Thomas Carlyle.

Sartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history online

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Satanic School were spouting, though inaudibly, there. To consume your
own choler, as some chimneys consume their own smoke; to keep a whole
Satanic School spouting, if it must spout, inaudibly, is a negative
yet no slight virtue, nor one of the commonest in these times.

Nevertheless, we will not take upon us to say, that in the strange
measure he fell upon, there was not a touch of latent Insanity;
whereof indeed the actual condition of these Documents in
_Capricornus_ and _Aquarius_ is no bad emblem. His so unlimited
Wanderings, toilsome enough, are without assigned or perhaps
assignable aim; internal Unrest seems his sole guidance; he wanders,
wanders, as if that curse of the Prophet had fallen on him, and he
were 'made like unto a wheel.' Doubtless, too, the chaotic nature of
these Paper-bags aggravates our obscurity. Quite without note of
preparation, for example, we come upon the following slip: 'A peculiar
feeling it is that will rise in the Traveller, when turning some
hill-range in his desert road, he descries lying far below, embosomed
among its groves and green natural bulwarks, and all diminished to a
toybox, the fair Town, where so many souls, as it were seen and yet
unseen, are driving their multifarious traffic. Its white steeple is
then truly a starward-pointing finger; the canopy of blue smoke seems
like a sort of Life-breath: for always, of its own unity, the soul
gives unity to whatsoever it looks on with love; thus does the little
Dwelling place of men, in itself a congeries of houses and huts,
become for us an individual, almost a person. But what thousand other
thoughts unite thereto, if the place has to ourselves been the arena
of joyous or mournful experiences; if perhaps the cradle we were
rocked in still stands there, if our Loving ones still dwell there, if
our Buried ones there slumber!' Does Teufelsdröckh, as the wounded
eagle is said to make for its own eyrie, and indeed military
deserters, and all hunted outcast creatures, turn as if by instinct in
the direction of their birthland, - fly first, in this extremity,
towards his native Entepfuhl; but reflecting that there no help awaits
him, take but one wistful look from the distance, and then wend

Little happier seems to be his next flight: into the wilds of Nature;
as if in her mother-bosom he would seek healing. So at least we
incline to interpret the following Notice, separated from the former
by some considerable space, wherein, however, is nothing noteworthy:

'Mountains were not new to him; but rarely are Mountains seen in such
combined majesty and grace as here. The rocks are of that sort called
Primitive by the mineralogists, which always arrange themselves in
masses of a rugged, gigantic character; which ruggedness, however, is
here tempered by a singular airiness of form, and softness of
environment: in a climate favourable to vegetation, the gray cliff,
itself covered with lichens, shoots-up through a garment of foliage or
verdure; and white, bright cottages, tree-shaded, cluster round the
everlasting granite. In fine vicissitude, Beauty alternates with
Grandeur: you ride through stony hollows, along straight passes,
traversed by torrents, overhung by high walls of rock; now winding
amid broken shaggy chasms, and huge fragments; now suddenly emerging
into some emerald valley, where the streamlet collects itself into a
Lake, and man has again found a fair dwelling, and it seems as if
Peace had established herself in the bosom of Strength.

'To Peace, however, in this vortex of existence, can the Son of Time
not pretend: still less if some Spectre haunt him from the Past; and
the future is wholly a Stygian Darkness, spectre-bearing. Reasonably
might the Wanderer exclaim to himself: Are not the gates of this
world's happiness inexorably shut against thee; hast thou a hope that
is not mad? Nevertheless, one may still murmur audibly, or in the
original Greek if that suit better: "Whoso can look on Death will
start at no shadows."

'From such meditations is the Wanderer's attention called outwards;
for now the Valley closes-in abruptly, intersected by a huge mountain
mass, the stony water-worn ascent of which is not to be accomplished
on horseback. Arrived aloft, he finds himself again lifted into the
evening sunset light; and cannot but pause, and gaze round him, some
moments there. An upland irregular expanse of wold, where valleys in
complex branchings are suddenly or slowly arranging their descent
towards every quarter of the sky. The mountain-ranges are beneath your
feet, and folded together: only the loftier summits look down here and
there as on a second plain; lakes also lie clear and earnest in their
solitude. No trace of man now visible; unless indeed it were he who
fashioned that little visible link of Highway, here, as would seem,
scaling the inaccessible, to unite Province with Province. But
sunwards, lo you! how it towers sheer up, a world of Mountains, the
diadem and centre of the mountain region! A hundred and a hundred
savage peaks, in the last light of Day; all glowing, of gold and
amethyst, like giant spirits of the wilderness; there in their
silence, in their solitude, even as on the night when Noah's Deluge
first dried! Beautiful, nay solemn, was the sudden aspect to our
Wanderer. He gazed over those stupendous masses with wonder, almost
with longing desire; never till this hour had he known Nature, that
she was One, that she was his Mother, and divine. And as the ruddy
glow was fading into clearness in the sky, and the Sun had now
departed, a murmur of Eternity and Immensity, of Death and of Life,
stole through his soul; and he felt as if Death and Life were one, as
if the Earth were not dead, as if the Spirit of the Earth had its
throne in that splendour, and his own spirit were therewith holding

