Thomas Carlyle.

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

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'With respect to Duels, indeed, I have my own ideas. Few things, in
this so surprising world, strike me with more surprise. Two little
visual Spectra of men, hovering with insecure enough cohesion in the
midst of the UNFATHOMABLE, and to dissolve therein, at any rate, very
soon, - make pause at the distance of twelve paces asunder; whirl
round; and, simultaneously by the cunningest mechanism, explode one
another into Dissolution; and off-hand become Air, and Non-extant!
Deuce on it (_verdammt_), the little spitfires! - Nay, I think with old
Hugo von Trimberg: "God must needs laugh outright, could such a thing
be, to see his wondrous Manikins here below."'

* * * * *

But amid these specialties, let us not forget the great generality,
which is our chief quest here: How prospered the inner man of
Teufelsdröckh under so much outward shifting? Does Legion still lurk
in him, though repressed; or has he exorcised that Devil's Brood? We
can answer that the symptoms continue promising. Experience is the
grand spiritual Doctor; and with him Teufelsdröckh has now been long a
patient, swallowing many a bitter bolus. Unless our poor Friend belong
to the numerous class of Incurables, which seems not likely, some cure
will doubtless be effected. We should rather say that Legion, or the
Satanic School, was now pretty well extirpated and cast out, but next
to nothing introduced in its room; whereby the heart remains, for the
while, in a quiet but no comfortable state.

'At length, after so much roasting,' thus writes our Autobiographer,
'I was what you might name calcined. Pray only that it be not rather,
as is the more frequent issue, reduced to a _caput-mortuum_! But in
any case, by mere dint of practice, I had grown familiar with many
things. Wretchedness was still wretched; but I could now partly see
through it, and despise it. Which highest mortal, in this inane
Existence, had I not found a Shadow-hunter, or Shadow-hunted; and,
when I looked through his brave garnitures, miserable enough? Thy
wishes have all been sniffed aside, thought I: but what, had they even
been all granted! Did not the Boy Alexander weep because he had not
two Planets to conquer; or a whole Solar System; or after that, a
whole Universe? _Ach Gott_, when I gazed into these Stars, have they
not looked down on me as if with pity, from their serene spaces; like
Eyes glistening with heavenly tears over the little lot of man!
Thousands of human generations, all as noisy as our own, have been
swallowed-up of Time, and there remains no wreck of them any more; and
Arcturus and Orion and Sirius and the Pleiades are still shining in
their courses, clear and young, as when the Shepherd first noted them
in the plain of Shinar. Pshaw! what is this paltry little Dog-cage of
an Earth; what art thou that sittest whining there? Thou art still
Nothing, Nobody: true; but who, then, is Something, Somebody? For thee
the Family of Man has no use; it rejects thee; thou art wholly as a
dissevered limb: so be it; perhaps it is better so!'

Too-heavy-laden Teufelsdröckh! Yet surely his bands are loosening; one
day he will hurl the burden far from him, and bound forth free and
with a second youth.

'This,' says our Professor, 'was the CENTRE OF INDIFFERENCE I had now
reached; through which whoso travels from the Negative Pole to the
Positive must necessarily pass.'



'Temptations in the Wilderness!' exclaims Teufelsdröckh: 'Have we not
all to be tried with such? Not so easily can the old Adam, lodged in
us by birth, be dispossessed. Our Life is compassed round with
Necessity; yet is the meaning of Life itself no other than Freedom,
than Voluntary Force: thus have we a warfare; in the beginning,
especially, a hard-fought battle. For the God-given mandate, _Work
thou in Welldoing_, lies mysteriously written, in Promethean Prophetic
Characters, in our hearts; and leaves us no rest, night or day, till
it be deciphered and obeyed; till it burn forth, in our conduct, a
visible, acted Gospel of Freedom. And as the clay-given mandate, _Eat
thou and be filled_, at the same time persuasively proclaims itself
through every nerve, - must not there be a confusion, a contest, before
the better Influence can become the upper?

