Chapter XIX The pilgrim examines the governing class
The divers rank of notables
We then entered another street where I saw on all sides a great number of high and low seats, and heard the occupants addressed as the honorable constable, the honorable mayor, the honorable burgomaster, the honorable magistrate, the honorable regent, his lordship the burgrave, his lordship the chancellor, his lordship the viceregent, the honorable judges, his grace the king, or the count, or the lord, and so forth.
“Here you see men who pass judgements and sentences in lawsuits, punishing the evil-doers, protecting the good, and thus preserving order in the world,” my interpreter remarked.
“This is indeed a splendid thing, and no doubt for mankind a necessary one,” I replied,
“but where do such people come from?” —
“Some are born to their office,” he answered,
“while others are selected either by the former, or by their communities, being acknowledged as the wisest and the most experienced of all and the best versed in justice and the laws.” —
“That is also splendid,” I said.
2 Just then my attention was attracted to some who were acquiring seats by bribery, or by importunate solicitation, of by flattery, while some seated themselves therein by force. Seeing this, I cried out:
“Look, look, the corruption!” —
“Keep still, you interfering fool!” warned my interpreter,
“or if they should hear you, you would catch it!” —
“But why do they not wait till they are elected?” I expostulated.
“Well, what of it?” he retorted;
“doubtless they are confident of being equal to the task. Moreover, as long as others accept them as such, what business is it of yours?”
3 Thereupon, I kept still, and adjusting my glasses, I observed them closely. Thus scrutinizing them, I made an unexpected discovery; for scarcely a single one of them possessed all bodily organs, but each lacked some most necessary limb. Some had no ears with which to hear the grievances of the subjects; others lacked eyes to perceive the evils about them; others lacked the nose wherewith to scent the machinations of crooks plotting against the law; others lacked the tongue with which to defend the mute, oppressed masses; others lacked arms with which to enforce the pronouncements of justice; many even lacked the heart to dare to act in accordance with the dictates of justice.
4 Those, however, who possessed all their bodily organs appeared to me greatly harassed; for they were constantly importuned by petitioners, so that they could hardly eat or sleep in peace. The former, on the contrary, spent more than half of their time in idleness.
“But why is law and justice entrusted to people who lack the necessarily bodily organs for the task?” I queried. My interpreter retorted that it was not so, that it only appeared so to me.
“For,” he said,
“whoever knows not how to feign knows not how to rule. He who rules others must often see not, hear not, and understand not, even though he does in fact see, hear, and understand. But you, being inexperienced in politics, cannot understand these things.” —
“Nevertheless, in truth I perceive clearly that they do not possess what they should have,” I persisted.
“As to that, I advise you to keep still,” he replied;
“otherwise I promise you that unless you cease your impertinent cavils you shall find yourself where you scarcely wish to be. Do you not know that contempt of court is a capital offense?” Thereupon I kept still, but observed all quietly. However, it does not seem necessary to narrate all I saw concerning each of the seats. I shall touch upon but two incidents.
Frequent transgressions and injustice among judges
5 I tarried and observed very diligently the procedure in the senatorial court, and learned that the names of the judges were as follows: Atheist, Lovestrife, Hearsayjudge, Partisan, Personrespecter, Lovegold, Bribetake, Tyro, Knowlittle, Dontcare, Hasty, and Anyhow; the President and the Supreme Justice, or Primate, was my Lord Icommandit. I instantly surmised from their names what kind of judges they were like to be; and soon in my presence a case came up which confirmed my surmise. Sincerity was charged by Adversary with having slandered some good people by calling usurers misers, tipplers drunkards, and I do not know what else. The witnesses brought against her were Gossip, Lie, and Suspicion; the prosecuting attorney was named Flatterer, and the counsel for the accused was Prattler, whose services, however, Sincerity declined as unnecessary. Having been asked whether she pleaded guilty [to the charge], she replied:
“I do, your honors.” And she added:
“Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; so help me God!” The judges gathered to cast their votes. Atheist remarked:
“What that hussy says is indeed true; but what business is it of hers to babble about it? If we allow her to go one, she will perhaps not spare even us her tongue lashing. I favor her punishment.” —
“Why, of course!” Lovestrife then spoke up,
“for if one of them escaped the penalty, others would claim the same immunity!” —
“Although I really do not know what has happened,” Hearsay judge remarked,
“since Adversary ascribes so much importance to the matter, I surmise that he really considers himself injured. Let her be punished.”