'The spell was broken by a sound of carriage-wheels. Emerging from the
hidden Northward, to sink soon into the hidden Southward, came a gay
Barouche-and-four: it was open; servants and postillions wore
wedding-favours: that happy pair, then, had found each other, it was
their marriage evening! Few moments brought them near: _Du Himmel!_ It
was Herr Towgood and - Blumine! With slight unrecognising salutation
they passed me; plunged down amid the neighbouring thickets, onwards,
to Heaven, and to England; and I, in my friend Richter's words, _I
remained alone, behind them, with the Night_.'

Were it not cruel in these circumstances, here might be the place to
insert an observation, gleaned long ago from the great _Clothes-Volume_,
where it stands with quite other intent: 'Some time before Small-pox
was extirpated,' says the Professor, 'there came a new malady of the
spiritual sort on Europe: I mean the epidemic, now endemical, of
View-hunting. Poets of old date, being privileged with Senses, had
also enjoyed external Nature; but chiefly as we enjoy the crystal cup
which holds good or bad liquor for us; that is to say, in silence, or
with slight incidental commentary: never, as I compute, till after the
_Sorrows of Werter_, was there man found who would say: Come let us
make a Description! Having drunk the liquor, come let us eat the
glass! Of which endemic the Jenner is unhappily still to seek.' Too

We reckon it more important to remark that the Professor's Wanderings,
so far as his stoical and cynical envelopment admits us to clear
insight, here first take their permanent character, fatuous or not.
That Basilisk-glance of the Barouche-and-four seems to have
withered-up what little remnant of a purpose may have still lurked in
him: Life has become wholly a dark labyrinth; wherein, through long
years, our Friend, flying from spectres, has to stumble about at
random, and naturally with more haste than progress.

Foolish were it in us to attempt following him, even from afar, in
this extraordinary world-pilgrimage of his; the simplest record of
which, were clear record possible, would fill volumes. Hopeless is the
obscurity, unspeakable the confusion. He glides from country to
country, from condition to condition; vanishing and reappearing, no
man can calculate how or where. Through all quarters of the world he
wanders, and apparently through all circles of society. If in any
scene, perhaps difficult to fix geographically, he settles for a time,
and forms connexions, be sure he will snap them abruptly asunder. Let
him sink out of sight as Private Scholar (_Privatisirender_), living
by the grace of God in some European capital, you may next find him as
Hadjee in the neighbourhood of Mecca. It is an inexplicable
Phantasmagoria, capricious, quick-changing; as if our Traveller,
instead of limbs and high-ways, had transported himself by some
wishing-carpet, or Fortunatus' Hat. The whole, too, imparted
emblematically, in dim multifarious tokens (as that collection of
Street-Advertisements); with only some touch of direct historical
notice sparingly interspersed: little light-islets in the world of
haze! So that, from this point, the Professor is more of an enigma
than ever. In figurative language, we might say he becomes, not indeed
a spirit, yet spiritualised, vaporised Fact unparalleled in Biography:
The river of his History, which we have traced from its tiniest
fountains, and hoped to see flow onward, with increasing current, into
the ocean, here dashes itself over that terrific Lover's Leap; and, as
a mad-foaming cataract, flies wholly into tumultuous clouds of spray!
Low down it indeed collects again into pools and plashes; yet only at
a great distance, and with difficulty, if at all, into a general
stream. To cast a glance into certain of those pools and plashes, and
trace whither they run, must, for a chapter or two, form the limit of
our endeavour.

