Thomas Carlyle.

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

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all living: was there, in the wide world, any true bosom I could press
trustfully to mine? O Heaven, No, there was none! I kept a lock upon
my lips: why should I speak much with that shifting variety of
so-called Friends, in whose withered, vain and too-hungry souls
Friendship was but an incredible tradition? In such cases, your
resource is to talk little, and that little mostly from the
Newspapers. Now when I look back, it was a strange isolation I then
lived in. The men and women around me, even speaking with me, were but
Figures; I had, practically, forgotten that they were alive, that they
were not merely automatic. In midst of their crowded streets and
assemblages, I walked solitary; and (except as it was my own heart,
not another's, that I kept devouring) savage also, as the tiger in his
jungle. Some comfort it would have been, could I, like a Faust, have
fancied myself tempted and tormented of the Devil; for a Hell, as I
imagine, without Life, though only diabolic Life, were more frightful:
but in our age of Down-pulling and Disbelief, the very Devil has been
pulled down, you cannot so much as believe in a Devil. To me the
Universe was all void of Life, of Purpose, of Volition, even of
Hostility: it was one huge, dead, immeasurable Steam-engine, rolling
on, in its dead indifference, to grind me limb from limb. O, the vast,
gloomy, solitary Golgotha, and Mill of Death! Why was the Living
banished thither companionless, conscious? Why, if there is no Devil;
nay, unless the Devil is your God'?

A prey incessantly to such corrosions, might not, moreover, as the
worst aggravation to them, the iron constitution even of a
Teufelsdröckh threaten to fail? We conjecture that he has known
sickness; and, in spite of his locomotive habits, perhaps sickness of
the chronic sort. Hear this, for example: 'How beautiful to die of
broken-heart, on Paper! Quite another thing in practice; every window
of your Feeling, even of your Intellect, as it were, begrimed and
mud-bespattered, so that no pure ray can enter; a whole Drugshop in
your inwards; the fordone soul drowning slowly in quagmires of

Putting all which external and internal miseries together, may we not
find in the following sentences, quite in our Professor's still vein,
significance enough? 'From Suicide a certain aftershine (_Nachschein_)
of Christianity withheld me: perhaps also a certain indolence of
character; for, was not that a remedy I had at any time within reach?
Often, however, was there a question present to me: Should some one
now, at the turning of that corner, blow thee suddenly out of Space,
into the other World, or other No-World, by pistol-shot, - how were it?
On which ground, too, I have often, in sea-storms and sieged cities
and other death-scenes, exhibited an imperturbability, which passed,
falsely enough, for courage.'

'So had it lasted,' concludes the Wanderer, 'so had it lasted, as in
bitter protracted Death-agony, through long years. The heart within
me, unvisited by any heavenly dewdrop, was smouldering in sulphurous,
slow-consuming fire. Almost since earliest memory I had shed no tear;
or once only when I, murmuring half-audibly, recited Faust's
Deathsong, that wild _Selig der den er im Siegesglanze findet_ (Happy
whom _he_ finds in Battle's splendour), and thought that of this last
Friend even I was not forsaken, that Destiny itself could not doom me
not to die. Having no hope, neither had I any definite fear, were it
of Man or of Devil: nay, I often felt as if it might be solacing,
could the Arch-Devil himself, though in Tartarean terrors, but rise to
me, that I might tell him a little of my mind. And yet, strangely
enough, I lived in a continual, indefinite, pining fear; tremulous,
pusillanimous, apprehensive of I knew not what: it seemed as if all
things in the Heavens above and the Earth beneath would hurt me; as if
the Heavens and the Earth were but boundless jaws of a devouring
monster, wherein I, palpitating, waited to be devoured.

'Full of such humour, and perhaps the miserablest man in the whole
French Capital or Suburbs, was I, one sultry Dog-day, after much
perambulation, toiling along the dirty little _Rue Saint-Thomas de
l'Enfer_, among civic rubbish enough, in a close atmosphere, and over
pavements hot as Nebuchadnezzar's Furnace; whereby doubtless my
spirits were little cheered; when, all at once, there rose a Thought
in me, and I asked myself: "What _art_ thou afraid of? Wherefore, like
a coward, dost thou forever pip and whimper, and go cowering and
trembling? Despicable biped! what is the sum-total of the worst that
lies before thee? Death? Well, Death; and say the pangs of Tophet too,
and all that the Devil and Man may, will or can do against thee! Hast
thou not a heart; canst thou not suffer whatsoever it be; and, as a
Child of Freedom, though outcast, trample Tophet itself under thy
feet, while it consumes thee? Let it come, then; I will meet it and
defy it!" And as I so thought, there rushed like a stream of fire over
my whole soul; and I shook base Fear away from me forever. I was
strong, of unknown strength; a spirit, almost a god. Ever from that
time, the temper of my misery was changed: not Fear or whining Sorrow
was it, but Indignation and grim fire-eyed Defiance.