“I knew in advance that that shrew would blurt out all she knows!” Partisan said,
“she needs to have her mouth stopped.” —
“The plaintiff is a good friend of mine,” Personrespecter assented;
“she should have spared him at least for my sake, instead of scoffing at him like that. She is worthy of punishment.” —
“You all know how generous Adversary has shown himself; he is worthy of defense,” Lovegold said.
“That is what I say,” Bribetake concurred;
“we would show ourselves ungrateful, were his suit lost.” —
“I do not know of a similar case; let her suffer whatever she deserves,” Tyro said.
“I do not understand the matter; I agree with your judgement, whatever it is,” Knowlittle added.
“Whichever you decide, I agree to it,” Anyhow assented.
“Would it not be better to postpone the sentence?” Dontcare queried.
“The case might decide itself.” —
“No, no, let the sentence be passed while we are so minded!” Hasty exclaimed.
“Why, of course, why shouldwe consider anybody else?” the President agreed.
“Whatever justice demands, must be done.” Then rising, he delivered the sentence:
“Whereas the prattling gossip has given herself to such disreputable conduct as to slander good men, we decree that she suffer, for the taming of her unbridled tongue and as a warning unto others, the punishment of forty slaps in her face save one.” Thereupon Adversary with the prosecuting attorney and the witnesses, bowing, thanked the judges for their just sentence. Sincerity was urged to do likewise; but she broke into tears and the wringing of hands. Thereupon, for not having rendered honor to the court, her penalty was increased; and seizing her, they led her away to punishment. Seeing that she had been wronged, I could not restrain myself from crying aloud:
“If all the courts in the world are like this one, may the Almighty God help me neither to become a judge, nor to have a litigation with anyone!” —
“Keep still, you raving maniac,” my interpreter cr
Perversity of lawyers
6 When I stopped outside the court house to catch my breath and to clear my eyes, I noticed many bringing their law-suits to the court; moreover, I preceived that a numbe of lawyers (whose names were Babbler, Flatterer, Leadamiss, Prolongsuit, and such) ran to meet them, offering the litigants their services. They did not inquire about the cases, but first examined the litigant’s purses. Each lawyer carried with him his own statutes — which thing I had not noticed among the theologians — and diligently searched therein. I got a glimpse of the title of some of the copies, which read, The Rapacious Gnawing of the Land, and The Voracious Defrauding of the +65Land. Unable to witness it any longer, I went away, sighing deeply.
The unlimited power of princes and the stratagems of their officials
“The best is yet to come,” Searchall remarked,
“come and see the rule of kings, princes, and other rulers who reign over their subjects by hereditary right; perhaps, you will be pleased with that.” We then entered a room where we saw men sitting on such lofty and broad seats that but few could approach or reach them otherwise save by means of mechanical contrivance. Each of these men had long tubes placed in his ears, into which those wishing to communicate with him were obliged to speak. But the tubes were so twisted and full of holes that many words were lost before they reached the ruler’s ear. Morevover, the words which did reach his ear were for the greatest part distorted. For that reason I noticed that the petitioners did not always receive an answer; for even though some of them cried loudly, they were not able to reach the ruler’s mind. Sometimes one received an answer, but it was irrelevant to the question. The rulers likewise used tubes instead of their eyes and tongue, through which things appeared otherwise than they really were; the answers likewise differed from those intended by the rulers. Perceiving this, I remarked:
“But why do they not lay aside those tubes and simply use their own eyes, ears, and tongue just like other folk?” —
“On account of the dignity of their person and the honor of their position,” my interpreter answered.
“Do you consider them peasants that they should permit everyone to rub against their eyes, ears, and tongue?”
How inconvenient is the necessity of having counsellors
8 Just then I perceived certain individuals about the thrones, some of whom, disregarding the tubes, blew some vapors into the rulers' ears, others placed glasses of one or another color on his nose, or burned incense under his nose, or manipulated his hands, or directed his feet, binding or loosening them; while some strengthened and stabilized the seat under them. Observing all this, I inquired:
“Who are these persons and what are they doing?” —
“They are privy counsellors, keeping the king and the great lords informed,” my interpreter answered.
“Were I in the place of these great lords, I would not tolerate these people about me but would insist upon the freedom of my limbs and actions.”
“A single individual should not depend upon himself so entirely, nor is it permitted them to do so,” he answered.
“Then these great lords are worse off than peasants, for they are so bound that without the consent of others they may not even move.”
“But on the other hand,” he continued,
“they are thus more certain of themselves. Look at these!”