« PreviousContinue »
pany," said I. "Is there among the living one more worthy than thy excellent wife, with the two Amorettas, or among the dead, any more honorable than these here?"
"Didst thou, then, doubt my good taste?"
No, indeed, Olivier; but I heard that thou hadst completely retired from the world."
Only because I love good company, which is nowhere more scarce than in the assemblages of people of ton."
"Still thou willst grant that it is possible that good company may be found out of Flyeln!”
Certainly, Norbert, but I will not waste time and money in going to find it. Let us, however, break off from this. You Europeans have so frightfully departed from the holy simplicity of nature, both in great things and smallfor more than a thousand years have so much resembled sophisticated brutes, that the unnatural has become your nature, and you no longer comprehend a plain man. You are such corruptors of the human race, that a healthy being must dread to be among you. No, thou noble Norbert, let us break off from it. Thou wouldst not readily understand me if I spoke. I value thee-I love thee-I pity thee." "Pity? Why?"
"Since thou livest among fools, and, against thy conscience, must remain among them."
From these words of Olivier's, I inferred that he had gone over to his fixed idea. It was uncomfortable to me to be with him. I wished to draw him to some other subject, looked anxiously around, and began, as I happened to remark his beard, to praise it, and especially as it was so becoming. "Since when hast thou suffered it to grow," asked I.
"Since I returned to my senses, and had courage enough to be reasonable. Does it really please thee, Norbert? Why not wear thine own so, too?"
I drew my breath, and said, "If it were the common custom, I would with pleasure."
"That's it! While Folly is the fashion-while Nature, with an ugly barber's knife upon the chin, must be rooted out with brush and razor-thou hast not the courage to be reasonable, even in a small matter. This ornament of man, mother Nature has not
given in vain, any more than she has the hair on the head. But man, in his foolishness, imagines himself wiser than the Creator, and first smears his chin with soap, and then slicks it with a knife. So long as the nations had not altogether departed from Nature, they stuck to the beard. Notwithstanding Christ and the Apostles wore it, Pope Gregory VII. put it under ban. And still the clergy held to it for a long while, as do the Capucins at this day; but when some old fools began to be ashamed of their grey hairs, they went on to destroy that on their chins, and to confine that on their heads in a peruke. As they had been accustomed to belie themselves in all things, they sought to belie their age. Old men frisked about with blond hair and smooth chins, like young girls, and that made them effeminate in disposition; and other men followed the example, since they had no courage for the truth. Compare the heroic form of an Achilles, Alexander, or Julius Cæsar, with one of our modern FieldMarshals or Lieutenants in their untasteful uniforms; one of our exquisites, with his neckcloth and walking-stick, with an Antinous; thyself, O Councilman of Norbert, with a Senator of old Greece or Rome-must we not laugh to split our sides over the caricatures that we are."
"Thou art right, Olivier!" said I, interposing," who will deny that the old Roman or Greek dress is more graceful than ours? But to us in the North-we Europeans--a close dress is proper and needful; we should feel somewhat uncomfortable in the beau tiful flowing robes of an Oriental or a Southron."
"Look at me, Norbert," said Olivier, laughing, as he placed himself before me, drew his cap upon one side of his head, stuck his left arm jauntily on his hip, and continued, "I, a Northlander, in my close, convenient, and simple dress, do I compare unfavorably with an old Roman citizen? Why does the Spanish, Italian, and German costume of the middle ages still please us? Because it was beautiful. An Austrian knight, in his helmet, even a hussar, would even now catch the eye of Ju lius Cæsar. Wherefore, you stiff gentlemen, do you not follow after your betters, as our women have already begun to do, since they have cast aside
trains and powdered toupees? Should you come to be ashamed once, of being caricatures externally, perhaps you would then come nearer to nature internally. There is some truth in the proverb, Cloth makes the man.' And I tell thee, Norbert, my Amelia has found me handsomer, since I have only cropped my beard with the shears, and not destroyed it; yes, I believe since that time, her affections have grown more ardent, as her cheeks lean no more on a soft woman-face, but upon a man's; for the women ever like a manly man."
As Olivier spoke, he was quite excited. In fact he stood before me as a hero of the earlier times, as if one of the old pictures had stepped out from its frame alive, as a being of that different world, which we wonder at, but
"Really, thou almost convertest me to the noble beard," said I to him, " and I should profit by it, if thou didst, since three times every week I should escape the torture of the barber."
