"He who travels far will often see things
Far removed from what he believed was Truth.
When he talks about it in the fields at home,
He is often accused of lying
For the obdurate people will not believe
What they do not see and distinctly feel.
Inexperience, I believe,
Will give little credence to my song."
-- From The Journey to the East
It was my destiny to join in a great experience. Having had the good fortune to belong to the League, I was permitted to be a participant in unique journey. What wonder it had at the time! How radiant and comet-like it seemed, and how quickly it has been forgotten and allowed to fall into disrepute. For this reason, I have decided to attempt a short description of this fabulous journey, a journey the like of which had not been attempted since the days of Hugo and mad Roland. Ours have been remarkable times, this period since the World War, troubled and confused, yet, despite this, fertile. I do not think that I am under any illusion about the difficulties of my attempt; they are very great and are not only of a subjective nature, although these alone would be considerable. For not only do I no longer possess the tokens, mementos, documents and diaries relating to the journey, but in the difficult years of misfortune, sickness and deep affliction which have elapsed since then, a large number of my recollections have also vanished. As a result of the buffets of fate and because of the continual discouragement, my memory as well as my confidence in these earlier vivid recollections have become impaired. But apart from these purely personal notes, I am handicapped because of my former vow to the League; for although this vow permits unrestricted communication of my personal experiences, it forbids any disclosures about the League itself. And even though the League seems to have had no visible existence for a long time and I have not seen any of its members again, no allurement or threat in the world would induce me to break my vow. On the contrary, if today or tomorrow I had to appear before a court martial and was given the option of dying or divulging the secret of the League, I would joyously seal my vow to the League with death.
It can be noted here that since the travel diary of Count Keyserling, several books have appeared in which the authors, partly unconsciously, but also partly deliberately, have given the impression that they are brothers of the League and had taken part in the Journey to the East. Incidentally, even the adventurous travel accounts of Ossendowski come under this justifiable suspicion. But they all have nothing to do with the League and our Journey to the East, or at any rate, no more than ministers of a small sanctimonious sect have to do with the Saviour, the Apostles and the Holy Ghost to whom they refer for special favor and membership. Even if Count Keyserling really sailed round the world with ease, and if Ossendowski actually traversed the countries he described, yet their journeys were not remarkable and they discovered no new territory, whereas at certain stages of our Journey to the East, although the commonplace aids of modern travel such as railways, steamers, telegraph, automobiles, airplanes, etc., were renounce, we penetrated into the heroic and magical. It was shortly after the World War, and the beliefs of the conquered nations were in an extraordinary state of unreality. There was a readiness to believe in things beyond reality even though only a few barriers were actually overcome and few advances made into the realm of a future psychiatry. Our journey at that time across the Moon Ocean to Famagusta under the leadership of Albert the Great, or say, the discovery of the Butterfly Island, twelve leagues beyond Zipangu, or the inspiring League ceremony at Rudiger's grave -- those were deeds and experiences which were allotted once only to people of our time and zone.
I see that I am already coming up against one of the greatest obstacles in my account. The heights to which our deeds rose, the spiritual plane of experience to which they belong might be made proportionately more comprehensible to the reader if I were permitted to disclose to him the essence of the League's secret. But a great deal, perhaps everything, will remain incredible and incomprehensible. One paradox, however, must be accepted and this is that it is necessary to continually attempt the seemingly impossible. I agree with Siddhartha, our wise friend from the East, who once said: "Words do not express thoughts very well; everything immediately becomes a little different, a little distorted, a little foolish. And yet it also pleases me and seems right that what is of value and wisdom to one man seems nonsense to another." Even centuries ago the members and historians of our League recognized and courageously faced up to this difficulty. One of the greatest of them gave expression to it in an immortal verse:
"He who travels far will often see things
Far removed from what he believed was Truth.
When he talks about it in the fields at home,
He is often accused of lying,
For the obdurate people will not believe
What they do not see and distinctly feel.
Inexperience, I believe,
Will give little credence to my song."
This inexperience has also created the position where, now that publicity is being given to our journey which once roused thousands to ecstasy, it is not only forgotten but a real taboo is imposed upon its recollection. History is rich in examples of a similar kind. The whole of world history often seems to me nothing more than a picture book which portrays humanity's most powerful and senseless desire -- the desire to forget. Does not each generation, by means of suppression, concealment and ridicule, efface what the previous generation considered most important? Have we not just had the experience that a long, horrible, monstrous war has been forgotten, gainsaid, distorted and dismissed by all nations? And now that they have had a short respite, are not the same nations trying to recall by means of exciting war novels what they themselves caused and endured a few years ago? In the same way, the day of rediscovery will come for the deeds and sorrows of our League, which are now either forgotten or are a laughingstock in the world, and my notes should make a small contribution towards it.
