Copyright
Thomas Carlyle.

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

. (page 17 of 43)
Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 17 of 43)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


listeth.

'Unspeakably touching is it, however, when I find both dignities
united; and he that must toil outwardly for the lowest of man's wants,
is also toiling inwardly for the highest. Sublimer in this world know
I nothing than a Peasant Saint, could such now anywhere be met with.
Such a one will take thee back to Nazareth itself; thou wilt see the
splendour of Heaven spring forth from the humblest depths of Earth,
like a light shining in great darkness.'

And again: 'It is not because of his toils that I lament for the poor:
we must all toil, or steal (howsoever we name our stealing), which is
worse; no faithful workman finds his task a pastime. The poor is
hungry and a-thirst; but for him also there is food and drink: he is
heavy-laden and weary; but for him also the Heavens send Sleep, and of
the deepest; in his smoky cribs, a clear dewy heaven of Rest envelops
him, and fitful glitterings of cloud-skirted Dreams. But what I do
mourn over is, that the lamp of his soul should go out; that no ray of
heavenly, or even of earthly knowledge, should visit him; but only, in
the haggard darkness, like two spectres, Fear and Indignation bear him
company. Alas, while the Body stands so broad and brawny, must the
soul lie blinded, dwarfed, stupefied, almost annihilated! Alas, was
this too a Breath of God; bestowed in Heaven, but on earth never to be
unfolded! - That there should one Man die ignorant who had capacity for
Knowledge, this I call a tragedy, were it to happen more than twenty
times in the minute, as by some computations it does. The miserable
fraction of Science which our united Mankind, in a wide Universe of
Nescience, has acquired, why is not this, with all diligence, imparted
to all?'

Quite in an opposite strain is the following: 'The old Spartans had a
wiser method; and went out and hunted-down their Helots, and speared
and spitted them, when they grew too numerous. With our improved
fashions of hunting, Herr Hofrath, now after the invention of
fire-arms, and standing-armies, how much easier were such a hunt!
Perhaps in the most thickly-peopled country, some three days annually
might suffice to shoot all the able-bodied Paupers that had
accumulated within the year. Let Governments think of this. The
expense were trifling: nay the very carcasses would pay it. Have them
salted and barrelled; could not you victual therewith, if not Army and
Navy, yet richly such infirm Paupers, in workhouses and elsewhere, as
enlightened Charity, dreading no evil of them, might see good to keep
alive?'

'And yet,' writes he farther on, 'there must be something wrong. A
full-formed Horse will, in any market, bring from twenty to as high as
two-hundred Friedrichs d'or: such is his worth to the world. A
full-formed Man is not only worth nothing to the world, but the world
could afford him a round sum would he simply engage to go and hang
himself. Nevertheless, which of the two was the more cunningly-devised
article, even as an Engine? Good Heavens! A white European Man,
standing on his two Legs, with his two five-fingered Hands at his
shackle-bones, and miraculous Head on his shoulders, is worth, I
should say, from fifty to a hundred Horses!'

'True, thou Gold-Hofrath,' cries the Professor elsewhere: 'too crowded
indeed! Meanwhile, what portion of this inconsiderable terraqueous
Globe have ye actually tilled and delved, till it will grow no more?
How thick stands your Population in the Pampas and Savannas of
America; round ancient Carthage, and in the interior of Africa; on
both slopes of the Altaic chain, in the central Platform of Asia; in
Spain, Greece, Turkey, Crim Tartary, the Curragh of Kildare? One man,
in one year, as I have understood it, if you lend him Earth, will feed
himself and nine others. Alas, where now are the Hengsts and Alarics
of our still-glowing, still-expanding Europe; who, when their home is
grown too narrow, will enlist, and, like Fire-pillars, guide onwards
those superfluous masses of indomitable living Valour; equipped, not
now with the battle-axe and war-chariot, but with the steam-engine and
ploughshare? Where are they? - Preserving their Game!'




CHAPTER V

THE PHOENIX


Putting which four singular Chapters together, and alongside of them
numerous hints, and even direct utterances, scattered over these
Writings of his, we come upon the startling yet not quite unlooked-for
conclusion, that Teufelsdröckh is one of those who consider Society,
properly so called, to be as good as extinct; and that only the
gregarious feelings, and old inherited habitudes, at this juncture,
hold us from Dispersion, and universal national, civil, domestic and
personal war! He says expressly: 'For the last three centuries, above
all for the last three quarters of a century, that same Pericardial
Nervous Tissue (as we named it) of Religion, where lies the
Life-essence of Society, has been smote-at and perforated, needfully
and needlessly; till now it is quite rent into shreds; and Society,
long pining, diabetic, consumptive, can be regarded as defunct; for
those spasmodic, galvanic sprawlings are not life; neither indeed will
they endure, galvanise as you may, beyond two days.'

