by Leonid Andreyev
Translated by ABRAHAM YARMOLINSKY
Lazarus and The Gentleman from San Francisco, while fairly typical
of Slavic literature, nevertheless contain few of the elements
popularly associated with the work of contemporary Russian writers.
They have no sex interest, no photographic descriptions of sordid
conditions and no lugubrious philosophizing. These stories are not
cheerful, yet their sadness is uplifting rather than depressing. They
both contain what the Greek called katharsis in their tragedies,
that cleansing atmosphere which purges us of every baser feeling as we
In Lazarus Andreyev has come as near as it is humanly possible to
achieving the impossible. He has made concretely vivid an abstraction;
he has arrested for an instant the ceaseless, unmeasurable flood of
eternity; he has enclosed in a small frame the boundless void of the
infinite. That which no human faculty can understand Andreyev has made
almost intelligible. For a terrible moment he unveils the the secrets
of the grave, and together with Augustus and the others who have come
under the spell of Lazarus' eyes, we see how the most enduring of human
monuments crumble into chaos even at the instant when they are being
built, how nations upon nations tower like the shadows of silent
ghosts, rising out of nothingness and sinking instantaneously into
nothingness again, "for Time was no more, and the beginning of all
things came near their end: the building was still being built, and the
builders were still hammering away, and its ruins were already seen and
the void in its place; the man was still being born, but already
funeral candles were burning at his head, and now they were
extinguished and there was the void in place of the man and of the
funeral candles. And wrapped by void and darkness the man in despair
trembled in the face of the Horror of the Infinite."
Lazarus is a story which depicts the misery of knowing the
In The Gentleman from San Francisco Ivan Bunin demonstrates the
poverty of wealth and the impotence of power. This story has been
called the best work of fiction produced in Russia during the last
The petty seriousness of the life of the modern Babylon, the
deference paid by all people to bald heads and patent leather shoes and
well-filled pockets, and the utter disregard for human feelings, are
pictured with the pen of one who pities rather than scorns the
frailties of the earth. The author stands aside, letting the world rush
by like a hurdy gurdy, each gentleman from San Francisco or Boston or
Berlin or Hong Kong sitting on his hobby horse, while the head waiter
Luigi clownishly mocks their antics and nudges Death in the ribs.
The Gentleman from San Francisco shows the wide gulf that yawns
between our estimate of our own worth and our actual worth. "I need the
whole wide world for my amusement!" cries the man of wealth. "Yes, and
here it is," answered Death, handing him a coffin. And as a further
humiliation, those who were most anxious to serve this man of wealth in
life are the first to shove the coffin into the ground.
The two stories in this book will arouse thought. They will be
severely criticized by those who hate thought and as an excuse for
their superficial shallowness condemn all Russian literature, for
Russian literature is nothing if not thought-provoking. I do hope,
however, that nobody will be found quite so devoid of a sense of humor
as an admirable college dean and a sweet old lady the former of whom
wrote to me that Chekhov's Nine Humorous Tales was immoral, and the
latter of whom insisted that Lazarus was ungodly, inasmuch as Christ
would never have raised a man from the dead for the purpose of teaching
us so sad a lesson about the grave. H. T. S.
I WHEN Lazarus left the grave, where, for three days and three nights
he had been under the enigmatical sway of death, and returned alive to
his dwelling, for a long time no one noticed in him those sinister
oddities, which, as time went on, made his very name a terror.
Gladdened unspeakably by the sight of him who had been returned to
life, those near to him carressed [sic] him unceasingly, and satiated
their burning desire to serve him, in solicitude for his food and drink
and garments. And they dressed him gorgeously, in bright colors of hope
and laughter, and when, like to a bridegroom in his bridal vestures, he
sat again among them at the table, and again ate and drank, they wept,
overwhelmed with tenderness. And they summoned the neighbors to look at
him who had risen miraculously from the dead. These came and shared the
serene joy of the hosts. Strangers from far-off towns and hamlets came
and adored the miracle in tempestuous words. Like to a beehive was the
house of Mary and Martha.
Whatever was found new in Lazarus' face and gestures was thought to
be some trace of a grave illness and of the shocks recently
experienced. Evidently, the destruction wrought by death on the corpse
was only arrested by the miraculous power, but its effects were still
apparent; and what death had succeeded in doing with Lazarus' face and
body, was like an artist's unfinished sketch seen under thin glass. On
Lazarus' temples, under his eyes, and in the hollows of his cheeks, lay
a deep and cadaverous blueness; cadaverously blue also were his long
fingers, and around his fingernails, grown long in the grave, the blue
had become purple and dark. On his lips the skin, swollen in the
grave, had burst in places, and thin, reddish cracks were formed,
shining as though covered with transparent mica. And he had grown
stout. His body, puffed up in the grave, retained its monstrous size
and showed those frightful swellings, in which one sensed the presence
of the rank liquid of decomposition. But the heavy corpse-like odor
which penetrated Lazarus' graveclothes and, it seemed, his very body,
soon entirely disappeared, the blue spots on his face and hands grew
paler, and the reddish cracks closed up, although they never
disappeared altogether. That is how Lazarus looked when he appeared
before people, in his second life, but his face looked natural to those
who had seen him in the coffin.