For which end doubtless those direct historical Notices, where they
can be met with, are the best. Nevertheless, of this sort too there
occurs much, which, with our present light, it were questionable to
emit. Teufelsdröckh, vibrating everywhere between the highest and the
lowest levels, comes into contact with public History itself. For
example, those conversations and relations with illustrious Persons,
as Sultan Mahmoud, the Emperor Napoleon, and others, are they not as
yet rather of a diplomatic character than of a biographic? The Editor,
appreciating the sacredness of crowned heads, nay perhaps suspecting
the possible trickeries of a Clothes-Philosopher, will eschew this
province for the present; a new time may bring new insight and a
different duty.

If we ask now, not indeed with what ulterior Purpose, for there was none,
yet with what immediate outlooks; at all events, in what mood of mind,
the Professor undertook and prosecuted this world-pilgrimage, - the
answer is more distinct than favourable. 'A nameless Unrest,' says he,
'urged me forward; to which the outward motion was some momentary
lying solace. Whither should I go? My Loadstars were blotted out; in
that canopy of grim fire shone no star. Yet forward must I; the ground
burnt under me; there was no rest for the sole of my foot. I was
alone, alone! Ever too the strong inward longing shaped Fantasms for
itself: towards these, one after the other, must I fruitlessly wander.
A feeling I had, that for my fever-thirst there was and must be
somewhere a healing Fountain. To many fondly imagined Fountains, the
Saints' Wells of these days, did I pilgrim; to great Men, to great
Cities, to great Events: but found there no healing. In strange
countries, as in the well-known; in savage deserts, as in the press of
corrupt civilisation, it was ever the same: how could your Wanderer
escape from - _his own Shadow_? Nevertheless still Forward! I felt as
if in great haste; to do I saw not what. From the depths of my own
heart, it called to me, Forwards! The winds and the streams, and all
Nature sounded to me, Forwards! _Ach Gott_, I was even, once for all,
a Son of Time.'

From which is it not clear that the internal Satanic School was still
active enough? He says elsewhere: 'The _Enchiridion of Epictetus_ I
had ever with me, often as my sole rational companion; and regret to
mention that the nourishment it yielded was trifling.' Thou foolish
Teufelsdröckh! How could it else? Hadst thou not Greek enough to
understand thus much: _The end of Man is an Action, and not a
Thought_, though it were the noblest?

'How I lived?' writes he once: 'Friend, hast thou considered the
"rugged all-nourishing Earth," as Sophocles well names her; how she
feeds the sparrow on the house-top, much more her darling, man? While
thou stirrest and livest, thou hast a probability of victual. My
breakfast of tea has been cooked by a Tartar woman, with water of the
Amur, who wiped her earthen kettle with a horse-tail. I have roasted
wild-eggs in the sand of Sahara; I have awakened in Paris _Estrapades_
and Vienna _Malzleins_, with no prospect of breakfast beyond elemental
liquid. That I had my Living to seek saved me from Dying, - by suicide.
In our busy Europe, is there not an everlasting demand for Intellect,
in the chemical, mechanical, political, religious, educational,
commercial departments? In Pagan countries, cannot one write Fetishes?
Living! Little knowest thou what alchemy is in an inventive Soul; how,
as with its little finger, it can create provision enough for the body
(of a Philosopher); and then, as with both hands, create quite other
than provision; namely, spectres to torment itself withal.'

Poor Teufelsdröckh! Flying with Hunger always parallel to him; and a
whole Infernal Chase in his rear; so that the countenance of Hunger is
comparatively a friend's! Thus must he, in the temper of ancient Cain,
or of the modern Wandering Jew, - save only that he feels himself not
guilty and but suffering the pains of guilt, - wend to and fro with
aimless speed. Thus must he, over the whole surface of the Earth (by
footprints), write his _Sorrows of Teufelsdröckh_; even as the great
Goethe, in passionate words, had to write his _Sorrows of Werter_,
before the spirit freed herself, and he could become a Man. Vain truly
is the hope of your swiftest Runner to escape 'from his own Shadow'!
Nevertheless, in these sick days, when the Born of Heaven first
descries himself (about the age of twenty) in a world such as ours,
richer than usual in two things, in Truths grown obsolete, and Trades
grown obsolete, - what can the fool think but that it is all a Den of
Lies, wherein whoso will not speak Lies and act Lies, must stand idle
and despair? Whereby it happens that, for your nobler minds, the
publishing of some such Work of Art, in one or the other dialect,
becomes almost a necessity. For what is it properly but an Altercation
with the Devil, before you begin honestly Fighting him? Your Byron
publishes his _Sorrows of Lord George_, in verse and in prose, and
copiously otherwise: your Bonaparte represents his _Sorrows of
Napoleon_ Opera, in an all-too stupendous style; with music of
cannon-volleys, and murder-shrieks of a world; his stage-lights are
the fires of Conflagration; his rhyme and recitative are the tramp of
embattled Hosts and the sound of falling Cities. - Happier is he who,
like our Clothes-Philosopher, can write such matter, since it must be
written, on the insensible Earth, with his shoe-soles only; and also
survive the writing thereof!



