Chapter IX The pilgrim examines the labouring class
What he saw there generally
Proceeding, we entered the street inhabited by craftsmen, which was subdivided into many narrow alleys and smaller squares, and all about us we observed various halls, workshops, forges, benches, stores, and booths full of quaint-looking implements. Men plied these tools in a curious manner, with clattering, striking, squeaking, squealing, whistling, piping, blowing, blasting, jingling, and rattling. I saw some digging in the earth, either tearing up the surface of digging underneath like moles. Others were wading in water, rivers, or the sea; yet others were tending fires, gaping into the air, fighting wild beasts, dressing wood or stone, or carrying and hauling various commodities from place to place. My interpreter said to me:
“Behold these brisk and cheerful occupations! Which of them do you like the best?” —
“There is doubtless some cheerfulness here,” I answered;
“nevertheless, I also observe much drudgery and hear many groans along with it.” —
“Not all work is so arduous,” he answered;
“let us look closer and examine some these trades.” So they led me through them one after another, and I scrutinized them all and tried my hand at one or another to test them; but to describe them all I am neither able nor willing. I shall not, however, keep secret what I concluded in general.
Perilous haste in every business
In the first place, I saw that all these human ocupations were but toil and drudgery, and each had some disadvantages and dangers of its own. I saw that those who were working with fire were scorched and blackened like Moors: the clatter of hammers was ever jangling in their ears and had rendered them half-deaf; the glare of the fire had blinded their eyes; and their skin was perpetually singed. Those who were working underground had darkness and terrors for companions, and, as happened not infrequently, were liable to be buried alive. Those working in water were constantly soaked like roof-thatch, were shivering with cold like an aspen leaf, suffered from sclerosis of the viscera, and not a few of them fell a prey to the deep. Those who were working in wood, stone, and other heavy substances, were full of callouses, sighing, and exhaustion. Indeed, I saw some engaged in such asinine drudgery that they struggled and toiled to perspiration, exhaustion, collapse, injury, and finally to total breakdown; but despite all their miserable toil, they were hardly able to earn bread for themselves. Indeed, I observed others whose livelihoods were easier and more renumerative; but the less drudgery, the more vice and fraud there were.
Secondly, I observed that men toiled only to feed their mouths; for whatever they earned, they crammed it all down their throats or the throats of their families, save in the rare cases when they stinted their mouths in order to put it into their bags. But, as I perceived, their bags were either torn, so that what they had put into them fell out again and others picked it up; or another came and snatched it out of their hands; or he himself, having tripped, dropped the bag or tore, or otherwise lost it. Thus I plainly saw that these human toils resembled water being poured from one glass into another; money was earned to be spent again, with the only difference that it was easier spent than earned, no matter whether it was crammed down the throat or hoarded in money coffers. Consequently, I sw everywhere many more poor than rich.
3 Thirdly, I saw that every occupation required the whole man. If anyone but looked back or acted a little slowly, he was soon left behind and everything dropped from his hands. Hence, before he realized it, he found himself on the rocks.
In the fourth place, I observed many obstacles in the way. Before some one was started in business, a good portion of his life was gone; and after he was started, it did not look closely to his affairs, everything went against him; moreover, I noticed that even the most diligent among them met with loss as often as with profit.
Haste provoking envy
In the fifth place, I saw everywhere (especially among those engaged in the same kind of business) much envy and ill-will. If work piled up for one of them, or he enjoyed brisker trade than another, his neighbors gave him sour looks or gnashed their teeth at him, and whenever they could, wrecked his business: hence quarrels, disaffection, and cursing; some out of sheer despair threw away their tools and lapsed into idleness and voluntary poverty.
In the sixth place, I noticed everywhere much falsehood and fraud. Whatever anyone did, especially for a customer, was done shoddily and carelessly; yet he extolled and praised his own work to high heaven.