One of the characteristics of the Journey to the East was that although the League aimed at quite definite, very lofty goals during this journey (they belong to the secret category and are therefore not communicable), yet every single participant could have his own private goals. Indeed, he had to have them; for no one was included who did not have such private goals, and every single one of us, while appearing to share common ideals and goals and to fight under a common flag, carried his own fond childhood dream within his heart as a source of inner strength and comfort. My own goal for the journey, about which the President questioned me before my acceptance into the League, was a simple one, but many members of the League had set themselves goals which, although I respected, I could not fully understand. For example, one of them was a treasure-seeker and he thought of nothing else but of winning a great treasure which he called "Tao." Still another had conceived the idea of capturing a certain snake to which he attributed magical powers and which he called Kundalini. My own journey and life-goal, which had colored my dreams since my late boyhood, was to see the beautiful Princess Fatima and, if possible, to win her love.
At the time that I had the good fortune to join the League -- that is, immediately after the end of the World War -- our country was full of saviors, prophets, and disciples, of presentiments about the end of the world, or hopes for the dawn of a Third Empire. Shattered by the war, in despair as a result of deprivation and hunger, greatly disillusioned by the seeming futility of all the sacrifices in blood and goods, our people at that time were lured by many phantoms, but there were also many real spiritual advances. There were Bacchanalian dance societies and Anabaptist groups, there was one thing after another that seemed to point to what was wonderful and beyond the veil. There was also at that time a widespread leaning towards Indian, ancient Persian and other. Eastern mysteries and religions, and all this gave most people the impression that our ancient League was one of the many newly- blossomed cults, and that after a few years it would also be partly forgotten, despised and decried. The faithful amongst its disciples cannot dispute this.
How well do I remember the hour when, after the expiration of my probation year, I presented myself before the High Throne. I was given insight to the project of the Journey to the East, and after I had dedicated myself, body and soul, to this project, I was asked in a friendly way what I personally hoped to gain from this journey into the legendary realm. Although blushing somewhat, I confessed frankly and unhesitatingly to the assembled officials that it was my heart's desire to be allowed to see Princess Fatima. The Speaker, interpreting the allusion, gently placed his hand on my head and uttered the formula which confirmed my admission as a member of the League. "Anima pia," he said and bade me be constant in faith, courageous in danger, and to love my fellow-men. Well-schooled during my year's probation, I took the oath, renounced the world and its superstitions and had the League ring placed on my finger to the words from one of the most beautiful chapters in our League's history:
"On earth and in the air, in water and in fire,
The spirits are subservient to him,
His glance frightens and tames the wildest
And even the anti-Christian must approach
him with awe . . . . .etc.
To my great pleasure, immediately on admission to the League, we novitiates were given insight to our prospects. For instance, on following the directions of the officials to attach myself to one of the groups of ten people who were en route throughout the country to join the League's expedition, one of the League's secrets immediately became vividly clear to me. I realized that I had joined a pilgrimage to the East, seemingly a definite and single pilgrimage -- but in reality, in its broadest sense, this expedition to the East was not only mine and now; this procession of believers and disciples had always and incessantly been moving towards the East, towards the Home of Light. Throughout the centuries it had been on the way, towards light and wonder, and each member, each group, indeed our whole host and its great pilgrimage, was only a wave in the eternal stream of human beings, of the eternal strivings of the human spirit towards the East, towards Home. The knowledge passed through my mind like a ray of light and immediately reminded me of a phrase which I had learned during my novitiate year, which had always pleased me immensely without my realizing its full significance. It was a phrase by the poet Novalis, "Where are we really going? Always home!"