"Friend," exclaimed Olivier, laughing, "it would not stop with that. The beard draws many things after it. Fancy thy figure, with its crisp beard, and the three-cornered peaked hat on the head, like a Jew-the powdered pate, with a ratstail in the neck-and the French frock, with skirts that stick out behind, like a swallow's tail! Away with the nonsense! Clothe thyself modestly, becomingly, warmly, comfortably, in good taste, so as to please the eye, but not to distort the sublime form of man. Banish all superfluity. For what is superfluous is unreasonable, and what is unreasonable is against nature."
As we continued our dispute on this point, the Baroness sent a servant to call us to dinner. I followed Olivier silently, with my head full of thoughts which I did not dare to utter. In my whole life, it had never happened to me to hear so philosophical a fool. I was hardly prepared to make a reply to his remarks on European habiliments; for what he said seemed to be right. The old saying is not without use, that Fools and children speak
old Romans and the Homeric Greeks I was troubled, on my return to the castle, as to his dinner. For to infer from his cap, beard, and appearance, in other respects, I could hardly do otherwise than expect a deportment at table which would be highly uncom fortable to me that I should be obliged to take my soup either stretched out in the Roman fashion upon couches, or tailor-wise, and in good Oriental fashion, with my legs crossed under each other.
The amiable Baroness met us and conducted us into the dining-room. My anxiety was removed as soon as I caught sight of European tables and chairs. The guests soon arrived; they were the maid, the servant, and the secretary of the Baron. An active young chambermaid remained without a seat, and waited, as a Hebe, at the feasts of the Patriarchs. The Baron, before we sat down, briefly said grace. Then began the work of mastication. The food was excellently prepared, but in a simple style. I remarked that, except the wine, all the dainties were specimens of their own country and of the neighboring sea; and all the foreign spices were wanting, even pepper, in the place of which there were salt, cummin, and fennel.
The conversation was quiet, but sociable, and related chiefly to rural affairs, and the events of the immediate neighborhood. The people behaved themselves in the presence of their master, neither bashfully nor immodestly, but with great circumspection.
I seemed to myself among these goodlooking and bearded men, with their brotherly and respectful thou, I must say it, somewhat odd and ludicrous, and I sat there, with my powdered head, stiff pigtail, French frock, and smooth chin-there, in the midst of Europeas if in a strange world. It pleased me that, as different as I was from them, and as often as between the thous, especially when speaking with the Baroness, I slipped in a You, yet no one burst into a laugh.
After a half hour the servants left us, and we then protracted the feast, and, under the influence of the old golden Rhine wine, grew unreserved in conversation.
"I perceive," said the Baroness, laughing, while she placed before me a
Because of Olivier's liking for the choice bit of pastry, "that thou missest
in Flyeln the Hamburg or Berlin cooking."
And I perceive by my amiable friend, that the praise-so much deserved-of Flyeln cooking, is due from me, which I can pay, at the cost of the Berlin and Hamburgh kitchens, without being obliged to borrow any flattery. No, I have learned for the first time in my life, how luxurious a feast can be dished up from our own domestic products, and how easily we may dispense with the Moluccas.'
"Add to that, friend Norbert," said Olivier, "and with the Moluccas, the torture of the nerves, and those foreign vices which spring from irritated or exhausted nerves in a sickly body.
"Without healthy flesh and blood, Neither mind nor heart are good."
"The most of Europeans are at this day self-murderers-murderers of soul and of body-by means of cookery. What your Rousseaus and Pestalozzis correct, you destroy again with coffee, tea, pepper, nutmegs, and cinnamon. Live simply, live naturally, and twothirds of your preachments, books of morals, houses of correction, and apothecaries, might be spared."
"I grant it," said Ì, "but that was long since settled; yet-"
"Well then," cried he, "even in that consists the irredeemable foolishness of the Europeans. They know the better way and avoid it; they abominate the worse and pursue it. They poison their meats, and drink with dear poisons, and keep doctors and apothecaries to restore them to health, in order to renew the poison ing. They foster a premature ripeness in their young men and maidens, and afterwards mourn inconsolably over their ungovernable impulses. They incite, by means of laws and rewards, to the corruption of manners, and then punish it with the gibbet and sword. Are they not altogether like idiots?" But, dear Olivier, that has been so from the earliest times!"
Yes, Norbert, from the earliest times-that is, as soon and as often as men passed a single step from Nature towards barbarism. But we should be warned by the sufferings of our ancestors, to be not only as wise, but more wise than they. Otherwise, of what use is knowledge? Him I regard as
the wisest man, who, to the innocence and purity of a child of Nature, joins the manifold knowledge and endowments of the age. Dost thou concede this?"
"Why should I not?"
Well, thou dost grant this; yet thou makest not even a beginning of improvement in thy house and inward state."