'Thus had the EVERLASTING NO (_das ewige Nein_) pealed authoritatively
through all the recesses of my Being, of my ME; and then was it that
my whole ME stood up, in native God-created majesty, and with emphasis
recorded its Protest. Such a Protest, the most important transaction
in Life, may that same Indignation and Defiance, in a psychological
point of view, be fitly called. The Everlasting No had said: "Behold,
thou are fatherless, outcast, and the Universe is mine (the Devil's)";
to which my whole Me now made answer: "_I_ am not thine, but Free, and
forever hate thee!"

'It is from this hour that I incline to date my Spiritual New-birth,
or Baphometic Fire-baptism; perhaps I directly thereupon began to be a



Though, after this 'Baphometic Fire-baptism' of his, our Wanderer
signifies that his Unrest was but increased; as, indeed, 'Indignation
and Defiance,' especially against things in general, are not the most
peaceable inmates; yet can the Psychologist surmise that it was no
longer a quite hopeless Unrest; that henceforth it had at least a
fixed centre to revolve round. For the fire-baptised soul, long so
scathed and thunder-riven, here feels its own Freedom, which feeling
is its Baphometic Baptism: the citadel of its whole kingdom it has
thus gained by assault, and will keep inexpugnable; outwards from
which the remaining dominions, not indeed without hard battling, will
doubtless by degrees be conquered and pacificated. Under another
figure, we might say, if in that great moment, in the _Rue
Saint-Thomas de l'Enfer_, the old inward Satanic School was not yet
thrown out of doors, it received peremptory judicial notice to
quit; - whereby, for the rest, its howl-chantings, Ernulphus-cursings,
and rebellious gnashings of teeth, might, in the meanwhile, become
only the more tumultuous, and difficult to keep secret.

Accordingly, if we scrutinise these Pilgrimings well, there is perhaps
discernible henceforth a certain incipient method in their madness.
Not wholly as a Spectre does Teufelsdröckh now storm through the
world; at worst as a spectre-fighting Man, nay who will one day be a
Spectre-queller. If pilgriming restlessly to so many 'Saints' Wells,'
and ever without quenching of his thirst, he nevertheless finds little
secular wells, whereby from time to time some alleviation is
ministered. In a word, he is now, if not ceasing, yet intermitting to
'eat his own heart'; and clutches round him outwardly on the NOT-ME
for wholesomer food. Does not the following glimpse exhibit him in a
much more natural state?

'Towns also and Cities, especially the ancient, I failed not to look
upon with interest. How beautiful to see thereby, as through a long
vista, into the remote Time; to have, as it were, an actual section of
almost the earliest Past brought safe into the Present, and set before
your eyes! There, in that old City, was a live ember of Culinary Fire
put down, say only two thousand years ago; and there, burning more or
less triumphantly, with such fuel as the region yielded, it has burnt,
and still burns, and thou thyself seest the very smoke thereof. Ah!
and the far more mysterious live ember of Vital Fire was then also put
down there; and still miraculously burns and spreads; and the smoke
and ashes thereof (in these Judgment-Halls and Churchyards), and its
bellows-engines (in these Churches), thou still seest; and its flame,
looking out from every kind countenance, and every hateful one, still
warms thee or scorches thee.

'Of Man's Activity and Attainment the chief results are aeriform,
mystic, and preserved in Tradition only: such are his Forms of
Government, with the Authority they rest on; his Customs, or Fashions
both of Cloth-habits and of Soul-habits; much more his collective
stock of Handicrafts, the whole Faculty he has acquired of
manipulating Nature: all these things, as indispensable and priceless
as they are, cannot in any way be fixed under lock and key, but must
flit, spirit-like, on impalpable vehicles, from Father to Son; if you
demand sight of them, they are nowhere to be met with. Visible
Ploughmen and Hammermen there have been, ever from Cain and Tubalcain
downwards: but where does your accumulated Agricultural, Metallurgic,
and other Manufacturing SKILL lie warehoused? It transmits itself on
the atmospheric air, on the sun's rays (by Hearing and by Vision); it
is a thing aeriform, impalpable, of quite spiritual sort. In like
manner, ask me not, Where are the LAWS; where is the GOVERNMENT? In
vain wilt thou go to Schönbrunn, to Downing Street, to the Palais
Bourbon: thou findest nothing there but brick or stone houses, and
some bundles of Papers tied with tape. Where, then, is that same
cunningly-devised almighty GOVERNMENT of theirs to be laid hands on?
Everywhere, yet nowhere: seen only in its works, this too is a thing
aeriform, invisible; or if you will, mystic and miraculous. So
spiritual (_geistig_) is our whole daily Life: all that we do springs
out of Mystery, Spirit, invisible Force; only like a little
Cloud-image, or Armida's Palace, air-built, does the Actual body
itself forth from the great mystic Deep.