In addition to the changes in his appearance, Lazarus' temper
seemed to have undergone a transformation, but this circumstance
startled no one and attracted no attention. Before his death Lazarus
had always been cheerful and carefree, fond of laughter and a merry
joke. It was because of this brightness and cheerfulness, with not a
touch of malice and darkness, that the Master had grown so fond of him.
But now Lazarus had grown grave and taciturn, he never jested, himself,
nor responded with laughter to other people's jokes; and the words
which he uttered, very infrequently, were the plainest, most ordinary
and necessary words, as deprived of depth and significance, as those
sounds with which animals express pain and pleasure, thirst and hunger.
They were the words that one can say all one's life, and yet they give
no indication of what pains and gladdens the depths of the soul.
Thus, with the face of a corpse which for three days had been under
the heavy sway of death, dark and taciturn, already appallingly
transformed, but still unrecognized by any one in his new self, he was
sitting at the feasting table, among friends and relatives, and his
gorgeous nuptial garments glittered with yellow gold and bloody
scarlet. Broad waves of jubilation, now soft, now
tempestuously-sonorous surged around him; warm glances of love were
reaching out for his face, still cold with the coldness of the grave;
and a friend's warm palm caressed his blue, heavy hand. And music
played: the tympanum and the pipe, the cithara and the harp. It was as
though bees hummed, grasshoppers chirped and birds warbled over the
happy house of Mary and Martha.
One of the guests uncautiously lifted the veil. By a thoughtless
word he broke the serene charm and uncovered the truth in all its naked
ugliness. Ere the thought formed itself in his mind, his lips uttered
with a smile:
"Why dost thou not tell us what happened yonder?"
And all grew silent, startled by the question. It was as if it
occurred to them only now that for three days Lazarus had been dead,
and they looked at him, anxiously awaiting his answer. But Lazarus kept
"Thou dost not wish to tell us," wondered the man, "is it so
And again his thought came after his words. Had it been otherwise,
he would not have asked this question, which at that very moment
oppressed his heart with its insufferable horror. Uneasiness seized all
present, and with a feeling of heavy weariness they awaited Lazarus'
words, but he was silent, sternly and coldly, and his eyes were
lowered. And as if for the first time, they noticed the frightful
blueness of his face and his repulsive obesity. On the table, as though
forgotten by Lazarus, rested his bluish-purple wrist, and to this all
eyes turned, as if it were from it that the awaited answer was to come.
The musicians were still playing, but now the silence reached them too,
and even as water extinguishes scattered embers, so were their merry
tunes extinguished in the silence. The pipe grew silent; the voices of
the sonorous tympanum and the murmuring harp died away; and as if the
strings had burst, the cithara answered with a tremulous, broken note.
"Thou dost not wish to say?" repeated the guest, unable to check
his chattering tongue. But the stillness remained unbroken, and the
bluish-purple hand rested motionless. And then he stirred slightly and
everyone felt relieved. He lifted up his eyes, and, lo! straightway
embracing everything in one heavy glance, fraught with weariness and
horror, he looked at them, Lazarus who had arisen from the dead.
It was the third day since Lazarus had left the grave. Ever since
then many had experienced the pernicious power of his eye, but neither
those who were crushed by it forever, nor those who found the strength
to resist in it the primordial sources of life, which is as
mysterious as death, never could they explain the horror which lay
motionless in the depth of his black pupils. Lazarus looked calmly and
simply with no desire to conceal anything, but also with no intention
to say anything; he looked coldly, as he who is infinitely indifferent
to those alive. Many carefree people came close to him without noticing
him, and only later did they learn with astonishment and fear who that
calm stout man was, that walked slowly by, almost touching them with
his gorgeous and dazzling garments. The sun did not cease shining, when
he was looking, nor did the fountain hush its murmur, and the sky
overhead remained cloudless and blue. But the man under the spell of
his enigmatical look heard no more the fountain and saw not the sky
overhead. Sometimes, he wept bitterly, sometimes he tore his hair and
in frenzy called for help; but more often it came to pass that
apathetically and quietly he began to die, and so he languished many
years, before everybody's very eyes, wasted away, colorless, flabby,
dull, like a tree, silently drying up in a stony soil. And of those who
gazed at him, the ones who wept madly, sometimes felt again the stir of
life; the others never.
