Thursday, 23 January 2014


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 caressed 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 anyone 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 incautiously 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 silence.

"Thou dost not wish to tell us,"--wondered the man, "is it so terrible

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. Silence.

"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 field.

But the musicians were paid to play and again they took 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,
many-voiced noise.

"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, grave-clothes 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 supernatural 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, greedy desert.

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 beared 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 left

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 said:

"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.

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