'Visible and tangible products of the Past, again, I reckon-up to the
extent of three: Cities, with their Cabinets and Arsenals; then tilled
Fields, to either or to both of which divisions Roads with their
Bridges may belong; and thirdly - - Books. In which third truly, the
last invented, lies a worth far surpassing that of the two others.
Wondrous indeed is the virtue of a true Book. Not like a dead city of
stones, yearly crumbling, yearly needing repair; more like a tilled
field, but then a spiritual field: like a spiritual tree, let me
rather say, it stands from year to year, and from age to age (we have
Books that already number some hundred-and-fifty human ages); and
yearly comes its new produce of leaves (Commentaries, Deductions,
Philosophical, Political Systems; or were it only Sermons, Pamphlets,
Journalistic Essays), every one of which is talismanic and
thaumaturgic, for it can persuade men. O thou who art able to write a
Book, which once in the two centuries or oftener there is a man gifted
to do, envy not him whom they name City-builder, and inexpressibly
pity him whom they name Conqueror or City-burner! Thou too art a
Conqueror and Victor: but of the true sort, namely over the Devil:
thou too hast built what will outlast all marble and metal, and be a
wonder-bringing City of the Mind, a Temple and Seminary and Prophetic
Mount, whereto all kindreds of the Earth will pilgrim. - Fool! why
journeyest thou wearisomely, in thy antiquarian fervour, to gaze on
the stone pyramids of Geeza, or the clay ones of Sacchara? These stand
there, as I can tell thee, idle and inert, looking over the Desert,
foolishly enough, for the last three-thousand years: but canst thou
not open thy Hebrew BIBLE, then, or even Luther's Version thereof?'

No less satisfactory is his sudden appearance not in Battle, yet on
some Battle-field; which, we soon gather, must be that of Wagram; so
that here, for once, is a certain approximation to distinctness of
date. Omitting much, let us impart what follows:

'Horrible enough! A whole Marchfeld strewed with shell-splinters,
cannon-shot, ruined tumbrils, and dead men and horses; stragglers
still remaining not so much as buried. And those red mould heaps: ay,
there lie the Shells of Men, out of which all the Life and Virtue has
been blown; and now are they swept together, and crammed-down out of
sight, like blown Egg-shells! - Did Nature, when she bade the Donau
bring down his mould-cargoes from the Carinthian and Carpathian
Heights, and spread them out here into the softest, richest
level, - intend thee, O Marchfeld, for a corn-bearing Nursery, whereon
her children might be nursed; or for a Cockpit, wherein they might the
more commodiously be throttled and tattered? Were thy three broad
Highways, meeting here from the ends of Europe, made for
Ammunition-wagons, then? Were thy Wagrams and Stillfrieds but so many
ready-built Casemates, wherein the house of Hapsburg might batter with
artillery, and with artillery be battered? König Ottokar, amid yonder
hillocks, dies under Rodolf's truncheon; here Kaiser Franz falls
a-swoon under Napoleon's: within which five centuries, to omit the
others, how has thy breast, fair Plain, been defaced and defiled! The
greensward is torn-up and trampled-down; man's fond care of it, his
fruit-trees, hedgerows, and pleasant dwellings, blown-away with
gunpowder; and the kind seedfield lies a desolate, hideous Place of
Sculls. - Nevertheless, Nature is at work; neither shall these
Powder-Devilkins with their utmost devilry gainsay her: but all that
gore and carnage will be shrouded-in, absorbed into manure; and next
year the Marchfeld will be green, nay greener. Thrifty unwearied
Nature, ever out of our great waste educing some little profit of thy
own, - how dost thou, from the very carcass of the Killer, bring Life
for the Living!