"So thou dost not wish to tell us what thou hast seen yonder?"
repeated the man. But now his voice was impassive and dull, and deadly
gray weariness showed in Lazarus' eyes. And deadly, gray weariness
covered like dust all the faces, and with dull amazement the guests
stared at each other and did not understand wherefore they had gathered
here and sat at the rich table. The talk ceased. They thought it was
time to go home, but could not overcome the flaccid lazy weariness,
which glued their muscles, and they kept on sitting there, yet apart
and torn away from each other, like pale fires scattered over a dark
But the musicians were paid to play and again they took to their
instruments, and again tunes full of studied mirth and studied sorrow
began to flow and to rise. They unfolded the customary melody, but the
guests hearkened in dull amazement. Already they knew not wherefore is
it necessary, and why is it well, that people should pluck strings,
inflate their cheeks, blow in thin pipes and produce a bizarre,
"What bad music," said someone.
The musicians took offense and left. Following them, the guests
left one after another, for night was already come. And when placid
darkness encircled them and they began to breathe with more ease,
suddenly Lazarus' image loomed up before each one in formidable
radiance: the blue face of a corpse, graveclothes gorgeous and
resplendent, a cold look, in the depths of which lay motionless an
unknown horror. As though petrified, they were standing far apart, and
darkness enveloped them, but in the darkness blazed brighter and
brighter the super-natural vision of him who for three days had been
under the enigmatical sway of death. For three days had he been dead:
thrice had the sun risen and set, but he had been dead; children had
played, streams murmured over pebbles, the wayfarer had lifted up hot
dust in the highroad, but he had been dead. And now he is again
among them, touches them, looks at them, looks at them! and
through the black discs of his pupils, as through darkened glass,
stares the unknowable Yonder.
No one was taking care of Lazarus, for no friends, no relatives
were left to him, and the great desert, which encircled the holy city,
came near the very threshold of his dwelling. And the desert entered
his house, and stretched on his couch, like a wife, and extinguished
the fires. No one was taking care of Lazarus. One after the other, his
sisters Mary and Martha forsook him. For a long while Martha was
loath to abandon him, for she knew not who would feed him and pity him,
she wept and prayed. But one night, when the wind was roaming in the
desert and with a hissing sound the cypresses were bending over the
roof, she dressed noiselessly and secretly left the house. Lazarus
probably heard the door slam; it banged against the side-post under the
gusts of the desert wind, but he did not rise to go out and to look at
her that was abandoning him. All the night long the cypresses hissed
over his head and plaintively thumped the door, letting in the cold,
Like a leper he was shunned by everyone, and it was proposed to tie
a bell to his neck, as is done with lepers, to warn people against
sudden meetings. But someone remarked, growing frightfully pale, that
it would be too horrible if by night the moaning of Lazarus' bell were
suddenly heard under the windows, and so the project was abandoned.
And since he did not take care of himself, he would probably have
starved to death, had not the neighbors brought him food in fear of
something that they sensed but vaguely. The food was brought to him by
children; they were not afraid of Lazarus, nor did they mock him with
naive cruelty, as children are wont to do with the wretched and
miserable. They were indifferent to him, and Lazarus answered them with
the same coldness: he had no desire to caress the black little curls,
and to look into their innocent shining eyes. Given to Time and to the
Desert, his house was crumbling down, and long since had his famishing
lowing goats wandered away to the neighboring pastures. And his bridal
garments became threadbare. Ever since that happy day, when the
musicians played, he had worn them unaware of the difference of the new
and the worn. The bright colors grew dull and faded; vicious dogs and
the sharp thorn of the Desert turned the tender fabric into rags.
By day, when the merciless sun slew all things alive, and even
scorpions sought shelter under stones and writhed there in a mad desire
to sting, he sat motionless under the sunrays, his blue face and the
uncouth, bushy beard lifted up, bathing in the fiery flood.
When people still talked to him, he was once asked:
"Poor Lazarus, does it please thee to sit thus and to stare at the
And he had answered:
"Yes, it does."
So strong, it seemed, was the cold of his three-days' grave, so
deep the darkness, that there was no heat on earth to warm Lazarus, nor
a splendor that could brighten the darkness of his eyes. That is what
came to the mind of those who spoke to Lazarus, and with a sigh they
And when the scarlet, flattened globe would lower, Lazarus would
set out for the desert and walk straight toward the sun, as though
striving to reach it. He always walked straight toward the sun and
those who tried to follow him and to spy upon what he was doing at
night in the desert, retained in their memory the black silhouette of a
tall stout man against the red background of an enormous flattened
disc. Night pursued them with her horrors, and so they did not learn of
Lazarus' doings in the desert, but the vision of the black on red was
forever branded on their brain. Just as a beast with a splinter in its
eye furiously rubs its muzzle with its paws, so they too foolishly
rubbed their eyes, but what Lazarus had given was indelible, and Death
alone could efface it.
