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Chapter IV

1. WHEN So-qi, the king, issued the decree to have Zarathustra found and brought before him, otherwise all the male infants of Oas to be slain, the Lords sent travail on the king's wife and on the king's daughter, wife of Asha, the philosopher, and the two women gave birth that day to two sons, a month before their time, but nevertheless unto life and strength and beauty. Now, according to the laws of Oas, a king could not rescind or change his own decrees, for he had assumed the position of infallibility, whereupon he had doomed to death kin of his kin, flesh of his flesh.

2. Accordingly, after search had been made in vain to find Zarathustra, the king repented of his decree, but knew no way to justify a change of commandment. Asha, hearing of this, came out of concealment, saying to himself: Now will I go to the king and hold him to his decree, even demanding that he slay me also. So Asha came before So-qi, and after saluting, said: O king, I have heard of thy strait, and am come to thee that I may counsel thee.

3. The king was angered, and he said: Asha, my friend, hear thou thy king: Thou camest before me, relating a marvelous story regarding an infant son of the virgin who saith she never knew a man. Now, according to the laws of the City of the Sun, any man stating for truth that which he cannot prove, is already adjudged to death. Shall not the law be fulfilled, because, forsooth, thou art near me in blood?

4. Asha said: Most assuredly, O king, the laws must be carried out. Are they not the all highest? For it followeth that man being the all highest person, his laws, above all else, must never be set aside. Therefore, thou shalt have me slain. Think not I am come before thee to plead an excuse, in order to save myself; rather let all men perish than that the king's decrees go amiss.

5. The king said: Thou art wise, O Asha. The laws cannot err, for they are the standard by which to judge all else. And he who hath risen to be p. 180b king standeth by nature the infallible highest of all things. History hath proven this. But yet hear me, thou who hast wisdom from the movements of the sun and moon and stars: The king, being the all highest, how can he be bound? Cannot he decree new decrees forever?

6. Asha said: I will not deceive thee, O king! I know thou art arguing not for me, but for thine own infant son, and for thy daughter's infant son. Neither have I come before thee in prowess, though I love life. But here is the matter: If thou change one law, thou admittest that all laws made by man may also need changing; which is to say, wisdom is folly. How, then, shall the judge judge any man by the laws? Is it not setting up error in order to find truth?

7. The king said: Thou reasonest well. Methought this morning, in my walk in the market gardens, when the soldiers were spreading the scalps of their enemies in the sun to dry, whether or no, in ages to come, the weaker nations and tribes of men might not attempt to justify their right to life. And were the kings to admit fallibility in their decrees and laws, no man can foresee the end; for even slaves and servants and women will raise up against the laws, and claim their right to life. Wherein, then, would the earth be large enough for all the people? Yet, wherefore, O Asha, cometh this heart-ache of mine against killing mine own son?

8. Asha said: What are thy sympathies, O king? If thou wert to justify the escape of thy child's death for sympathy, would not my wife and my children justify their sympathy in desiring me to live? Nay, sympathy is the enemy of law and justice. It is the evil in our natures that crieth out for evil. The laws must be maintained; the decrees must be maintained; the king's word must be maintained. No man must suffer his judgment to go higher than the law, or the decree, or the king.

9. Asha said: This is the City of the Sun. If this city goeth back on its own laws, what will not the tributary cities do? Will not they also begin to disrespect the laws, or say: Perhaps the laws are in error? This will come to anarchy. To one purpose only can a great city be maintained. To divide the purposes and judgment of p. 181b men is to scatter to the four winds the glory of our civil liberty. Was it not disrespect of the laws, combined with superstition, that caused the nations of ancients to perish?

10. The king said: What shall I do, O Asha? My son hath smiled in my face!

11. Asha said: Thou shalt send me and thy son and thy daughter's son, and all male infants to the slaughter's pen, and have us all beheaded and cast into the fire. Otherwise, it will come true what the infant Zarathustra hath said: Behold, my hand shall smite the city of Oas, and it shall fall as a heap of straw.

12. Think not, O king, I am superstitious and fear such threats; but this I perceive: Suffer the laws to be impeached, and every man in Oas will set up to interpret the laws to be wrong and himself right. And thy officers will rebel against thee on all sides, and the glory of thy kingdom will perish.

13. After the city had been searched for thirty days, and the virgin and child not found, the king appointed a day for the slaughter, according to his former decree; and there were ninety thousand male infants adjudged to death, the king's son among the rest.

14. Whilst these matters were maturing, the Lord went to Choe'jon, and inspired him to make songs about Zarathustra, the infant that was stronger than a king. And also songs about the decree of death to the ninety thousand infant sons of Oas. And the beauty of the songs, together with the nature of these proceedings, caused the songs to be sung in the streets day and night; and the songs, in satire, approved of the horrors, so that even the king could not interdict the singing.

Next: Chapter V