Chap. xxiv. : HOW SIMPLICISSIMUS BLAMED THE WORLD AND SAW MANY IDOLS THEREIN
Now at that time I had no precious possession save only a clear conscience and a right pious mind, and that clad and surrounded with the purest innocence and simplicity. Of vice I knew no more than that I had at times heard it spoken of or read of it, and if I saw any man commit such sin then was it to me a fearful and a terrible thing, I being so brought up and reared as to have the presence of God to His holy will: and inasmuch as I knew all this, I could not but compare men’s ways and works with that same will: and methought I saw naught but vileness. Lord God! How did I wonder at the first when I considered the law and the Gospel and the faithful warnings of Christ, and saw, on the contrary part, the deeds of them that gave themselves out to be His disciples and followers! In place of the straight forward dealing which every true Christian should have, I found mere hypocrisy; and besides, such numberless follies among all dwellers in the world that I must needs doubt whether I saw before me Christians or not. For though I could see well that many had a serious knowledge of God’s will: yet could I mark but little serious purpose to fulfil the same. So had I a thousand puzzles and strange thoughts in my mind, and fell into grievous difficulty upon that saying of Christ, which saith, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Nevertheless there came into my mind the words of St. Paul in the fifth chapter of Galatians1, where he saith: “The works of the fresh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,” and so on: “of the which I tell you before as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Then I thought: every man doeth all these things openly: Wherefore then should I not in this matter conclude from the apostle’s word that there shall be few that are saved?
Moreover, pride and greed with their worthy accompaniments, gorging and swilling and loose living, were a daily occupation for them of substance: yet what did seem to me most terrible of all was this shameful thing, that some, and specially soldiers, in whose case vice is not wont to be severely punished, should make of both these things, their own godlessness and God’s holy will, a mere jest. For example, I heard once an adulterer which after his deed of shame accomplished would treat thereof, and spake these godless words: “It serves the cowardly cuckold aright,” says he, “to get a pair of horns from me: and if I confess the truth, I did the thing more to vex the husband than to please the wife, and so to be revenged on them.”
“O pitiful revenge!” says one honest heart that stood by, “by which a man staineth his own conscience and gaineth the shameful name of adulterer and fornicator!”
“What! Fornicator!” answered he, with a scornful laughter, “I am no fornicator because I have given this marriage a twist: a fornicator is he that the sixth commandment* speaks of, where it forbids that any man get into another’s garden and nick the fruit before the owner.” How to prove that this was so to be understood, he forthwith explained according to his devil’s catechism the seventh commandment, wherein it is said, “Thou shalt not steal.” And of suck words he used many, so that I sighed within myself and though, “O God-blaspheming sinner, though callest thyself a marriage-twister: and so then God must be a marriage-breaker, seeing that He doth separate man and wife by death.” And out of mine overflowing zeal and anger I said to him, officer though he was, “Thinkest thou not, thou sinnest more with these godless words than by thine act of adultery.” So he answered me, “Thou rascal, must I give thee a buffet or two?” Yea, kand I believe I had received a handsome couple of such if the fellow had not stood in fear of my lord. So I held my peace and thereafter I marked it was no rare case for single fold to cast eyes upon wedded folk and wedded fold upon such as were unwedded.
Now while I was yet studying, under my good hermit’s care, the way to eternal life, I much wondered why God had so straitly forbidden idolatry to his people: for I imagined, if any one had ever known the true and eternal God, he would never again honour and pray to any other, and so in my stupid mind I resolved that this commandment was unnecessary and vain. But ah! Fool as I was, I knew not what I thought I knew: for no sooner was I come into the great world, than I marked how (in spite of this commandment) wellnigh every man had his special idol: yet some had more than the old and new heathen themselves. Some had their god in their money-bags, upon which they put all their trust and confidence: many a one had his idol at court and trusted wholly and entirely on him: which idol was but a minion and often even such a pitiable lickspittle as his worshipper himself; for his airy godhead depended only on the April weather of a prince’s smile: others found their idol in popularity, and fancied, if they could but attain to that they would themselves be demi-gods. Yet others had their gods in their head, namely, those to whom the true God had granted a sound brain, so that whom the true God had granted a sound brain, so that they were able to learn certain arts and sciences: for these forgot the great Giver and looked only to the gift, in the hope that gift would procure them all prosperity. Yea, and there were many whose god was but their own belly, to which they daily offered sacrifice, as once the heathen did to Bacchus2 and Ceres3, and when that god shewed himself unkind or when human failings shewed themselves in him, these miserable folk then made a god of their physician, and sought for their life’s prolongation in the apothecary’s shop, wherefrom they were more often sped on their way to death. And many fools made goddesses for themselves out of flattering harlots: these they called all manner of outlandish names, worshipped them day and night with many thousand sighs, and made songs upon them which contained naught but praise of them, together with a humble prayer they would have mercy upon their folly and become as great fools as were their suitors.
