The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 34



(Solomon rains forth Wisdom.)

Now, seeing this, I tell my guides that I also would gladly behold what was to befall. Impudence immediately consented, and went forth; the interpreter did likewise. Then, when we had set out, we find Solomon with his companions in the street of the scholars; and to the wonder of all, he conversed of the nature of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall. He spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes; of the nature of the earth, the power of the elements, the constellations, the thoughts of men, and so forth. And men came from all nations to listen to his wisdom. Being thus extolled beyond all measure himself, he began to delight in himself; this all the more when Affability and Flattery, cautiously approaching him, began yet further to increase his praise before the eyes of men.

(Solomon devises Learned Crafts.)

2. Then he rose up and went forth to behold other parts of the world, and entering the street of the tradesmen, he began to wonder at their divers arts, and to find pleasure in them; then with his deep wit he devised for them strange things, such as the artful fashioning of gardens, orchards, fish-ponds, the building of houses and towns, and the furthering of all that delights mankind.

(He is entangled into the State of Matrimony.)

3. Now, when Solomon entered the street of the married people, Pleasure cunningly led to him all the most beautiful maidens, adorned in the most beauteous manner with divers sweet-sounding music. She told some of the most lovely to welcome the king solemnly, and they greeted him as the light of the human race, the crown of the Israelite nation, the jewel of the world; "as the estate of the scholars, as well as that of the tradesmen, had," they said, "gained not little from the presence of his light and illumination, thus did the estate of matrimony also strive to obtain through his presence an increase of its glory." After thanking courteously, Solomon said that he intended to honour that estate by joining it; then choosing from among the maidens her who seemed to him most beautiful, he consented to be weighed together with her,[1] and linked to her (they called her the daughter of Pharaoh). Abiding now with her, he was struck by her beauty, and sought rather her glance and pleasure than wisdom; then (a thing I should never have imagined) he allowed his glances to fall on the crowd of joyous maidens—and cunning Pleasure brought more and yet more of them before his eyes; struck by the beauty now of this, now of that one, he called to him all that came in his way, without their even being weighed together. Thus, in a short time he beheld seven hundred of them[2] around him, and three hundred also that were not wedded; for he held it as glory to surpass, in such matters also, all who were before him and would be after him. And now nothing was to be seen but amorous trifling, and even his own followers grieved and groaned over this.

(He now visits the Estate of Priesthood, and there sinks entirely.)

4. Now, when he had passed through this street he proceeded farther, and entered the street of the priests, and whither the wretched companions who were fettered to him dragged him, thither he allowed himself to be drawn among beasts and reptiles, dragons and poisonous vermin;[3] and he began to find doleful delight among them.

  1. See chapter viii.
  2. I.e., wives.
  3. Of course, an allusion to Solomon's idolatry.