This etext was prepared by Sue Asscher
To a small girl-child, who may live to grasp somewhat of that which for us
is yet sight, not touch.
These Dreams are printed in the order in which they were written.
In the case of two there was a lapse of some years between the writing of
the first and last parts; these are placed according to the date of the
I. The Lost Joy.
II. The Hunter (From "The Story of of an African Farm").
III. The Gardens of Pleasure.
IV. In a Far-off World.
V. Three Dreams in a Desert.
VI. A Dream of Wild Bees (Written as a letter to a friend).
VII. In a Ruined Chapel.
VIII. Life's Gifts.
IX. The Artist's Secret.
X. "I Thought I Stood."
XI. The Sunlight Lay across My Bed.
I. THE LOST JOY.
All day, where the sunlight played on the sea-shore, Life sat.
All day the soft wind played with her hair, and the young, young face
looked out across the water. She was waiting--she was waiting; but she
could not tell for what.
All day the waves ran up and up on the sand, and ran back again, and the
pink shells rolled. Life sat waiting; all day, with the sunlight in her
eyes, she sat there, till, grown weary, she laid her head upon her knee and
fell asleep, waiting still.
Then a keel grated on the sand, and then a step was on the shore--Life
awoke and heard it. A hand was laid upon her, and a great shudder passed
through her. She looked up, and saw over her the strange, wide eyes of
Love--and Life now knew for whom she had sat there waiting.
And Love drew Life up to him.
And of that meeting was born a thing rare and beautiful--Joy, First-Joy was
it called. The sunlight when it shines upon the merry water is not so
glad; the rosebuds, when they turn back their lips for the sun's first
kiss, are not so ruddy. Its tiny pulses beat quick. It was so warm, so
soft! It never spoke, but it laughed and played in the sunshine: and Love
and Life rejoiced exceedingly. Neither whispered it to the other, but deep
in its own heart each said, "It shall be ours for ever."
Then there came a time--was it after weeks? was it after months? (Love and
Life do not measure time)--when the thing was not as it had been.
Still it played; still it laughed; still it stained its mouth with purple
berries; but sometimes the little hands hung weary, and the little eyes
looked out heavily across the water.
And Life and Love dared not look into each other's eyes, dared not say,
"What ails our darling?" Each heart whispered to itself, "It is nothing,
it is nothing, tomorrow it will laugh out clear." But tomorrow and
tomorrow came. They journeyed on, and the child played beside them, but
heavily, more heavily.
One day Life and Love lay down to sleep; and when they awoke, it was gone:
only, near them, on the grass, sat a little stranger, with wide-open eyes,
very soft and sad. Neither noticed it; but they walked apart, weeping
bitterly, "Oh, our Joy! our lost Joy! shall we see you no more for ever?"
The little soft and sad-eyed stranger slipped a hand into one hand of each,
and drew them closer, and Life and Love walked on with it between them.
And when Life looked down in anguish, she saw her tears reflected in its
soft eyes. And when Love, mad with pain, cried out, "I am weary, I am
weary! I can journey no further. The light is all behind, the dark is all
before," a little rosy finger pointed where the sunlight lay upon the hill-
sides. Always its large eyes were sad and thoughtful: always the little
brave mouth was smiling quietly.
When on the sharp stones Life cut her feet, he wiped the blood upon his
garments, and kissed the wounded feet with his little lips. When in the
desert Love lay down faint (for Love itself grows faint), he ran over the
hot sand with his little naked feet, and even there in the desert found
water in the holes in the rocks to moisten Love's lips with. He was no
burden--he never weighted them; he only helped them forward on their
When they came to the dark ravine where the icicles hang from the rocks--
for Love and Life must pass through strange drear places--there, where all
is cold, and the snow lies thick, he took their freezing hands and held
them against his beating little heart, and warmed them--and softly he drew
them on and on.
And when they came beyond, into the land of sunshine and flowers, strangely
the great eyes lit up, and dimples broke out upon the face. Brightly
laughing, it ran over the soft grass; gathered honey from the hollow tree;
and brought it them on the palm of its hand; carried them water in the
leaves of the lily, and gathered flowers and wreathed them round their
heads, softly laughing all the while. He touched them as their Joy had
touched them, but his fingers clung more tenderly.
So they wandered on, through the dark lands and the light, always with that
little brave smiling one between them. Sometimes they remembered that
first radiant Joy, and whispered to themselves, "Oh! could we but find him
At last they came to where Reflection sits; that strange old woman who has
always one elbow on her knee, and her chin in her hand, and who steals
light out of the past to shed it on the future.
And Life and Love cried out, "O wise one! tell us: when first we met, a
lovely radiant thing belonged to us--gladness without a tear, sunshine
without a shade. Oh! how did we sin that we lost it? Where shall we go
that we may find it?"
And she, the wise old woman, answered, "To have it back, will you give up
that which walks beside you now?"
And in agony Love and Life cried, "No!"
"Give up this!" said Life. "When the thorns have pierced me, who will suck
the poison out? When my head throbs, who will lay his tiny hands upon it
and still the beating? In the cold and the dark, who will warm my freezing
And Love cried out, "Better let me die! Without Joy I can live; without
this I cannot. Let me rather die, not lose it!"
And the wise old woman answered, "O fools and blind! What you once had is
that which you have now! When Love and Life first meet, a radiant thing is
born, without a shade. When the roads begin to roughen, when the shades
begin to darken, when the days are hard, and the nights cold and long--then
it begins to change. Love and Life WILL not see it, WILL not know it--till
one day they start up suddenly, crying, 'O God! O God! we have lost it!
Where is it?' They do not understand that they could not carry the
laughing thing unchanged into the desert, and the frost, and the snow.
They do not know that what walks beside them still is the Joy grown older.
The grave, sweet, tender thing--warm in the coldest snows, brave in the
dreariest deserts--its name is Sympathy; it is the Perfect Love."
II. THE HUNTER.
In certain valleys there was a hunter. Day by day he went to hunt for
wild-fowl in the woods; and it chanced that once he stood on the shores of
a large lake. While he stood waiting in the rushes for the coming of the
birds, a great shadow fell on him, and in the water he saw a reflection.
He looked up to the sky; but the thing was gone. Then a burning desire
came over him to see once again that reflection in the water, and all day
he watched and waited; but night came and it had not returned. Then he
went home with his empty bag, moody and silent. His comrades came
questioning about him to know the reason, but he answered them nothing; he
sat alone and brooded. Then his friend came to him, and to him he spoke.
"I have seen today," he said, "that which I never saw before--a vast white
bird, with silver wings outstretched, sailing in the everlasting blue. And
now it is as though a great fire burnt within my breast. It was but a
sheen, a shimmer, a reflection in the water; but now I desire nothing more
on earth than to hold her."
His friend laughed.
"It was but a beam playing on the water, or the shadow of your own head.
Tomorrow you will forget her," he said.
But tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow the hunter walked alone. He
sought in the forest and in the woods, by the lakes and among the rushes,
but he could not find her. He shot no more wild fowl; what were they to
"What ails him?" said his comrades.
"He is mad," said one.
"No; but he is worse," said another; "he would see that which none of us
have seen, and make himself a wonder."
"Come, let us forswear his company," said all.
So the hunter walked alone.
One night, as he wandered in the shade, very heartsore and weeping, an old
man stood before him, grander and taller than the sons of men.
"Who are you?" asked the hunter.
"I am Wisdom," answered the old man; "but some men call me Knowledge. All
my life I have grown in these valleys; but no man sees me till he has
sorrowed much. The eyes must be washed with tears that are to behold me;
and, according as a man has suffered, I speak."
And the hunter cried:
"Oh, you who have lived here so long, tell me, what is that great wild bird
I have seen sailing in the blue? They would have me believe she is a
dream; the shadow of my own head."
The old man smiled.
"Her name is Truth. He who has once seen her never rests again. Till
death he desires her."
And the hunter cried:
"Oh, tell me where I may find her."