'What, speaking in quite unofficial language, is the net-purport and
upshot of war? To my own knowledge, for example, there dwell and toil,
in the British village of Dumdrudge, usually some five-hundred souls.
From these, by certain "Natural Enemies" of the French, there are
successively selected, during the French war, say thirty able-bodied
men: Dumdrudge, at her own expense, has suckled and nursed them: she
has, not without difficulty and sorrow, fed them up to manhood, and
even trained them to crafts, so that one can weave, another build,
another hammer, and the weakest can stand under thirty stone
avoirdupois. Nevertheless, amid much weeping and swearing, they are
selected; all dressed in red; and shipped away, at the public charges,
some two-thousand miles, or say only to the south of Spain; and fed
there till wanted. And now to that same spot, in the south of Spain,
are thirty similar French artisans, from a French Dumdrudge, in like
manner wending: till at length, after infinite effort, the two parties
come into actual juxtaposition; and Thirty stands fronting Thirty,
each with a gun in his hand. Straightway the word "Fire!" is given:
and they blow the souls out of one another; and in place of sixty
brisk useful craftsmen, the world has sixty dead carcasses, which it
must bury, and anew shed tears for. Had these men any quarrel? Busy as
the Devil is, not the smallest! They lived far enough apart; were the
entirest strangers; nay, in so wide a Universe, there was even,
unconsciously, by Commerce, some mutual helpfulness between them. How
then? Simpleton! their Governors had fallen-out; and, instead of
shooting one another, had the cunning to make these poor blockheads
shoot. - Alas, so is it in Deutschland, and hitherto in all other
lands; still as of old, "what devilry soever Kings do, the Greeks must
pay the piper!" - In that fiction of the English Smollet, it is true,
the final Cessation of War is perhaps prophetically shadowed forth;
where the two Natural Enemies, in person, take each a Tobacco-pipe,
filled with Brimstone; light the same, and smoke in one another's
faces, till the weaker gives in: but from such predicted Peace-Era,
what blood-filled trenches, and contentious centuries, may still
divide us!'

Thus can the Professor, at least in lucid intervals, look away from
his own sorrows, over the many-coloured world, and pertinently enough
note what is passing there. We may remark, indeed, that for the matter
of spiritual culture, if for nothing else, perhaps few periods of his
life were richer than this. Internally, there is the most momentous
instructive Course of Practical Philosophy, with Experiments, going
on; towards the right comprehension of which his Peripatetic habits,
favourable to Meditation, might help him rather than hinder.
Externally, again, as he wanders to and fro, there are, if for the
longing heart little substance, yet for the seeing eye sights enough:
in these so boundless Travels of his, granting that the Satanic School
was even partially kept down, what an incredible knowledge of our
Planet, and its Inhabitants and their Works, that is to say, of all
knowable things, might not Teufelsdröckh acquire!

'I have read in most Public Libraries,' says he, 'including those of
Constantinople and Samarcand: in most Colleges, except the Chinese
Mandarin ones, I have studied, or seen that there was no studying.
Unknown Languages have I oftenest gathered from their natural
repertory, the Air, by my organ of Hearing; Statistics, Geographics,
Topographics came, through the Eye, almost of their own accord. The
ways of Man, how he seeks food, and warmth, and protection for
himself, in most regions, are ocularly known to me. Like the great
Hadrian, I meted-out much of the terraqueous Globe with a pair of
Compasses that belonged to myself only.

'Of great Scenes why speak? Three summer days, I lingered reflecting,
and even composing (_dichtete_), by the Pinechasms of Vaucluse; and in
that clear Lakelet moistened my bread. I have sat under the Palm-trees
of Tadmor; smoked a pipe among the ruins of Babylon. The great Wall of
China I have seen; and can testify that it is of gray brick, coped and
covered with granite, and shows only second-rate masonry. - Great Events,
also, have not I witnessed? Kings sweated-down (_ausgemergelt_) into
Berlin-and-Milan Customhouse-Officers; the World well won, and the
World well lost; oftener than once a hundred-thousand individuals shot
(by each other) in one day. All kindreds and peoples and nations
dashed together, and shifted and shovelled into heaps, that they might
ferment there, and in time unite. The birth-pangs of Democracy,
wherewith convulsed Europe was groaning in cries that reached Heaven,
could not escape me.