Meantime, our group had set off on its travels; soon we encountered other groups, and the feeling of unity and a common goal gave us increasing happiness. Faithful to our instructions, we lived like pilgrims and made no use of those contrivances which spring into existence in a world deluded by money, number and time, and which drain life of its content; mechanical contrivances such as railways, watches and the like came chiefly into this category. Another unanimously observed rule bade us visit and pay homage to all places and associations relating to the ancient history of our League and its faith. We visited and honored all sacred places and monuments, churches and consecrated tombstones which we came across on our way; chapels and altars were adorned with flowers; ruins were honored with songs or silent contemplation; the dead were commemorated with music and prayers. It was not unusual for us to be mocked at and disturbed by unbelievers, but it also happened often enough that priests blessed us and invited us to be their guests, that children enthusiastically joined us, learned our songs and saw us depart with tears in their eyes; that an old man would show us forgotten monuments or tell us a legend about his district; that youths would walk with us part of the way and desire to join the League. The latter were given advice and apprised of the first rites and practices of novitiates. We were aware of the first wonders, partly through seeing them with our own eyes and partly through unexpected accounts and legends. One day, when I was still quite a new member, someone suddenly mentioned that the giant Agramant was a guest in our leaders' tent, and was trying to persuade them to make their way across Africa in order to liberate some League members from Moorish captivity. Another time we saw the Goblin, the pitch-maker, the comforter, and we presumed that we should make our way towards the Blue Pot. However, the first amazing phenomenon which I saw with my own eyes was when we had stopped for prayer and rest at an old half-ruined Chapel in the region of Spaichendorf; on the only undamaged wall of the Chapel there was painted a very large picture of Saint Christopher, and on his shoulder, small, and half-faded from old age, sat the Child Saviour. The leaders, as was sometimes their custom, did not simply propose the direction we should take, but invited us all to give our opinion, for the Chapel lay at a three-direction signpost and we had the choice. Only a few of us expressed a wish or gave advice, but one person pointed to the left and urgently requested that we should choose this path. We were all silent then and waited for our leaders' decision, when Saint Christopher raised his arm holding the long, thick staff and pointed to the left where our brother desired to go. We all watched this in silence, and silently the leaders turned to the left and went along this path, and we all followed with the utmost pleasure.
We had not been long on our way in Swabia when a power which we had not thought about became noticeable. We had felt its influence strongly for a rather long time without quite knowing whether it was friendly or hostile. It was the power of the guardians of the crown who, since olden times, had preserved the memory and inheritance of the Hohenstaufen in that country. I do not know whether our leaders knew more about it and had any instructions regarding it. I only know that we received many exhortations and warnings from them, such as on the hill on the way to Bopfingen where we met a hoary old warrior; he shook his grey head with his eyes closed and disappeared again without leaving any trace. Our leaders took notice of the warning; we turned back and did not go to Bopfingen. On the other hand, it happened in the neighborhood of Urach that an ambassador of the crown guardians appeared in our leaders' tent as if sprung from out of the ground, and with promises and threats tried to induce them to put our expedition at the service of the Staufen, and indeed to make preparations for the conquest of Sicily. When the leaders firmly refused this demand, he said he would put a dreadful curse on the League and on our expedition. And yet I am only reporting what was whispered among ourselves; the leaders themselves did not mention a word about it. Still, it seems possible that it was our uncertain relationship with the guardians of the crown which, for a long time, gave our League the unmerited reputation of being a secret society for the restoration of the monarchy.
On one occasion I also had the experience of seeing one of my comrades entertain doubts; he renounced his vow and relapsed into disbelief. He was a young man whom I had liked very much. His personal reason for joining the expedition to the East was his desire to see the coffin of the prophet Mohammed from which, it had been said, he could by magic rise freely into the air. In one of those Swabian or Alemannic small towns where we stopped for a few days, because an opposition of Saturn and the moon checked our progress, this unfortunate man, who had seemed sad and restless for some time, met one of his former teachers to whom he had remained very attached since his schooldays. This teacher was successful in again making the young man see our cause in the light which it appears to unbelievers. After one of these visits to the teacher, the poor man came back to our camp in a dreadful state of excitement and with a distorted countenance. He made a commotion outside the leaders' tent, and when the Speaker came out he shouted at him angrily that he had had enough of this ridiculous expedition which would never bring us to the East; he had had enough of the journey being interrupted for days because of stupid astrological considerations; he was more than tired of idleness, of childish wanderings, of floral ceremonies, of attaching importance to magic, of the intermingling of life and poetry; he would throw the ring at the leaders' feet, take his leave and return by the trusty railway to his home and his useful work. It was an ugly and lamentable sight. We were filled with shame and yet at the same time pitied the misguided man. The Speaker listened to him kindly, stooped with a smile for the discarded ring, and said in a quiet, cheerful voice which must have put the blustering man to shame: "You have said good-bye to us and want to return to the railway, to common-sense and useful work. You have said good-bye to the League, to the expedition to the East, good-bye to magic, to floral festivals, to poetry. You are absolved from your vow."
