Max Havelaar (Wikisource)/06
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Prologue - Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - Chapter 7 - Chapter 8 - Chapter 9 - Chapter 10 - Chapter 11 - Chapter 12 - Chapter 13 - Chapter 14 - Chapter 15 - Chapter 16 - Chapter 17 - Chapter 18 - Chapter 19 - Chapter 20 - Chapter 21 - Chapter 22 - Chapter 23 - Chapter 24 - Chapter 25 - Chapter 26 - Chapter 27 - Chapter 28 - Chapter 29 - Chapter 30 - Chapter 31 - Chapter 32 - Chapter 33 - Chapter 34 - Chapter 35 - Chapter 36 - Chapter 37 - Chapter 38 - Chapter 39
In the morning at ten there was an unusual commotion on the main road which leads from the department Pandeglang to Lebak. 'Main road' is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, since it was a wide footpath, which, for want of something better, was called the 'road'. But when a coach with four horses left from Serang, the capital of the residence Bantam, with the intention of going to Rangkas-Betoeng, the new capital of Lebak, one could be almost sure to arrive there sometime. So it was a road. It's true, every now and then one got stuck in the mud, which in the lowlands of Bantam is heavy, like clay, and sticky, so one was forced to call for help from the nearby villages – which weren't really nearby, for villages are rare in that area – but if one had succeeded in gathering a score of farmers from the area, it usually did not last long before horse and coach were back on solid ground. The driver would clack his whip, the runners – in Europe they would be called "grooms" or rather, there is no similar person in Europe – those incomparable runners, with their short thick whips, jumped on the sides of the four horses, screamed indescribable cries, and hit the horses on the bellies to encourage them. That's how one when forth for some time, until the sad moment that the coach sank to the axles in the mud. The cry for help could begin again. One waited patiently for that help, and the journey continued.
Very often, whenwent along that road, I felt that I would soon find a coach with travellers from the previous century, down in the mud, forgotten. But it never happened. So I presume that all who went this road, eventually arrived at the place where they wanted to be.
It would be a mistake if one were to judge the entire big road on Java by that road in Lebak. The actual military highway, with its many branches, which had been constructed by Marshall Daendels, sacrificing many of his people, is truly a wonderful masterpiece, and one can be amazed at the spiritual power of the man who, in spite of all objections from his envious opponents in the motherland, fought against the unwilling people and their unsatisfied masters, to produce something which until today deserves to be admired by any visitor.
No mail service in Europe – not even in England, Russia or Hungary – can be compared with the one in Java. Over high mountaintops, along valleys which make you tremble, the heavily-packed carrier gallops continuously. The driver appears to be nailed to his seat, hours, yes many days continuously, and he brandishes the heavy whip with his iron arm. He knows how to calculate where and when he must steady the running horses, when he flies from a mountain slope, there at the bend…
"My God, the road is gone! We go into an abyss!" screams the inexperienced traveller, "there is no road, there is nothing!"
Yes, it appears to be. The road bends, and a few galloping steps further, when you expect that the front horses lose fixed soil under their feet, the horses turn and swing the vehicle around the bend. They fly up another slope, which you did not see a moment ago and the abyss is behind you.
At such a time there are moments when the coach rests only on the wheels on the outside of the bend – the centrifugal force has lifted the wheels on the inside. It takes a lot of courage to keep your eyes open, and whoso travels in Java for the first time, writes to his family that he has been in very dangerous situations. But whoso lives there, just laughs about that fear.
I do not have the intention, while my story has just begun, to bore the reader with a description of places, countries or buildings. I am afraid I'd frighten the reader, who would find the book long-winded, and only afterwards, when I feel that I have the reader's interest, when I see from his looks and his attitude that he is interested in the fate of the heroine who jumps from the balcony of the fourth floor, I, boldly despising all laws of gravity, let her float in the air between heaven and earth, until my heart has given a careful description of the beauty of the country, or of the building that appears to be built there under pretext of being a multi-page story on Mediaeval architecture. All those castles are similar. Unchangeable and of a different order. Theis always from a previous government than the additions which have been built afterwards under the reign of this or that king. The towers are decaying.
Dear reader, there are no towers. A tower is an idea, a dream, an ideal, a fiction, unbearable boasting! There are half towers and turrets.
The fanatism that thought that towers had to be built on buildings which were erected to honour this or that Saint, did not last long enough to complete them, and the pinnacle which had to show believers where heaven is, is supported, a few storeys below, on a fixed base, which reminds us of the man without thighs whom we saw at the fair. Only the turrets, little needles on village churches, have been completed.
It is truly not flattering for Western civilisation that the idea of completing a great work could not continue long enough to see that work completed. I do not speak about enterprises which had to be completed to cover the cost. He who wants to know what I mean, should go and see the Dom of Cologne. Admire the great view of that building, in the soul of the architect Gerhard von Riehl, of the faith in the heart of the people, which made it possible for him to start that work and to continue it, admire the influence of the views which needed such a big building to represent the unseen religious feeling, compare the span with the direction, which resulted a few centuries afterwards in the birth of the moment that the work was abandoned.
There is a deep chasm between Erwin van Steinbach and our architects! I know that they are at work to fill this gap. Even in Cologne one continues to work on the Dom. But will it be possible to attach a broken thread? Will one find in our days what used to be the power of a churchwarden and an architect? I don't think so. Money can be obtained, and you can buy bricks and mortar. You can pay the artist who designs a plan, and the mason who lays the bricks. But not for sale is the lost and yet respectable feeling that saw a building as a poem, a poem of granite, which spoke aloud to the people, a poem in marble, which stood there motionless, like a continuing eternal prayer.