But there were people who lived far away, who never saw Lazarus and
knew of him only by report. With daring curiosity, which is stronger
than fear and feeds upon it, with hidden mockery, they would come to
Lazarus who was sitting in the sun and enter into conversation with
him. By this time Lazarus' appearance had changed for the better and
was not so terrible. The first minute they snapped their fingers and
thought of how stupid the inhabitants of the holy city were; but when
the short talk was over and they started homeward, their looks were
such that the inhabitants of the holy city recognized them at once and
"Look, there is one more fool on whom Lazarus has set his eye,"
and they shook their heads regretfully, and lifted up their arms.
There came brave, intrepid warriors, with tinkling weapons; happy
youths came with laughter and song; busy tradesmen, jingling their
money, ran in for a moment, and haughty priests leaned their crosiers
against Lazarus' door, and they were all strangely changed, as they
came back. The same terrible shadow swooped down upon their souls and
gave a new appearance to the old familiar world.
Those who still had the desire to speak, expressed their feelings
"All things tangible and visible grew hollow, light and
transparent, similar to lightsome shadows in the darkness of night;
"for, that great darkness, which holds the whole cosmos, was
dispersed neither by the sun nor by the moon and the stars, but like an
immense black shroud enveloped the earth and, like a mother, embraced
"it penetrated all the bodies, iron and stone, and the particles
of the bodies, having lost their ties, grew lonely; and it penetrated
into the depth of the particles, and the particles of particles became
"for that great void, which encircles the cosmos, was not filled by
things visible: neither by the sun, nor by the moon and the stars, but
reigned unrestrained, penetrating everywhere, severing body from body,
particle from particle;
"in the void hollow trees spread hollow roots, threatening a
fantastic fall; temples, palaces and horses loomed up, and they were
hollow; and in the void men moved about restlessly, but they were light
and hollow like shadows;
"for, Time was no more, and the beginning of all things came near
their end: the building was still being built, and builders were still
hammering away, and its ruins were already seen and the void in its
place; the man was still being born, but already funeral candles were
burning at his head, and now they were extinguished, and there was the
void in place of the man and of the funeral candles.
"and wrapped by void and darkness the man in despair trembled in
the face of the Horror of the Infinite.''
Thus spake the men who had still a desire to speak. But, surely,
much more could have told those who wished not to speak, and died in
At that time there lived in Rome a renowned sculptor. In clay,
marble and bronze he wrought bodies of gods and men, and such was their
beauty, that people called them immortal. But he himself was
discontented and asserted that there was something even more beautiful,
that he could not embody either in marble or in bronze. "I have not yet
gathered the glimmers of the moon, nor have I my fill of sunshine," he
was wont to say, "and there is no soul in my marble, no life in my
beautiful bronze." And when on moonlight nights he slowly walked along
the road, crossing the black shadows of cypresses, his white tunic
glittering in the moonshine, those who met him would laugh in a
friendly way and say:
"Art thou going to gather moonshine, Aurelius? Why then didst thou
not fetch baskets?"
And he would answer, laughing and pointing to his eyes:
"Here are the baskets wherein I gather the sheen of the moon and
the glimmer of the sun."
And so it was: the moon glimmered in his eyes and the sun sparkled
therein. But he could not translate them into marble and therein lay
the serene tragedy of his life.
He was descended from an ancient patrician race, had a good wife
and children, and suffered from no want.
When the obscure rumor about Lazarus reached him, he consulted his
wife and friends and undertook the far journey to Judea to see him who
had miraculously risen from the dead. He was somewhat weary in those
days and he hoped that the road would sharpen his blunted senses. What
was said of Lazarus did not frighten him: he had pondered much over
Death, did not like it, but he disliked also those who confused it with
life. "In this life, life and beauty; beyond, Death, the
enigmatical" thought he, and there is no better thing for a man to
do than to delight in life and in the beauty of all things living. He
had even a vain glorious desire to convince Lazarus of the truth of his
own view and restore his soul to life, as his body had been restored.
This seemed so much easier because the rumors, shy and strange, did not
render the whole truth about Lazarus and but vaguely warned against
Lazarus had just risen from the stone in order to follow the sun
which was setting in the desert, when a rich Roman attended by an armed
slave, approached him and addressed him in a sonorous tone of voice:
And Lazarus beheld a superb face, lit with glory, and arrayed in
fine clothes, and precious stones sparkling in the sun. The red light
lent to the Roman's face and head the appearance of gleaming bronze
that also Lazarus noticed. He resumed obediently his place and lowered
his weary eyes.
"Yes, thou art ugly, my poor Lazarus," quietly said the Roman,
playing with his golden chain; "thou art even horrible, my poor friend;
and Death was not lazy that day when thou didst fall so heedlessly into
his hands. But thou art stout, and, as the great Caesar used to say,
fat people are not ill-tempered; to tell the truth, I don't understand
why men fear thee. Permit me to spend the night in thy house; the hour
is late, and I have no shelter."
Never had anyone asked Lazarus' hospitality.
"I have no bed," said he.