But the old man said:
"You have not suffered enough," and went.
Then the hunter took from his breast the shuttle of Imagination, and wound
on it the thread of his Wishes; and all night he sat and wove a net.
In the morning he spread the golden net upon the ground, and into it he
threw a few grains of credulity, which his father had left him, and which
he kept in his breast-pocket. They were like white puff-balls, and when
you trod on them a brown dust flew out. Then he sat by to see what would
happen. The first that came into the net was a snow-white bird, with
dove's eyes, and he sang a beautiful song--"A human-God! a human-God! a
human-God!" it sang. The second that came was black and mystical, with
dark, lovely eyes, that looked into the depths of your soul, and he sang
And the hunter took them both in his arms, for he said--
"They are surely of the beautiful family of Truth."
Then came another, green and gold, who sang in a shrill voice, like one
crying in the marketplace,--"Reward after Death! Reward after Death!"
And he said--
"You are not so fair; but you are fair too," and he took it.
And others came, brightly coloured, singing pleasant songs, till all the
grains were finished. And the hunter gathered all his birds together, and
built a strong iron cage called a new creed, and put all his birds in it.
Then the people came about dancing and singing.
"Oh, happy hunter!" they cried. "Oh, wonderful man! Oh, delightful birds!
Oh, lovely songs!"
No one asked where the birds had come from, nor how they had been caught;
but they danced and sang before them. And the hunter too was glad, for he
"Surely Truth is among them. In time she will moult her feathers, and I
shall see her snow-white form."
But the time passed, and the people sang and danced; but the hunter's heart
grew heavy. He crept alone, as of old, to weep; the terrible desire had
awakened again in his breast. One day, as he sat alone weeping, it chanced
that Wisdom met him. He told the old man what he had done.
And Wisdom smiled sadly.
"Many men," he said, "have spread that net for Truth; but they have never
found her. On the grains of credulity she will not feed; in the net of
wishes her feet cannot be held; in the air of these valleys she will not
breathe. The birds you have caught are of the brood of Lies. Lovely and
beautiful, but still lies; Truth knows them not."
And the hunter cried out in bitterness--
"And must I then sit still, to be devoured of this great burning?"
And the old man said,
"Listen, and in that you have suffered much and wept much, I will tell you
what I know. He who sets out to search for Truth must leave these valleys
of superstition forever, taking with him not one shred that has belonged to
them. Alone he must wander down into the Land of Absolute Negation and
Denial; he must abide there; he must resist temptation; when the light
breaks he must arise and follow it into the country of dry sunshine. The
mountains of stern reality will rise before him; he must climb them; beyond
them lies Truth."
"And he will hold her fast! he will hold her in his hands!" the hunter
Wisdom shook his head.
"He will never see her, never hold her. The time is not yet."
"Then there is no hope?" cried the hunter.
"There is this," said Wisdom: "Some men have climbed on those mountains;
circle above circle of bare rock they have scaled; and, wandering there, in
those high regions, some have chanced to pick up on the ground one white
silver feather, dropped from the wing of Truth. And it shall come to
pass," said the old man, raising himself prophetically and pointing with
his finger to the sky, "it shall come to pass, that when enough of those
silver feathers shall have been gathered by the hands of men, and shall
have been woven into a cord, and the cord into a net, that in that net
Truth may be captured. Nothing but Truth can hold Truth."
The hunter arose. "I will go," he said.
But wisdom detained him.
"Mark you well--who leaves these valleys never returns to them. Though he
should weep tears of blood seven days and nights upon the confines, he can
never put his foot across them. Left--they are left forever. Upon the
road which you would travel there is no reward offered. Who goes, goes
freely--for the great love that is in him. The work is his reward."
"I go" said the hunter; "but upon the mountains, tell me, which path shall
"I am the child of The-Accumulated-Knowledge-of-Ages," said the man; "I can
walk only where many men have trodden. On these mountains few feet have
passed; each man strikes out a path for himself. He goes at his own peril:
my voice he hears no more. I may follow after him, but cannot go before
Then Knowledge vanished.
And the hunter turned. He went to his cage, and with his hands broke down
the bars, and the jagged iron tore his flesh. It is sometimes easier to
build than to break.
One by one he took his plumed birds and let them fly. But when he came to
his dark-plumed bird he held it, and looked into its beautiful eyes, and
the bird uttered its low, deep cry--"Immortality!"
And he said quickly: "I cannot part with it. It is not heavy; it eats no
food. I will hide it in my breast; I will take it with me." And he buried
it there and covered it over with his cloak.
But the thing he had hidden grew heavier, heavier, heavier--till it lay on
his breast like lead. He could not move with it. He could not leave those
valleys with it. Then again he took it out and looked at it.
"Oh, my beautiful! my heart's own!" he cried, "may I not keep you?"
He opened his hands sadly.
"Go!" he said. "It may happen that in Truth's song one note is like yours;
but I shall never hear it."
Sadly he opened his hand, and the bird flew from him forever.
Then from the shuttle of Imagination he took the thread of his wishes, and
threw it on the ground; and the empty shuttle he put into his breast, for
the thread was made in those valleys, but the shuttle came from an unknown
country. He turned to go, but now the people came about him, howling.
"Fool, hound, demented lunatic!" they cried. "How dared you break your
cage and let the birds fly?'
The hunter spoke; but they would not hear him.
"Truth! who is she? Can you eat her? can you drink her? Who has ever seen
her? Your birds were real: all could hear them sing! Oh, fool! vile
reptile! atheist!" they cried, "you pollute the air."
"Come, let us take up stones and stone him," cried some.
"What affair is it of ours?" said others. "Let the idiot go," and went
away. But the rest gathered up stones and mud and threw at him. At last,
when he was bruised and cut, the hunter crept away into the woods. And it
was evening about him.
He wandered on and on, and the shade grew deeper. He was on the borders
now of the land where it is always night. Then he stepped into it, and
there was no light there. With his hands he groped; but each branch as he
touched it broke off, and the earth was covered with cinders. At every step
his foot sank in, and a fine cloud of impalpable ashes flew up into his
face; and it was dark. So he sat down upon a stone and buried his face in
his hands, to wait in the Land of Negation and Denial till the light came.
And it was night in his heart also.
Then from the marshes to his right and left cold mists arose and closed
about him. A fine, imperceptible rain fell in the dark, and great drops
gathered on his hair and clothes. His heart beat slowly, and a numbness
crept through all his limbs. Then, looking up, two merry wisp lights came
dancing. He lifted his head to look at them. Nearer, nearer they came.
So warm, so bright, they danced like stars of fire. They stood before him
at last. From the centre of the radiating flame in one looked out a
woman's face, laughing, dimpled, with streaming yellow hair. In the centre
of the other were merry laughing ripples, like the bubbles on a glass of
wine. They danced before him.
"Who are you," asked the hunter, "who alone come to me in my solitude and
"We are the twins Sensuality," they cried. "Our father's name is Human-
Nature, and our mother's name is Excess. We are as old as the hills and
rivers, as old as the first man; but we never die," they laughed.
"Oh, let me wrap my arms about you!" cried the first; "they are soft and
warm. Your heart is frozen now, but I will make it beat. Oh, come to me!"
"I will pour my hot life into you," said the second; "your brain is numb,
and your limbs are dead now; but they shall live with a fierce free life.
Oh, let me pour it in!"
"Oh, follow us," they cried, "and live with us. Nobler hearts than yours
have sat here in this darkness to wait, and they have come to us and we to
them; and they have never left us, never. All else is a delusion, but we
are real, we are real, we are real. Truth is a shadow; the valleys of
superstition are a farce: the earth is of ashes, the trees all rotten; but
we--feel us--we live! You cannot doubt us. Feel us how warm we are! Oh,
come to us! Come with us!"
Nearer and nearer round his head they hovered, and the cold drops melted on
his forehead. The bright light shot into his eyes, dazzling him, and the
frozen blood began to run. And he said:
"Yes, why should I die here in this awful darkness? They are warm, they
melt my frozen blood!" and he stretched out his hands to take them.