'To me nothing seems more natural than that the Son of Man, when such
God-given mandate first prophetically stirs within him, and the Clay
must now be vanquished, or vanquish, - should be carried of the spirit
into grim Solitudes, and there fronting the Tempter do grimmest battle
with him; defiantly setting him at naught, till he yield and fly. Name
it as we choose: with or without visible Devil, whether in the natural
Desert of rocks and sands, or in the populous moral Desert of
selfishness and baseness, - to such Temptation are we all called.
Unhappy if we are not! Unhappy if we are but Half-men, in whom that
divine handwriting has never blazed forth, all-subduing, in true
sun-splendour; but quivers dubiously amid meaner lights: or smoulders,
in dull pain, in darkness, under earthly vapours! - Our Wilderness is
the wide World in an Atheistic Century; our Forty Days are long years
of suffering and fasting: nevertheless, to these also comes an end.
Yes, to me also was given, if not Victory, yet the consciousness of
Battle, and the resolve to persevere therein while life or faculty is
left. To me also, entangled in the enchanted forests, demon-peopled,
doleful of sight and of sound, it was given, after weariest
wanderings, to work out my way into the higher sunlit slopes - of that
Mountain which has no summit, or whose summit is in Heaven only!'

He says elsewhere, under a less ambitious figure; as figures are, once
for all, natural to him: 'Has not thy Life been that of most
sufficient men (_tüchtigen Männer_) thou hast known in this
generation? An out-flush of foolish young Enthusiasm, like the first
fallow-crop, wherein are as many weeds as valuable herbs: this all
parched away, under the Droughts of practical and spiritual Unbelief,
as Disappointment, in thought and act, often-repeated gave rise to
Doubt, and Doubt gradually settled into Denial! If I have had a
second-crop, and now see the perennial greensward, and sit under
umbrageous cedars, which defy all Drought (and Doubt); herein too, be
the Heavens praised, I am not without examples, and even exemplars.'

So that, for Teufelsdröckh also, there has been a 'glorious
revolution': these mad shadow-hunting and shadow-hunted Pilgrimings of
his were but some purifying 'Temptation in the Wilderness,' before his
Apostolic work (such as it was) could begin; which Temptation is now
happily over, and the Devil once more worsted! Was 'that high moment
in the _Rue de l'Enfer_,' then, properly the turning-point of the
battle; when the Fiend said, _Worship me or be torn in shreds_; and
was answered valiantly with an _Apage Satana_? - Singular
Teufelsdröckh, would thou hadst told thy singular story in plain
words! But it is fruitless to look there, in those Paper-bags, for
such. Nothing but innuendoes, figurative crotchets: a typical Shadow,
fitfully wavering, prophetico-satiric; no clear logical Picture. 'How
paint to the sensual eye,' asks he once, 'what passes in the
Holy-of-Holies of Man's Soul; in what words, known to these profane
times, speak even afar-off of the unspeakable?' We ask in turn: Why
perplex these times, profane as they are, with needless obscurity, by
omission and by commission? Not mystical only is our Professor, but
whimsical; and involves himself, now more than ever, in
eye-bewildering _chiaroscuro_. Successive glimpses, here faithfully
imparted, our more gifted readers must endeavour to combine for their
own behoof.

He says: 'The hot Harmattan wind had raged itself out; its howl went
silent within me; and the long-deafened soul could now hear. I paused
in my wild wanderings; and sat me down to wait, and consider; for it
was as if the hour of change drew nigh. I seemed to surrender, to
renounce utterly, and say: Fly, then, false shadows of Hope; I will
chase you no more, I will believe you no more. And ye too, haggard
spectres of Fear, I care not for you; ye too are all shadows and a
lie. Let me rest here: for I am way-weary and life-weary; I will rest
here, were it but to die: to die or to live is alike to me; alike
insignificant.' - And again: 'Here, then, as I lay in that CENTRE OF
INDIFFERENCE; cast, doubtless by benignant upper Influence, into a
healing sleep, the heavy dreams rolled gradually away, and I awoke to
a new Heaven and a new Earth. The first preliminary moral Act,
Annihilation of Self (_Selbst-tödtung_), had been happily
accomplished; and my mind's eyes were now unsealed, and its hands

Might we not also conjecture that the following passage refers to his
Locality, during this same 'healing sleep'; that his Pilgrim-staff
lies cast aside here, on 'the high table-land'; and indeed that the
repose is already taking wholesome effect on him? If it were not that
the tone, in some parts, has more of riancy, even of levity, than we
could have expected! However, in Teufelsdröckh, there is always the
strangest Dualism: light dancing, with guitar-music, will be going on
in the fore-court, while by fits from within comes the faint
whimpering of woe and wail. We transcribe the piece entire:

'Beautiful it was to sit there, as in my skyey Tent, musing and
meditating; on the high table-land, in front of the Mountains; over
me, as roof, the azure Dome, and around me, for walls, four
azure-flowing curtains, - namely, of the Four azure winds, on whose
bottom-fringes also I have seen gilding. And then to fancy the fair
Castles that stood sheltered in these Mountain hollows; with their
green flower-lawns, and white dames and damosels, lovely enough: or
better still, the straw-roofed Cottages, wherein stood many a Mother
baking bread, with her children round her: - all hidden and
protectingly folded-up in the valley-folds; yet there and alive, as
sure as if I beheld them. Or to see, as well as fancy, the nine Towns
and Villages, that lay round my mountain-seat, which, in still
weather, were wont to speak to me (by their steeple-bells) with metal
tongue; and, in almost all weather, proclaimed their vitality by
repeated Smoke-clouds; whereon, as on a culinary horologe, I might
read the hour of the day. For it was the smoke of cookery, as kind
housewives at morning, midday, eventide, were boiling their husbands'
kettles; and ever a blue pillar rose up into the air, successively or
simultaneously, from each of the nine, saying, as plainly as smoke
could say: Such and such a meal is getting ready here. Not
uninteresting! For you have the whole Borough, with all its
love-makings and scandal-mongeries, contentions and contentments, as
in miniature, and could cover it all with your hat. - If, in my wide
Wayfarings, I had learned to look into the business of the World in
its details, here perhaps was the place for combining it into general
propositions, and deducing inferences therefrom.

'Often also could I see the black Tempest marching in anger through
the Distance: round some Schreckhorn, as yet grim-blue, would the
eddying vapour gather, and there tumultuously eddy, and flow down like
a mad witch's hair; till, after a space, it vanished, and, in the
clear sunbeam, your Schreckhorn stood smiling grim-white, for the
vapour had held snow. How thou fermentest and elaboratest, in thy
great fermenting-vat and laboratory of an Atmosphere, of a World, O
Nature! - Or what is Nature? Ha! why do I not name thee GOD? Art not
thou the "Living Garment of God"? O Heavens, is it, in very deed, HE,
then, that ever speaks through thee; that lives and loves in thee,
that lives and loves in me?

'Fore-shadows, call them rather fore-splendours, of that Truth, and
Beginning of Truths, fell mysteriously over my soul. Sweeter than
Dayspring to the Shipwrecked in Nova Zembla; ah, like the mother's
voice to her little child that strays bewildered, weeping, in unknown
tumults; like soft streamings of celestial music to my too-exasperated
heart, came that Evangel. The Universe is not dead and demoniacal, a
charnel-house with spectres; but godlike, and my Father's!

'With other eyes, too, could I now look upon my fellow man; with an
infinite Love, an infinite Pity. Poor, wandering, wayward man! Art
thou not tired, and beaten with stripes, even as I am? Ever, whether
thou bear the royal mantle or the beggar's gabardine, art thou not so
weary, so heavy-laden; and thy Bed of Rest is but a Grave. O my
Brother, my Brother, why cannot I shelter thee in my bosom, and wipe
away all tears from thy eyes! Truly, the din of many-voiced Life,
which, in this solitude, with the mind's organ, I could hear, was no
longer a maddening discord, but a melting one; like inarticulate
cries, and sobbings of a dumb creature, which in the ear of Heaven are
prayers. The poor Earth, with her poor joys, was now my needy Mother,
not my cruel Stepdame; Man, with his so mad Wants and so mean
Endeavours, had become the dearer to me; and even for his sufferings
and his sins, I now first named him Brother. Thus was I standing in
the porch of that "_Sanctuary of Sorrow_;" by strange, steep ways had
I too been guided thither; and ere long its sacred gates would open,
and the "_Divine Depth of Sorrow_" lie disclosed to me.'

The Professor says, he here first got eye on the Knot that had been
strangling him, and straightway could unfasten it, and was free. 'A
vain interminable controversy,' writes he, 'touching what is at
present called Origin of Evil, or some such thing, arises in every
soul, since the beginning of the world; and in every soul, that would
pass from idle Suffering into actual Endeavouring, must first be put
an end to. The most, in our time, have to go content with a simple,
incomplete enough Suppression of this controversy; to a few some
Solution of it is indispensable. In every new era, too, such Solution
comes-out in different terms; and ever the Solution of the last era
has become obsolete, and is found unserviceable. For it is man's
nature to change his Dialect from century to century; he cannot help
it though he would. The authentic _Church-Catechism_ of our present
century has not yet fallen into my hands: meanwhile, for my own
private behoof, I attempt to elucidate the matter so. Man's
Unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his Greatness; it is because
there is an Infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot
quite bury under the Finite. Will the whole Finance Ministers and
Upholsterers and Confectioners of modern Europe undertake, in
jointstock company, to make one Shoeblack HAPPY? They cannot
accomplish it, above an hour or two; for the Shoeblack also has a Soul
quite other than his Stomach; and would require, if you consider it,
for his permanent satisfaction and saturation, simply this allotment,
no more, and no less: _God's infinite Universe altogether to himself_,
therein to enjoy infinitely, and fill every wish as fast as it rose.
Oceans of Hochheimer, a Throat like that of Ophiuchus: speak not of
them; to the infinite Shoeblack they are as nothing. No sooner is your
ocean filled, than he grumbles that it might have been of better
vintage. Try him with half of a Universe, of an Omnipotence, he sets
to quarrelling with the proprietor of the other half, and declares
himself the most maltreated of men. - Always there is a black spot in
our sunshine: it is even as I said, the _Shadow of Ourselves_.