'For great Men I have ever had the warmest predilection; and can
perhaps boast that few such in this era have wholly escaped me. Great
Men are the inspired (speaking and acting) Texts of that divine BOOK
OF REVELATIONS, whereof a Chapter is completed from epoch to epoch,
and by some named HISTORY; to which inspired Texts your numerous
talented men, and your innumerable untalented men, are the better or
worse exegetic Commentaries, and wagonload of too-stupid, heretical or
orthodox, weekly Sermons. For my study the inspired Texts themselves!
Thus did not I, in very early days, having disguised me as
tavern-waiter, stand behind the field-chairs, under that shady Tree at
Treisnitz by the Jena Highway; waiting upon the great Schiller and
greater Goethe; and hearing what I have not forgotten. For - - '

- - But at this point the Editor recalls his principle of caution,
some time ago laid down, and must suppress much. Let not the
sacredness of Laurelled, still more, of Crowned Heads, be tampered
with. Should we, at a future day, find circumstances altered, and the
time come for Publication, then may these glimpses into the privacy of
the Illustrious be conceded; which for the present were little better
than treacherous, perhaps traitorous Eavesdroppings. Of Lord Byron,
therefore, of Pope Pius, Emperor Tarakwang, and the 'White
Water-roses' (Chinese Carbonari) with their mysteries, no notice here!
Of Napoleon himself we shall only, glancing from afar, remark that
Teufelsdröckh's relation to him seems to have been of very varied
character. At first we find our poor Professor on the point of being
shot as a spy; then taken into private conversation, even pinched on
the ear, yet presented with no money; at last indignantly dismissed,
almost thrown out of doors, as an 'Ideologist.' 'He himself,' says the
Professor, 'was among the completest Ideologists, at least
Ideopraxists: in the Idea (_in der Idee_) he lived, moved and fought.
The man was a Divine Missionary, though unconscious of it; and
preached, through the cannon's throat, that great doctrine, _La
carrière ouverte aux talens_ (The Tools to him that can handle them),
which is our ultimate Political Evangel, wherein alone can liberty
lie. Madly enough he preached, it is true, as Enthusiasts and first
Missionaries are wont, with imperfect utterance, amid much frothy
rant; yet as articulately perhaps as the case admitted. Or call him,
if you will, an American Backwoodsman, who had to fell unpenetrated
forests, and battle with innumerable wolves, and did not entirely
forbear strong liquor, rioting, and even theft; whom, notwithstanding,
the peaceful Sower will follow, and, as he cuts the boundless harvest,

More legitimate and decisively authentic is Teufelsdröckh's appearance
and emergence (we know not well whence) in the solitude of the North
Cape, on that June Midnight. He has 'a light-blue Spanish cloak'
hanging round him, as his 'most commodious, principal, indeed sole
upper garment'; and stands there, on the World-promontory, looking
over the infinite Brine, like a little blue Belfry (as we figure), now
motionless indeed, yet ready, if stirred, to ring quaintest changes.

'Silence as of death,' writes he; 'for Midnight, even in the Arctic
latitudes, has its character: nothing but the granite cliffs
ruddy-tinged, the peaceable gurgle of that slow-heaving Polar Ocean,
over which in the utmost North the great Sun hangs low and lazy, as if
he too were slumbering. Yet is his cloud-couch wrought of crimson and
cloth-of-gold; yet does his light stream over the mirror of waters,
like a tremulous fire-pillar, shooting downwards to the abyss, and
hide itself under my feet. In such moments, Solitude also is
invaluable; for who would speak, or be looked on, when behind him lies
all Europe and Africa, fast asleep, except the watchmen; and before
him the silent Immensity, and Palace of the Eternal, whereof our Sun
is but a porch-lamp?

'Nevertheless, in this solemn moment comes a man, or monster,
scrambling from among the rock-hollows; and, shaggy, huge as the
Hyperborean Bear, hails me in Russian speech: most probably,
therefore, a Russian Smuggler. With courteous brevity, I signify my
indifference to contraband trade, my humane intentions, yet strong
wish to be private. In vain: the monster, counting doubtless on his
superior stature, and minded to make sport for himself, or perhaps
profit, were it with murder, continues to advance; ever assailing me
with his importunate train-oil breath; and now has advanced, till we
stand both on the verge of the rock, the deep Sea rippling greedily
down below. What argument will avail? On the thick Hyperborean,
cherubic reasoning, seraphic eloquence were lost. Prepared for such
extremity, I, deftly enough, whisk aside one step; draw out, from my
interior reservoirs, a sufficient Birmingham Horse-pistol, and say,
"Be so obliging as retire, Friend (_Er ziehe sich zurück, Freund_),
and with promptitude!" This logic even the Hyperborean understands;
fast enough, with apologetic, petitionary growl, he sidles off; and,
except for suicidal as well as homicidal purposes, need not return.

'Such I hold to be the genuine use of Gunpowder: that it makes all men
alike tall. Nay, if thou be cooler, cleverer than I, if thou have more
_Mind_, though all but no Body whatever, then canst thou kill me
first, and art the taller. Hereby, at last, is the Goliath powerless,
and the David resistless; savage Animalism is nothing, inventive
Spiritualism is all.

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 13 of 43)