Then in a moment there arose before him the image of the thing he had
loved, and his hand dropped to his side.
"Oh, come to us!" they cried.
But he buried his face.
"You dazzle my eyes," he cried, "you make my heart warm; but you cannot
give me what I desire. I will wait here--wait till I die. Go!"
He covered his face with his hands and would not listen; and when he looked
up again they were two twinkling stars, that vanished in the distance.
And the long, long night rolled on.
All who leave the valley of superstition pass through that dark land; but
some go through it in a few days, some linger there for months, some for
years, and some die there.
At last for the hunter a faint light played along the horizon, and he rose
to follow it; and he reached that light at last, and stepped into the broad
sunshine. Then before him rose the almighty mountains of Dry-facts and
Realities. The clear sunshine played on them, and the tops were lost in
the clouds. At the foot many paths ran up. An exultant cry burst from the
hunter. He chose the straightest and began to climb; and the rocks and
ridges resounded with his song. They had exaggerated; after all, it was
not so high, nor was the road so steep! A few days, a few weeks, a few
months at most, and then the top! Not one feather only would he pick up;
he would gather all that other men had found--weave the net--capture Truth-
-hold her fast--touch her with his hands--clasp her!
He laughed in the merry sunshine, and sang loud. Victory was very near.
Nevertheless, after a while the path grew steeper. He needed all his
breath for climbing, and the singing died away. On the right and left rose
huge rocks, devoid of lichen or moss, and in the lava-like earth chasms
yawned. Here and there he saw a sheen of white bones. Now too the path
began to grow less and less marked; then it became a mere trace, with a
footmark here and there; then it ceased altogether. He sang no more, but
struck forth a path for himself, until it reached a mighty wall of rock,
smooth and without break, stretching as far as the eye could see. "I will
rear a stair against it; and, once this wall climbed, I shall be almost
there," he said bravely; and worked. With his shuttle of imagination he
dug out stones; but half of them would not fit, and half a month's work
would roll down because those below were ill chosen. But the hunter worked
on, saying always to himself, "Once this wall climbed, I shall be almost
there. This great work ended!"
At last he came out upon the top, and he looked about him. Far below
rolled the white mist over the valleys of superstition, and above him
towered the mountains. They had seemed low before; they were of an
immeasurable height now, from crown to foundation surrounded by walls of
rock, that rose tier above tier in mighty circles. Upon them played the
eternal sunshine. He uttered a wild cry. He bowed himself on to the
earth, and when he rose his face was white. In absolute silence he walked
on. He was very silent now. In those high regions the rarefied air is
hard to breathe by those born in the valleys; every breath he drew hurt
him, and the blood oozed out from the tips of his fingers. Before the next
wall of rock he began to work. The height of this seemed infinite, and he
said nothing. The sound of his tool rang night and day upon the iron rocks
into which he cut steps. Years passed over him, yet he worked on; but the
wall towered up always above him to heaven. Sometimes he prayed that a
little moss or lichen might spring up on those bare walls to be a companion
to him; but it never came.
And the years rolled on; he counted them by the steps he had cut--a few for
a year--only a few. He sang no more; he said no more, "I will do this or
that"--he only worked. And at night, when the twilight settled down, there
looked out at him from the holes and crevices in the rocks strange wild
"Stop your work, you lonely man, and speak to us," they cried.
"My salvation is in work, if I should stop but for one moment you would
creep down upon me," he replied. And they put out their long necks
"Look down into the crevice at your feet," they said. "See what lie there-
-white bones! As brave and strong a man as you climbed to these rocks."
And he looked up. He saw there was no use in striving; he would never hold
Truth, never see her, never find her. So he lay down here, for he was very
tired. He went to sleep forever. He put himself to sleep. Sleep is very
tranquil. You are not lonely when you are asleep, neither do your hands
ache, nor your heart. And the hunter laughed between his teeth.
"Have I torn from my heart all that was dearest; have I wandered alone in
the land of night; have I resisted temptation; have I dwelt where the voice
of my kind is never heard, and laboured alone, to lie down and be food for
you, ye harpies?"
He laughed fiercely; and the Echoes of Despair slunk away, for the laugh of
a brave, strong heart is as a death blow to them.
Nevertheless they crept out again and looked at him.
"Do you know that your hair is white?" they said, "that your hands begin to
tremble like a child's? Do you see that the point of your shuttle is
gone?--it is cracked already. If you should ever climb this stair," they
said, "it will be your last. You will never climb another."
And he answered, "I know it!" and worked on.
The old, thin hands cut the stones ill and jaggedly, for the fingers were
stiff and bent. The beauty and the strength of the man was gone.
At last, an old, wizened, shrunken face looked out above the rocks. It saw
the eternal mountains rise with walls to the white clouds; but its work was
The old hunter folded his tired hands and lay down by the precipice where
he had worked away his life. It was the sleeping time at last. Below him
over the valleys rolled the thick white mist. Once it broke; and through
the gap the dying eyes looked down on the trees and fields of their
childhood. From afar seemed borne to him the cry of his own wild birds,
and he heard the noise of people singing as they danced. And he thought he
heard among them the voices of his old comrades; and he saw far off the
sunlight shine on his early home. And great tears gathered in the hunter's
"Ah! they who die there do not die alone," he cried.
Then the mists rolled together again; and he turned his eyes away.
"I have sought," he said, "for long years I have laboured; but I have not
found her. I have not rested, I have not repined, and I have not seen her;
now my strength is gone. Where I lie down worn out other men will stand,
young and fresh. By the steps that I have cut they will climb; by the
stairs that I have built they will mount. They will never know the name of
the man who made them. At the clumsy work they will laugh; when the stones
roll they will curse me. But they will mount, and on my work; they will
climb, and by my stair! They will find her, and through me! And no man
liveth to himself and no man dieth to himself."
The tears rolled from beneath the shrivelled eyelids. If Truth had
appeared above him in the clouds now he could not have seen her, the mist
of death was in his eyes.
"My soul hears their glad step coming," he said; "and they shall mount!
they shall mount!" He raised his shrivelled hand to his eyes.
Then slowly from the white sky above, through the still air, came something
falling, falling, falling. Softly it fluttered down, and dropped on to the
breast of the dying man. He felt it with his hands. It was a feather. He
died holding it.
III. THE GARDENS OF PLEASURE.
She walked upon the beds, and the sweet rich scent arose; and she gathered
her hands full of flowers. Then Duty, with his white clear features, came
and looked at her. Then she ceased from gathering, but she walked away
among the flowers, smiling, and with her hands full.
Then Duty, with his still white face, came again, and looked at her; but
she, she turned her head away from him. At last she saw his face, and she
dropped the fairest of the flowers she had held, and walked silently away.
Then again he came to her. And she moaned, and bent her head low, and
turned to the gate. But as she went out she looked back at the sunlight on
the faces of the flowers, and wept in anguish. Then she went out, and it
shut behind her for ever; but still in her hand she held of the buds she
had gathered, and the scent was very sweet in the lonely desert.
But he followed her. Once more he stood before her with his still, white,
death-like face. And she knew what he had come for: she unbent the
fingers, and let the flowers drop out, the flowers she had loved so, and
walked on without them, with dry, aching eyes. Then for the last time he
came. And she showed him her empty hands, the hands that held nothing now.
But still he looked. Then at length she opened her bosom and took out of
it one small flower she had hidden there, and laid it on the sand. She had
nothing more to give now, and she wandered away, and the grey sand whirled
IV. IN A FAR-OFF WORLD.
There is a world in one of the far-off stars, and things do not happen here
as they happen there.
In that world were a man and woman; they had one work, and they walked
together side by side on many days, and were friends--and that is a thing
that happens now and then in this world also.
