I greet you, dear comrades, brothers and sisters from the great world human family who gather together from near and far lands from the world to shake your hands one another in the name of the great idea which links us together. I also greets you, glorious land of France and beautiful city of Bulogne-sur-Mer, who heartily hosts our congress. I express also my warm thanks to all those people and institutons in Paris who expressed their favour to Esperanto through me, when I went through it, namely to the Minister for Public Instruction, or the Paris Council, the French League of Education and to many different science authorities.
Today is a holy day for us. Our gathering is modest; the outside world knows not very much about us, and the words which are said in our meeting will not fly by telegraph to all the cities and towns in the world; no kings, rulers or ministers came to change the political charts of the world, bright, luxury costumes don't glow, neither are manifold orders in our chamber, there is no noise of discharges round our modest house where we stay now; but through the air in our lounge some mystery sounds are flying, very faint sounds indeed, so much that human ear can't hear them, but felt by our souls: they are the sounds of something big which is now being born. Thorugh the air enigmatic ghosts are flying; the eyes cannot see them, but our souls feel them: they are images of future times, times which are totally new. Ghosts will fly along the world, they will incarnate and will get powerful, and our children and grandchildren will see, feel and enjoy them.
In oldest times, so old that a very long time ago they disappeared from Man's memory and about which no history has recorded even the smallest document, the human family separated and its members stopped understanding one another. Brothers who had been created according to the same and only model, who had identical bodies, the same spirit, the same abilities, ideals, the same God in their hears, brothers who had to help one another and work together to achieve happiness and their family's glory, —those brothers became complete strangers to one another. They spread away apparently for good into enemy little groups, and eternal war started among them. For thousands of years, during as much time as history has recorded, those brothers have just fought to death one another and all mutual understanding was simple impossible. Prophets and poets daydreamed with certain nebulous time in which Man would start understanding again one another and would unite again into a family: but that was just daydreaming. This was talked about just as a sweet fantasy, but nobody took it seriously, nobody believed in it.
And now for the first time that thousand years old daydream starts being true! To a little town on the French shore came people from the most divergent lands and nations, and they meet one another not like dumbs and deaf people, but they understand one another, they speak to one another like brothers and sisters, like members of the same one nation. People from different nations often gather and understand one another: but what an enormous difference there is between their understanding and our one!There only a small part of the delegates, who have had the chance to invest a lot of time and money in learning foreign languages, manage to understand one another —all the others take part in the convention only physically, but not with their head. But in our convention everybody who only wants to understand us can understand one another, and poorness or lack of time cannot close anybody's ears to our words. There understanding is achieved through unnatural means, which are also offensive and unfair, since there the members of a nation are humiliated in front of members of other nation, whose language they speak, feeling ashamed of their own one. They mutter and blush, and feel themselves uneasy in front of their interlocutor, who feels himself strong and proud. In our congress there are no strong and weak nations, privileged and non privileged, nobody humiliates, nobody is annoyed; we all stand on a neutral foundation, we all have fully equal rights, we all feel ourselves as members of one nation, as members of one family, and for the first time in human history we, members of the most different peoples stand one beside the other not like strangers, not like competitors, but like brothers and sisters who understand one another without forcing one upon the other, without distrusting because of dividing shadowy misunderstandings, who love one another and shake hands with one another, not hipocritically like foreigners, but sincerely, like man to man. Let's be conscious of the whole importance of today, since today among the hosting walls of Boulogne-sur-Mer we gathered together not French with English, not Russians with Polish, but men with men. Blessed may be the day, and great and glorious be its consequences!
We gathered today to show the world, by means of irrefutable facts, what the world did not want to believe till now. We'll show the world that mutual understanding among people from dissimilar nations can be achieved well, that to get this it is not necessary that one people humiate or devours the other, that the walls between peoples are not something needed and imperishable, that mutual understanding between creatures from the same species is not a sort of fantastic dream, but something real and natural which —due to too regrettable and shameful circumstances— was delayed only too long, but which should have come more or less early and which finally has come, which now walks timidly, but, once marching, will never stop and soon it will rule the world very powerfully, and our grandchildren will not want to believe that things used to be different, that Man, the King of Creation, for a long time could not understand one another! Anyone who says that a neutral, artificial language is not possible, come to us and you will convert. Anyone who says that the speech organs of every people are different, that everyone speaks an artificial language in a different way and that the users of that language cannot understand one antoher, come to us and, if yu are honest and do not want to lie consciously, you will confess that you made a mistake. Just walk in the following days along the streets in Boulogne-sur-Mer and watch how well the representatives from the most unlike lands. Ask occasional esperantists how much time or money everyone of them had to devote to learn the artificial language, just compare this with the huge dedication which the learning of any natural language demands, —and if you are a honest man, you will go to the world and say aloud: yes, an artificial language is totally possible, and mutual human understanding is not only possible, but also easy.It is true that many of us possess our language too poorly and mutters with difficulty instead of speaking it fluently; but when comparing their muttering with the perfectly fluent speech of other people, any conscient oberver will notice that the cause of the muttering lies not in the language itself, but in the insufficient exercising of the people in question.
After many millenia of mutual dumb-deafness and war, just in Boulogne-sur-Mer mutual understanding starts in fact in great scale, and also it starts the union of members from divergent peoples from Human kind; and once it started, it will never stop, but will go forward always more and more powerfully, till the last shadows of eternal darkness disappears for ever. These days in Boulogne-sur-Mer are very important indeed, may they be blessed!
