Chapter VII The pilgrim examines the market place of the world
He sees the diversity of men
Thereupon, my guide remarked:
“Since you wish to investigate all things, let us begin by visiting the market place.” He immediately led me there. And behold! such countless multitudes were gathered there that they seemed like a mist. People of all nations and languages of the world, of every age, stature, class, order, and profession, as well as both sexes, were gathered there. As I gazed at them, they were milling about hither and thither like bees at swarming time, or even more strangely.
Their characters and gestures
2 For some were wandering about, others were running or driving, or stood still, while another group was sitting or lying down. One group was rising while anothing was lying down, or was squirming about. Some were alone, others in large or small companies. Their costume and appearance also differed most widely: some indeed were stark naked, gesticulating queerly. When some of them met, they gestured with their hands, mouths, knees and otherwise, or huddled and cuddled… they cut all kinds of capers.
“Here you see the noble human kind, those delightful, reasonable, and immortal creatures, bearing the image and likeness of immortal God, as may be learned from the great variety of their glorious deeds,” my companion declaimed:
“here you may behold as in a mirror the dignity of your kind.”
Hypocrisy in all of them
3 I examined them more keenly, therefore, and observed, in the first place, that each one of those milling in the crowd wore a mask on his face, but when he was alone or with his equals, he took it off. However, as soon as he rejoined the crowd, he put it on again. I inquired what this meant. My guide answered:
“That, my dear son, is human prudence, so as not to appear to everyone as one really is. Alone, one needs not constrain himself: but among people it befits one to appear decorously and to give a seemly appearance to one’s affairs.” I was seized by a desire to examine more diligently how these people appeared without artificial make-up.
Their diverse deformities
4 And watching them attentively, I saw that they were all variously disfigured, not merely in their features, but in their bodies as well. Most of them were pimply, scabby, or leprous. Besides, one had a swine lip, another dog’s teeth, or ox horns, or ass ears, or basilisk eyes, or a fox tail, or wolf claws. Some, I observed, strutted about with a proudly erected peacock’s neck, others with an erect lapwing crest, or with horse-hoofs, and so on. Most of them resembled monkeys. Horrified, I exclaimed:
“But I see monsters here!” —
“Of what monsters are you babbling, you meddler?” remarked my interpreter, threatening me with his fist;
“if only you look properly through your glasses, you will recognize them as human!” Moreover, some of the passers-by overheard my calling them monsters and stopped, threatening and reviling me. I realized that it was useless to argue. Therefore I remained silent, thinking to myself: if they wish to regard themselves as human, so be it. But I see what I see. Moreover, I was afraid lest my companion should readjust the glasses and thus delude. I decided, therefore, to be quiet and rather to concentrate on those fine things of which I had seen the beginning. I looked about me again and noticed that many people were dexterous in the manipulation of their masks, quickly snatching them off and donning them again, so that in an instant they could assume any appearance which befitted their need. Then I began to understand the course of the world. Nevertheless, I held my peace.
Their mutual understandings
5 I also observed and heard that they spoke to each other in different languages. Consequently, for the greatest part they did not understand each other, and either did not answer or replied each one differently. In some places a large crowd gathered, all speaking at the same and each holding forth, none listening to the rest, although they tried to secure a hearing for themselves by pulling others toward them. Nevertheless, even so they failed, often bringing on fights and scuffles.
“In God’s name, is this the Tower of Babel?” I exclaimed:
“everybody plays his own fiddle, could there be any greater confusion?”
Preoccupation with useless matters
6 There were among them but few idlers, for the majority occupied themselves with some work or other. Yet their occupations (and I should have never suspected) were but childish games, or at most drudgery. For some of them were gathering rubbish and distributing it among themselves; others were rolling timber and stones back and forth, or hoisting them on pulleys and lowering them again; others were digging in the ground, or conveying or carrying soil from place to place; the rest were working with bells, mirrors, bellows, rattles, and other trinkets. Some were even playing with their own shadow, measuring, chasing, or grasping at it. All this was done so assiduously that many sighed and perspired, while others fainted with fatigue. Moreover, there were officers stationed everywhere who directed and allotted the tasks with great zeal, while the workers obeyed with equal alacrity. Filled with astonishment, I exclaimed:
“Alas! was then man made for wasting the keenness of his divinely-given talents upon such vain and petty toil?” —
“What is vain about it?” retorted my interpreter;
“does it not appear as in a mirror how all problems are solved by human ingenuity? One engages in one thing, another in something else.” —
“But all,” I said,
“are busied with useless drudgery which is unworthy of their glorious eminence.” —
“Do not play the wiseacre,” he replied;
“they are not in heaven yet, but are still on earth and must deal with earthly things. Observe, by the way, in what an orderly fashion everything is done.”
7 Again examining them, I noticed that nothing more disorderly could be invented. For while someone was staggering and stumbling under a load, another came and meddled with him; this led to brawls, fights, and scuffles. Then they became reconciled, only to tear each other soon afterwards. Sometimes several caught hold of the same thing; then they all dropped it and ran away, each in a different direction. Those who were subject to officers and overseers did what they were told willy-nilly, because they had to; but even there I saw much confusion. Some broke ranks and fled, while others grumbled at their foremen, refusing to do what they had ordered. Some snatched the overseers' cudgels from them and robbed them. Hence, all was in a hubbub. But since they were wont to call it orderly, I dared not say them nay.