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The Face of War – H. J. C. Grimmelshausen’s The Adventurous Simplicissimus (1669)

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NOW a few days after the hermit’s decease I betook myself to the paster above-mentioned and declared to him my master’s death, and therewith besought counsel from him how I should act in such a case. And though he much dissuaded me from living longer in the forest, yet did I boldly tread on in my predecessor’s footsteps, inasmuch as for the whole summer I did all that a holy monk should do. But as time changeth all things, so by degrees the grief which I felt for my hermit grew less and less, and the sharp cold of winter without quenched the heat of my steadfast purpose within. And the more I began to falter the lazier did I become in my prayers, for in place of dwelling ever upon godly and heavenly thoughts, I let myself be overcome by the desire to see the world: and inasmuch as for this purpose I could do no good in my forest, I determined to go again to the said pastor and ask if he again would counsel me to leave the wood. To that end I betook myself to his village, which when I came thither I found in flames: for a party of troopers had but now plundered and burned it, and of the peasants killed some, driven some away, and some had made prisoners, among whom was the pastor himself. Ah God, how full is man’s life of care and disappointment! Scarce hath one misfortune ended and lo! we are in another. I wonder not that the heathen philosopher Timon set up many gallows at Athens, whereon men might string themselves up, and so with brief pain make an end to their wretched life.

These troopers were even now ready to march, and had the pastor fastened by a rope to lead him away. Some cried, “Shoot him down, the rogue!” Others would have money from him. But he, lifting up his hands to heaven, begged, for the sake of the Last Judgment, for forbearance and Christian compassion, but in vain; for one of them rode him down and dealt him such a blow on the head that he fell flat, and commended his soul to God. Nor did the remainder of the captured peasants fare any better. But even when it seemed these troopers, in their cruel tyranny, had clean lost their wits, came such a swarm of armed peasants out of the wood that it seemed a wasps’-nest had been stirred. And these began to yell so frightfully and so furiously to attack with sword and musket that all my hair stood on end; and never had I been at such a merrymaking before: for the peasants of the Spessart and the Vogelsberg are as little wont as are the Hessians and men of the Sauerland and the Black Forest to let themselves be crowed over on their own dunghill. So away went the troopers, and not only left behind the cattle they had captured, but threw away bag and baggage also, and so cast all their booty to the winds lest themselves should become booty for the peasants: yet some of them fell into their hands. This sport took from me well-nigh all desire to see the world, for I thought, if ’tis all like this, then is the wilderness far more pleasant. Yet would I fain hear what the pastor had to say of it, who was, by reason of wounds and blows received, faint, weak, and feeble. Yet he made shift to tell me he knew not how to help or advise me, since he himself was now in a plight in which he might well have to seek his bread by begging, and if I should remain longer in the woods, I could hope no more for help from him; since, as I saw with my own eyes, both his church and his parsonage were in flames. Thereupon I betook myself sorrowfully to my dwelling in the wood, and because on this journey I had been but little comforted, yet on the other hand had become more full of pious thoughts, therefore I resolved never more to leave the wilderness: and already I pondered whether it were not possible for me to live without salt (which the pastor had until now furnished me with) and so do without mankind altogether.

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