The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 36



(The Pilgrim flees the World.)

Then, unable to behold such sights or to bear the sorrows of my heart any longer, I fled, wishing to seek refuge in some desert, or rather, were it but possible, to escape from the world. But my guides pursued me, overtook me, and asked me whither I intended to go. Wishing to reprove them by silence, I answered naught. But when they, not wishing to leave me, continued mischievously to pursue me, I said: "I see now that matters will not become better in the world. All my hopes are ended. Woe on me!" Then they: "Wilt thou not think better of it, after having seen what is the fate of those who cavil?" Then I answered: "Thousandfold do I prefer to die, rather than to be where such things befall, and to behold vice, lies, corruption, cruelty. Therefore is death to me more desirable than life. I shall set out and see what is the fate of the dead whom I see carried forth."

(Falsehood disappears.)

2. Impudence immediately granted my request, saying that it was well that I should see and understand such things also. The other dissuaded me, and endeavoured to stop me; but heeding him not, I tore myself away and proceeded on my way. Then he remained there and forsook me.

(The Pilgrim beholds the Dying and Dead.The Bottomless Abyss beyond the World.)

3. Looking now about me, I behold the ways of the dying, of whom there were many; and I see a mournful thing—to wit, that all gave up the ghost with horror, lamentation, fear and trembling, knowing not what would befall them and whither they would go. Although I was afeard, yet wishing ever to acquire more knowledge, I walked through the rows of the dead to the limits of the world and of light. Here, where others, shutting their eyes, blindly cast forth their dead, I threw off the glasses of Falsehood, rubbed my eyes, and leaned forward as far as I dared. And I behold awful darkness and gloom, of which the mind of man can find neither the end nor the ground; and there was here naught but worms, frogs, serpents, scorpions, rottenness, stench, the smell of brimstone and pitch that overwhelmed body and soul, generally unspeakable horror.

(The Pilgrim falls to the Ground terrified.)

4. Then my bowels quaked, my whole body trembled, and, terrified, I fell swooning to the ground, and cried mournfully: "Oh, most miserable, wretched, unhappy mankind! this, then, is your last glory! this the conclusion of your many splendid deeds! this the term of your learning and much wisdom over which you glory so greatly! this the rest and repose that you crave after countless labours and struggles! this the immortality for which you ever hope! Oh, that I had never been born, never passed through the gate of life! For after the many vanities of the world; nothing but darkness and horror are my part! O God, God, God! God, if Thou art a God, have mercy on wretched me!"