Contrariwise were there women which had made their own beauty their idol. For this, they thought, will give me my livelihood, let God in heaven say what He will. And this idol was every day, in place of other offerings, adorned and sustained with paint, ointments, waters, powders, and the like daubs.
There too I saw some which held houses luckily situated as their gods: for they said, so long as they had lived therein had they ever had health and wealth: and many said these had tumbled in through their windows. At this folly I did more especially wonder because I would well perceive the reason why the inhabitants so prospered. I knew one man who for some years could never sleep by reason of this trade in tobacco; for to this he had given up his heart, mind and soul, which should be dedicated to God alone: and to this idol he sent up night and day a thousand sighs for ‘twas by that he made his way in life. Yet what did happen? The fool died and vanished like his own tobacco-smoke. Then thought I, O thou miserable man: Had but thy soul’s happiness and the honour of the true God been so dear to thee as thine idol, which stands upon thy shop-sign in the shape of a Brazilian, with a roll of tobacco under his arm and a pipe in his mouth, then am I sure and certain that thou hadst won a noble crown of honour to wear in the next world.
Another ass had yet more pitiful idols: for when in a great company it was being told by each how he had been fed and sustained during the great famine and scarcity of food, this fellow said in plain German: the snails and frogs had been his gods: for want of them he must have died of hunger. So I asked him what then had God Himself been to him, who had provided such insects for his sustenance. The poor creature could answer nothing and I wondered the more more because I had never read that either the old idolatrous Egyptians or the new American savages ever called such vermin their gods, as did this prater.
I once went with a person of quality into his museum, wherein were fine curiosities: but among all none pleased me better than an “Ecce Homo”4 by reason of its moving portraiture, by which it stirred the spectator at once to sympathy. By it there hung a paper picture painted in China, whereon were Chinese idols sitting in their majesty, and some in shape like devils. So the master of the house asked me which piece in this gallery pleased me most. And when I pointed to the said “Ecce Homo” he said I was wrong: for the Chinese picture was rarer and therefore of more value: he woud not lose it for a dozen such “Ecce Homos.” So said I, “Sir, is your heart like to your speech?” “Surely,” said he. “why then,” said I, “your heart’s god is that one whose picture you do confess with your mouth to be of most value.” “Fool,” says he, “’tis the rarity I esteem.” Whereto I replied, “Yet what can be rarer and more worthy of wonder than that God’s Son Himself suffered in the way which this picture doth declare?”
Chap. xxv.: HOW SIMPICISSIMUS FOUND THE WOLRD ALL STRANGE AND THE WORLD FOUND HIM STRANGE LIKEWISE
Even as much as these and yet a greater number of idols were worshipped, so much on the contrary was the majesty of the true God despised: for as I never saw any desirous to keep His word and command, so I saw contrariwise many that resisted him in all things and excelled even the publicans5 in wickedness: which publicans were in the days when Christ walked upon sinners. And so saith Christ: “Love your enemies; bless them that curse you. If ye do good only to your brethren, what do ye that the publicans do not?” But I found not only no one that would follow this command of Christ, but every man did the clean opposite. “The more a man hath kindred the more a man is hindered” was the word: and nowhere did I find more envy, hatred, malice, quarrel, and dispute than between brothers, sisters, and other born friends, specially if an inheritance fell to them. Moreover, the handicraftsmen of every place hated one another, so that I could plainly see, and must conclude, that in comparison the open sinners, publicans and tax-gatherers, which by reason of their evil deeds were hated by many, were far better than we Christians nowadays in exercise of brotherly love: seeing that Christ bears testimony to them that at least they did love one another. Then thought I, if we have no reward because we love our enemies, how great must our punishment be if we hate our friends! And where there should be the greatest love and good faith, there I found the worst treachery and the strongest hatred. For many a lord would fleece his true servants and subjects, and some retainers would play the rogue against the best of lords. So too between married folk I marked continual strife: many a tyrant treated his wedded wife worse than his dog, and many a loose baggage held her good husband but for a fool and an ass. So too, many currish lords and masters cheated their industrious servants of their due pay and pinched them both in food and drink: and contrariwise I saw many faithless servitors which by theft or neglect brought their kind masters of ruin. Tradesfolk and craftsmen did vie with each other in Jewish roguery: exacted usury: sucked the sweat of the poor peasant’s brow by all manner of chicanery and over-reaching. On the other hand, there were peasants so godless that if they were not thoroughly well and cruelly fleeced, they would sneer at other folks or even their lords themselves for their simplicity.