'But the whim we have of Happiness is somewhat thus. By certain
valuations, and averages, of our own striking, we come upon some sort
of average terrestrial lot; this we fancy belongs to us by nature, and
of indefeasible right. It is simple payment of our wages, of our
deserts; requires neither thanks nor complaint; only such _overplus_
as there may be do we account Happiness; any _deficit_ again is
Misery. Now consider that we have the valuation of our own deserts
ourselves, and what a fund of Self-conceit there is in each of us, - do
you wonder that the balance should so often dip the wrong way, and
many a Blockhead cry: See there, what a payment; was ever worthy
gentleman so used! - I tell thee, Blockhead, it all comes of thy
Vanity; of what thou _fanciest_ those same deserts of thine to be.
Fancy that thou deservest to be hanged (as is most likely), thou wilt
feel it happiness to be only shot: fancy that thou deservest to be
hanged in a hair-halter, it will be a luxury to die in hemp.

'So true is it, what I then say, that _the Fraction of Life can be
increased in value not so much by increasing your Numerator as by
lessening your Denominator_. Nay, unless my Algebra deceive me,
_Unity_ itself divided by _Zero_ will give _Infinity_. Make thy claim
of wages a zero, then; thou hast the world under thy feet. Well did
the Wisest of our time write: "It is only with Renunciation
(_Entsagen_) that Life, properly speaking, can be said to begin."

'I asked myself: What is this that, ever since earliest years, thou
hast been fretting and fuming, and lamenting and self-tormenting, on
account of? Say it in a word: is it not because thou art not HAPPY?
Because the THOU (sweet gentleman) is not sufficiently honoured,
nourished, soft-bedded, and lovingly cared for? Foolish soul! What Act
of Legislature was there that _thou_ shouldst be Happy? A little while
ago thou hadst no right to _be_ at all. What if thou wert born and
predestined not to be Happy, but to be Unhappy! Art thou nothing other
than a Vulture, then, that fliest through the Universe seeking after
somewhat to _eat_; and shrieking dolefully because carrion enough is
not given thee? Close thy _Byron_; open thy _Goethe_.'

'_Es leuchtet mir ein_, I see a glimpse of it!' cries he elsewhere:
'there is in man a HIGHER than Love of Happiness: he can do without
Happiness, and instead thereof find Blessedness! Was it not to
preach-forth this same HIGHER that sages and martyrs, the Poet and the
Priest, in all times, have spoken and suffered; bearing testimony,
through life and through death, of the Godlike that is in Man, and how
in the Godlike only has he Strength and Freedom? Which God-inspired
Doctrine art thou also honoured to be taught; O Heavens! and broken
with manifold merciful Afflictions, even till thou become contrite,
and learn it! O, thank thy Destiny for these; thankfully bear what yet
remain: thou hadst need of them; the Self in thee needed to be
annihilated. By benignant fever-paroxysms is Life rooting out the
deep-seated chronic Disease, and triumphs over Death. On the roaring
billows of Time, thou art not engulfed, but borne aloft into the azure
of Eternity. Love not Pleasure; love God. This is the EVERLASTING YEA,
wherein all contradiction is solved: wherein whoso walks and works, it
is well with him.'

And again: 'Small is it that thou canst trample the Earth with its
injuries under thy feet, as old Greek Zeno trained thee: thou canst
love the Earth while it injures thee, and even because it injures
thee; for this a Greater than Zeno was needed, and he too was sent.
Knowest thou that "_Worship of Sorrow_"? The Temple thereof, founded
some eighteen centuries ago, now lies in ruins, overgrown with jungle,
the habitation of doleful creatures: nevertheless, venture forward; in
a low crypt, arched out of falling fragments, thou findest the Altar
still there, and its sacred Lamp perennially burning.'