"I am somewhat of a soldier and I can sleep sitting," the Roman
answered. "We shall build a fire."
"I have no fire."
"Then we shall have our talk in the darkness, like two friends. I
think, thou wilt find a bottle of wine."
"I have no wine."
The Roman laughed.
"Now I see why thou art so somber and dislikest thy second life. No
wine! Why, then we shall do without it: there are words that make the
head go round better than the Falernian."
By a sign he dismissed the slave, and they remained all alone. And
again the sculptor started speaking, but it was as if, together with
the setting sun, life had left his words; and they grew pale and
hollow, as if they staggered on unsteady feet, as if they slipped and
fell down, drunk with the heavy lees of weariness and despair. And
black chasms grew up between the words like far-off hints of the
great void and the great darkness.
"Now I am thy guest, and thou wilt not be unkind to me, Lazarus!"
said he. "Hospitality is the duty even of those who for three days
were dead. Three days, I was told, thou didst rest in the grave. There
it must be cold . . . and that is whence comes thy ill habit of going
without fire and wine. As to me, I like fire; it grows dark here so
rapidly. . . . The lines of thy eyebrows and forehead are quite, quite
interesting: they are like ruins of strange palaces, buried in ashes
after an earthquake. But why dost thou wear such ugly and queer
garments? I have seen bridegrooms in thy country, and they wear such
clothes are they not funny and terrible. . . . But art thou a
The sun had already disappeared, a monstrous black shadow came
running from the east it was as if gigantic bare feet began rumbling
on the sand, and the wind sent a cold wave along the backbone.
"In the darkness thou seemest still larger, Lazarus, as if thou
hast grown stouter in these moments. Dost thou feed on darkness,
Lazarus? I would fain have a little fire at least a little fire, a
little fire. I feel somewhat chilly, your nights are so barbarously
cold. . . . Were it not so dark, I should say that thou wert looking at
me, Lazarus. Yes, it seems to me, thou art looking. . . . Why, thou art
looking at me, I feel it, but there thou art smiling."
Night came, and filled the air with heavy blackness.
"How well it will be, when the sun will rise to-morrow anew. . . .
I am a great sculptor, thou knowest; that is how my friends call me. I
create. Yes, that is the word . . . but I need daylight. I give life to
the cold marble, I melt sonorous bronze in fire, in bright hot fire. .
. . Why didst thou touch me with thy hand?"
"Come" said Lazarus "Thou art my guest."
And they went to the house. And a long night enveloped the earth.
The slave, seeing that his master did not come, went to seek him,
when the sun was already high in the sky. And he beheld his master side
by side with Lazarus: in profound silence were they sitting right
under the dazzling and scorching sunrays and looking upward. The slave
began to weep and cried out:
"My master, what has befallen thee, master?"
The very same day the sculptor left for Rome. On the way Aurelius
was pensive and taciturn, staring attentively at everything the men,
the ship, the sea, as though trying to retain something. On the high
sea a storm burst upon them, and all through it Aurelius stayed on the
deck and eagerly scanned the seas looming near and sinking with a thud.
At home his friends were frightened at the change which had taken
place in Aurelius, but he calmed them, saying meaningly:
"I have found it."
And without changing the dusty clothes he wore on his journey, he
fell to work, and the marble obediently resounded under his sonorous
hammer. Long and eagerly worked he, admitting no one, until one morning
he announced that the work was ready and ordered his friends to be
summoned, severe critics and connoisseurs of art. And to meet them he
put on bright and gorgeous garments, that glittered with yellow gold
and scarlet byssus.
"Here is my work," said he thoughtfully.
His friends glanced and a shadow of profound sorrow covered their
faces. It was something monstrous, deprived of all the lines and shapes
familiar to the eye, but not without a hint at some new, strange image.
On a thin, crooked twig, or rather on an ugly likeness of a twig
rested askew a blind, ugly, shapeless, outspread mass of something
utterly and inconceivably distorted, a mad heap of wild and bizarre
fragments, all feebly and vainly striving to part from one another.
And, as if by chance, beneath one of the wildly-rent salients a
butterfly was chiseled with divine skill, all airy loveliness, delicacy
and beauty, with transparent wings, which seemed to tremble with an
impotent desire to take flight.
"Wherefore this wonderful butterfly, Aurelius?" said somebody
"I know not" was the sculptor's answer.
But it was necessary to tell the truth, and one of his friends who
loved him best said firmly:
"This is ugly, my poor friend. It must be destroyed. Give me the
And with two strokes he broke the monstrous man into pieces,
leaving only the infinitely delicate butterfly untouched.
From that time on Aurelius created nothing. With profound
indifference he looked at marble and bronze, and on his former divine
works, where everlasting beauty rested. With the purpose of arousing
his former fervent passion for work and awakening his deadened soul,
his friends took him to see other artists' beautiful works, but he
remained indifferent as before, and the smile did not warm up his
tightened lips. And only after listening to lengthy talks about beauty,
he would retort wearily and indolently:
"But all this is a lie."