'Call ye that a Society,' cries he again, 'where there is no longer
any Social Idea extant; not so much as the Idea of a common Home, but
only of a common over-crowded Lodging-house? Where each, isolated,
regardless of his neighbour, turned against his neighbour, clutches
what he can get, and cries "Mine!" and calls it Peace, because, in the
cut-purse and cut-throat Scramble, no steel knives, but only a far
cunninger sort, can be employed? Where Friendship, Communion, has
become an incredible tradition; and your holiest Sacramental Supper is
a smoking Tavern Dinner, with Cook for Evangelist? Where your Priest
has no tongue but for plate-licking: and your high Guides and
Governors cannot guide; but on all hands hear it passionately
proclaimed: _Laissez faire_; Leave us alone of _your_ guidance, such
light is darker than darkness; eat you your wages, and sleep!

'Thus, too,' continues he, 'does an observant eye discern everywhere
that saddest spectacle: The Poor perishing, like neglected, foundered
Draught-Cattle, of Hunger and Over-work; the Rich, still more
wretchedly, of Idleness, Satiety, and Over-growth. The Highest in
rank, at length, without honour from the Lowest; scarcely, with a
little mouth-honour, as from tavern-waiters who expect to put it in
the bill. Once-sacred Symbols fluttering as empty Pageants, whereof
men grudge even the expense; a World becoming dismantled: in one word,
the CHURCH fallen speechless, from obesity and apoplexy; the STATE
shrunken into a Police-Office, straitened to get its pay!'

We might ask, are there many 'observant eyes,' belonging to practical
men in England or elsewhere, which have descried these phenomena; or is
it only from the mystic elevation of a German _Wahngasse_ that such
wonders are visible? Teufelsdröckh contends that the aspect of a
'deceased or expiring Society' fronts us everywhere, so that whoso runs
may read. 'What, for example,' says he, 'is the universally-arrogated
Virtue, almost the sole remaining Catholic Virtue, of these days? For
some half century, it has been the thing you name "Independence."
Suspicion of "Servility," of reverence for Superiors, the very dogleech
is anxious to disavow. Fools! Were your Superiors worthy to govern, and
you worthy to obey, reverence for them were even your only possible
freedom. Independence, in all kinds, is rebellion; if unjust rebellion,
why parade it, and everywhere prescribe it?'

But what then? Are we returning, as Rousseau prayed, to the state of
Nature? 'The Soul Politic having departed,' says Teufelsdröckh, 'what
can follow but that the Body Politic be decently interred, to avoid
putrescence! Liberals, Economists, Utilitarians enough I see marching
with its bier, and chanting loud pæans, towards the funeral-pile,
where, amid wailings from some, and saturnalian revelries from the
most, the venerable Corpse is to be burnt. Or, in plain words, that
these men, Liberals, Utilitarians, or whatsoever they are called, will
ultimately carry their point, and dissever and destroy most existing
Institutions of Society, seems a thing which has some time ago ceased
to be doubtful.

'Do we not see a little subdivision of the grand Utilitarian Armament
come to light even in insulated England? A living nucleus, that will
attract and grow, does at length appear there also; and under curious
phasis; properly as the inconsiderable fag-end, and so far in the rear
of the others as to fancy itself the van. Our European Mechanisers are
a sect of boundless diffusion, activity, and co-operative spirit: has
not Utilitarianism flourished in high places of Thought, here among
ourselves, and in every European country, at some time or other,
within the last fifty years? If now in all countries, except perhaps
England, it has ceased to flourish, or indeed to exist, among
Thinkers, and sunk to Journalists and the popular mass, - who sees not
that, as hereby it no longer preaches, so the reason is, it now needs
no Preaching, but is in full universal Action, the doctrine everywhere
known, and enthusiastically laid to heart? The fit pabulum, in these
times, for a certain rugged workshop intellect and heart, nowise
without their corresponding workshop strength and ferocity, it
requires but to be stated in such scenes to make proselytes
enough. - Admirably calculated for destroying, only not for rebuilding!
It spreads like a sort of Dog-madness; till the whole World-kennel
will be rabid: then woe to the Huntsmen, with or without their whips!
They should have given the quadrupeds water,' adds he; 'the water,
namely, of Knowledge and of Life, while it was yet time.'