Under the strange nebulous envelopment, wherein our Professor has now
shrouded himself, no doubt but his spiritual nature is nevertheless
progressive, and growing: for how can the 'Son of Time,' in any case,
stand still? We behold him, through those dim years, in a state of
crisis, of transition: his mad Pilgrimings, and general solution into
aimless Discontinuity, what is all this but a mad Fermentation;
wherefrom, the fiercer it is, the clearer product will one day evolve

Such transitions are ever full of pain: thus the Eagle when he moults
is sickly; and, to attain his new beak, must harshly dash-off the old
one upon rocks. What Stoicism soever our Wanderer, in his individual
acts and motions, may affect, it is clear that there is a hot fever of
anarchy and misery raging within; coruscations of which flash out: as,
indeed, how could there be other? Have we not seen him disappointed,
bemocked of Destiny, through long years? All that the young heart
might desire and pray for has been denied; nay, as in the last worst
instance, offered and then snatched away. Ever an 'excellent
Passivity'; but of useful, reasonable Activity, essential to the
former as Food to Hunger, nothing granted: till at length, in this
wild Pilgrimage, he must forcibly seize for himself an Activity,
though useless, unreasonable. Alas, his cup of bitterness, which had
been filling drop by drop, ever since that first 'ruddy morning' in
the Hinterschlag Gymnasium, was at the very lip; and then with that
poison-drop, of the Towgood-and-Blumine business, it runs over, and
even hisses over in a deluge of foam.

He himself says once, with more justice than originality: 'Man is,
properly speaking, based upon Hope, he has no other possession but
Hope; this world of his is emphatically the Place of Hope.' What,
then, was our Professor's possession? We see him, for the present,
quite shut-out from Hope; looking not into the golden orient, but
vaguely all round into a dim copper firmament, pregnant with
earthquake and tornado.

Alas, shut-out from Hope, in a deeper sense than we yet dream of! For,
as he wanders wearisomely through this world, he has now lost all
tidings of another and higher. Full of religion, or at least of
religiosity, as our Friend has since exhibited himself, he hides not
that, in those days, he was wholly irreligious: 'Doubt had darkened
into Unbelief,' says he; 'shade after shade goes grimly over your
soul, till you have the fixed, starless, Tartarean black.' To such
readers as have reflected, what can be called reflecting, on man's
life, and happily discovered, in contradiction to much Profit-and-loss
Philosophy, speculative and practical, that Soul is _not_ synonymous
with Stomach; who understand, therefore, in our Friend's words, 'that,
for man's well-being, Faith is properly the one thing needful; how,
with it, Martyrs, otherwise weak, can cheerfully endure the shame and
the cross; and without it, worldlings puke-up their sick existence, by
suicide, in the midst of luxury': to such it will be clear that, for a
pure moral nature, the loss of his religious Belief was the loss of
everything. Unhappy young man! All wounds, the crush of long-continued
Destitution, the stab of false Friendship and of false Love, all
wounds in thy so genial heart, would have healed again, had not its
life-warmth been withdrawn. Well might he exclaim, in his wild way:
'Is there no God, then; but at best an absentee God, sitting idle,
ever since the first Sabbath, at the outside of his Universe, and
_see_ing it go? Has the word Duty no meaning; is what we call Duty no
divine Messenger and Guide, but a false earthly Fantasm, made-up of
Desire and Fear, of emanations from the Gallows and from Dr. Graham's
Celestial-Bed? Happiness of an approving Conscience! Did not Paul of
Tarsus, whom admiring men have since named Saint, feel that _he_ was
"the chief of sinners"; and Nero of Rome, jocund in spirit
(_wohlgemuth_), spend much of his time in fiddling? Foolish
Word-monger and Motive-grinder, who in thy Logic-mill hast an earthly
mechanism for the Godlike itself, and wouldst fain grind me out Virtue
from the husks of Pleasure, - I tell thee, Nay! To the unregenerate
Prometheus Vinctus of a man, it is ever the bitterest aggravation of
his wretchedness that he is conscious of Virtue, that he feels himself
the victim not of suffering only, but of injustice. What then? Is the
heroic inspiration we name Virtue but some Passion; some bubble of the
blood, bubbling in the direction others _profit_ by? I know not: only
this I know, If what thou namest Happiness be our true aim, then are
we all astray. With Stupidity and sound Digestion man may front much.
But what, in these dull unimaginative days, are the terrors of
Conscience to the diseases of the Liver! Not on Morality, but on
Cookery, let us build our stronghold: there brandishing our
frying-pan, as censer, let us offer sweet incense to the Devil, and
live at ease on the fat things _he_ has provided for his Elect!'

