Chapter XXVI The life of the exalted of the world

Discomforts of the exalted

We then ascended to the uppermost palace, which was open to the sky, having no other ceiling. There we beheld a great number of seats, some higher than others, all placed along the edges so that they could be seen from the city below, persons being seated as Dame Fortune had assigned them higher or lower places, and passersby rendered them honor (although only to their faces) by bending their knees or inclining their heads. “Behold, is it not a fine thing to be so exalted that you can be seen from all directions, so that all must look up to you?” my interpreter exclaimed. “And to be exposed so that rain, snow, and hail, heat, and cold can beat on you!” I added. “But what of it?” he retorted, “it is nevertheless a fine thing to occupy such a position that all must take notice of you and regard you.” — “It is true that they are regarded,” I replied, “but this regard is a greater burden than it is an honor. For each one is spied upon by so many, as I observe, that he is hardly allowed to move a finger without its being seen and criticized; what kind of comfort is that?” I was particularly confirmed in this opinion when I perceived how respectfully they were treated to their faces, while behind their backs and on their sides disrespect was heaped upon them. For behind every one of those lolling in their seats stood some who cast malignant glances at him, grimaced and contemptuously wagged their heads at thim, mocked him, and with their spittle, mucus, or something else fouled his back. Some even plotted an overthrow of the occupants, and jerked the seat from under them, and not a few of the latter met with a fall or other mishap in my presence.

Perils of the exalted

2 For, as I have said, the seats were placed near the edge and it needed but a slight push to tip them over; thereupon, he who but a little while before had been puffed up with pride, found himself sprawling on the ground. It seemed that the seats were poised upon some such contrivance that the slightest touch instantly overturned them and he who sat on it foiund himself on the ground; the higher the seat, the easier it was to tip and to fall out of it. I also witnessed great jealousy and envious looks among the occupants; they thrust one another from the seats, usurped each other’s rule, knocked down one another’s crowns, and deprived each other of their titles; thus everything was in constant change; one was climbing into a seat, another was stepping down, or falling headlong from it. Observing this, I remarked: “It is hard that after the long and arduous toile which they endured before gaining their places, their reward should be of such brief duration, some hardly having begun to enjoy the glory before coming to their end.” — “Dame Fortune finds it necessary to distribute her honors in this fashion in order that all whom she desires to honor may share in them,” my interpreter answered. “One must give place to another.”