Thus, if Professor Teufelsdröckh can be relied on, we are at this hour
in a most critical condition; beleaguered by that boundless 'Armament
of Mechanisers' and Unbelievers, threatening to strip us bare! 'The
world,' says he, 'as it needs must, is under a process of devastation
and waste, which, whether by silent assiduous corrosion, or open
quicker combustion, as the case chances, will effectually enough
annihilate the past Forms of Society; replace them with what it may.
For the present, it is contemplated that when man's whole Spiritual
Interests are once _divested_, these innumerable stript-off Garments
shall mostly be burnt; but the sounder Rags among them be quilted
together into one huge Irish watchcoat for the defence of the Body
only!' - This, we think, is but Job's-news to the humane reader.

'Nevertheless,' cries Teufelsdröckh, 'who can hinder it; who is there
that can clutch into the wheel-spokes of Destiny, and say to the
Spirit of the Time: Turn back, I command thee? - Wiser were it that we
yielded to the Inevitable and Inexorable, and accounted even this the
best.'

Nay, might not an attentive Editor, drawing his own inferences from
what stands written, conjecture that Teufelsdröckh individually had
yielded to this same 'Inevitable and Inexorable' heartily enough; and
now sat waiting the issue, with his natural diabolico-angelical
Indifference, if not even Placidity? Did we not hear him complain that
the World was a 'huge Ragfair,' and the 'rags and tatters of old
Symbols' were raining-down everywhere, like to drift him in, and
suffocate him? What with those 'unhunted Helots' of his; and the
uneven _sic-vos-non-vobis_ pressure and hard-crashing collision he is
pleased to discern in existing things; what with the so hateful 'empty
Masks,' full of beetles and spiders, yet glaring out on him, from
their glass eyes, 'with a ghastly affectation of life,' - we feel
entitled to conclude him even willing that much should be thrown to
the Devil, so it were but done gently! Safe himself in that 'Pinnacle
of Weissnichtwo,' he would consent, with a tragic solemnity, that the
monster UTILITARIA, held back, indeed, and moderated by nose-rings,
halters, foot-shackles, and every conceivable modification of rope,
should go forth to do her work; - to tread down old ruinous Palaces
and Temples with her broad hoof, till the whole were trodden down,
that new and better might be built! Remarkable in this point of view
are the following sentences.

'Society,' says he, 'is not dead: that Carcass, which you call dead
Society, is but her mortal coil which she has shuffled off, to assume
a nobler; she herself, through perpetual metamorphoses, in fairer and
fairer development, has to live till Time also merge in Eternity.
Wheresoever two or three Living Men are gathered together, there is
Society; or there it will be, with its cunning mechanisms and
stupendous structures, overspreading this little Globe, and reaching
upwards to Heaven and downwards to Gehenna: for always, under one or
the other figure, it has two authentic Revelations, of a God and of a
Devil; the Pulpit, namely, and the Gallows.'

Indeed, we already heard him speak of 'Religion, in unnoticed nooks,
weaving for herself new Vestures'; - Teufelsdröckh himself being one of
the loom-treadles? Elsewhere he quotes without censure that strange
aphorism of Saint-Simon's, concerning which and whom so much were to
be said: _L'âge d'or, qu'une aveugle tradition a placé jusqu'ici dans
le passé, est devant nous_; The golden age, which a blind tradition
has hitherto placed in the Past, is Before us.' - But listen again:

'When the Phoenix is fanning her funeral pyre, will there not be
sparks flying! Alas, some millions of men, and among them such as a
Napoleon, have already been licked into that high-eddying Flame, and
like moths consumed there. Still also have we to fear that incautious
beards will get singed.

'For the rest, in what year of grace such Phoenix-cremation will be
completed, you need not ask. The law of Perseverance is among the
deepest in man: by nature he hates change; seldom will he quit his old
house till it has actually fallen about his ears. Thus have I seen
Solemnities linger as Ceremonies, sacred Symbols as idle-Pageants, to
the extent of three-hundred years and more after all life and
sacredness had evaporated out of them. And then, finally, what time
the Phoenix Death-Birth itself will require, depends on unseen
contingencies. - Meanwhile, would Destiny offer Mankind, that after,
say two centuries of convulsion and conflagration, more or less vivid,
the fire-creation should be accomplished, and we too find ourselves
again in a Living Society, and no longer fighting but working, - were
it not perhaps prudent in Mankind to strike the bargain?'

