. But when, after a while, nothing became better in the world, many hurriedly came forward, complaining that the decree had not been carried out. After the council had again met, the queen appointed as her special commissioners Heednot and Overlook, and in view of the great importance of the matter, Moderation, one of the queen's councillors was to join them; they were instructed to carefully investigate whether some of these evil-reputed exiles had remained in the land contrarily to the decree of banishment, or had audaciously returned. Then the commissioners went their way, and returning some time afterwards, they reported that they had indeed found some who appeared suspect; but these did not count themselves among the men who had been banished, and indeed bore different names. One who appeared similar to Drunkenness was named Tipsiness or Merriment; one who resembled Greed was called Economy; a third, similar to Usury, bore the name of Interest; a fourth, who resembled Lust, was called Love; a fifth, similar to Pride, was named Dignity; a sixth resembled Cruelty, but his name was Severity; a seventh, similar to Laziness, was named Goodnature, and so forth.

(The Charters are expounded.)

6. After this matter had been considered by the council, it was now decreed that Merriment was not to be called Drunkenness, nor Economy Greed, and so forth. Therefore the persons named were to be left free, as the charter concerned them not. As soon as this decision was made known, these incontinently walked abroad freely, and a crowd of common folk who followed them became acquainted with them, and associated with them. Looking now at Solomon and his companions, I see that they shake their heads; but as these men were silent, I also was silent; but I heard one of them whisper to another: "The names (they say) are banished, but the traitors and destroyers, after changing their names, have free access. This will not end well!"

(The Estates of the World demand greater Liberties.)

7. And now envoys of all the estates of the world came forth and demanded audience; when admitted they presented, with strange gestures, this humble entreatment: "Would Her Majesty, the most Ilustrious Queen, deign graciously to remember how faithfully and obediently all the loyal estates of the realm had clung to the sceptre of her rule, consenting wholly to her rights, decrees, and command over all; now also they were of this and no other intent; only they humbly begged that, as a reward for past, and as an encouragement for future and stable fidelity, Her Royal Majesty would grant them some increase of their privileges and liberties, according to the fashion that pleased H. R. M.[1] They promised that they would, by constant obedience, prove their gratitude for this gift." Then they finished speaking, bowed to the earth, and withdrew. Then rubbing my eyes, I said unto myself: "What will this be? Has the world, then, not enough of liberty that it demands more? A bridle you require, a bridle and a whip, and somewhat of hellebore." But I devised thus with myself only, for I had decided to say naught; in the presence of these sages and grey-haired men, this was more beseeming for me.

(The Distribution of New Privileges.)

8. And they again meet in council, and after much deliberation the queen gave it to be known that she had ever striven to educate and to adorn her kingdom, and that of her own free will she was inclined to this; having then heard the prayers of her trusty and well-beloved subjects, she did not wish to leave them unfulfilled. Therefore had she decided to improve their titles, that they might be more greatly honoured. Thus would they more clearly and by greater honour be distinguished the one from the other. Therefore did she decree and ordain that henceforth the tradesmen should be called "renowned," the students "illustrious" and "most learned," the masters of arts and doctors "most renowned," the priests "reverend," "praiseworthy," or "worthy of all honour"; the bishops "most saintly," the richer among the citizens "gentle," the country gentlemen "gentle and valiant knights," the lords "two-fold lords,"[2] the counts "high-born lords and lords," the princes "most potent," the kings "most splendid and invincible." "That this be more firmly established, I decree that none shall be obliged even to receive a letter if any part of his title be omitted or it be worded wrongly." Then the envoys went forth, after giving the queen thanks. And I thought within myself: "Noble booty have you obtained; lines on a morsel of paper."

(The Humble Supplications of the Poor.)

9. Now, the poor of all ranks came forth with a supplication, in which they complained of the great inequality in the world, and that others had abundance while they suffered want. They begged that this might in some fashion be righted. After the matter had been weighed, it was decreed that the poor should be told in answer that H.R.M. wished indeed that all should have as much comfort as they could themselves desire, but that the glory of the kingdom demanded that the light of some should shine above that of others. Therefore, in accordance with the order established in the world, it could not be otherwise than that as Fortuna had her castle, so also should Industria have her workshops full of people. But this was granted them, that each one who was not idle might raise himself from poverty by whatever means he could or knew.

(The Supplications of the Industrious Ones.)