But there was something in that star-world that there is not here. There
was a thick wood: where the trees grew closest, and the stems were
interlocked, and the summer sun never shone, there stood a shrine. In the
day all was quiet, but at night, when the stars shone or the moon glinted
on the tree-tops, and all was quiet below, if one crept here quite alone
and knelt on the steps of the stone altar, and uncovering one's breast, so
wounded it that the blood fell down on the altar steps, then whatever he
who knelt there wished for was granted him. And all this happens, as I
said, because it is a far-off world, and things often happen there as they
do not happen here.
Now, the man and woman walked together; and the woman wished well to the
man. One night when the moon was shining so that the leaves of all the
trees glinted, and the waves of the sea were silvery, the woman walked
alone to the forest. It was dark there; the moonlight fell only in little
flecks on the dead leaves under her feet, and the branches were knotted
tight overhead. Farther in it got darker, not even a fleck of moonlight
shone. Then she came to the shrine; she knelt down before it and prayed;
there came no answer. Then she uncovered her breast; with a sharp two-
edged stone that lay there she wounded it. The drops dripped slowly down
on to the stone, and a voice cried, "What do you seek?"
She answered, "There is a man; I hold him nearer than anything. I would
give him the best of all blessings."
The voice said, "What is it?"
The girl said, "I know not, but that which is most good for him I wish him
The voice said, "Your prayer is answered; he shall have it."
Then she stood up. She covered her breast and held the garment tight upon
it with her hand, and ran out of the forest, and the dead leaves fluttered
under her feet. Out in the moonlight the soft air was blowing, and the
sand glittered on the beach. She ran along the smooth shore, then suddenly
she stood still. Out across the water there was something moving. She
shaded her eyes and looked. It was a boat; it was sliding swiftly over the
moonlit water out to sea. One stood upright in it; the face the moonlight
did not show, but the figure she knew. It was passing swiftly; it seemed
as if no one propelled it; the moonlight's shimmer did not let her see
clearly, and the boat was far from shore, but it seemed almost as if there
was another figure sitting in the stern. Faster and faster it glided over
the water away, away. She ran along the shore; she came no nearer it. The
garment she had held closed fluttered open; she stretched out her arms, and
the moonlight shone on her long loose hair.
Then a voice beside her whispered, "What is it?"
She cried, "With my blood I bought the best of all gifts for him. I have
come to bring it him! He is going from me!"
The voice whispered softly, "Your prayer was answered. It has been given
She cried, "What is it?"
The voice answered, "It is that he might leave you."
The girl stood still.
Far out at sea the boat was lost to sight beyond the moonlight sheen.
The voice spoke softly, "Art thou contented?"
She said, "I am contented."
At her feet the waves broke in long ripples softly on the shore.
V. THREE DREAMS IN A DESERT.
Under a Mimosa-Tree.
As I travelled across an African plain the sun shone down hotly. Then I
drew my horse up under a mimosa-tree, and I took the saddle from him and
left him to feed among the parched bushes. And all to right and to left
stretched the brown earth. And I sat down under the tree, because the heat
beat fiercely, and all along the horizon the air throbbed. And after a
while a heavy drowsiness came over me, and I laid my head down against my
saddle, and I fell asleep there. And, in my sleep, I had a curious dream.
I thought I stood on the border of a great desert, and the sand blew about
everywhere. And I thought I saw two great figures like beasts of burden of
the desert, and one lay upon the sand with its neck stretched out, and one
stood by it. And I looked curiously at the one that lay upon the ground,
for it had a great burden on its back, and the sand was thick about it, so
that it seemed to have piled over it for centuries.
And I looked very curiously at it. And there stood one beside me watching.
And I said to him, "What is this huge creature who lies here on the sand?"
And he said, "This is woman; she that bears men in her body."
And I said, "Why does she lie here motionless with the sand piled round
And he answered, "Listen, I will tell you! Ages and ages long she has lain
here, and the wind has blown over her. The oldest, oldest, oldest man
living has never seen her move: the oldest, oldest book records that she
lay here then, as she lies here now, with the sand about her. But listen!
Older than the oldest book, older than the oldest recorded memory of man,
on the Rocks of Language, on the hard-baked clay of Ancient Customs, now
crumbling to decay, are found the marks of her footsteps! Side by side
with his who stands beside her you may trace them; and you know that she
who now lies there once wandered free over the rocks with him."
And I said, "Why does she lie there now?"
And he said, "I take it, ages ago the Age-of-dominion-of-muscular-force
found her, and when she stooped low to give suck to her young, and her back
was broad, he put his burden of subjection on to it, and tied it on with
the broad band of Inevitable Necessity. Then she looked at the earth and
the sky, and knew there was no hope for her; and she lay down on the sand
with the burden she could not loosen. Ever since she has lain here. And
the ages have come, and the ages have gone, but the band of Inevitable
Necessity has not been cut."
And I looked and saw in her eyes the terrible patience of the centuries;
the ground was wet with her tears, and her nostrils blew up the sand.
And I said, "Has she ever tried to move?"
And he said, "Sometimes a limb has quivered. But she is wise; she knows
she cannot rise with the burden on her."
And I said, "Why does not he who stands by her leave her and go on?"
And he said, "He cannot. Look--"
And I saw a broad band passing along the ground from one to the other, and
it bound them together.
He said, "While she lies there he must stand and look across the desert."
And I said, "Does he know why he cannot move?"
And he said, "No."
And I heard a sound of something cracking, and I looked, and I saw the band
that bound the burden on to her back broken asunder; and the burden rolled
on to the ground.
And I said, "What is this?"
And he said, "The Age-of-muscular-force is dead. The Age-of-nervous-force
has killed him with the knife he holds in his hand; and silently and
invisibly he has crept up to the woman, and with that knife of Mechanical
Invention he has cut the band that bound the burden to her back. The
Inevitable Necessity it broken. She might rise now."
And I saw that she still lay motionless on the sand, with her eyes open and
her neck stretched out. And she seemed to look for something on the far-
off border of the desert that never came. And I wondered if she were awake
or asleep. And as I looked her body quivered, and a light came into her
eyes, like when a sunbeam breaks into a dark room.
I said, "What is it?"
He whispered "Hush! the thought has come to her, 'Might I not rise?'"
And I looked. And she raised her head from the sand, and I saw the dent
where her neck had lain so long. And she looked at the earth, and she
looked at the sky, and she looked at him who stood by her: but he looked
out across the desert.
And I saw her body quiver; and she pressed her front knees to the earth,
and veins stood out; and I cried; "She is going to rise!"
But only her sides heaved, and she lay still where she was.
But her head she held up; she did not lay it down again. And he beside me
said, "She is very weak. See, her legs have been crushed under her so
And I saw the creature struggle: and the drops stood out on her.
And I said, "Surely he who stands beside her will help her?"
And he beside me answered, "He cannot help her: she must help herself.
Let her struggle till she is strong."
And I cried, "At least he will not hinder her! See, he moves farther from
her, and tightens the cord between them, and he drags her down."
And he answered, "He does not understand. When she moves she draws the
band that binds them, and hurts him, and he moves farther from her. The
day will come when he will understand, and will know what she is doing.
Let her once stagger on to her knees. In that day he will stand close to
her, and look into her eyes with sympathy."
And she stretched her neck, and the drops fell from her. And the creature
rose an inch from the earth and sank back.
And I cried, "Oh, she is too weak! she cannot walk! The long years have
taken all her strength from her. Can she never move?"
And he answered me, "See the light in her eyes!"
And slowly the creature staggered on to its knees.
And I awoke: and all to the east and to the west stretched the barren
earth, with the dry bushes on it. The ants ran up and down in the red
sand, and the heat beat fiercely. I looked up through the thin branches of
the tree at the blue sky overhead. I stretched myself, and I mused over
the dream I had had. And I fell asleep again, with my head on my saddle.
And in the fierce heat I had another dream.
I saw a desert and I saw a woman coming out of it. And she came to the
bank of a dark river; and the bank was steep and high. (The banks of an
African river are sometimes a hundred feet high, and consist of deep
shifting sands, through which in the course of ages the river has worn its
gigantic bed.) And on it an old man met her, who had a long white beard;
and a stick that curled was in his hand, and on it was written Reason. And
he asked her what she wanted; and she said "I am woman; and I am seeking
for the land of Freedom."