Thus is Teufelsdröckh content that old sick Society should be
deliberately burnt (alas! with quite other fuel than spicewood); in
the faith that she is a Phoenix; and that a new heaven-born young one
will rise out of her ashes! We ourselves, restricted to the duty of
Indicator, shall forbear commentary. Meanwhile, will not the judicious
reader shake his head, and reproachfully, yet more in sorrow than in
anger, say or think: From a _Doctor utriusque Juris_, titular
Professor in a University, and man to whom hitherto, for his services,
Society, bad as she is, has given not only food and raiment (of a
kind), but books, tobacco and gukguk, we expected more gratitude to
his benefactress; and less of a blind trust in the future, which
resembles that rather of a philosophical Fatalist and Enthusiast, than
of a solid householder paying scot-and-lot in a Christian country.




CHAPTER VI

OLD CLOTHES


As mentioned above, Teufelsdröckh, though a sansculottist, is in
practice probably the politest man extant: his whole heart and life
are penetrated and informed with the spirit of politeness; a noble
natural Courtesy shines through him, beautifying his vagaries; like
sunlight, making a rosy-fingered, rainbow-dyed Aurora out of mere
aqueous clouds; nay brightening London-smoke itself into gold vapour,
as from the crucible of an alchemist. Hear in what earnest though
fantastic wise he expresses himself on this head:

'Shall Courtesy be done only to the rich, and only by the rich? In
Good-breeding, which differs, if at all, from High-breeding, only as
it gracefully remembers the rights of others, rather than gracefully
insists on its own rights, I discern no special connexion with wealth
or birth: but rather that it lies in human nature itself, and is due
from all men towards all men. Of a truth, were your Schoolmaster at
his post, and worth anything when there, this, with so much else,
would be reformed. Nay, each man were then also his neighbour's
schoolmaster; till at length a rude-visaged, unmannered Peasant could
no more be met with, than a Peasant unacquainted with botanical
Physiology, or who felt not that the clod he broke was created in
Heaven.

'For whether thou bear a sceptre or a sledgehammer, art thou not
ALIVE; is not this thy brother ALIVE? "There is but one temple in the
world," says Novalis, "and that temple is the Body of Man. Nothing is
holier than this high Form. Bending before men is a reverence done to
this Revelation in the Flesh. We touch Heaven, when we lay our hands
on a human Body."

'On which ground, I would fain carry it farther than most do; and
whereas the English Johnson only bowed to every Clergyman, or man with
a shovel-hat, I would bow to every Man with any sort of hat, or with
no hat whatever. Is not he a Temple, then; the visible Manifestation
and Impersonation of the Divinity? And yet, alas, such indiscriminate
bowing serves not. For there is a Devil dwells in man, as well as a
Divinity; and too often the bow is but pocketed by the _former_. It
would go to the pocket of Vanity (which is your clearest phasis of the
Devil, in these times); therefore must we withhold it.

'The gladder am I, on the other hand, to do reverence to those Shells
and outer Husks of the Body, wherein no devilish passion any longer
lodges, but only the pure emblem and effigies of Man: I mean, to
Empty, or even to Cast Clothes. Nay, is it not to Clothes that most
men do reverence: to the fine frogged broadcloth, nowise to the
"straddling animal with bandy legs" which it holds, and makes a
Dignitary of? Who ever saw any Lord my-lorded in tattered blanket
fastened with wooden skewer? Nevertheless, I say, there is in such
worship a shade of hypocrisy, a practical deception: for how often
does the Body appropriate what was meant for the Cloth only! Whoso
would avoid falsehood, which is the essence of all Sin, will perhaps
see good to take a different course. That reverence which cannot act
without obstruction and perversion when the Clothes are full, may have
free course when they are empty. Even as, for Hindoo Worshippers, the
Pagoda is not less sacred than the God; so do I too worship the hollow
cloth Garment with equal fervour, as when it contained the Man: nay,
with more, for I now fear no deception, of myself or of others.

'Did not King _Toomtabard_, or, in other words, John Baliol, reign
long over Scotland; the man John Baliol being quite gone, and only the
"Toom Tabard" (Empty Gown) remaining? What still dignity dwells in a
suit of Cast Clothes! How meekly it bears its honours! No haughty
looks, no scornful gesture: silent and serene, it fronts the world;
neither demanding worship, nor afraid to miss it. The Hat still
carries the physiognomy of its Head: but the vanity and the stupidity,
and goose-speech which was the sign of these two, are gone. The
Coat-arm is stretched out, but not to strike; the Breeches, in modest
simplicity, depend at ease, and now at last have a graceful flow; the
Waistcoat hides no evil passion, no riotous desire; hunger or thirst
now dwells not in it. Thus all is purged from the grossness of sense,
from the carking cares and foul vices of the World; and rides there,
on its Clothes-horse; as, on a Pegasus, might some skyey Messenger, or
purified Apparition, visiting our low Earth.