And by the day, when the sun was shining, he went into his
magnificent, skillfully-built garden and having found a place without
shadow, he exposed his bare head to the glare and heat. Red and white
butterflies fluttered around; from the crooked lips of a drunken satyr,
water streamed down with a splash into a marble cistern, but he sat
motionless and silent, like a pallid reflection of him who, in the
far-off distance, at the very gates of the stony desert, sat under the
And now it came to pass that the great, deified Augustus himself
summoned Lazarus. The imperial messengers dressed him gorgeously, in
solemn nuptial clothes, as if Time had legalized them, and he was to
remain until his very death the bridegroom of an unknown bride. It was
as though an old, rotting coffin had been gilt and furnished with new,
gay tassels. And men, all in trim and bright attire, rode after him, as
if in bridal procession indeed, and those foremost trumpeted loudly,
bidding people to clear the way for the emperor's messengers. But
Lazarus' way was deserted: his native land cursed the hateful name of
him who had miraculously risen from the dead, and people scattered at
the very news of his appalling approach. The solitary voice of the
brass trumpets sounded in the motionless air, and the wilderness alone
responded with its languid echo.
Then Lazarus went by sea. And his was the most magnificently
arrayed and the most mournful ship that ever mirrored itself in the
azure waves of the Mediterranean Sea. Many were the travelers aboard,
but like a tomb was the ship, all silence and stillness, and the
despairing water sobbed at the steep, proudly curved prow. All alone
sat Lazarus exposing his head to the blaze of the sun, silently
listening to the murmur and splash of the wavelets, and afar seamen and
messengers were sitting, a vague group of weary shadows. Had the
thunder burst and the wind attacked the red sails, the ships would
probably have perished, for none of those aboard had either the will or
the strength to struggle for life. With a supreme effort some mariners
would reach the board and eagerly scan the blue, transparent deep,
hoping to see a naiad's pink shoulder flash in the hollow of an azure
wave, or a drunken gay centaur dash along and in frenzy splash the wave
with his hoof. But the sea was like a wilderness, and the deep was dumb
With utter indifference did Lazarus set his feet on the street of
the eternal city. As though all her wealth, all the magnificence of her
palaces built by giants, all the resplendence, beauty and music of her
refined life were but the echo of the wind in the wilderness, the
reflection of the desert quicksand. Chariots were dashing, and along
the streets were moving crowds of strong, fair, proud builders of the
eternal city and haughty participants in her life; a song sounded;
fountains and women laughed a pearly laughter; drunken philosophers
harangued, and the sober listened to them with a smile; hoofs struck
the stone pavements. And surrounded by cheerful noise, a stout, heavy
man was moving, a cold spot of silence and despair, and on his way he
sowed disgust, anger, and vague, gnawing weariness. Who dares to be sad
in Rome, wondered indignantly the citizens, and frowned. In two days
the entire city already knew all about him who had miraculously risen
from the dead, and shunned him shyly.
But some daring people there were, who wanted to test their
strength, and Lazarus obeyed their imprudent summons. Kept busy by
state affairs, the emperor constantly delayed the reception, and seven
days did he who had risen from the dead go about visiting others.
And Lazarus came to a cheerful Epicurean, and the host met him with
laughter on his lips:
"Drink, Lazarus, drink!" shouted he. "Would not Augustus laugh
to see thee drunk!"
And half-naked drunken women laughed, and rose petals fell on
Lazarus' blue hands. But then the Epicurean looked into Lazarus' eyes,
and his gaiety ended forever. Drunkard remained he for the rest of his
life; never did he drink, yet forever was he drunk. But instead of the
gay revery which wine brings with it, frightful dreams began to haunt
him, the sole food of his stricken spirit. Day and night he lived in
the poisonous vapors of his nightmares, and death itself was not more
frightful than her raving, monstrous forerunners.
And Lazarus came to a youth and his beloved, who loved each other
and were most beautiful in their passion. Proudly and strongly
embracing his love, the youth said with serene regret:
"Look at us, Lazarus, and share our joy. Is there anything stronger
And Lazarus looked. And for the rest of their life they kept on
loving each other, but their passion grew gloomy and joyless, like
those funeral cypresses whose roots feed on the decay of the graves and
whose black summits in a still evening hour seek in vain to reach the
sky. Thrown by the unknown forces of life into each other's embraces,
they mingled tears with kisses, voluptuous pleasures with pain, and
they felt themselves doubly slaves, obedient slaves to life, and
patient servants of the silent Nothingness. Ever united, ever severed,
they blazed like sparks and like sparks lost themselves in the
And Lazarus came to a haughty sage, and the sage said to him:
"I know all the horrors thou canst reveal to me. Is there anything
thou canst frighten me with?"