Without pretending to comment on which strange utterances, the Editor
will only remark, that there lies beside them much of a still more
questionable character; unsuited to the general apprehension; nay
wherein he himself does not see his way. Nebulous disquisitions on
Religion, yet not without bursts of splendour; on the 'perennial
continuance of Inspiration;' on Prophecy; that there are 'true
Priests, as well as Baal-Priests, in our own day:' with more of the
like sort. We select some fractions, by way of finish to this farrago.

'Cease, my much-respected Herr von Voltaire,' thus apostrophises the
Professor: 'shut thy sweet voice; for the task appointed thee seems
finished. Sufficiently hast thou demonstrated this proposition,
considerable or otherwise: That the Mythus of the Christian Religion
looks not in the eighteenth century as it did in the eighth. Alas,
were thy six-and-thirty quartos, and the six-and-thirty thousand other
quartos and folios, and flying sheets or reams, printed before and
since on the same subject, all needed to convince us of so little! But
what next? Wilt thou help us to embody the divine Spirit of that
Religion in a new Mythus, in a new vehicle and vesture, that our
Souls, otherwise too like perishing, may live? What! thou hast no
faculty in that kind? Only a torch for burning, no hammer for
building? Take our thanks, then, and - thyself away.

'Meanwhile what are antiquated Mythuses to me? Or is the God present,
felt in my own heart, a thing which Herr von Voltaire will dispute out
of me; or dispute into me? To the "_Worship of Sorrow_" ascribe what
origin and genesis thou pleasest, _has_ not that Worship originated,
and been generated; is it not _here_? Feel it in thy heart, and then
say whether it is of God! This is Belief; all else is Opinion, - for
which latter whoso will let him worry and be worried.'

'Neither,' observes he elsewhere, 'shall ye tear-out one another's
eyes, struggling over "Plenary Inspiration," and suchlike: try rather
to get a little even Partial Inspiration, each of you for himself. One
BIBLE I know, of whose Plenary Inspiration doubt is not so much as
possible; nay with my own eyes I saw the God's-Hand writing it:
thereof all other Bibles are but leaves, - say, in Picture-Writing to
assist the weaker faculty.'

Or, to give the wearied reader relief, and bring it to an end, let him
take the following perhaps more intelligible passage:

'To me, in this our life,' says the Professor, 'which is an
internecine warfare with the Time-spirit, other warfare seems
questionable. Hast thou in any way a Contention with thy brother, I
advise thee, think well what the meaning thereof is. If thou gauge it
to the bottom, it is simply this: "Fellow, see! thou art taking more
than thy share of Happiness in the world, something from _my_ share:
which, by the Heavens, thou shall not; nay I will fight thee
rather." - Alas, and the whole lot to be divided is such a beggarly
matter, truly a "feast of shells," for the substance has been spilled
out: not enough to quench one Appetite; and the collective human
species clutching at them! - Can we not, in all such cases, rather say:
"Take it, thou too-ravenous individual; take that pitiful additional
fraction of a share, which I reckoned mine, but which thou so wantest;
take it with a blessing: would to Heaven I had enough for thee!" - If
Fichte's _Wissenschaftslehre_ be, "to a certain extent, Applied
Christianity," surely to a still greater extent, so is this. We have
here not a Whole Duty of Man, yet a Half Duty, namely the Passive
half: could we but do it, as we can demonstrate it!

'But indeed Conviction, were it never so excellent, is worthless till
it convert itself into Conduct. Nay properly Conviction is not
possible till then; inasmuch as all Speculation is by nature endless,
formless, a vortex amid vortices: only by a felt indubitable certainty
of Experience does it find any centre to revolve round, and so fashion
itself into a system. Most true is it, as a wise man teaches us, that
"Doubt of any sort cannot be removed except by Action." On which
ground, too, let him who gropes painfully in darkness or uncertain
light, and prays vehemently that the dawn may ripen into day, lay this
other precept well to heart, which to me was of invaluable service:
"_Do the Duty which lies nearest thee_," which thou knowest to be a
Duty! Thy second Duty will already have become clearer.

'May we not say, however, that the hour of Spiritual Enfranchisement
is even this: When your Ideal World, wherein the whole man has been
dimly struggling and inexpressibly languishing to work, becomes
revealed, and thrown open; and you discover, with amazement enough,
like the Lothario in _Wilhelm Meister_, that your "America is here or
nowhere"? The Situation that has not its Duty, its Ideal, was never
yet occupied by man. Yes here, in this poor, miserable, hampered,
despicable Actual, wherein thou even now standest, here or nowhere is
thy Ideal: work it out therefrom; and working, believe, live, be free.
Fool! the Ideal is in thyself, the impediment too is in thyself: thy
Condition is but the stuff thou art to shape that same Ideal out of:

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 14 of 43)