And he said, "It is before you."
And she said, "I see nothing before me but a dark flowing river, and a bank
steep and high, and cuttings here and there with heavy sand in them."
And he said, "And beyond that?"
She said, "I see nothing, but sometimes, when I shade my eyes with my hand,
I think I see on the further bank trees and hills, and the sun shining on
He said, "That is the Land of Freedom."
She said, "How am I to get there?"
He said, "There is one way, and one only. Down the banks of Labour,
through the water of Suffering. There is no other."
She said, "Is there no bridge?"
He answered. "None."
She said, "Is the water deep?"
He said, "Deep."
She said, "Is the floor worn?"
He said, "It is. Your foot may slip at any time, and you may be lost."
She said, "Have any crossed already?"
He said, "Some have tried!"
She said, "Is there a track to show where the best fording is?"
He said, "It has to be made."
She shaded her eyes with her hand; and she said, "I will go."
And he said, "You must take off the clothes you wore in the desert: they
are dragged down by them who go into the water so clothed."
And she threw from her gladly the mantle of Ancient-received-opinions she
wore, for it was worn full of holes. And she took the girdle from her
waist that she had treasured so long, and the moths flew out of it in a
cloud. And he said, "Take the shoes of dependence off your feet."
And she stood there naked, but for one white garment that clung close to
And he said, "That you may keep. So they wear clothes in the Land of
Freedom. In the water it buoys; it always swims."
And I saw on its breast was written Truth; and it was white; the sun had
not often shone on it; the other clothes had covered it up. And he said,
"Take this stick; hold it fast. In that day when it slips from your hand
you are lost. Put it down before you; feel your way: where it cannot find
a bottom do not set your foot."
And she said, "I am ready; let me go."
And he said, "No--but stay; what is that--in your breast?"
She was silent.
He said, "Open it, and let me see."
And she opened it. And against her breast was a tiny thing, who drank from
it, and the yellow curls above his forehead pressed against it; and his
knees were drawn up to her, and he held her breast fast with his hands.
And Reason said, "Who is he, and what is he doing here?"
And she said, "See his little wings--"
And Reason said, "Put him down."
And she said, "He is asleep, and he is drinking! I will carry him to the
Land of Freedom. He has been a child so long, so long, I have carried him.
In the Land of Freedom he will be a man. We will walk together there, and
his great white wings will overshadow me. He has lisped one word only to
me in the desert--'Passion!' I have dreamed he might learn to say
'Friendship' in that land."
And Reason said, "Put him down!"
And she said, "I will carry him so--with one arm, and with the other I will
fight the water."
He said, "Lay him down on the ground. When you are in the water you will
forget to fight, you will think only of him. Lay him down." He said, "He
will not die. When he finds you have left him alone he will open his wings
and fly. He will be in the Land of Freedom before you. Those who reach
the Land of Freedom, the first hand they see stretching down the bank to
help them shall be Love's. He will be a man then, not a child. In your
breast he cannot thrive; put him down that he may grow."
And she took her bosom from his mouth, and he bit her, so that the blood
ran down on to the ground. And she laid him down on the earth; and she
covered her wound. And she bent and stroked his wings. And I saw the hair
on her forehead turned white as snow, and she had changed from youth to
And she stood far off on the bank of the river. And she said, "For what do
I go to this far land which no one has ever reached? Oh, I am alone! I am
And Reason, that old man, said to her, "Silence! What do you hear?"
And she listened intently, and she said, "I hear a sound of feet, a
thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, and they beat this
He said, "They are the feet of those that shall follow you. Lead on! make
a track to the water's edge! Where you stand now, the ground will be
beaten flat by ten thousand times ten thousand feet." And he said, "Have
you seen the locusts how they cross a stream? First one comes down to the
water-edge, and it is swept away, and then another comes and then another,
and then another, and at last with their bodies piled up a bridge is built
and the rest pass over."
She said, "And, of those that come first, some are swept away, and are
heard of no more; their bodies do not even build the bridge?"
"And are swept away, and are heard of no more--and what of that?" he said.
"And what of that--" she said.
"They make a track to the water's edge."
"They make a track to the water's edge--." And she said, "Over that bridge
which shall be built with our bodies, who will pass?"
He said, "The entire human race."
And the woman grasped her staff.
And I saw her turn down that dark path to the river.
And I awoke; and all about me was the yellow afternoon light: the sinking
sun lit up the fingers of the milk bushes; and my horse stood by me quietly
feeding. And I turned on my side, and I watched the ants run by thousands
in the red sand. I thought I would go on my way now--the afternoon was
cooler. Then a drowsiness crept over me again, and I laid back my head and
And I dreamed a dream.
I dreamed I saw a land. And on the hills walked brave women and brave men,
hand in hand. And they looked into each other's eyes, and they were not
And I saw the women also hold each other's hands.
And I said to him beside me, "What place is this?"
And he said, "This is heaven."
And I said, "Where is it?"
And he answered, "On earth."
And I said, "When shall these things be?"
And he answered, "IN THE FUTURE."
And I awoke, and all about me was the sunset light; and on the low hills
the sun lay, and a delicious coolness had crept over everything; and the
ants were going slowly home. And I walked towards my horse, who stood
quietly feeding. Then the sun passed down behind the hills; but I knew
that the next day he would arise again.
VI. A DREAM OF WILD BEES.
A mother sat alone at an open window. Through it came the voices of the
children as they played under the acacia-trees, and the breath of the hot
afternoon air. In and out of the room flew the bees, the wild bees, with
their legs yellow with pollen, going to and from the acacia-trees, droning
all the while. She sat on a low chair before the table and darned. She
took her work from the great basket that stood before her on the table:
some lay on her knee and half covered the book that rested there. She
watched the needle go in and out; and the dreary hum of the bees and the
noise of the children's voices became a confused murmur in her ears, as she
worked slowly and more slowly. Then the bees, the long-legged wasp-like
fellows who make no honey, flew closer and closer to her head, droning.
Then she grew more and more drowsy, and she laid her hand, with the
stocking over it, on the edge of the table, and leaned her head upon it.
And the voices of the children outside grew more and more dreamy, came now
far, now near; then she did not hear them, but she felt under her heart
where the ninth child lay. Bent forward and sleeping there, with the bees
flying about her head, she had a weird brain-picture; she thought the bees
lengthened and lengthened themselves out and became human creatures and
moved round and round her. Then one came to her softly, saying, "Let me
lay my hand upon thy side where the child sleeps. If I shall touch him he
shall be as I."
She asked, "Who are you?"
And he said, "I am Health. Whom I touch will have always the red blood
dancing in his veins; he will not know weariness nor pain; life will be a
long laugh to him."
"No," said another, "let me touch; for I am Wealth. If I touch him
material care shall not feed on him. He shall live on the blood and sinews
of his fellow-men, if he will; and what his eye lusts for, his hand will
have. He shall not know 'I want.'" And the child lay still like lead.
And another said, "Let me touch him: I am Fame. The man I touch, I lead
to a high hill where all men may see him. When he dies he is not
forgotten, his name rings down the centuries, each echoes it on to his
fellows. Think--not to be forgotten through the ages!"
And the mother lay breathing steadily, but in the brain-picture they
pressed closer to her.
"Let me touch the child," said one, "for I am Love. If I touch him he
shall not walk through life alone. In the greatest dark, when he puts out
his hand he shall find another hand by it. When the world is against him,
another shall say, 'You and I.'" And the child trembled.
But another pressed close and said, "Let me touch; for I am Talent. I can
do all things--that have been done before. I touch the soldier, the
statesman, the thinker, and the politician who succeed; and the writer who
is never before his time, and never behind it. If I touch the child he
shall not weep for failure."