But before long the sage felt that the knowledge of horror was far
from being the horror itself, and that the vision of Death, was not
Death. And he felt that wisdom and folly are equal before the face of
Infinity, for Infinity knows them not. And it vanished, the
dividing-line between knowledge and ignorance, truth and falsehood, top
and bottom, and the shapeless thought hung suspended in the void. Then
the sage clutched his gray head and cried out frantically:
"I cannot think! I cannot think!"
Thus under the indifferent glance for him, who miraculously had
risen from the dead, perished everything that asserts life, its
significance and joys. And it was suggested that it was dangerous to
let him see the emperor, that it was better to kill him and, having
buried him secretly, to tell the emperor that he had disappeared no one
knew whither. Already swords were being whetted and youths devoted to
the public welfare prepared for the murder, when Augustus ordered
Lazarus to be brought before him next morning, thus destroying the
If there was no way of getting rid of Lazarus, at least it was
possible to soften the terrible impression his face produced. With this
in view, skillful painters, barbers and artists were summoned, and all
night long they were busy over Lazarus' head. They cropped his beard,
curled it and gave it a tidy, agreeable appearance. By means of paints
they concealed the corpse-like blueness of his hands and face.
Repulsive were the wrinkles of suffering that furrowed his old face,
and they were puttied, painted and smoothed; then, over the smooth
background, wrinkles of good-tempered laughter and pleasant, carefree
mirth were skillfully painted with fine brushes.
Lazarus submitted indifferently to everything that was done to him.
Soon he was turned into a becomingly stout, venerable old man, into a
quiet and kind grandfather of numerous offspring. It seemed that the
smile, with which only a while ago he was spinning funny yarns, was
still lingering on his lips, and that in the corner of his eye serene
tenderness was hiding, the companion of old age. But people did not
dare change his nuptial garments, and they would not change his eyes,
two dark and frightful glasses through which looked at men, the
Lazarus was not moved by the magnificence of the imperial palace.
It was as though he saw no difference between the crumbling house,
closely pressed by the desert, and the stone palace, solid and fair,
and indifferently he passed into it. And the hard marble of the floors
under his feet grew similar to the quicksand of the desert, and the
multitude of richly dressed and haughty men became like void air under
his glance. No one looked into his face, as Lazarus passed by, fearing
to fall under the appalling influence of his eyes; but when the sound
of his heavy footsteps had sufficiently died down, the courtiers raised
their heads and with fearful curiosity examined the figure of a stout,
tall, slightly bent old man, who was slowly penetrating into the very
heart of the imperial palace. Were Death itself passing, it would be
faced with no greater fear: for until then the dead alone knew Death,
and those alive knew Life only and there was no bridge between them.
But this extraordinary man, although alive, knew Death, and
enigmatical, appalling, was his cursed knowledge. "Woe," people
thought, "he will take the life of our great, deified Augustus," and
they sent curses after Lazarus, who meanwhile kept on advancing into
the interior of the palace.
Already did the emperor know who Lazarus was, and prepared to meet
him. But the monarch was a brave man, and felt his own tremendous,
unconquerable power, and in his fatal duel with him who had
miraculously risen from the dead he wanted not to invoke human help.
And so he met Lazarus face to face:
"Lift not thine eyes upon me, Lazarus," he ordered. "I heard thy
face is like that of Medusa and turns into stone whomsoever thou
lookest at. Now, I wish to see thee and to have a talk with thee,
before I turn into stone," added he in a tone of kingly jesting, not
devoid of fear.
Coming close to him, he carefully examined Lazarus' face and his
strange festal garments. And although he had a keen eye, he was
deceived by his appearance.
"So. Thou dost not appear terrible, my venerable old man. But the
worse for us, if horror assumes such a respectable and pleasant air.
Now, let us have a talk."
Augustus sat, and questioning Lazarus with his eye as much as with
words, started the conversation:
"Why didst thou not greet me as thou enteredst?"
Lazarus answered indifferent:
"I knew not it was necessary."
"Art thou a Christian?"
Augustus approvingly shook his head.
"That is good. I do not like Christians. They shake the tree of
life before it is covered with fruit, and disperse its odorous bloom to
the winds. But who art thou?"
With a visible effort Lazarus answered:
"I was dead."
"I had heard that. But who art thou now?"
Lazarus was silent, but at last repeated in a tone of weary apathy:
"I was dead."
"Listen to me, stranger," said the emperor, distinctly and severely
giving utterance to the thought that had come to him at the beginning,
"my realm is the realm of Life, my people are of the living, not of the
dead. Thou art here one too many. I know not who thou art and what thou
sawest there; but, if thou liest, I hate thy lies, and if thou tellst
the truth, I hate thy truth. In my bosom I feel the throb of life; I
feel strength in my arm, and my proud thoughts, like eagles, pierce the
space. And yonder in the shelter of my rule, under the protection of
laws created by me, people live and toil and rejoice. Dost thou hear
the battle-cry, the challenge men throw into the face of the future?"
