The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 33

CHAPTER XXXIII

SOLOMON DISCLOSES THE VANITIES AND DECEITS OF THE WORLD

(The Mask of Worldly Wisdom is Uncovered.Eccl. i. 2, 15.)

Then Solomon, who had hitherto sat looking on quietly, could no longer contain himself. With a loud voice, he began to cry: "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity! Cannot that which is crooked be made straight; and that which is wanting be numbered?" Then he rose, and with him his whole following, with great tumult; and he went straight to the throne of the queen. And neither this fierce beast, the Messenger, nor the guards on both sides could prevent this; for his voice and his splendour intimidated them all, and, indeed, the queen, also, and her councillors. Then he stretched out his hand and took from her face the veil which had before appeared costly and glittering, but now appeared as nothing but a spider's web. And behold! her face was pale, but swollen; there was indeed some red on her cheeks, but it was paint; and this appeared clearly, for in some places it had peeled off; the hands also appeared scabby, the whole body displeasing, and her breath stank. Then I, and all the others present, were so afeard that we were almost benumbed.

(Her Councillors also are unmasked.Eccl. i. 14.)

2. Then Solomon turned to the councillors of the pretended queen, took their masks from them, and said: "I see that in the place of justice, injustice rules, and abomination in that of sanctity. Your carefulness is distrust, your foresight cunning, your affability flattery, your truth self-deceit; your zeal is fury, your valour foolhardiness, your love lust, your work slavery, your sagacity mere conjecture, your religion hypocrisy, and so forth. Is it, then, your task to rule the world instead of the Almighty God? God will bring to judgment all deeds and all secret things, be they good or bad. But I will go forth and announce this to the whole world, that it may no longer permit itself to be misguided and misled."

(Solomon proclaims the Vanity of the World to the whole World.)

3. Then turning round, he went forth wrathfully, and his companions with him; then when he began to cry out, "Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity!" then from all directions men of all countries and nations, kings and queens from distant lands, collected around him. And his eloquence rained down on them and instructed them, for his words were as thorns and nails that are driven home.

(They hold Counsel as to how they could outwit him.)

4. But I followed them not, but remained in the palace, standing with my guides, who were horror-stricken, and beheld everything that further befell there. The queen, namely, who had recovered from her faint, began to take counsel with her councillors as to what should be done. Zeal, Sincerity, and Courage advised that all the forces should be collected and sent in pursuit of Solomon, that he might be captured. Prudence, on the contrary, declared that no good would be done by means of violence; for not only was Solomon himself also powerful, but he had almost the whole world as his following. Thus did the messengers, who, one after the other, brought news of what had happened, report; rather should Affability and Flattery be sent after him, and they should take Pleasure with them from Fortuna's castle; wherever he was, they should trickishly enwind themselves round him, showing and praising the beauty and loveliness of the kingdom of the world. "Thus, perhaps," Prudence said, "he could be caught; another way she knew not." And it was ordered that these three should set out at once.