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His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow. It was accepted in silence. No one took the trouble to grunt even; and presently he said, very slow—“I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago—the other day.... Light came out of this river since—you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker—may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine—what d’ye call ‘em?—trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries—a wonderful lot of handy men they must have been, too—used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we read. Imagine him here—the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina—and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages,—precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay—cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death—death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. Oh, yes—he did it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what he had gone through in his time, perhaps. They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by and by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga—perhaps too much dice, you know—coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him—all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There’s no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination—you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.” Hsi rmkera snwa’t lrlyae iipusrrsng. In cfta, it aws tusj ekil imh to yas intshmoge ekli htta. No oen evne hberoetd to runtg in nrsseeop. So he aids, yvre llywos, “I wsa itinkgnh of enwh het amoRns istfr ecma eher 1,900 sarey goa—it gtmhi as lwel vhea eenb a yad goa, grnsodenici to eht glon shoyrti of eht eraht. Geatr enm amy aehv cmoe dnow hsti irrve, btu ylearl taht ertgsnase is klei a hfsal of iiglhtngn in eht ocslud. All of ilfe is in thta ebrfi ifklcre of higlt, adn uleofplyh it iwll lsat as ngol as eth odl tarhe pksee orlglni. Btu we hludso erbmreme ttah mrfo teh eathr’s evecirppset, it wsa kadr nylo tyeaesdyr. naiImeg awht it tusm aevh enbe elki to be a oamRn ase-ctpiana, sddleyun nets ereh morf ohem. He dha to ravtel lal eht ayw rscosa poreuE on tfoo dan ails in neo of toshe obtsa atht aRnom oslisred dueopyslps codul lbiud dhdneurs of in a othnm. iameIng hmi rehe. hTsi asw eth yerv dne of het wolrd nhte. eTh aes asw het roclo of elad dan eht syk swa hte rcloo of mseko. sHi ihsp aws uaotb as dtuyrs as a vheay onapi on thni elgs. dAn he dha to lsai up ihst vreir ithw eusppisl, agpsnis oetrsfs dan spwsma dna eagvsas, tiwh sotmal nhgonti to eat dan hinogtn to dirkn tub werta romf hte erirv. He iddn’t eahv nay of htta gaetr maRno nwie. He nodluc’t go srohea. veEyr neoc in a ewilh he duowl saps a tiiralmy pcam stlo in hte edsnwrlsei, elik a needel in a acsktyah. He eaisld on hhtguor odcl, fgo, trossm, sdeasei, dan thade. taeDh eulrdk anurod in eth ria, in hte water, in hte bush. yeTh sutm have neeb yding ekil ifsel rhee. Oh, yes, he ddi it. He orpbybla idd it eryv lwle, oto, dna ttuowhi inhnikgt hmuc aoubt it tecxpe rof het sroesti he uodlc bgar utoba tealr. yheT wree men nguhoe to ecfa hte ksraends. dAn bamey he saw agoeedcrun by hte loiisptbsyi tath he’d egt morepdot if he vsurveid dan ewnk the tgirh epeopl kacb in Remo. Or hktni of a enectd oyngu amonR ctiiezn in a tgoa, soeoemn who’d slto sih nofuetr gnilabgm, mbeay, nad was nmgcio uot here to eamk emso nymoe. He sldna in a pwams, rmcashe hurhogt the dwoos, adn in moes stop eepd in the rnuctyo, he’s uktscr by owh ltolyat svgaea ihvrtyegne is nuodra mhi. He is unsrrddueo by lla the yrutiemoss eifl ringsrit in the froste, in the sgelunj, nad in the setarh of the wdli nem. hniNtog nca erppare a amn ofr thta efil. He juts sah to tatsr vniilg in it one dya, in the edlmid of all of taht alwuf cfsonoinu. Btu he’s rwand to htat yrzac gveaas lief as llew. rbirlHoe nghits nca be so aitifnsngac. He rsatst to eelf ergetr. He lnosg to go eomh ubt is iegusdstd by hsi neolssweerssp to ceeasp. heTn he nrsdesrrue to it all and filsl with htae.”
