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En Esperanto

The Speech at the Fourth Congress

in Dresden

on the 17th of August of 1908

Ladies and gentlemen,

The introductor —When I appear before you as the traditional conductor of Esperanto congresses, I allow myself express our most respectful thanks to His Royal Majesty the King Frederick Augustus from Saxony for the great honor which he makes us by taking on him the high protection of our fourth congress. I would also like to express our thanks to the Ministers and other eminent people who graciously joined the honorary presidency of our congress. I also thank those countries who have sent official delegates to our congress, and to the consuls who honored us by representing their countries at our opening meeting. Now for the first time our congress appears under the official sanction of a Head of State and government; I am sure that esperantists will understand the importance of this fact, and I hope that it will be the beginning of that new time when our idea will stop being the toil of private people, but it will become a great task for the governments of the world.

The congress people at Dresden In the name of the Fourth World Wide Esperanto Congress I greet the German Nation, whose guests we all are in the present moment. Mainly I salute the Saxon land who arranged for us, children from the most dissimilar lands and peoples, a reception of acceptance in the center of their famous capital city. I appreciate all the help to our congress from the Saxon Government and the Dresden City Council, and also their speech which we heard from their appreciated deputies.

Finally I would to state, certainly in the name of every esperantist, our heartily intimate thanks to our German comrades, and most than to anyone, to our Quartet for the Fourth, who took on their shoulder the difficult task to make the arrangements for our congress just in this year, when there were so many difficulties and who, out of their great generosity, arranged everything in the best way and inscribed by this a very important page in the history of our matter.

Germany, the land of philosophers and poets, which was once the center of the humanists, has a special meaning for our idea, for in this land thanks to the unforgettable great merit of Father Johann Martin Schketer our idea received its first development and first powerful push forward. Germany, therefore, is the cradle of the idea of an international language. Also in Germany we, the esperantists, have had our first important supporters: Einstein and Trompeter. It is true that afterwards this land looked like dead for a long time, but in the last years it came back to life, and we have the full hope that after this congress, when the Germans know us nearer and are convinced by their own eyes and ears that we are not theoretic day-dreamers, our affair here will blossom so strongly as in the other great nations, and that in the common affair of human kind, Germany will soon live in one of the most illustrious places.

Dear colleagues,
Along the last year there happened some facts which distressed the esperantist world for a while. Now everything is all the same again. Our tree, about which I talked in Cambridge, showed along last year all its strength and health, because in spite of the unexpected attacks which caused some cracks in that time, the tree however maintained its full power and lost just a few leaves. Regardless of attacks prepared in the shade and quickly performed, attacks which did not give our supporters the power to reorder properly and intercommunicate, everyone of them, in his or her isolated place, stood firm against all the assaults, and only very few allowed those clever words win them. Thus we could go on silently over the happened facts into today's agenda. However, to keep our future supporters against similar surprises, I will indulge myself some words about this topic. Let's get some learning from the past for future times.

There are already thirty years from the time when Esperanto appeared for the first time in front of a little circle of friends; there are already twenty-one years from the moment when Esperanto appeared for the first time in the open in front of the world. It was very weak in the first times, any small gust of wind could have reversed it and kill it. Any good word from the most unimportant man or valueless magazine gave our pioneers hopes and courage; any attacking word caused pain to them. When twenty years ago The American Society of Philosophy wanted to take the affair of the International Language in their hands, it was for the author of Esperanto a highest authority most out of reach, so much that because he still had the right to decide about Esperanto, immediately decided to resign everything in the hands of that society, since he was so inexperienced that he did not know yet the great difference which lies between theory and practice.

Fortunately, the American Society of Philosophy's enterprise did not succeed. I use the word fortunately because really now, when I am more experienced, I have no doubt that if the deeds of those theoreticians had been longer, the whole idea of International Language had been discredited from a long time ago.

Our pioneers worked and the affair grew. Soon we all acquired the conviction, little by little, that we could expect very little good from theoreticians for our affair, that every praise or censure from side people have just a small relative meaning for us, that we must trust only our own forces, our own patience and perseverance, that the world will come to us only when they see power in us, when they see that we do not feel in dark, that we do not lose today what we got yesterday, that our way is clear and straight and we do not get away from it.

But this strong belief did not come at once. In the first times, when seen that the affair progressed very slowly and with so much difficulty, many esperantists thought that the cause lay in the language itself, that if we changed this or that detail, the world would come immediately to us in a great mass. Then came the period of great demand for reform. Happily that interval was not very long. Esperantists soon saw that coming to a a sort of common agreement which would make everybody happy and quiet about the essence of the reforms was totally impossible, and the outside world —the goal of it all— remained totally indifferent to the fact that this or that detail has in our language such a form or not; they soon acquired the conviction that by reforming we would only lose everything that we had got so far, and would gain nothing at all. Then esperantists firmly decided not to talk about reforms any more. Some discontent esperantists left Esperanto and together with some not-esperantists who regarded themselves like the most competent in the affair of international language, they started an unending —and unendable— discussion among them about different language details, and they still are at the same point where they started fourteen years ago. The whole remainder of esperantists grouped in full harmony around their constant banner, which became from that time a great, huge march forward.