"Also from the vow of silence?" cried the deserter.
"Yes, also from the vow of silence," answered the Speaker. "Remember, you vowed to keep silent about the secret of the League to unbelievers. As we see you have forgotten the secret, you will not be able to pass it on to anyone."
I have forgotten something! I have forgotten nothing," cried the young man, but became uncertain, and as the Speaker turned his back on him and withdrew to the tent, he suddenly ran quickly away.
We were sorry, but the days were crammed so full with events that I quickly forgot him. But it happened some time later, when none of us thought about him any more, that we heard the inhabitants of several villages and towns through which we passed, talk about this same youth. A young man had been there, and they described him accurately and mentioned his name, who had been looking for us everywhere. First he had said that he belonged to us, had stayed behind on the journey and had lost his way. Then he began to weep and stated that he had been unfaithful to us and had run away, but now he realized that he could no longer live outside the League; he wished to, and indeed must, find us in order to go down on his knees before our leaders and beg to be forgiven. We heard this tale told again here, there, and everywhere; wherever we went, the wretched man had just been there. We asked the Speaker what he thought about it and what would be the outcome. "I do not think that he will find us," said the Speaker briefly. And he did not find us. We did not see him again.
Once, when one of the leaders had drawn me into a confidential conversation, I gathered courage and asked him how things stood with this renegade brother. After all, he was penitent and was looking for us, I said; we ought to help him redeem his error. No doubt, he would in the future be the most loyal member of the League. The leader said: "We should be happy if he did find his way back to us, but we cannot aid him. He has made it very difficult for himself to have faith again. I fear that he would not see and recognize us even if we passed close by him; he has become blind. Repentance alone does not help. Grace cannot be bought with repentance; it cannot be bought at all. A similar thing has already happened to many other people; great and famous men have shared the same fate as this young man. Once in their youth the light shone for them; they saw the light and followed the star, but then came reason and the mockery of the world; then came faint-heartedness and apparent failure; then came weariness and disillusionment, and so they lost their way again, they became blind again. Some of them have spent the rest of their lives looking for us again, but could not find us. They have then told the world that our League is only a pretty legend and people should not be misled by it. Others have become our deadly enemies and have abused and harmed the League in every possible way."
There were wonderful festive days each time we encountered other parties of the League's hosts on our way; sometimes we then formed a camp of hundreds, even thousands. The expedition did not, in fact, proceed in any fixed order with participants moving in the same direction in more or less closed columns. On the contrary, numerous groups were simultaneously on the way, each following their own leaders and their own stars, each one always ready to merge into a greater unit and belong to it for a time, but always no less ready to move on again separately. Some went on their way quite alone. I also walked alone at times, whenever some sign or call tempted me to go my own way.
I remember a select little group with which we traveled and camped together for some days; this group had undertaken to liberate some captive League brothers and the Princess Isabella from the hands of the Moors. It was said that they were in possession of Hugo's horn, and among them were my friends the poet Lauscher and the artists Klingsor and Paul Klee; they spoke of nothing else but Africa and the captured princess, and their Bible was the book of the deeds of Don Quixote, in whose honor they thought of making their way across Spain.
It was very pleasant whenever we met one of these groups, to attend their feasts and devotions and to invite them to ours, to hear about their deeds and plans, to bless and know them on parting; they went their way, we went ours. Each one of them had his own dream, his wish, his secret heart's desire, and yet they all flowed together in the great stream and all belonged to each other, shared the same reverence and the same faith, and had made the same vow! I met Jup, the magician, who proposed to gather the fortune of his life in Kashmir; I met Collofine, the sorcerer, quoting his favorite passage from the Adventures of Simplicissimus; I met Louis the Terrible, who dreamt of planting an olive-grove in the Holy Land and keeping slaves. He went arm-in-arm with Anselm, who was in search of the purple iris of his childhood. I met and loved Ninon, known as "the foreigner." Dark eyes gleamed beneath her black hair. She was jealous of Fatima, the princess of my dreams, and yet she was probably Fatima herself without my knowing it. And as we moved on, so had once pilgrims, emperors and crusaders moved on to liberate the Saviour's grave, or to study Arabian magic; Spanish knights had traveled this way, as well as German scholars, Irish monks and French poets.
I, whose calling was really only that of a violinist and story-teller, was responsible for the provision of music for our group, and I then discovered how a long time devoted to small details exalts us and increases our strength. I did not only play the violin and conduct our choirs, but also collected old songs and chorals. I wrote motets and madrigals for six and eight voices and practiced them. But I will not give you details of these.
