Strader who is entering):
A hearty welcome to the friend whose tongue
With many a disputatious argument
Stoutly withstood me! 'Tis long time since
Thou crossed this threshold. Yet in earlier days
Thou wast my constant welcome visitor.
Alas I have not had the time to spare;
My life hath undergone a curious change.
No longer do I plague my weary brain
With hopeless problems. Now I dedicate
The knowledge I have won to honest work,
Such as may serve-some useful end in life.
Thou meanest, thou hast given up thy quest?
Say rather, that it hath abandoned me.
And what may be thy present labours' goal?
There are no goals in life ordained for man
Which he may see and clearly understand.
It is a mighty engine by whose wheels
We are caught up and wearied, and cast out
Into the darkness when our strength is spent.
I knew thee in the days when eagerly
And undismayed thou didst set out to solve
The riddles of existence. I have learned
How thou didst see thy treasured knowledge sink
Into the bottomless abyss, and how
Thy soul, profoundly shaken, had to drain
The bitter cup of disappointed dreams.
But never for one moment did I think
That thou couldst drive the impulse from thy heart
Which had become so fully master there.
Thou hast but to recall a certain day
On which a seeress by her truthful speech
Made clear to me the error of my ways.
I had no choice but to acknowledge then
That thought, however hard it toil and strive,
Can never reach the fountain: head of life.
For thought cannot do otherwise than err,
If it be so that highest wisdom's light
Can be revealed to that dark power of soul
Of which that woman showed herself possessed.
The rules of science cannot ever lead
To such a revelation; that is plain.
Had this been all, and had I only met
This one defeat whilst following my quest,
I do believe I could have brought myself
To start afresh by striving to unite
My methods with those other different ones.
But when I saw how some strange spirit cult —
Born of hallucinations as I deemed —
Impotence into creative strength could change,
Hope disappeared, and left me in despair.
Dost thou recall the artist, that young man
We both encountered whilst he was engrossed
Following the dubious course of spirit-ways
After such buffetings from fate I lived
For many weeks benumbed, to madness nigh
And when by nature's aid I was at last
Restored to sense, I made a firm resolve
To meddle with such seeking never more.
Long, long it was before I had regained
My body's health and 'twas a joyless time.
I made myself proficient in those things
That lead to business and to normal life.
So now I am a factory manager,
Where screws are made. This is the work I thank
For many hours in which I can forget
My bitter sufferings in a futile quest.
I must confess I scarce can recognize
My friend of former days; so different
Is now the guise in which he shows himself.
Beside those hours of which thou spak'st just now
Were there not others full of storm and stress,
In which the ancient conflicts were renewed
That urged thee forth from this benumbing life?
I am not spared those hours in mine own soul
When impotence 'gainst impotence doth strive.
And fate hath not so willed it in my case
That rosy beams of hope should force their way
Into my heart, and leave assurance there
That this my present life is not an utter loss.
Renunciation is henceforth my goal.
Yet may the force which such a task requires
Endow me later on with faculty
To follow up my quest in other ways —
If this terrestrial life repeats itself.
Thou spak'st, — if I indeed have heard aright, —
Of repetition of thy life on earth.
Then hast thou really won this fateful truth,
Found it on spirit-journeys, which to-day
Thou none the less condemnst as dubious?
This was the third thing — thou hast spoken it
That finally did strengthen my resolve
To make a fresh beginning in my life.
I sought upon my sick-bed once for all
In comprehensive survey to embrace
The field of knowledge traversed by myself.
And this I did, ere seeking other aims.
I must have asked myself an hundred times
What we can learn from nature, and infer
From what we know at present of her laws.
I could not find a loophole for escape.
The repetition of our earthly life
Cannot and must not be denied by thought
That doth not wish to tear itself away
From all research hath found for ages past.
Could I have had one such experience
Then should I have been spared much bitter pain.
I sought through many a weary wakeful night
For liberating thoughts to set me free.
And yet it was this spirit lightning-flash
Which robbed me of my last remaining powers.
The strongest impulse of my soul hath been
Ever to seek for evidence in life
Of what my thought hath forced on me as truth.
So it befell, as if by chance, that I
Wen in those days of misery should prove,
And by my own life testify the truth,
That cruel truth with all that it involves:
Which is, that all our sorrows and our joys
Are but results of what we really are.
Aye! this is often very hard to bear.
Incredible seems such experience.
What can there be to overshadow truth,
For which we search unwearying, and which
Unto our spirit firm assurance gives!
For thee it may be so, but not for me.
Thou art acquainted with my curious life.
By chance it seemed my parents' plans were crossed, —
Their purpose was to make a monk of me;
And naught so hurt them, they have often said,
In all their life as my apostasy.
I bore all this, yea and much more besides;
Just as one bears the other things in life
So long as birth and death appear the bounds
Appointed for our earthly pilgrimage.
So too my later life and all the hopes
That came to naught, to me a picture seemed
That only by itself could be explained.
Would that the day had never dawned, on which
I altered those convictions that I held,
For — bear in mind — I have not yet confessed
The total burden laid on me by fate.
No child was I of those who would have made
A monk of me, but an adopted son
Chosen by them when but a few days old.
My own real parents I have never known,
But was a stranger in my very home.
Nor less estranged have I remained from all
That happened round me in my later life.
And now my thought compels me to look back
Unto those days of long ago, and see
How from the world I stole myself away.
For thought is linked with thought to make a chain:
A man to whom it hath been thus ordained
To be a stranger in the world, before
His consciousness had ever dawned in him,
This man hath willed this fate upon himself
Ere he could will as consequence of thought.
And since I stay that which I was at first,
I know without the shadow of a doubt
That all unknowing I am in the power
Of forces that control my destiny,
And that will not reveal themselves to me.
Do I need more to give me cruel proof
How many veils enshroud mine inmost self?
Without false thirst for knowledge, judge this now;
Hath my new truth revealed the light to me?
It hath, at any rate, brought certainty
That I in mine uncertainty must stay.
Thus it portrays to me my destiny
And like in its own way, is my reply,
Half anguish and half bitter mockery.
A fearful sense of horror on me grew.
Tortured by scorn I must confront my life;
And scoffing at the mockery of fate
I yielded to the darkness. Yet there stayed
One single thought which I could realize:
Do with me what thou wilt, thou life-machine;
I am not curious how thy cog-wheels work!
The man whom I have recognized in thee
In such condition cannot long remain
Bereft of Knowledge, even if he would.
Already I can see the days approach
When we shall both be other than we are.