Since esperantists stopped speaking about reforms, an ever bright period for Esperanto started. At the beginning, under the stress of a very great outside hindrance, we progressed very slowly and with difficulty. But under the influence of our complete inner harmony and our upright going on, our forces always grew more and more. Now we reached that power about which many of us did not dare dream of ten years ago, and if we march in the same harmony as till now, no power on earth will be able to stop our march, and we will completely reach our goal. Every hour the number of our partisans grows, everyday the number of our groups gets bigger. Our literature grows so constantly and quickly that many small nations can already envy us. The practical use of our language becomes larger and larger. Though not so very long ago everybody was quiet about us and then they laughed at us, now everybody respects us as a great power. Even our main enemies, who not so very long ago looked at us from over their shoulders, now cry alarm.

Our language itself gets richer and more flexible constantly. Little by little new words and forms appear constantly. Some get strong, other stop being used. Everything happens quietly, without tremor and even unnoticed. Nowhere there is any difference in our language according to the different lands, and the more experienced the authors get, the more similar they look to one another regarding their use of our language, in spite of the great distance among their lodgings. Nowhere the continuity between the old and new language is broken or faulty, and even if our language is developing very forcefully, any new esperantist can read the works of twenty years ago with the same perfect easiness as those esperantists in that time, and they do not even remark that those works were not written now, but in the first, child-like period of our language.

Our affair marches regularly and quietly onward. The time of theoretical games and kowtow in front of so called authorities has already passed away. If anybody now expresses an opinion or advice about Esperanto, it is not questioned whether he or she is a famous person, but what is questioned is if the opinions or advice themselves conform to the natural needs and natural march of our language or not. If any glorious person in full ignorance of our affair express some nonsense like the ones we often have heard, for example that an artificial language is an utopia, that esperantists do not understand one another, etc., or if —forgetting the present state of Esperanto and the terrible example of the Volapük Academy, demands us to remake our language according to his or her theoretical receipt—, then we, esperantists, listen in indifference and go on along our way.

I do not say all this just for pride: none of us has the right to be proud, since our strength is not the merit of any of us in special, but it is just the result of the many a year strife by a lot of people. I just wanted to draw your attention to the fact that in our affair everything can be achieved only by harmony and tenacity. If that iron-like tenacity would not guide us, our language would not exist since a long time ago, and the words international language would be now just something to make fun of. The long and difficult battle hardened us, and not just the voices from special people, but also the pressure by great powers of today could not lead the esperantist world outside its proper way. Whichever is the reason why in the last year in our camp there was such a great wind, what could threaten bring us so much evil so suddenly? What was that apparently huge force which for a moment brought so much unexpected confusion in our ranks? Now, when everything is clear again, we can confess that it was not any extraordinary power, but it was a small group of people, and the importance of their attack consisted in that the attack did not come openly from the outside, but it was secretly prepared and totally unexpectedly arranged from our barracks.

It is a tale about which I do not want to talk. Now I want just say this: we all are the representatives of the idea of international language, lets do with it what we want, but let's behave honestly and let's remember that we will be severely judged by posterity only through our actions. Remember that Esperanto is nobody's property, that the esperantists have full right to do with it what they want, if they just do it openly, loyally and of a common accord. Only to keep our language against anarchy on the part of special people, our language has its Language Committee impartially elected among the most competent people who, depending on no master, have the full right and power to explore and present to the approval of the whole of the esperantists everything which it wants. The Boulogne Declaration forbids only that single persons break the language arbitrarily, it was created only to keep the extremely needed continuity in our language. If any of you find that we must do this or that, present your wish to the Language Committee. If that Committee looks too conservative to you, then remember it does not exist to carry out the whims of several people, but to keep the interests of the whole of the esperantists, that it is better that the Committee do too little than it easily take any step which could hinder our affair. Because you all admit that the essence of our language is just and only details can be argued about, then everything good and effectively necessary can be done easily in it through a loyal way, in harmony and peace.

Those who want to enforce their wishes to the whole of the esperantists say usually that they have the best ideas, which most esperantists will approve certainly, but their leaders would not listen and do not permit them present their ideas to be considered. This is not true. You know that according to the new order which accepted the Language Committee unanimously, anybody not only has the right to present the Committee his or her proposals, if among the hundred members of the Committee the proposal acquired the approval of at least five people, and this is enough for the Committee to have to discuss that proposal. You see, thus, that nobody can complain to be unnoticed, or that the leaders present for ballot only what they want.

If anybody tells you that everything must be broken crudely, if anybody keeps on annoying you by any means, if anybody tries to take you out of that way of strict unity, the only way which leads to our target, then beware! Then know that this leads to confusion of everything which many thousands of people achieved for a great idea for human kind after the patient work of many years.

I have finished. I beg your pardon for the nasty topic which I elected. It is the first and hopefully also the last time in the history of our congresses. And now let's forget everything, let's start the great feast for which we all gathered from far different lands in the world. Let's spend our Grand Yearly Week of purely human feast in joy. Let's remember by this, that our congresses are an exercising and teaching prologue to the history of the future brotherly humanity. What matter to us is not the external trifle details of our language, but its essence, its ideal and goal. Thus we, before anything, must take care of its continued life, of its unstopping growing. It is important the difference between the human child and the human man; important can also be the difference between the present Esperanto and the evolved Esperanto of after many centuries, but thanks to our diligent watch the language will live strongly; in spite of any blow, its spirit will get stronger, its goal will be achieved, and our grandchildren will bless our patience.

L.L. Zamenhof

Tajpita de HIROTAKA Masaaki je la 12-08-1992
HTMLed and translated from Esperanto by Jesuo de las Heras on the 3rd of September of 1997

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