August 10, 1911
Updated: Sep 10, 2020
I am sleepy, tired. I want nothing. Just forgetting. Just sleep. Sloth has embraced me; her arms are soft, yet cold and slippery. I look for rest, and I find disgust.
I am not permitted rest. My duty is to guard my soul--that weak, fragile form, so close to chaos--from chaos. I must not cede even a single moment. If I cede the moment to sloth, melancholy, lust,* boredom, contemplation, and a sense of unhappiness, then it passes fruitless, with a heavy unnecessity--then I have entrusted my fortress to the enemy. I have been growing weaker, he--stronger. He creeps closer and closer and I have made another step on the road which does not lead back.
My moments may be of fear, of mourning, of joy, of thought, of work, of prayer. The rest belongs to the Devil.
I am weak, the road is hard. And I go--and I look off to the sides, perhaps there is rest, forgetting. Dragging my feet forward, I think myself away. I must stay alert--my path goes along the edge of oblivion. I need not know of rest, I must go faster, further. Endless is my path.
I will not succeed, my road does not lead to the broad, sunny road through the open field.** I am destined--I have destined myself--to live in eternal peril. Every moment meets my eyes with eyes concealing--madness; every moment--a temptation. That is my punishment. To not accept this punishment is the greatest danger, and a new sin yet.
God! I accept my punishment, give me the strength to bear my punishment.
Words, words, words. Declamation. Actor and audience, pretty words and applause in place of resolve and labor. That’s literature. And it is always just so. The less fruitful the life--the more abundant the ideas.
How does one remove their masks? Perhaps that is a lie: I remove nothing. I put on new masks and more new masks. Or am I all mask? And someone cursed me to remove masks my entire life, one after the other, without ever reaching a face because there is no face there. And if these words are not another lie, what looks at itself in the mirror and enjoys itself therein? No, I do not remove my masks. They have grown into me; if you remove them--it hurts. Yet, I look in the mirror and I enjoy.
God! Give me, so weak, the strength to cast off the Devil’s net, so his charms might be removed from me!
Look! Already, I am heartless; it is not I who knows of fear, of joy, of anguish--I look and look: does it please me or displease me? God! Give me a heart!
By Moyshe Varshe
Translated by Corbin Allardice
*- znus/זנות, literally whoredom or debauchery
**- zunen-shlyakh, literally a sunny country road.