Thus has the bewildered Wanderer to stand, as so many have done,
shouting question after question into the Sibyl-cave of Destiny, and
receive no Answer but an Echo. It is all a grim Desert, this once-fair
world of his; wherein is heard only the howling of wild-beasts, or the
shrieks of despairing, hate-filled men; and no Pillar of Cloud by day,
and no Pillar of Fire by night, any longer guides the Pilgrim. To such
length has the spirit of Inquiry carried him. 'But what boots it (_was
thut's_)?' cries he: 'it is but the common lot in this era. Not having
come to spiritual majority prior to the _Siècle de Louis Quinze_, and
not being born purely a Loghead (_Dummkopf_), thou hadst no other
outlook. The whole world is, like thee, sold to Unbelief; their old
Temples of the Godhead, which for long have not been rainproof,
crumble down; and men ask now: Where is the Godhead; our eyes never
saw him?'

Pitiful enough were it, for all these wild utterances, to call our
Diogenes wicked. Unprofitable servants as we all are, perhaps at no
era of his life was he more decisively the Servant of Goodness, the
Servant of God, than even now when doubting God's existence. 'One
circumstance I note,' says he: 'after all the nameless woe that
Inquiry, which for me, what it is not always, was genuine Love of
Truth, had wrought me, I nevertheless still loved Truth, and would
bate no jot of my allegiance to her. "Truth"! I cried, "though the
Heavens crush me for following her: no Falsehood! though a whole
celestial Lubberland were the price of Apostasy." In conduct it was
the same. Had a divine Messenger from the clouds, or miraculous
Handwriting on the wall, convincingly proclaimed to me _This thou
shalt do_, with what passionate readiness, as I often thought, would I
have done it, had it been leaping into the infernal Fire. Thus, in
spite of all Motive-grinders, and Mechanical Profit-and-Loss
Philosophies, with the sick ophthalmia and hallucination they had
brought on, was the Infinite nature of Duty still dimly present to me:
living without God in the world, of God's light I was not utterly
bereft; if my as yet sealed eyes, with their unspeakable longing,
could nowhere see Him, nevertheless in my heart He was present, and
His heaven-written Law still stood legible and sacred there.'

Meanwhile, under all these tribulations, and temporal and spiritual
destitutions, what must the Wanderer, in his silent soul, have endured!
'The painfullest feeling,' writes he, 'is that of your own Feebleness
(_Unkraft_); ever, as the English Milton says, to be weak is the true
misery. And yet of your Strength there is and can be no clear feeling,
save by what you have prospered in, by what you have done. Between
vague wavering Capability and fixed indubitable Performance, what a
difference! A certain inarticulate Self-consciousness dwells dimly in
us; which only our Works can render articulate and decisively
discernible. Our Works are the mirror wherein the spirit first sees
its natural lineaments. Hence, too, the folly of that impossible
Precept, _Know thyself_; till it be translated into this partially
possible one, _Know what thou canst work-at_.

'But for me, so strangely unprosperous had I been, the net-result of
my Workings amounted as yet simply to - Nothing. How then could I
believe in my Strength, when there was as yet no mirror to see it in?
Ever did this agitating, yet, as I now perceive, quite frivolous
question, remain to me insoluble: Hast thou a certain Faculty, a
certain Worth, such even as the most have not; or art thou the
completest Dullard of these modern times? Alas! the fearful Unbelief
is unbelief in yourself; and how could I believe? Had not my first,
last Faith in myself, when even to me the Heavens seemed laid open,
and I dared to love, been all-too cruelly belied? The speculative
Mystery of Life grew ever more mysterious to me: neither in the
practical Mystery had I made the slightest progress, but been
everywhere buffeted, foiled, and contemptuously cast-out. A feeble
unit in the middle of a threatening Infinitude, I seemed to have
nothing given me but eyes, whereby to discern my own wretchedness.
Invisible yet impenetrable walls, as of Enchantment, divided me from

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 12 of 43)