"That is still probable in certain circumstances. Meanwhile, let me tell thee, Olivier, that we artificial men, as well as the more simple men of Nature, are bound by the hard-tobe broken bands of custom. Our fictitious being becomes itself a kind of Art-Nature, which cannot suddenly be laid aside with impunity."
Formerly I thought the same Norbert. I have been persuaded to the contrary by experience. It costs only a single heavy moment-a strong heart; the first struggle against the frenzy of mankind will break through all to happiness and quiet. I hesitated long: I contended long in vain. A mere accident decided, and that decided my own fortune and the fortune of my chosen friends."
"And that accident, tell it to me quick," said I, for I was curious to learn what had worked so powerfully upon the determination and understanding of my friend as to draw him over to such odd caprices, and such fanciful life and conduct.
He stood up and left us.
"Not so, friend Norbert," said the Baroness, while she looked at me silently for some time; and there lay in the soft smile of her eyes a question that went to my heart, Thou feelest pity for my husband?"
"Only for the unfortunate, and not for the happy do we have pity," answered I with an evasion.
"Perhaps thou knowest, he is abandoned by his relatives, scorned by his acquaintances, and regarded by all the world as a crazy man.'
"Amiable friend, perhaps subtracting somewhat that appears an exaggeration to me, which with more prudent circumspection might be avoided, in order not to give offence-subtracting this, I find nothing in Olivier which is worth condemnation or disdain. Yet I know much too little of him."
"Dear friend," she continued, "and dost thou not regard public opinion ?”
"Not at least so far as it concerns Olivier," replied I, "for I know how public opinion once condemned the Innocent One to the cross: that public opinion calls the destroyers of the people, great; that it holds wisdom as foolishness; and adorns the high priest of folly and wickedness with the surname of Most Holy,"
"I rejoice," said the Baroness with animation, "that thou wilt win the love of Olivier; thou art a noble man, worthy of his friendship. Believe me, Olivier is an angel, and yet they thrust him out of human society, as a criminal or a bedlamite."
As we thus conversed with each other, Olivier returned to us. He carried in his hand a little book. He threw himself into a chair and said, "See here the accident, or the heavenprovided means of my restoration from weakness, and of my awaking from delirium. It is an unnoted book; the composer unknown and unnamed; it says many common and every-day things, but now and then you meet with an unexpected flash of light. I found it one day in the garrison, on the table of an acquaintance, and took it with me, that I might at all events have something to read when I walked a little on the greensward beyond the town-gate. As I lay once in the broad shadow of a maple, thoughtful of the many perversities of life, the book opened, and there fell out an extract with this superscription:-" Fragment from the Voyage of Young Pythias to "Thule."
Let us hear," said I, "what the old Greek of Massilia can relate of us at the North. It should be, I think, coeyal with Aristotle." He read:
their heated houses an artificial summer. And since they are repelled by Nature, and turned upon themselves, they are more driven than we, to occupy their which they never prosecute, and the inminds with vain dreams, beautiful schemes vestigation of whatever is remarkable. By that means, they are full of knowledge,
and learned in all things which serve for instruction or happiness; and they write great books about matters that we do not care for, and the names of which are hardly known to us. Indeed, for that purpose they institute schools and colleges.
"But the weather, in the northerly parts of the world, is so ordered that heat and cold, day and night, pass from one to the other, without any middle state that is tolerable to the soul or body. For in summer they suffer under as great a heat as they do in winter under deadly cold; one half of the year the day is eighteen hours long, and the other half only six. No less undecided and dissolute are theminds of men-as changeable as the weather. They lack all steadfastness of thought or purpose. From year to year they have new fashions in dress, new schools of poetry, and new sects of philosophers. Those who yesterday overthrew tyranny-having praised the blessedness of freedom with their lips, and tasted its sweets in their lives-on the morrow voluntarily return to servitude.
"So among these barbarians, there is the greatest inequality in all things. A portion of the people, consisting of a few families, possess every comfort and unlimited wealth, and riot in excess; but the majority are poor, and mostly dependent upon the favor of the great. Thus, too, certain individuals are in possession of the treasures of knowledge, but the greater part of the inhabitants live in the darkness of ignorance. The nobility and priests not barely tolerate such ignorance before their eyes, but they keep the multitude in it, who would not incline to it, but for their poverty and indolence. Hence it is, that the rabble of every nation love the customary knowledge of their forefathers in all usages and arrangements relating to the mind, while only in affairs of corporeal gratification are they inclined to variety. Still, they approve any novelty be it right or wrong, if it brings them money or household distinction. For gold and ardent spirits among barbarians, prevail over custom, honor, and the fear of God;
"Fragment from the Voyage of Young Pythias to Thule. (From the Greek.)