About the mother's head the bees were flying, touching her with their long
tapering limbs; and, in her brain-picture, out of the shadow of the room
came one with sallow face, deep-lined, the cheeks drawn into hollows, and a
mouth smiling quiveringly. He stretched out his hand. And the mother drew
back, and cried, "Who are you?" He answered nothing; and she looked up
between his eyelids. And she said, "What can you give the child--health?"
And he said, "The man I touch, there wakes up in his blood a burning fever,
that shall lick his blood as fire. The fever that I will give him shall be
cured when his life is cured."
"You give wealth?"
He shook his head. "The man whom I touch, when he bends to pick up gold,
he sees suddenly a light over his head in the sky; while he looks up to see
it, the gold slips from between his fingers, or sometimes another passing
takes it from them."
He answered, "likely not. For the man I touch there is a path traced out
in the sand by a finger which no man sees. That he must follow. Sometimes
it leads almost to the top, and then turns down suddenly into the valley.
He must follow it, though none else sees the tracing."
He said, "He shall hunger for it--but he shall not find it. When he
stretches out his arms to it, and would lay his heart against a thing he
loves, then, far off along the horizon he shall see a light play. He must
go towards it. The thing he loves will not journey with him; he must
travel alone. When he presses somewhat to his burning heart, crying,
'Mine, mine, my own!' he shall hear a voice--'Renounce! renounce! this is
"He shall succeed?"
He said, "He shall fail. When he runs with others they shall reach the
goal before him. For strange voices shall call to him and strange lights
shall beckon him, and he must wait and listen. And this shall be the
strangest: far off across the burning sands where, to other men, there is
only the desert's waste, he shall see a blue sea! On that sea the sun
shines always, and the water is blue as burning amethyst, and the foam is
white on the shore. A great land rises from it, and he shall see upon the
mountain-tops burning gold."
The mother said, "He shall reach it?"
And he smiled curiously.
She said, "It is real?"
And he said, "What IS real?"
And she looked up between his half-closed eyelids, and said, "Touch."
And he leaned forward and laid his hand upon the sleeper, and whispered to
it, smiling; and this only she heard--"This shall be thy reward--that the
ideal shall be real to thee."
And the child trembled; but the mother slept on heavily and her brain-
picture vanished. But deep within her the antenatal thing that lay here
had a dream. In those eyes that had never seen the day, in that half-
shaped brain was a sensation of light! Light--that it never had seen.
Light--that perhaps it never should see. Light--that existed somewhere!
And already it had its reward: the Ideal was real to it.
VII. IN A RUINED CHAPEL.
"I cannot forgive--I love."
There are four bare walls; there is a Christ upon the walls, in red,
carrying his cross; there is a Blessed Bambino with the face rubbed out;
there is Madonna in blue and red; there are Roman soldiers and a Christ
with tied hands. All the roof is gone; overhead is the blue, blue Italian
sky; the rain has beaten holes in the walls, and the plaster is peeling
from it. The chapel stands here alone upon the promontory, and by day and
by night the sea breaks at its feet. Some say that it was set here by the
monks from the island down below, that they might bring their sick here in
times of deadly plague. Some say that it was set here that the passing
monks and friars, as they hurried by upon the roadway, might stop and say
their prayers here. Now no one stops to pray here, and the sick come no
more to be healed.
Behind it runs the old Roman road. If you climb it and come and sit there
alone on a hot sunny day you may almost hear at last the clink of the Roman
soldiers upon the pavement, and the sound of that older time, as you sit
there in the sun, when Hannibal and his men broke through the brushwood,
and no road was.
Now it is very quiet. Sometimes a peasant girl comes riding by between her
panniers, and you hear the mule's feet beat upon the bricks of the
pavement; sometimes an old woman goes past with a bundle of weeds upon her
head, or a brigand-looking man hurries by with a bundle of sticks in his
hand; but for the rest the Chapel lies here alone upon the promontory,
between the two bays and hears the sea break at its feet.
I came here one winter's day when the midday sun shone hot on the bricks of
the Roman road. I was weary, and the way seemed steep. I walked into the
chapel to the broken window, and looked out across the bay. Far off,
across the blue, blue water, were towns and villages, hanging white and red
dots, upon the mountain-sides, and the blue mountains rose up into the sky,
and now stood out from it and now melted back again.
The mountains seemed calling to me, but I knew there would never be a
bridge built from them to me; never, never, never! I shaded my eyes with
my hand and turned away. I could not bear to look at them.
I walked through the ruined Chapel, and looked at the Christ in red
carrying his cross, and the Blessed rubbed-out Bambino, and the Roman
soldiers, and the folded hands, and the reed; and I went and sat down in
the open porch upon a stone. At my feet was the small bay, with its white
row of houses buried among the olive trees; the water broke in a long,
thin, white line of foam along the shore; and I leaned my elbows on my
knees. I was tired, very tired; tired with a tiredness that seemed older
than the heat of the day and the shining of the sun on the bricks of the
Roman road; and I lay my head upon my knees; I heard the breaking of the
water on the rocks three hundred feet below, and the rustling of the wind
among the olive trees and the ruined arches, and then I fell asleep there.
I had a dream.
A man cried up to God, and God sent down an angel to help him; and the
angel came back and said, "I cannot help that man."
God said, "How is it with him?"
And the angel said, "He cries out continually that one has injured him; and
he would forgive him and he cannot."
God said, "What have you done for him?"
The angel said, "All--. I took him by the hand, and I said, 'See, when
other men speak ill of that man do you speak well of him; secretly, in ways
he shall not know, serve him; if you have anything you value share it with
him, so, serving him, you will at last come to feel possession in him, and
you will forgive.' And he said, 'I will do it.' Afterwards, as I passed
by in the dark of night, I heard one crying out, 'I have done all. It
helps nothing! My speaking well of him helps me nothing! If I share my
heart's blood with him, is the burning within me less? I cannot forgive; I
cannot forgive! Oh, God, I cannot forgive!'
"I said to him, 'See here, look back on all your past. See from your
childhood all smallness, all indirectness that has been yours; look well at
it, and in its light do you not see every man your brother? Are you so
sinless you have right to hate?'
"He looked, and said, 'Yes, you are right; I too have failed, and I forgive
my fellow. Go, I am satisfied; I have forgiven;' and he laid him down
peacefully and folded his hands on his breast, and I thought it was well
with him. But scarcely had my wings rustled and I turned to come up here,
when I heard one crying out on earth again, 'I cannot forgive! I cannot
forgive! Oh, God, God, I cannot forgive! It is better to die than to
hate! I cannot forgive! I cannot forgive!' And I went and stood outside
his door in the dark, and I heard him cry, 'I have not sinned so, not so!
If I have torn my fellows' flesh ever so little, I have kneeled down and
kissed the wound with my mouth till it was healed. I have not willed that
any soul shall be lost through hate of me. If they have but fancied that I
wronged them I have lain down on the ground before them that they might
tread on me, and so, seeing my humiliation, forgive and not be lost through
hating me; they have not cared that my soul should be lost; they have not
willed to save me; they have not tried that I should forgive them!'
"I said to him, 'See here, be thou content; do not forgive: forget this
soul and its injury; go on your way. In the next world perhaps--'
"He cried, 'Go from me, you understand nothing! What is the next world to
me! I am lost now, today. I cannot see the sunlight shine, the dust is in
my throat, the sand is in my eyes! Go from me, you know nothing! Oh, once
again before I die to see that the world is beautiful! Oh, God, God, I
cannot live and not love. I cannot live and hate. Oh, God, God, God!' So
I left him crying out and came back here."
God said, "This man's soul must be saved."
And the angel said "How?"
God said, "Go down you, and save it."
The angel said, "What more shall I do?"
Then God bent down and whispered in the angel's ear, and the angel spread
out its wings and went down to earth.
And partly I woke, sitting there upon the broken stone with my head on my
knee; but I was too weary to rise. I heard the wind roam through the olive
trees and among the ruined arches, and then I slept again.
The angel went down and found the man with the bitter heart and took him by
the hand, and led him to a certain spot.