10. Now, when the answer given to these supplicants became known, others after a while appeared bearing a petition of the industrious. They begged that in future those who idled not should be assured, whatever their estate and their enterprises might be, that they would obtain that for which they strove and worked, and that blind fortune should not decide. Concerning this petition, a lengthy council was held; thence I judged that the matter was by no means an easy one. At last it was declared that, though the power and might that had once been entrusted to Fortuna and her faithful servant Chance (for it could not be otherwise) could not be taken out of their hands, yet their petition would be remembered, and an order given that, as far as possible, the industrious rather than the thriftless should be considered; they could therefore act in accordance with this. And they also went forth.

(The Supplications of the Learned and Famous.)

11. Immediately afterwards followed the envoys of some illustrious men. They were Theophrastus and Aristotle, and they asked for two things: firstly, that they should not be subject to the accidents of life as other men are; secondly, as they were, through God's kindness, distinguished by great wit, learning, riches, and so forth, above all others in the world (and as it would be a general loss should such men perish), they begged for this privilege above the common multitude: that they should never die. After their first request had been considered, they were told that they demanded just things; they would therefore be allowed to protect themselves against accidents as well as they could; the learned by means of their learning, the prudent by their prudence, the powerful by their power, the rich by their riches. With regard to their second demand, Queen Wisdom gave the order that all the most renowned alchemists should be assembled, and should with all diligence study the means by which immortality could be obtained. Then those who received this order withdrew. But when after a time none of them returned, and the envoys pressed for an answer, they received, pro interim, a message to the purpose that H.R.M. did not desire that such precious men should perish together with the others; but that she knew not for the moment how to accomplish this. This privilege should, however, be given to them, that while the others were buried immediately after death, these should be kept among the living as long as possible; while the others would after death be merely under a green sod, these would repose under stones. This and what else they could imagine to distinguish themselves from the common rabble was to be granted them, and a charter given them to that import.

(Supplications of the Rulers.)

12. When these had departed, some came forward as representatives of the rulers; they dilated on the hardships of that estate, and asked for relief. Then permission was granted them to seek rest, and rule by means of their vice-regents and officials; they acquiesced in this, and departed, after giving thanks.

(Supplications of the Subjects.[3])

13. Not long afterwards envoys of the subjects, tradesmen, and peasants came forward, and complained that those who were over them wished nothing but to drink their sweat; for they ordered them to be so driven and harassed that bloody sweat ran down them. And those whom the lords employed for such purposes[4] were all the more cruel to them, that they also might obtain a small dish at their expense. And as a proof of this they incontinently showed countless weals, stripes, scars, and wounds; and they asked for mercy. And it appeared evident that this was an injustice, and therefore should be stopped; but as the rulers had been permitted to govern by means of these servants, it appeared that they were the guilty ones; they were therefore summoned to appear. Summonses were therefore sent out to all the royal, princely, and lordly councillors, regents, officials, stewards, collectors, writers, judges, and so forth, informing them that they must appear without fail. They obeyed the order, but against one accusation they brought forward ten. They complained of the laziness of the peasants, their disobedience, insubordination, conceit, their mischievous ways as soon as their hit was even slightly loosened, and other things. After these men had been heard, the whole matter was again considered by the council. Then the subjects were told that, as they either did not love and value the favour of their superiors, or were unable to obtain it, they must become used to their ferocity; for thus must it be in the world, that some rule and others serve. Yet it was granted them, that if by willingness, compliance, and true attachment to their superiors and rulers they could gain their favour, they should be allowed to enjoy it.

(The Grievances of the Jurists and Advocates.—Ratio Status is given them as a Precept.)

14. After these had been dismissed, there remained the jurists (councillors of the kings and lords, doctors of laws, advocates, judges, and so forth) who complained of the incompleteness of written laws,[5] in consequence of which not all the disputes that arose among men could be decided (though they already noted more than a hundred thousand cases). Thus it happened that they were either unable to maintain perfect order among men, or—if they added somewhat out of their own minds for the purpose of expounding the law and ending strife—the unwise considered this to be a misrepresentation of the law, and a perversion of their case; thence they incurred dislike, and litigation increased among them. They therefore demanded either advice as to their behaviour, or protection against the forward judgments of men. Then, after they had been told to withdraw, the matter was discussed; but it would be long to tell what the pleading of each of the queen's councillors was. Therefore will I only tell of the decision that was made known to the jurists after they had again been called forward—to wit, that H.R.M. knew no way by means of which new laws applying to all possible cases could be written down, therefore should the former laws and customs remain in force. But H.R.M. deigned to give them this rule and key, that when expounding the laws and passing judgment in accordance with them, they should seek either their own advantage or that of the community. This rule was to be called Ratio Status; by means of it they would be able to guard themselves as with a shield against the thrusts of vulgar calumny. The fashion of rule (which not all could understand) required that some things should remain as they were. The jurists, having received this their new rule, promised to conform to it and withdrew.