At the first congress of the esperantists we must say some words about the people who have fought for our affair. But before I speak about the first esperantist fighters, I feel the duty to say here some words about a man who has a great merit in relation to our affair and to whom unfortunately esperantists usually treat unfairly only because, in spite of his great activity for the idea of an international language, he does not belong to the friends of that special language form for which we struggle. I am talking about the very worthy Mr. Martin Schelyer, the author of Volapük. The language for which this estimated elderly man worked showed itself not good, and the affair for which he struggled fell soon, and in its fall it brought great hindrance to our idea, specially to this special form of the idea for which we care. But we must be fair, we must consider this man not according to his triumph or failure, but according to his works. And the works and merits of Mr. Schleyer were very great indeed! With a great ardour he worked for the idea of international language for a lot of many years; while many people produced just bare projects, he was the first one who had enough patience to work out a full language from the beginning to the end (though Esperanto was already finished, it had not been published yet), and it was not his fault that the language revealed itself not practical.He was the first one who to took the pains to wake the interest of the world for the idea of a neutral language, and it is not his fault if the fall of his affair froze the world for a lot of time in relation to any artificial language. He wanted to do a great good, and so to attain that good he worked a lot feverishly, and we must consider him not because of his success, but because of his will and work. If the idea of international language ever wins the world —and it is the same whether it is on the form of Esperanto or any other language— the name of Schleyer will always have a place of honour in the history of our idea, and this name will never be forgotten by the world. I hope I express the opinion of every participant in our congress if I say: We thank most warmly Mr. Schleyer, the first and most energic pioneer in the idea of a neutral international language!
Now I will refer to the supporters who are specially esperantist. The date has not come yet to write the official history of our affair, and I am afraid that I would be unfair to some people if I compare the personal merits of the different supporters. Thus I will not name them one by one, but I express to them all together my warmest thanks for all their efforts in the name of all the friends of Esperanto.
Ten years did already go by since the day when Esperanto appeared in the world. These ten years have not been easy at all. Before me now I can see a huge number of warm friends of Esperanto who represent nearly every land in the globe, almost every country in the world, every rank, state and class of man. Very large and vast is already our literature, our magazines are very many, all over the world we have groups and clubs of Esperanto, and our business is not unknown to any cultured man in the world. When I look at the bright present state of our business I cannot help thinking of the first pioneers, who worked for our thing in those bitter times when we found only jeering and persecution. Many of them are still alive, and they can see now, with joy, the fruit of their toils. But, alas!, many of our pioneers do not live any more. Ten years is a long period of time. In such a long time Death stole us from many our vehement fellow fighters. Citing them all is something just impossible to do; so I will mention just some of them.
The one who left us first was Leopold Einstein, the first advocate for our thing. His death was quite a blow for our affair in all, and specially for the expansion of it in Germany. Afterwards, Death stole us from Joseph Wasniewski, the sensitive apostle of our affair, loved by all those who knew him, in Poland. And a few years ago died he whom Esperanto owes so much, so much that without him Esperanto now probably would not exist: I am talking about the unforgettable W.H.Trompeter. Without ever speaking about himself, nor expecting thankfulness whatsoever, he took upon his own shoulders the whole of our affair when it was undergoing its most difficult circumstances; he alone supported it till the number of esperantists grew large enough to support the affair by common efforts. How glad he would be today, if he saw the present state of our thing!
Bedsides the three mentioned people there is also a big, alas!, a very big number of people who worked a lot for our thing and who could not see the fruits of their labor. They died physically, but they did not die in our memory. I suggest, dear ladies and gentlemen, that we honor their memory by standing up from our seats. To the shadows of all the dead esperantist combatants the First Esperanto Congress signifies its respect and sacred greeting.
Soon the work of our Congress will start, devoted to the true brothering of mankind. At this solemn moment my heart is full with something uncertain and mysterious, and I feel the desire to ease out my heart by means of a prayer, to address some highest and most mysterious force and call its help and blessing. But likewise now I feel that I do not belong to any national or party religion, but I am just a man. And at the present moment I am not a member of any nation, but just a man. And in this moment in front of my soul's eyes stands only this high moral Force which everybody feels in the heart, and to this unknown Force I turn with my prayer:
To you, o powerful bodiless mystery,
Superforce who rules the world,
To you, great fountain of love and truth
And fountain of constant life,
To you, to whom everybody present in a different way,
But to whom everybody feels all the same in their heart,
To you, who creates, to you, who rules,,
I pray today.
To you I do not come with a national creed,
With dogmas of blind fervor:
Any religious dispute
And rules only the creed of heart.
With it, which is the same for all,
With it, the truest, without war-like imposition,
We stand now, offspring of the whole human kind
At your shrine.
You created Mankind perfect and beautiful,
But it divided through battle;
People attack people cruelly,
Brother charges brother like a jackal,
O, whoever you are, mysterious force,
Hear the voice of sincere prayer,
Give the children of large Mankind
We swore work, we swore combat,
To reunite mankind.
Support us, Force, do not let us fall,
But let us overcome the bars;
Grant us your blessing to our labor,
Grant us your force to our fervor,
That always against wild deeds
We stand bravely.
The green flag we will hold very high:
It signes the good and beautiful.
The mysterious Force of the world may bless us
And may we reach our objective.
May we destroy the walls among peoples,
And may they break and explode,
And fall forever, and love and truth
May rule all over the earth.
L.L. ZamenhofTranslated and HTMLed by Jesuo de las Heras on the 20th of August of 1997 at 02:54.
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