Augustus, as in prayer, stretched forth his arms and exclaimed
"Be blessed, O great and divine Life!"
Lazarus was silent, and with growing sternness the emperor went on:
"Thou art not wanted here, miserable remnant, snatched from under
Death's teeth, thou inspirest weariness and disgust with life; like a
caterpillar in the fields, thou gloatest on the rich ear of joy and
belchest out the drivel of despair and sorrow. Thy truth is like a
rusty sword in the hands of a nightly murderer, and as a murderer
thou shalt be executed. But before that, let me look into thine eyes.
Perchance, only cowards are afraid of them, but in the brave they awake
the thirst for strife and victory; then thou shalt be rewarded, not
executed. . . . Now, look at me, Lazarus."
At first it appeared to the deified Augustus that a friend was
looking at him, so soft, so tenderly-fascinating was Lazarus'
glance. It promised not horror, but sweet rest, and the Infinite seemed
to him a tender mistress, a compassionate sister, a mother. But
stronger and stronger grew its embraces, and already the mouth, greedy
of hissing kisses, interfered with the monarch's breathing, and already
to the surface of the soft tissues of the body came the iron of the
bones and tightened its merciless circle, and unknown fangs, blunt
and cold, touched his heart and sank into it with slow indolence.
"It pains," said the deified Augustus, growing pale. "But look at
me, Lazarus, look."
It was as though some heavy gates, ever closed, were slowly moving
apart, and through the growing interstice the appalling horror of the
Infinite poured in slowly and steadily. Like two shadows there entered
the shoreless void and the unfathomable darkness; they extinguished the
sun, ravished the earth from under the feet, and the roof from over the
head. No more did the frozen heart ache.
"Look, look, Lazarus," ordered Augustus tottering.
Time stood still, and the beginning of each thing grew frightfully
near to its end. Augustus' throne just erected, crumbled down, and the
void was already in the place of the throne and of Augustus.
Noiselessly did Rome crumble down, and a new city stood on its site and
it too was swallowed by the void. Like fantastic giants, cities, states
and countries fell down and vanished in the void darkness and with
uttermost indifference did the insatiable black womb of the Infinite
"Halt!" ordered the emperor.
In his voice sounded already a note of indifference, his hands
dropped in languor, and in the vain struggle with the onrushing
darkness his fiery eyes now blazed up, and now went out.
"My life thou hast taken from me, Lazarus," said he in a
spiritless, feeble voice.
And these words of hopelessness saved him. He remembered his
people, whose shield he was destined to be, and keen salutary pain
pierced his deadened heart. "They are doomed to death," he thought
wearily, "Serene shadows in the darkness of the Infinite," thought he,
and horror grew upon him. "Frail vessels with living seething blood,
with a heart that knows sorrow and also great joy," said he in his
heart, and tenderness pervaded it.
Thus pondering and oscillating between the poles of Life and Death,
he slowly came back to life, to find in its suffering and in its joys a
shield against the darkness of the void and the horror of the Infinite.
"No, thou hast not murdered me, Lazarus," said he firmly, "but I
will take thy life. Be gone."
That evening the deified Augustus partook of his meats and drinks
with particular joy. Now and then his lifted hand remained suspended in
the air, and a dull glimmer replaced the bright sheen of his fiery eye.
It was the cold wave of Horror that surged at his feet. Defeated, but
not undone, ever awaiting its hour, that Horror stood at the emperor's
bedside, like a black shadow all through his life; it swayed his
nights, but yielded the days to the sorrows and joys of life.
The following day, the hangman with a hot iron burnt out Lazarus'
eyes. Then he was sent home. The deified Augustus dared not kill him.
* * * * * *
Lazarus returned to the desert, and the wilderness met him with
hissing gusts of wind and the heat of the blazing sun. Again he was
sitting on a stone, his rough, bushy beard lifted up; and the two black
holes in place of his eyes looked at the sky with an expression of dull
terror. Afar-off the holy city stirred noisily and restlessly, but
around him everything was deserted and dumb. No one approached the
place where lived he who had miraculously risen from the dead, and long
since his neighbors had forsaken their houses. Driven by the hot iron
into the depth of his skull, his cursed knowledge hid there in an
ambush. As though leaping out from an ambush it plunged its thousand
invisible eyes into the man, and no one dared look at Lazarus.
And in the evening, when the sun, reddening and growing wider,
would come nearer and nearer the western horizon, the blind Lazarus
would slowly follow it. He would stumble against stones and fall, stout
and weak as he was; would rise heavily to his feet and walk on again;
and on the red screen of the sunset his black body and outspread hands
would form a monstrous likeness of a cross.
And it came to pass that once he went out and did not come back.
Thus seemingly ended the second life of him who for three days had been
under the enigmatical sway of death, and rose miraculously from the