(Complaints of the Women against Men, and the Men against the Women.)

15. But a short time passed, and then the women came, complaining that they had to live under the rule of men, as if they were slaves. Immediately afterwards men also were found who lamented over the disobedience of women. Then the queen and her advisers met in council more than once. Then through the lady chancellor this answer was issued: "As Nature had given man superiority, this should remain as it was, but under these important restrictions: firstly, as women form half the human race, men shall do naught without hearing their counsel; secondly, as Nature often pours out her gifts more bounteously on women than on men, every woman whose wit and strength enabled her to lord it over her lord should be called 'amazon,'[6] and the man should not be allowed to take the supremacy from her." This was the first answer, but neither men nor women were content with it. The women, indeed, wished that the men should either share the rule with them, or that they should take it by turns; thus would the command change, and be held, now by the men, now by the women. Some even were found who wished nothing less than that women alone should rule, alleging their greater agility both of mind and of body; therefore, as men had for so many thousand years had supremacy, it was time that they should cede it to the women. And, indeed, a few years since, in the English Kingdom, a noble example of this was seen.[7] When Queen Elizabeth ruled, she decreed that men should give their right hand to women[8] to honour them, and this worthy custom still endured. As therefore H.M. Wisdom, the queen of the world, and all her lady-councillors, had by God been created in this their sex, and yet placed over men as their rulers, it appeared seemly. ("Regis ad exemplum totus componi orbus.")[9] The same rule as in the world should prevail in houses and communities also. By this speech they thought that they would easily guide the mind of Queen Wisdom to their own view. Then the men, not to lose their case by their silence, opposed this; they said that though God had entrusted the government of the world to Queen Wisdom, yet He mainly held it Himself in His own hands, therefore would they do so also, and so forth.

(An Agreement between Men and Women.)

16. Then they again met in council several times, and thus I understood that they had never had so grave a matter brought before them. Though we were all waiting for the final decision, we received it not; but Prudence and Affability were instructed to deliberate secretly with both parties. These, mediating in the matter, found a compromise, namely, that for the purpose of peace and harmony in their homes, men should at least tacitly grant superiority to the women, and avail themselves of their advice; the women, contenting themselves with this, should outwardly appear obedient. Thus things would seemingly remain as before, yet the domestic rule of women would be strengthened; for otherwise the great secret that men rule the community, and women again rule men, might become apparent. The queen begged both parties to prevent this; this was agreed to on both sides. Then, seeing this, one of Solomon's companions said (Syr. xxvi. 29[10]): "A woman who honours her husband is considered wise!" and a second added (Ephes. v. 23): "The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church." But the friendly agreement was confirmed, and both men and women withdrew.

  1. I follow Komensky's example in using here the initials only.
  2. The custom of twice repeating a title as a proof of respect—still occasionally met with in Bohemia—was general in Komensky's time; an example will be found in his dedication of this book to Charles, Lord of Zerotin.
  3. I.e., serfs.
  4. Komensky here refers to the officials whom the Bohemian lords appointed to rule their peasants; these officials had an evil reputation of cruelty and dishonesty.
  5. The jurists demanded the complete codification of the laws.
  6. This passage is very difficult to translate; the literal meaning of the Bohemian "muzatka" would be "manness" (the German "männin").
  7. Comp. "Il governo delle donne ha avuta la prevalenza nel nostro secolo; nuove amazoni sono comparse tra la Nubia e la Monopotama e in Europa noi abbiamo veduto regnare Roxolane in Turchia, Buona in Polonia, Maria in Ungheria, Elisabetta in Inghilterra, Catterina in Francia, Bianca in Toscana, Margherita nel Belgio, Maria in Scozia, Isabella che favori la scoperta del nuovo mondo in Spagna."—Campanella, "Civitas Solis," Italian translation, Lugano, 1850.
  8. When leading them into a room.
  9. The Latin words are printed thus in Mr. Bily's last edition (founded on the Amsterdam MS.), and also in Mr. Korinek's recent edition of the "Labyrinth."
  10. From the Apocrypha.