Now the man wist not where it was the angel would take him nor what he
would show him there. And when they came the angel shaded the man's eyes
with his wing, and when he moved it the man saw somewhat on the earth
before them. For God had given it to that angel to unclothe a human soul;
to take from it all those outward attributes of form, and colour, and age,
and sex, whereby one man is known from among his fellows and is marked off
from the rest, and the soul lay before them, bare, as a man turning his eye
inwards beholds himself.
They saw its past, its childhood, the tiny life with the dew upon it; they
saw its youth when the dew was melting, and the creature raised its
Lilliputian mouth to drink from a cup too large for it, and they saw how
the water spilt; they saw its hopes that were never realized; they saw its
hours of intellectual blindness, men call sin; they saw its hours of all-
radiating insight, which men call righteousness; they saw its hour of
strength, when it leaped to its feet crying, "I am omnipotent;" its hour of
weakness, when it fell to the earth and grasped dust only; they saw what it
might have been, but never would be.
The man bent forward.
And the angel said, "What is it?"
He answered, "It is I! it is myself!" And he went forward as if he would
have lain his heart against it; but the angel held him back and covered his
Now God had given power to the angel further to unclothe that soul, to take
from it all those outward attributes of time and place and circumstance
whereby the individual life is marked off from the life of the whole.
Again the angel uncovered the man's eyes, and he looked. He saw before him
that which in its tiny drop reflects the whole universe; he saw that which
marks within itself the step of the furthest star, and tells how the
crystal grows under ground where no eye has seen it; that which is where
the germ in the egg stirs; which moves the outstretched fingers of the
little newborn babe, and keeps the leaves of the trees pointing upward;
which moves where the jelly-fish sail alone on the sunny seas, and is where
the lichens form on the mountains' rocks.
And the man looked.
And the angel touched him.
But the man bowed his head and shuddered. He whispered--"It is God!"
And the angel re-covered the man's eyes. And when he uncovered them there
was one walking from them a little way off;--for the angel had re-clothed
the soul in its outward form and vesture--and the man knew who it was.
And the angel said, "Do you know him?"
And the man said, "I know him," and he looked after the figure.
And the angel said, "Have you forgiven him?"
But the man said, "How beautiful my brother is!"
And the angel looked into the man's eyes, and he shaded his own face with
his wing from the light. He laughed softly and went up to God.
But the men were together on earth.
The blue, blue sky was over my head, and the waves were breaking below on
the shore. I walked through the little chapel, and I saw the Madonna in
blue and red, and the Christ carrying his cross, and the Roman soldiers
with the rod, and the Blessed Bambino with its broken face; and then I
walked down the sloping rock to the brick pathway. The olive trees stood
up on either side of the road, their black berries and pale-green leaves
stood out against the sky; and the little ice-plants hung from the crevices
in the stone wall. It seemed to me as if it must have rained while I was
asleep. I thought I had never seen the heavens and the earth look so
beautiful before. I walked down the road. The old, old, old tiredness was
Presently there came a peasant boy down the path leading his ass; she had
two large panniers fastened to her sides; and they went down the road
I had never seen him before; but I should have liked to walk by him and to
have held his hand--only, he would not have known why.
VIII. LIFE'S GIFTS.
I saw a woman sleeping. In her sleep she dreamt Life stood before her, and
held in each hand a gift--in the one Love, in the other Freedom. And she
said to the woman, "Choose!"
And the woman waited long: and she said, "Freedom!"
And Life said, "Thou hast well chosen. If thou hadst said, 'Love,' I would
have given thee that thou didst ask for; and I would have gone from thee,
and returned to thee no more. Now, the day will come when I shall return.
In that day I shall bear both gifts in one hand."
I heard the woman laugh in her sleep.
IX. THE ARTIST'S SECRET.
There was an artist once, and he painted a picture. Other artists had
colours richer and rarer, and painted more notable pictures. He painted
his with one colour, there was a wonderful red glow on it; and the people
went up and down, saying, "We like the picture, we like the glow."
The other artists came and said, "Where does he get his colour from?" They
asked him; and he smiled and said, "I cannot tell you"; and worked on with
his head bent low.
And one went to the far East and bought costly pigments, and made a rare
colour and painted, but after a time the picture faded. Another read in
the old books, and made a colour rich and rare, but when he had put it on
the picture it was dead.
But the artist painted on. Always the work got redder and redder, and the
artist grew whiter and whiter. At last one day they found him dead before
his picture, and they took him up to bury him. The other men looked about
in all the pots and crucibles, but they found nothing they had not.
And when they undressed him to put his grave-clothes on him, they found
above his left breast the mark of a wound--it was an old, old wound, that
must have been there all his life, for the edges were old and hardened; but
Death, who seals all things, had drawn the edges together, and closed it
And they buried him. And still the people went about saying, "Where did he
find his colour from?"
And it came to pass that after a while the artist was forgotten--but the
X. "I THOUGHT I STOOD."
I thought I stood in Heaven before God's throne, and God asked me what I
had come for. I said I had come to arraign my brother, Man.
God said, "What has he done?"
I said, "He has taken my sister, Woman, and has stricken her, and wounded
her, and thrust her out into the streets; she lies there prostrate. His
hands are red with blood. I am here to arraign him; that the kingdom be
taken from him, because he is not worthy, and given unto me. My hands are
I showed them.
God said, "Thy hands are pure.--Lift up thy robe."
I raised it; my feet were red, blood-red, as if I had trodden in wine.
God said, "How is this?"
I said, "Dear Lord, the streets on earth are full of mire. If I should
walk straight on in them my outer robe might be bespotted, you see how
white it is! Therefore I pick my way."
God said, "On what?"
I was silent, and I let my robe fall. I wrapped my mantle about my head.
I went out softly. I was afraid that the angels would see me.
Once more I stood at the gate of Heaven, I and another. We held fast by
one another; we were very tired. We looked up at the great gates; the
angels opened them, and we went in. The mud was on our garments. We
walked across the marble floor, and up to the great throne. Then the
angels divided us. Her, they set upon the top step, but me, upon the
bottom; for, they said, "Last time this woman came here she left red foot-
marks on the floor; we had to wash them out with our tears. Let her not go
Then she, with whom I came, looked back, and stretched out her hand to me;
and I went and stood beside her. And the angels, they, the shining ones
who never sinned and never suffered, walked by us to and fro and up and
down; I think we should have felt a little lonely there if it had not been
for one another, the angels were so bright.
God asked me what I had come for; and I drew my sister forward a little
that he might see her.
God said, "How is it you are here together today?"
I said, "She was upon the ground in the street, and they passed over her; I
lay down by her, and she put her arms around my neck, and so I lifted her,
and we two rose together."
God said, "Whom are you now come to accuse before me?"
I said, "We are come to accuse no man."
And God bent, and said, "My children--what is it that ye seek?"
And she beside me drew my hand that I should speak for both.
I said, "We have come to ask that thou shouldst speak to Man, our brother,
and give us a message for him that he might understand, and that he
God said, "Go, take the message down to him!"
I said, "But what is the message?"
God said, "Upon your hearts it is written; take it down to him."
And we turned to go; the angels went with us to the door. They looked at
And one said--"Ai! but their dresses are beautiful!"
And the other said, "I thought it was mire when they came in, but see, it
is all golden!"
But another said, "Hush, it is the light from their faces!"
And we went down to him.
XI. THE SUNLIGHT LAY ACROSS MY BED.
In the dark one night I lay upon my bed. I heard the policeman's feet beat
on the pavement; I heard the wheels of carriages roll home from houses of
entertainment; I heard a woman's laugh below my window--and then I fell
asleep. And in the dark I dreamt a dream. I dreamt God took my soul to
Hell was a fair place; the water of the lake was blue.
I said to God, "I like this place."
God said, "Ay, dost thou!"
Birds sang, turf came to the water-edge, and trees grew from it. Away off
among the trees I saw beautiful women walking. Their clothes were of many
delicate colours and clung to them, and they were tall and graceful and had
yellow hair. Their robes trailed over the grass. They glided in and out
among the trees, and over their heads hung yellow fruit like large pears of
I said, "It is very fair; I would go up and taste the--"
God said, "Wait."