But I tell you the truth, my friend, as incredible as it may appear. Think, that in the rough country of the North, Nature itself repels men by its ungenial rigor, and forces them to resort to many contrivances to render life endurable. These we do not need in our country, where Nature is bountiful to mortals, and we live winter and summer in the open air, procuring without trouble what is useful to the prolonging and pleasure of existence. But those, who for half the ear groan under the severity of winter, must consider how they may create in
"Among the inhabitants of Thule, freedom is unknown, and so much of it as they may have had in former times, has been taken away from them by the force or fraud of the great. They are governed by kings, who give themselves out as the
sons of God, and the kings and their satraps are governed as much by mistresses and sweethearts as by their counsellors. The people are divided into castes as in India or Egypt. To the first class belongs the king and his children alone. To the second belong the great, whose children in the army and state, as well as around the altars of God, choose the best offices, without regard to their own worthiness. What is incredible to us, is a custom among these barbarians, with whom rank or birth is more thought of than all other qualifications. In the third class, dwell inferior officers, mechanics, merchants, common soldiers, artists, learned men and ordinary priests. In the fourth class, are servants or slaves, who can be sold or given away like other cattle. With some people, who have partly thrown off their primitive rudeness, the fourth and last class is wanting; there are some, also, where good princes, who recognize the power of their nobility, make no laws but with the concurrence of a senate, selected from the several classes of inhabitants.
The kings in the countries of Thule, live in perpetual enmity with each other. The weak are only safe through the mutual envy of the strong. But when the strong throw aside their jealousies, they make war upon the weaker states on the most trivial pretences, and divide them among themselves. Hence they cause the title of the Righteous to be added to them, the Fathers of the country or heroes, since such vain surnames are everywhere, and especially among barbarians, much esteemed. But as often as the lower classes in any land, make use of their proper discernment, to resist the preposterous claims of the higher classes, they put aside the princes and nobles for their own contests, and unite in the establishment of order upon new foundations, often in a disinterested manner. Such a war is always looked upon among barbarians as holy, since they believe that kings and the arrangement of ranks are disposed by God himself.
"Of the public disbursements, that for the maintenance of the splendor of the court is the greatest, and next to that is the expense of the army,-even in peace the most weighty. For the instruction of the people, for agriculture and all that concerns the happiness of men, the least is given. In most of the countries of Thule, where the working classes have the greatest number of duties and the fewest rights, they must by means of taxes satisfy almost wholly the expense and necessity of the common existence.
same, and all boast that their dogmas have one and the same author. But their modes of worship are manifold, as well as their opinions concerning the person of the founder of their religion. On this account, the sects hate each other with the most perfect hatred. They persecute and scorn each other. Among the whole of them there is to be found much superstition which the priests encourage. Of the Supreme Being they have the most unworthy notions, for they ascribe to him even human vices. And when kings lead their people to war against each other, the priests are appointed on both sides, to call upon the Supreme Being to destroy the enemy. After a battle has been fought, they thank the Supreme Being, that he has ordained their adversaries to destruction.
"As far as their religion is concerned, they all affirm, that it is one and the
"Their books of history hardly deserve to be read; for they contain commonly no account of the nation, only of the kings and their advisers,-of successions, wars, and acts of violence. The names of useful inventors and benefactors are not reported, but the names of devastating generals are advanced before all, as they were the benefactors of the human race. The histories of these people also, inasmuch as their manners differ from ours, are hard to be understood. For with them, there is not at all times, nor at any particular time under all circumstances, the same conception of honor or virtue. In the higher classes, incontinence, adultery, dissipation, gaming, and the abuse of power, are deemed praiseworthy, or appear as amiable weaknesses, which in the lower classes are punished, as vices and crimes, with death and the dungeon. Against fraud and theft, the law has ordained its severest penalties; but if a great man cheats the government by his ingenuity, and enriches himself at the cost of his prince, he is frequently advanced to higher honors, or dismissed with marks of favor. Like as it is in virtue and vice, so is it in regard to honor. The members of the higher classes require no other honor than birth to deserve preference; the least in the lower classes can but seldom, by means of virtue, equal the consequence of these favorites of chance. But the honor which consists in the accident of birth, can also easily be annihilated by a simple abusive word. Still more odd is the mode of making reparation. He who has lost his honor by a word, and he by whom it has been lost, meet in arms after a prescribed form, like two lunatics, and seek to wound each other. As soon as a wound or death is brought about, no matter to which of the two, they believe sincerely, that there honor is again restored,
"Above all things these barbarians