Vain and superfluous haste
In the seventh place, I found here a great deal of superfluity; and became firmly convinced that most of the occupations were but crass futility and useless folly. For the human body requires but frugal and plain food and drink, need be clothed with but plain and unostentatious garments; and be sheltered in a modest and simple house; but little and easily discharged care and labor are required, as was customary in ancient times. But I found that the world either could not or would not comprehend this simple truth, for now it is customary that stuffing and filling of the belly requires so many and such rare delicacies that the greater part of mankind is employed in their gathering on land and sea, and in this drudgery men waste their strength and hazard their lives; moreover, for the preparation of this food specially-trained masters must now be employed. Similarly, not a small part of humankind is engaged in building shelters and procuring materials for clothing and in tailoring them in various preposterous styles; all this is useless, superfluous, often even sinful. Likewise, I saw craftsmen whose entire art and occupation consisted of making childish trifles and other playthings, intended merely for amusement and the wasting of time. Others there were whose task was manufacturing and multiplyinge instruments of cruelty, such as swords, daggers, battle-maces, muskets, and so forth, all for the killing of men. How people can conscientiously and with a cheerful mind ply such trades I know not. But I know that if the useless, superfluous, and the sinful were excluded and eliminated from these trades, the greater part of the business of mankind would collapse. For this, as well as for the above-mentioned reasons, my mind could find no pleasure in any of them.
Haste is for brutes not men
8 My conclusion was strengthened when I saw that all these occupations were only of the body and for the body; while man, possessing a greater thing than the body — namely a soul — ought rather to bestow his principal care upon that and seek its well-being above all other +8things.
9 I wish to relate particularly how I fared among waggoners on land and sailors on the sea. For while I was examining the workshops and appeared discontented, Mr. Ubiquitous said to Mr. Delusion:
“I notice that this fellow is or a roving disposition, a bit of quick silver, constantly desiring to be in motion: for he fancies nothing stable, not being willing to be tied to any one place. Let us show him a freer life: that of commerce in which he can roam at will from place to place and fly about like a bird.” —
“I am not opposed to trying even that,” I said. So we went.
Haste of a waggoner’s life
Then I perceived a crowd of men rushing hither and thither, seeking and gathering all kinds of things such as splinters, soil, and manure, and hoisting and heaping them into loads. I inquired what they were doing. They replied:
“They are getting ready to travel over the world.” —
“But why not without the heavy load?” I asked;
“they could drive more easily.” —
“What a simpleton you are!” they retorted;
“how could they drive? That is their wings.” —
“Wings?” said I,
“Of course, their wings! They provide resolution and incentive, and serve as passport and safe-conduct everywhere. Do you think that everybody is free to roam about the world at will? These people must secure their living, favor, and everything else from their occupation.” So I looked; and behold they piled up as large a load as they could find, then slid and rolled it upon a kind of dolly on wheels, and tying it to the dolly, hitched some beasts to it and dragged the whole contraption laboriously and with great difficulty over hills, mountains, dales, and gullies, rejoicing in what they considered their excellent and cheerful life. At first it so appeared to me also. But when I observed how they occasionally got stuck in the mud and wallowed and waddled in it, pushing and pulling their loads, and perceived how much they endured from being exposed to rain, snow-storms, sleet, blizzards, frosts, and heat; and how they were waylaid at passes and robbed of their goods and purses (for on such occasions neither anger, swearing, nor threats were of any effect); finally when I saw how they were attacked on the roads by robber bands and how their very life was gravely jeopardized, I became disgusted with their occupation.
Discomfort of a sailor’s life
11 Then my guides told me that they were was a more comfortable mode of travelling about the world, namely that of navigation; afloat, a man was not shaken so much, was not bespattered with mud, did not get stuck in a rut; moreover, he was shot from one end of the world to the other, everywhere finding something new, something he had not seen or heard of before. And they led me to the ends of the earth where nothing but sky and water stretched before us.