I was very fond of many of my comrades and leaders, but not one of them subsequently occupied my thoughts as much as Leo, while at that time he was apparently hardly noticed. Leo was one of our servants (who were naturally volunteers, as we were). He helped to carry the luggage and was often assigned to the personal service of the Speaker. This unaffected man had something so pleasing, so unobtrusively winning about him that everyone loved him. He did his work gaily, usually sang or whistled as he went along, was never seen except when needed -- in fact, an ideal servant. Furthermore, all animals were attached to him. We nearly always had some dog or other with us which joined us on account of Leo; he could tame birds and attract butterflies to him. It was his desire for Solomon's key which would enable him to understand the language of the birds that had drawn him to the East. This servant Leo worked in a very simple and natural manner, friendly in an unassuming way, alongside the many forms of our League, which, without doing harm to the value and sincerity of the League, had within them something exalting, something singular, solemn, or fantastic. What makes my account particularly difficult is the great disparity in my individual recollections. I have already said that some times we marched along only as a small group; sometimes we formed a troop or even an army, but sometimes I remained in a district with only a few friends, or even quite alone, without tents, without leaders and without a Speaker. My tale becomes even more difficult because we not only wandered through Space, but also through Time. We moved towards the East, but we also traveled into the Middle Ages and the Golden Age; we roamed through Italy or Switzerland, but at times we also spent the night in the 10th century and dwelt with the patriarchs or the fairies. During the times I remained alone, I often found again places and people of my own past. I wandered with my former betrothed along the edges of the forest of the Upper Rhine, caroused with friends of my youth in Tubingen, in Basle or in Florence, or I was a boy and went with my school-friends to catch butterflies or to watch an otter, or my company consisted of the beloved characters of my books; Almansor and Parsifal, Witiko or Goldmund rode by my side, or Sancho Panza, or we were guests at the Barmekides. When I found my way back to our group in some valley or other, heard the League's songs and camped by the leaders' tents, it was immediately clear to me that my excursion into my childhood and my ride with Sancho belonged essentially to this journey. For our goal was not only the East, or rather the East was not only a country and something geographical, but it was the home and youth of the soul, it was everywhere and nowhere, it was the union of all times. Yet I was only aware of this for a moment, and therein lay the reason for my great happiness at that time. Later, when I had lost this happiness again, I clearly understood these connections without deriving the slightest benefit or comfort from them. When something precious and irretrievable is lost, we have the feeling of having awakened from a dream. In my case this feeling is strangely correct, for my happiness did indeed arise from the same secret as the happiness in dreams; it arose from the freedom to experience everything imaginable simultaneously, to exchange outward and inward easily, to move Time and Space about like scenes in a theatre. And as we League brothers traveled throughout the world without motorcars or ships, as we conquered the war-shattered world by our faith and transformed it into Paradise, we creatively brought the past, the future and the fictitious into the present moment.
And again and again, in Swabia, at Bodensee, in Switzerland, everywhere, we met people who understood us, or were in some way thankful that we and our League and our Journey to the East existed. Amid the tramways and banks of Zurich we came across Noah's Ark guarded by several old dogs which all had the same name, and which were bravely guided across the shallow waters of a calm period by Hans C. to Noah's descendant, to the friend of the arts. We went to Winterthur, down into Stocklin's Magic Closet; we were guests in the Chinese Temple where the incense holders gleamed beneath the bronze Maja and the black king played the flute sweetly to the vibrating tone of the temple gong. And at the foot of the Sun Mountains we came across Suon Mali, a colony of the King of Siam, where, amongst the stone and brazen Buddhas, we offered up our libations and incense as grateful guests.
One of the most beautiful experiences was the League's celebration in Bremgarten; the magic circle surrounded us closely there. Received by Max and Tilli, the lords of the castle, we heard Othmar play Mozart on the grand-piano in the lofty hall. We found the grounds occupied by parrots and other talking birds. We heard the fairy Armida sing at the fountain. With blown locks the heavy head of the astrologer Longus nodded by the side of the beloved countenance of Henry of Ofterdingen. In the garden, the peacocks screeched, and Louis conversed in Spanish with Puss in Boots, while Hans Resom, shaken after his peeps into the masked game of life, vowed he would go on a pilgrimage to the grave of Charles the Great. It was one of the triumphant periods of our journey; we had brought the magic wave with us; it cleansed everything. The native paid homage on his knees to beauty, the lord of the castle produced a poem which dealt with our evening activities. The animals from the forest lurked close to the castle walls, and in the river the gleaming fishes moved in lively swarms and were fed with cakes and wine.
