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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
A Spiritual Allegory
By Félicité Robert de Lamennais (1782–1854)
Translation of Jane Grosvenor Cooke

IT was a dark night; a starless sky hung heavily above the earth like the lid of black marble over a tomb.  1
  And nothing troubled the silence of the night; unless that it were a strange sound, like the light flapping of wings now and again, was audible over city and country.  2
  And then the darkness deepened, and every one felt his heart oppressed, while a shiver ran through his veins.  3
  And in a hall hung with black and lighted by a ruddy lamp, seven men clad in purple, and with heads bound with crowns, were seated on seven iron chairs.  4
  And in the midst of the hall rose a throne built out of bones; and at the foot of the throne, in the form of a footstool, was an overthrown crucifix; and before the throne an ebony table; and on the table a vase full of red and foaming blood, and a human skull.  5
  And the seven crowned men seemed sad and thoughtful; and from the depths of sunken orbits their eyes from time to time emitted sparks of livid fire.  6
  And one of them having risen, approached the throne, tottering as he went, and set his foot upon the crucifix.  7
  At that moment his limbs trembled, and he seemed about to faint. The others looked on silently; they did not make the slightest movement, but an indescribable something crept over their brows, and a smile which is not of man contracted their eyes.  8
  And he who had seemed ready to faint stretched out his hand, seized the vase full of blood, poured some into the skull, and drank it.  9
  And this drink seemed to fortify him.  10
  And he lifted up his head, and this cry burst from his breast like a hollow rattle:—  11
  “Accursed be Christ who has brought back liberty to earth!”  12
  And the six other crowned men all rose together, and all together uttered the same cry:—  13
  “Accursed be Christ who has brought back liberty to earth!”  14
  After which, when they had resumed their iron seats, the first said:—  15
  “My brothers, what can we do to stifle liberty? For our reign is at an end, if his begins. We have a common cause. Let each suggest what seems good to him. Here is my advice: Before Christ came, did any stand before us? His religion has destroyed us. Let us abolish the religion of Christ.”  16
  And all answered, “That is true. Let us abolish the religion of Christ!”  17
  And a second advanced toward the throne, took the human skull, poured in the blood, drank it, and then said:—  18
  “We must abolish not only religion, but also science and thought: for science wishes to know what it is not good for us that man should know; and thought is always ready to struggle against force.”  19
  And all answered, “It is true. Let us abolish science and thought.”  20
  And when he had followed the example of the first two, a third said:—  21
  “When we shall have plunged man back into brutishness by taking away religion, science, and thought, we shall have done much; but something will still remain to do. The brute has dangerous instincts and dangerous sympathies. One people should never hear the voice of another people, lest it should be tempted to follow an example of complaint and agitation. Let no sound from without penetrate to us.”  22
  And all answered, “It is true. Let no sound from without penetrate to us.”  23
  And a fourth said:—  24
  “We have our interests, and the nations too have theirs which are opposed to ours. If they were to unite in self-defense, how could we resist them? Let us divide to reign. In every hamlet, every city, every province, let us establish an interest opposed to that of other hamlets, other cities, other provinces. Then all will hate each other, and will not think to unite against us.”  25
  And all answered, “It is true. Let us divide to reign! Concord would destroy us.”  26
  And a fifth, when he had twice filled with blood and twice emptied the human skull, said:—  27
  “I approve all these means; they are good, but inadequate. To create brutes is well; but intimidate these brutes—strike them with terror by an inexorable justice and frightful penalties—if you would not sooner or later be devoured by them. The executioner is the prime minister of a good prince.”  28
  And all answered, “It is true. The executioner is the prime minister of a good prince.”  29
  And a sixth said:—  30
  “I acknowledge the advantage of prompt, terrible, inevitable penalties. Yet there are brave spirits and despairing spirits who brave penalties. If you would govern men easily, soften them by pleasure. Virtue is naught to us; it nourishes force: let us exhaust it by means of corruption.”  31
  And all answered, “It is true. Let us exhaust strength and energy and courage by means of corruption.”  32
  Then the seventh, having like the others drunk from the human skull, with feet on the crucifix, spoke thus:—  33
  “Down with Christ!—there is war to the death, eternal war between him and us. But how can we tear the nations from him? It is a vain attempt. What then shall we do? Listen to me. We must win the priests of God with goods, honors, and power. And they will command the people in the name of Christ to submit to us in all things, whatever we may do, whatever we may order. And the people will believe them; and will obey from conscience, and our power will be stronger than ever before.”  34
  And all answered, “It is true. We must win over the priests of Christ!”  35
  And suddenly the lamp which lighted the hall went out, and the seven men separated in the darkness.  36
  And to a just man, who at that moment was watching and praying before the Cross, it was said: “My day is drawing near. Adore and fear nothing.”  37

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