CHAPTER XX

THE MILITARY CALLING

CRUELTY OF MAN. We then entered the last street, in the very first square of which we saw a mob of men dressed in red. I approached them and overheard them discussing how to give wings to death so that it could transport itself instantly from a great distance as well as from nearby. They also debated how to destroy in an hour what had required many years to build. I was terrified by such talk, for all that I had hitherto heard and observed of human labors concerned devising and executing plans for the upbuidling and multiplying of the human race and for the comforts of human life. But these men were discussing how to destroy human life and comfort. "They really have the same aims as the rest, " my interpreter remarked, "but their methods are slightly different. They work by clearing away the obstacles. You will understand it later."

2 RECRUITING. We then approached the gate where we saw, instead of gate-keepers, a number of drummers who asked all who desired to enter for their purses. When each produced and opened it, they filled it with money and said: "This skin is paid for."

3 THE ARSENAL OR ARMORY. Thereupon they took the recruit into a cellar from which he emerged encasedd in iron and fire. Then they ordered him to proceed to the square. Desiring to see what was in the cellar, I descended into it. There I beheld heaps of weapons lying on the ground, piled up in enormous stacks and covering all the walls as far as the eye could see, so that many thousands of wagon loads would not suffice to remove the accumulation. There were all kinds of terrible weapons for piercing, hacking, slashing, stabbing, felling, chopping, severing, tearing, burning, and, in a word, killing: they mere made of iron, lead, wood, and stone. "What wild beasts are these weapons intended for?" I cried out, seized with terror. "Against men, " rejoined my interpreter. "Against men?" I echoed. "I though they were against some mad beasts or wild, ferocious animals. But, in God's name, what a cruelty for men to invent such frightful weapons against men?" "Are you so pampered?" he answered, laughing at me.

4 THE LIFE OF SOLDIERS IS LICENTIOUS. Coming out, we proceeded farther into the square where I saw those iron-clad swash-bucklers, equipped with horns and claws, bound one to another in herds. They were just lying down in front of troughs and jugs into which their food and drink had been dumped and poured, and which they gobbled and lapped, vying with each other in haste. "Are they swine fattening for the slaughter-house?" I remarked; "I indeed perceive human appearance, but swinish behavior." "Such is the privilege of this particular calling, " replied my interpreter. Just then they got up from the troughs and began dancing, skipping, frolicking, and shouting. "Observe now the delights of their life," my interpreter continued. "What do they worry about! Is it not merry here?" "I shall wait for what follows, " I replied. In the meantime, the soldiers began chasing and robbing the civilians whom they chanced to encounter. Then casting themselves on the ground, they committed all kinds of sodomy and lechery without the slightest trace of shame or fear of God until I blushed. "This should not be tolerated!" I exclaimed. "But it must be tolerated, " rejoined my interpreter, "for their calling demands every kind of freedom." Thereupon they sat down and again began gorging themselves until, surfeited to dumbness with eating and drinking, they flopped down and fell to snoring. Then they were led out to the square and there exposed to rain, snow, hail, frost, sleet, thirst, hunger and other discomforts; hence not a few of them shook, trembled, pined away, and perished, to become food for dogs and crows. But the rest took no heed of them, continuing their revels.

5 DESCRIPTION OF THE BATTLE. Suddenly drums sounded, trumpets blared, and a tumultuous crying arose. The soldiers jumped up and seizing their daggers, dirks, poniards, or whatever else each had, began to plunge them mercilessly into each other until blood spurted all around. They cut and hacked each other worse than the most ferocious beasts. The din increased in all directions; one heard the beat of horses' hoofs, the clanging of cuirasses, the clash of swords, the booming of cannon, the whizzing of shots and bullets past the ear, the blare of trumpets, the beating of drums, the outcries of those urging on the battle, the shouts of the victors, the shrieks of the wounded and the dying. In one place I saw a terrible hail of lead; in another I saw the frightful lightning of fire and heard the sound of thundering. Here a soldier lost his arm, the head, or a leg; in another, I saw the frightful lightning of fire and heard the sound of thundering. Here a soldier lost his arm, the head, or a leg; there they fell one upon the other in a heap, all writhing in pools of +67blood. "Almighty God, what is happening?" I cried out; "is the world collapsing?" Gathering my wits somewhat, I ran away from that place scarcely knowing how and whither; then stopping to catch my breath, but still trembling all over, I cried reproachfully to my guides: "What pandemonium have you led me into?" "Is there a greater mollycoddle than you?" my interpreter retorted. "To be able to attack others is to be a man!" "But what wrong have they done each other?" I persisted. "Their masters disagreed and it had to be settled in this manner, " he replied. "Oh, is this a mere settling of a disagreement?" I exclaimed. "Why, of course!" he rejoined. "For how could the disagreements of great lords, kings, and kingdoms, which acknowledge no judge over them, otherwise be settled? They must determine such cases among themselves by the sword. Whoever flourishes his sword and directs his fire more dexterously, his contention wins the day." "Oh, the barbarity and the beastliness of it!" I cried, "are there no other ways of +68pacification? Such methods of peacemaking befit wildbeasts, not men!"

6 SURVIVORS OF THE BATTLE. Just then I perceived not a few with severed arms, or legs, or a split skull or nose, with riddled bodies, or lacerated skin, all bespattered with blood, being led or carried from the battlefield. I could hardly bear to look upon them for pity. "It will all heal; a soldier must be hardy, " my interpreter remarked. "But what about those who had lost their lives altogether?" I asked. "Their skin had already been paid for," he rejoined. "How is that?" I inquired. "Didn't you notice the comforts they had been granted?" "Yes, but I likewise observed how much discomfort they had to suffer, " I replied. "But even if they have previously lived in the utmost pleasure, it is a miserable thing to feed a man in order straightway to lead him to a slaughter-house. This is a disgusting career, taken all in all; and I will have nothing to do with it. Let us go away."

Chapter 21 ||| Labyrinth index page



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