Once did I see a soldier give another a sore buffet; and I conceived he that was smitten would turn the other cheek (for as yet I had been in no quarrel), but there was I wrong, for the insulted one drew on him, and dealt the offender a crack of the crown. So I cried at the top of my voice, “Ah! friend, what doest thou?” “a coward must he be,” says he, “that would not avenge himself: devil take me but I will, or I care not to live. What! He must be a knave that would let himself be so fobbed off.” And between these two antagonists the quarrel waxed greater, for their backers on both sides, together with the bystanders, and any man moreover that came by chance to the spot, were presently by the ears: and there I heard men swear by God and their own souls, so lightly, that I could not believe they held those souls for their dearest treasure. But all this was but child’s play: for they stayed not at such children’s curses but presently ‘twas so: “Thunder, lightning, hail: strike me, tear me, devil take me,” and the like, and not one thunder or lightning but a hundred thousand, “and snatch me away into the air.” Yea, and the blessed sacraments for them must have been not seven but a hundred thousand, and there with so many “bloodies,” “dames,” and “cursemes” that my poor hair stood on end thereat. Then thought I of Christ’s command wherein He saith, “Swear not, let your speech be yea yea; and nay nay; for whatsoever is more evil.”
Now all this that I saw and heard I pondered in my heart: and at the last I firmly concluded, these bullies were no Christians at all, and therefore I sought for other company. And worst of all it did terrify me when I heard some such swaggerers boast of their wickedness, sin, shame, and vice. For again and again I heard them so do, yea, day by day’ and thus they would say: “’S blood, man, but we were foxed yesterday: three times in the day was I blind drunk and three times did vomit all.” “My stars,” says another, “how did we torment the rascal peasants!” And “Hundred thousand devils!” says a third, “what sport did we have with the women and maids!” And so on. “I cut him down as if lightning had struck him.” “I shot him--shot him so that he shewed the whites of his eyes!” Or again: “I rode him down so cleverly, the devil only could fetch him off,” “I put such a stone in his way that he must needs break his neck thereover.”
Such and such-like heathen talk filled my ears every day: and more than that, I did hear and see sins done in God’s name, which are much to be grieved for. Such wickedness was specially practiced by the soldiers, when they would say, “Now in God’s name let us forth on a foray,” viz., to plunder, kidnap, shoot down, cut down, assault, capture and burn, and all the rest of their horrible works and practices. Just as the usurers ever invoke God with their hypocritical “In God’s name”: and therewithal let their devilish avarice loose to flay and to strip hones folk. Once did I see two rogues hanged, that would break into a house by night to steal, and even as they had placed their ladder one would mount it saying, “In God’s name, there comes the householder”: “and in the devils name” he says also, and therewithal threw him down: where he broke a leg and so was captured, and a few days after strung up together with his comrade. But I, if I saw the like, must speak out, and out would I come with some passage of Holy Writ, or in other ways would warn the sinner: and all men therefore held me a fool. Yea, I was often laughed out of countenance in return for my good intent that at length I took a disgust at it, and preferred altogether to keep silence, which yet for Christian love I could not keep. I would that all men had been reared with my hermit, believing that then many would look on the world’s ways with Simplicissimus’ eyes as I then beheld them. I had not the wit to see that if there were only Simplicissimuses in the world then there were not so many vices to behold: meanwhile ‘tis certain that a man of the world, as being accustomed to all vices and himself partaker thereof, cannot in the least understand on what a thorny path he and his likes do walk.
Chap. xxvi.: A NEW AND STRANGE WAY FOR MEN TO WISH ONE ANOTHER LUCK AND TO WELCOME ONE ANOTHER
Having now, as I deemed, reason to doubt whether I were among Christians or not, I went to the pastor and told him all that I had heard and seen, and what my thoughts were: namely, that I held these people for mockers of Christ and His word, and no Christians at all, with the request he would in any case help me out of my dream, that I might know what I should count my fellow men to be. The pastor answered: “Of a surety they be Christians, nor would I counsel thee to call them otherwise.” “O God,” said I, “how can that be? for if I point out to one or the other his sin that he committeth against God, then am I but mocked and laughed at.” “Marvel not at that,” answered the pastor; “I believe if our first pious Christians, which lived in the time of Christ—yea, if the Apostles themselves should now rise from the grave and come into the world, that they would put the like question, and in the end, like thee, would be accounted of many to be fools: yet that thou hast thus far seen and heard is but an ordinary thing and mere child’s play compared with that which elsewhere, secretly and openly, with violence against God and man, doth happen and is wilt find few Christians such as was the late Master Samuel+.”