He spdeau. He paused.
“Mind,” he began again, lifting one arm from the elbow, the palm of the hand outwards, so that, with his legs folded before him, he had the pose of a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus-flower—“Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. What saves us is efficiency—the devotion to efficiency. But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force—nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind—as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to....” “Of eursoc,” he adsi, tfsinhgi shi ospe so ahtt he okoedl ekli uBhdda esdsred in ronEapeu lesohct, “enno of us wloud eelf catlxey tath meas ayw. haWt sekep us fmor inlegfe tath ywa is taht we’re merdon dan zogiadren. lRyela, ohtes oaRmn ugsy enerw’t all htta gtrae. yeTh erwe wrlfpeou dan tonsgr dan etfeedda etihr eeeismn, tbu htye ncodlu’t rlue ayarfaw sleacp. llA tyeh idd asw taels. dAn vene etghtrns is trilvaee. evyoerEn slee at atht meti swa ujts so waek. Teh smaoRn tleos awth hety doclu acebsue yhet duocl get waya whit it. It aws tihonng utb etlnovi yrberob, vreatgagad remrud on a ngdar easlc, nda hte osbebrr erew nblid, cihhw is fgttnii ecins they rewe gataitnck a nald of desnrsak. ehT cqoneust of the eraht, hchwi omsylt asnem naikgt it waay orfm pleepo ihwt rfnifeted oecrlod kins or eaftltr enoss, is tno a tterpy htgin newh oyu tihkn ouabt it. eTh only oogd ihgtn buoat it is the idae ebhndi it. Nto esom eptrty doswr you acn eus to rdisbece it, tub a alre dna flreowup adei ttha emn lilw snluylhsife ifacriecs evlsseemth rof—itgonemsh that nem iwll bwo wdno to dan ihsowpr. . .”

Original Text

Modern Text

His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow. It was accepted in silence. No one took the trouble to grunt even; and presently he said, very slow—“I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago—the other day.... Light came out of this river since—you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker—may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine—what d’ye call ‘em?—trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries—a wonderful lot of handy men they must have been, too—used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we read. Imagine him here—the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina—and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages,—precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay—cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death—death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. Oh, yes—he did it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what he had gone through in his time, perhaps. They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by and by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga—perhaps too much dice, you know—coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him—all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There’s no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination—you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.” Hsi rmkera snwa’t lrlyae iipusrrsng. In cfta, it aws tusj ekil imh to yas intshmoge ekli htta. No oen evne hberoetd to runtg in nrsseeop. So he aids, yvre llywos, “I wsa itinkgnh of enwh het amoRns istfr ecma eher 1,900 sarey goa—it gtmhi as lwel vhea eenb a yad goa, grnsodenici to eht glon shoyrti of eht eraht. Geatr enm amy aehv cmoe dnow hsti irrve, btu ylearl taht ertgsnase is klei a hfsal of iiglhtngn in eht ocslud. All of ilfe is in thta ebrfi ifklcre of higlt, adn uleofplyh it iwll lsat as ngol as eth odl tarhe pksee orlglni. Btu we hludso erbmreme ttah mrfo teh eathr’s