'Often, while I sojourned in that monstrous tuberosity of Civilised
Life, the Capital of England; and meditated, and questioned Destiny,
under that ink-sea of vapour, black, thick, and multifarious as
Spartan broth; and was one lone soul amid those grinding
millions; - often have I turned into their Old-Clothes Market to
worship. With awe-struck heart I walk through that Monmouth Street,
with its empty Suits, as through a Sanhedrim of stainless Ghosts.
Silent are they, but expressive in their silence: the past witnesses
and instruments of Woe and Joy, of Passions, Virtues, Crimes, and all
the fathomless tumult of Good and Evil in "the Prison men call Life."
Friends! trust not the heart of that man for whom Old Clothes are not
venerable. Watch, too, with reverence, that bearded Jewish
High-priest, who with hoarse voice, like some Angel of Doom, summons
them from the four winds! On his head, like the Pope, he has three
Hats, - a real triple tiara; on either hand are the similitude of
wings, whereon the summoned Garments come to alight; and ever, as he
slowly cleaves the air, sounds forth his deep fateful note, as if
through a trumpet he were proclaiming: "Ghosts of Life, come to
Judgment!" Reck not, ye fluttering Ghosts: he will purify you in his
Purgatory, with fire and with water; and, one day, new-created ye
shall reappear. O, let him in whom the flame of Devotion is ready to
go out, who has never worshipped, and knows not what to worship, pace
and repace, with austerest thought, the pavement of Monmouth Street,
and say whether his heart and his eyes still continue dry. If Field
Lane, with its long fluttering rows of yellow handkerchiefs, be a
Dionysius' Ear, where, in stifled jarring hubbub, we hear the
Indictment which Poverty and Vice bring against lazy Wealth, that it
has left them there cast-out and trodden under foot of Want, Darkness
and the Devil, - then is Monmouth Street a Mirza's Hill, where, in
motley vision, the whole Pageant of Existence passes awfully before
us; with its wail and jubilee, mad loves and mad hatreds, church-bells
and gallows-ropes, farce-tragedy, beast-godhood, - the Bedlam of
Creation!'

* * * * *

To most men, as it does to ourselves, all this will seem overcharged.
We too have walked through Monmouth Street; but with little feeling of
'Devotion': probably in part because the contemplative process is so
fatally broken in upon by the brood of money-changers who nestle in that
Church, and importune the worshipper with merely secular proposals.
Whereas Teufelsdröckh might be in that happy middle state, which
leaves to the Clothes-broker no hope either of sale or of purchase,
and so be allowed to linger there without molestation. - Something we
would have given to see the little philosophical figure, with its
steeple-hat and loose flowing skirts, and eyes in a fine frenzy,
'pacing and repacing in austerest thought' that foolish Street; which
to him was a true Delphic avenue, and supernatural Whispering-gallery,
where the 'Ghosts of Life' rounded strange secrets in his ear. O thou
philosophic Teufelsdröckh, that listenest while others only gabble,
and with thy quick tympanum hearest the grass grow!

At the same time, is it not strange that, in Paper-bag Documents
destined for an English work, there exists nothing like an authentic
diary of this his sojourn in London; and of his Meditations among the
Clothes-shops only the obscurest emblematic shadows? Neither, in
conversation (for, indeed, he was not a man to pester you with his
Travels), have we heard him more than allude to the subject.

For the rest, however, it cannot be uninteresting that we here find
how early the significance of Clothes had dawned on the now so
distinguished Clothes-Professor. Might we but fancy it to have been
even in Monmouth Street, at the bottom of our own English 'ink-sea,'
that this remarkable Volume first took being, and shot forth its
salient point in his soul, - as in Chaos did the Egg of Eros, one day
to be hatched into a Universe!




CHAPTER VII

ORGANIC FILAMENTS


For us, who happen to live while the World-Phoenix is burning herself,
and burning so slowly that, as Teufelsdröckh calculates, it were a
handsome bargain would she engage to have done 'within two centuries,'
there seems to lie but an ashy prospect. Not altogether so, however,
does the Professor figure it. 'In the living subject,' says he,
'change is wont to be gradual: thus, while the serpent sheds its old
skin, the new is already formed beneath. Little knowest thou of the
burning of a World-Phoenix, who fanciest that she must first burn-out,
and lie as a dead cinereous heap; and therefrom the young one start-up



Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 17 of 43)