Now even as we spake together, some of the opposite party which had been taken prisoner were led across the market-place, and this broke up our discourse, for we too must go to look on the captives. Here then I was ware of a folly whereof I could never have dreamed, and that was a new fashion of greeting and welcoming one another: for one of our garrison, who also had before-time served the emperor, knew one of the prisoners: so he goes up to him, gives him his hand, and pressed his for sheer joy and heartiness, and says he: “Devil take thee! art still alive, brother? ‘S blood, ‘tis surely the devil that brings us together here! Strike me blind, but I believed thou wert long since hanged.” Then answered the other: “Curse me, but is it thee or not? Devil take thee, how camest thou here? I never thought in all my born days I should meet thee again, but thought the devil had fetched the long ago.” And when they parted, one says to the other (in place of “God be wi’ you”). “Gallows’ luck! Gallows’ luck! To-morrow will we meet again, and be nobly drunk together.”
“Is not this a fine pious welcome?” said I to the pastor; “be not these noble Christian wishes? Have not these men a godly intent for the coming day? Who could know them for Christians of hearken to them without amazement? If the so talk with one another for Christian love, how will it fare if they do quarrel? Sir Pastor, if these be Christ’s flock, and thou their appointed shepherd, I counsel thee to lead them in better pastures.” “Yea,” answered the pastor, “dear child, ‘tis ever so with these godless soldiers. God help us! If I said a word, I might as well preach to the deaf; and should gain naught from it but the perilous hatred of these good fellows.”
At that I wondered, but talked yet awhile with the pastor, and went then to wait upon the Governor; for at times had I leave to view the town and to visit the pastor, for my lord had wind of my simplicity, and thought such would cease if I went about seeing this and hearing that and being taught by others or, as folks say, being broken to harness.
Edited by Brendan Gaffney
1 The Galatians is a one of
the letters in The Bible from the apostle Paul to the churches he had established
in the province of Galatia. He wrote the letter out of his fear that
Galatian churches were in danger of fading away from the truth of Christ,
by embracing a different gospel. The preachers of this different
gospel doubted the legitimacy of Paul’s apostleship and the authority of
his teaching. He wrote the letter in his initial distress at hearing
this news. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of The Bible. Ed. George
Arthur Buttrick. Nashville, Tennessee, 1962.
* The commandments are here numbered according to the Roman arrangement, but the meaning is obscure (Grimmelshausen’s note).
2 From Greco-Roman mythology, Bacchus, also known as Liber(a), is a name for the God of wine, Dionysos. The name is typically considered to be Roman in origin, but it was actually first used by the ancient Greeks, then later absorbed into the Roman panthenon. Male worshippers of Bacchus were known as Bacchoi, while female worshippers were known as Bacchae. Simplicissimus referred to Bacchus to display how heathen folk used to make a God for everything. Encyclopedia of Greco-Roman Mythology. By Mike Dixon-Kennedy. Santa Barbara, California, 1998. p.63.
3 From Roman mythology, Ceres was the patron goddess of growing vegetation and agriculture. Her Greek counterpart was Demeter, who was one of the 12 Olympians, and was revered as an earth goddess. She was specifically worshipped as goddess of nutrition, agriculture, and crops, especially corn, as well as the goddess of human health and fertility. Encyclopedia of Greco-Roman Mythology. By Mike Dixon-Kennedy. (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. 1998.) p. 83 and p. 108.
4 In art, Ecce Homo is a name given to pictures representing the suffering of Jesus as described in John 19:15. The depictions of Christ take two forms. The first form is the devotional picture, which shows the single head, or half-figure of Christ. The second form is the historical picture where he is attended by Pontius Pilate and placed in front of the viewer, or the picture gives the entire scene in numerous figures. Cyclopaedia Of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. By the Rev. John M’Clintock, D.D., James Strong S.T.D. (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers. 1891.) p. 26.
5 Publicans were tax or tribute collectors. In the Habsburg Empire, during the Thirty Years War, the majority of the tax burden rested on the backs of free towns and the unfree peasantry, which explains why there was such a strong disliking for tax collectors. This makes the publicans a good comparison for people who Simplicissimus sees as despicable. Webster’s New World Collection Dictionary. Eds. Victoria Neufeldt and David B. Guralnik. (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1996.) p. 1087. and The Habsburg Monarchy 1618-1815. By Charles W. Ingrao. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 1994, 2000.) p. 26.
+ The hermit (Grimmelshausen’s note).