The best of these experiences really worth relating are those which reflect the spirit of it. My description of them seems poor and perhaps foolish, but everyone who participated in and celebrated the days at Bremgarten would confirm every single detail and supplement them with hundreds which are more beautiful. I shall always remember how the peacocks' tails shimmered when the moon rose amongst the tall trees, and on the shady bank the emerging mermaids gleamed fresh and silvery amongst the rocks; how Don Quixote stood alone under the chestnut- tree by the fountain and held his first night-watch while the last Roman candles of the firework display fell so softly over the castle's turrets in the moonlight, and my colleague Pablo, adorned with roses, played the Persian reed-pipe to the girls. Oh, which of us ever thought that the magic circle would break so soon! That almost all of us -- and also I, even I -- should again lose myself in the soundless deserts of mapped out reality, just like officials and shop-assistants who, after a party or a Sunday outing, adapt themselves again to everyday business life!
In those days none of us was capable of such thoughts. From the castle's turrets of Bremgarten, the fragrance of lilac entered my bedroom. I heard the river flowing beyond the trees. I climbed out of the window in the depth of the night, intoxicated with happiness and yearning. I stole past the knight on guard and the sleeping banqueters down to the riverbank, to the flowing waters, to the white, gleaming mermaids. They took me down with them into the cool, moonlit crystal world of their home, where they played dreamily with the crowns and golden chains from their treasure-chambers. It seemed to me that I spent months in the sparkling depths and when I emerged and swam ashore, thoroughly chilled, Pablo's reed-pipe was still to be heard from the garden far away, and the moon was still high in the sky. I saw Leo playing with two white poodles, his clever, boyish face radiating happiness. I found Longus sitting in the wood. On his knees was a book of parchment in which he was writing Greek and Hebrew characters; dragons flew out of the letters, and colored snakes reared themselves. He did not look at me; he went on painting, absorbed in his colored snake-writing. For a long time I looked over his bent shoulders into the book. I saw the snakes and dragons emerge from his writing, whirl about and silently disappear into the dark wood. "Longus, " I said to him softly, "dear friend!" He did not hear me, my world was far from his. And quite apart, under the moonlit trees, Anselm wandered about with an iris in his hand; lost in thought, he stirred and smiled at the flower's purple calyx.
Something that I had observed several times during our journey, without having fully considered it, impressed me again during the days at Bremgarten, strangely and rather painfully. There were amongst us many artists, painters, musicians and poets. Ardent Klingsor was there and restless Hugo Wolf, taciturn Lauscher and vivacious Brentano -- but however animated and lovable the personalities of these artists were, yet without exception their imaginary characters were more animated, more beautiful, happier and certainly finer and more real than the poets and creators themselves. Pablo sat there with his flute in enchanting innocence and joy, but his poet slipped away like a shadow to the river-bank, half-transparent in the moonlight, seeking solitude. Stumbling and rather drunk, Hoffman ran here and there amongst the guests, talking a great deal, small and elfish, and he also, like all of them, was only half-real, only half there, not quite solid, not quite real. At the same time, the archivist Lindhorst, playing at dragons for a joke, continually breathed fire and discharged energy like an automobile. I asked the servant Leo why it was that artists sometimes appeared to be only half-alive, while their creations seemed so irrefutably alive. Leo looked at me, surprised at my question. Then he released the poodle he was holding in his arms and said: "It is just the same with mothers. When they have borne their children and given them their milk and beauty and strength, they themselves become invisible, and no one asks about them any more."
"But that is sad," I said, without really thinking very much about it.
"I do not think it is sadder than all other things," said Leo. "Perhaps it is sad and yet also beautiful. The law ordains that it shall be so."
"The law?" I asked curiously. "What law is that, Leo?"
"The law of service. He who wishes to live long must serve, but he who wishes to rule does not live long."
"Then why do so many strive to rule?"
"Because they do not understand. There are few who are born to be masters; they remain happy and healthy. But all the others who have only become masters through endeavor, end in nothing."
"In what nothing, Leo ?"
"For example, in the sanitoria. "
I understood little about it and yet the words remained in my memory and left me with a feeling that this Leo knew all kinds of things, that he perhaps knew more than us, who were ostensibly his masters.