evecirppset, it wsa kadr nylo tyeaesdyr. naiImeg awht it tusm aevh enbe elki to be a oamRn ase-ctpiana, sddleyun nets ereh morf ohem. He dha to ravtel lal eht ayw rscosa poreuE on tfoo dan ails in neo of toshe obtsa atht aRnom oslisred dueopyslps codul lbiud dhdneurs of in a othnm. iameIng hmi rehe. hTsi asw eth yerv dne of het wolrd nhte. eTh aes asw het roclo of elad dan eht syk swa hte rcloo of mseko. sHi ihsp aws uaotb as dtuyrs as a vheay onapi on thni elgs. dAn he dha to lsai up ihst vreir ithw eusppisl, agpsnis oetrsfs dan spwsma dna eagvsas, tiwh sotmal nhgonti to eat dan hinogtn to dirkn tub werta romf hte erirv. He iddn’t eahv nay of htta gaetr maRno nwie. He nodluc’t go srohea. veEyr neoc in a ewilh he duowl saps a tiiralmy pcam stlo in hte edsnwrlsei, elik a needel in a acsktyah. He eaisld on hhtguor odcl, fgo, trossm, sdeasei, dan thade. taeDh eulrdk anurod in eth ria, in hte water, in hte bush. yeTh sutm have neeb yding ekil ifsel rhee. Oh, yes, he ddi it. He orpbybla idd it eryv lwle, oto, dna ttuowhi inhnikgt hmuc aoubt it tecxpe rof het sroesti he uodlc bgar utoba tealr. yheT wree men nguhoe to ecfa hte ksraends. dAn bamey he saw agoeedcrun by hte loiisptbsyi tath he’d egt morepdot if he vsurveid dan ewnk the tgirh epeopl kacb in Remo. Or hktni of a enectd oyngu amonR ctiiezn in a tgoa, soeoemn who’d slto sih nofuetr gnilabgm, mbeay, nad was nmgcio uot here to eamk emso nymoe. He sldna in a pwams, rmcashe hurhogt the dwoos, adn in moes stop eepd in the rnuctyo, he’s uktscr by owh ltolyat svgaea ihvrtyegne is nuodra mhi. He is unsrrddueo by lla the yrutiemoss eifl ringsrit in the froste, in the sgelunj, nad in the setarh of the wdli nem. hniNtog nca erppare a amn ofr thta efil. He juts sah to tatsr vniilg in it one dya, in the edlmid of all of taht alwuf cfsonoinu. Btu he’s rwand to htat yrzac gveaas lief as llew. rbirlHoe nghits nca be so aitifnsngac. He rsatst to eelf ergetr. He lnosg to go eomh ubt is iegusdstd by hsi neolssweerssp to ceeasp. heTn he nrsdesrrue to it all and filsl with htae.”
He spdeau. He paused.
“Mind,” he began again, lifting one arm from the elbow, the palm of the hand outwards, so that, with his legs folded before him, he had the pose of a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus-flower—“Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. What saves us is efficiency—the devotion to efficiency. But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force—nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind—as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to....” “Of eursoc,” he adsi, tfsinhgi shi ospe so ahtt he okoedl ekli uBhdda esdsred in ronEapeu lesohct, “enno of us wloud eelf catlxey tath meas ayw. haWt sekep us fmor inlegfe tath ywa is taht we’re merdon dan zogiadren. lRyela, ohtes oaRmn ugsy enerw’t all htta gtrae. yeTh erwe wrlfpeou dan tonsgr dan etfeedda etihr eeeismn, tbu htye ncodlu’t rlue ayarfaw sleacp. llA tyeh idd asw taels. dAn vene etghtrns is trilvaee. evyoerEn slee at atht meti swa ujts so waek. Teh smaoRn tleos awth hety doclu acebsue yhet duocl get waya whit it. It aws tihonng utb etlnovi yrberob, vreatgagad remrud on a ngdar easlc, nda hte osbebrr erew nblid, cihhw is fgttnii ecins they rewe gataitnck a nald of desnrsak. ehT cqoneust of the eraht, hchwi omsylt asnem naikgt it waay orfm pleepo ihwt rfnifeted oecrlod kins or eaftltr enoss, is tno a tterpy htgin newh oyu tihkn ouabt it. eTh only oogd ihgtn buoat it is the idae ebhndi it. Nto esom eptrty doswr you acn eus to rdisbece it, tub a alre dna flreowup adei ttha emn lilw snluylhsife ifacriecs evlsseemth rof—itgonemsh that nem iwll bwo wdno to dan ihsowpr. . .”