And after a while I noticed a very fair woman pass: she looked this way
and that, and drew down a branch, and it seemed she kissed the fruit upon
it softly, and went on her way, and her dress made no rustle as she passed
over the grass. And when I saw her no more, from among the stems came
another woman fair as she had been, in a delicate tinted robe; she looked
this way and that. When she saw no one there she drew down the fruit, and
when she had looked over it to find a place, she put her mouth to it
softly, and went away. And I saw other and other women come, making no
noise, and they glided away also over the grass.
And I said to God, "What are they doing?"
God said, "They are poisoning."
And I said, "How?"
God said, "They touch it with their lips, when they have made a tiny wound
in it with their fore-teeth they set in it that which is under their
tongues: they close it with their lip--that no man may see the place, and
I said to God, "Why do they do it?"
God said, "That another may not eat."
I said to God, "But if they poison all then none dare eat; what do they
God said, "Nothing."
I said, "Are they not afraid they themselves may bite where another has
God said, "They are afraid. In Hell all men fear."
He called me further. And the water of the lake seemed less blue.
Then, to the right among the trees were men working. And I said to God, "I
should like to go and work with them. Hell must be a very fruitful place,
the grass is so green."
God said, "Nothing grows in the garden they are making."
We stood looking; and I saw them working among the bushes, digging holes,
but in them they set nothing; and when they had covered them with sticks
and earth each went a way off and sat behind the bushes watching; and I
noticed that as each walked he set his foot down carefully looking where he
trod. I said to God, "What are they doing?"
God said, "Making pitfalls into which their fellows may sink."
I said to God, "Why do they do it?"
God said, "Because each thinks that when his brother falls he will rise."
I said to God, "How will he rise?"
God said, "He will not rise."
And I saw their eyes gleam from behind the bushes.
I said to God, "Are these men sane?"
God said, "They are not sane; there is no sane man in Hell."
And he told me to come further.
And I looked where I trod.
And we came where Hell opened into a plain, and a great house stood there.
Marble pillars upheld the roof, and white marble steps let up to it. The
wind of heaven blew through it. Only at the back hung a thick curtain.
Fair men and women there feasted at long tables. They danced, and I saw
the robes of women flutter in the air and heard the laugh of strong men.
What they feasted with was wine; they drew it from large jars which stood
somewhat in the background, and I saw the wine sparkle as they drew it.
And I said to God, "I should like to go up and drink." And God said,
"Wait." And I saw men coming in to the Banquet House; they came in from
the back and lifted the corner of the curtain at the sides and crept in
quickly; and they let the curtain fall behind them; they bore great jars
they could hardly carry. And the men and women crowded round them, and the
new-comers opened their jars and gave them of the wine to drink; and I saw
that the women drank even more greedily than the men. And when others had
well drunken they set the jars among the old ones beside the wall, and took
their places at the table. And I saw that some of the jars were very old
and mildewed and dusty, but others had still drops of new must on them and
shone from the furnace.
And I said to God, "What is that?" For amid the sound of the singing, and
over the dancing of feet, and over the laughing across the wine-cups I
heard a cry.
And God said, "Stand a way off."
And he took me where I saw both sides of the curtain. Behind the house was
the wine-press where the wine was made. I saw the grapes crushed, and I
heard them cry. I said, "Do not they on the other side hear it?"
God said, "The curtain is thick; they are feasting."
And I said, "But the men who came in last. They saw?"
God said, "They let the curtain fall behind them--and they forget!"
I said, "How came they by their jars of wine?"
God said, "In the treading of the press these are they who came to the top;
they have climbed out over the edge, and filled their jars from below, and
have gone into the house."
And I said, "And if they had fallen as they climbed--?"
God said, "They had been wine."
I stood a way off watching in the sunshine, and I shivered.
God lay in the sunshine watching too.
Then there rose one among the feasters, who said, "My brethren, let us
And all the men and women rose: and strong men bowed their heads, and
mothers folded their little children's hands together, and turned their
faces upwards, to the roof. And he who first had risen stood at the table
head, and stretched out both his hands, and his beard was long and white,
and his sleeves and his beard had been dipped in wine; and because the
sleeves were wide and full they held much wine, and it dropped down upon
And he cried, "My brothers and my sisters, let us pray."
And all the men and women answered, "Let us pray."
He cried, "For this fair banquet-house we thank thee, Lord."
And all the men and women said "We thank thee, Lord."
"Thine is this house, dear Lord."
"Thine is this house."
"For us hast thou made it."
"Oh, fill our jars with wine, dear Lord."
"Our jars with wine."
"Give peace and plenty in our time, dear Lord."
"Peace and plenty in our time"--I said to God, "Whom is it they are talking
to?" God said, "Do I know whom they speak of?" And I saw they were
looking up at the roof; but out in the sunshine, God lay.
"Our children's children, Lord, shall rise and call thee blessed."
"Our children's children, Lord."--I said to God, "The grapes are crying!"
God said, "Still! I hear them"--"shall call thee blessed."
"Shall call thee blessed."
"Pour forth more wine upon us, Lord."
Then men and women sat down and the feast went on. And mothers poured out
wine and fed their little children with it, and men held up the cup to
women's lips and cried, "Beloved! drink," and women filled their lovers'
flagons and held them up; and yet the feast went on.
And after a while I looked, and I saw the curtain that hung behind the
I said to God, "Is it a wind?"
God said, "A wind."
And it seemed to me, that against the curtain I saw pressed the forms of
men and women. And after a while the feasters saw it move, and they
whispered, one to another. Then some rose and gathered the most worn-out
cups, and into them they put what was left at the bottom of other vessels.
Mothers whispered to their children, "Do not drink all, save a little drop
when you have drunk." And when they had collected all the dregs they
slipped the cups out under the bottom of the curtain without lifting it.
After a while the curtain left off moving.
I said to God, "How is it so quiet?"
He said, "They have gone away to drink it."
I said, "They drink it--their own!"
God said, "It comes from this side of the curtain, and they are very
Then the feast went on, and after a while I saw a small, white hand slipped
in below the curtain's edge along the floor; and it motioned towards the
And I said to God, "Why is that hand so bloodless?"
And God said, "It is a wine-pressed hand."
And men saw it and started to their feet; and women cried, and ran to the
great wine jars, and threw their arms around them, and cried, "Ours, our
own, our beloved!" and twined their long hair about them.
I said to God, "Why are they frightened of that one small hand?"
God answered, "Because it is so white."
And men ran in a great company towards the curtain, and struggled there. I
heard them strike upon the floor. And when they moved away the curtain
hung smooth and still; and there was a small stain upon the floor.
I said to God, "Why do they not wash it out?"
God said, "They cannot."
And they took small stones and put them down along the edge of the curtain
to keep it down. Then the men and women sat down again at the tables.
And I said to God, "Will those stones keep it down?"
God said, "What think you?"
I said, "If the wind blew?"
God said, "If the wind blew?"
And the feast went on.
And suddenly I cried to God, "If one should rise among them, even of
themselves, and start up from the table and should cast away his cup, and
cry, 'My brothers and my sisters, stay! what is it that we drink?'--and
with his sword should cut in two the curtain, and holding wide the
fragments, cry, 'Brothers, sisters, see! it is not wine, not wine! not
wine! My brothers, oh, my sisters!' and he should overturn the--"
God said, "Be still!--, see there."
I looked: before the banquet-house, among the grass, I saw a row of
mounds, flowers covered them, and gilded marble stood at their heads. I
asked God what they were.
He answered, "They are the graves of those who rose up at the feast and
And I asked God how they came there.
He said, "The men of the banquet-house rose and cast them down backwards."
I said, "Who buried them?"
God said, "The men who cast them down."
I said, "How came it that they threw them down, and then set marble over
God said, "Because the bones cried out, they covered them."
And among the grass and weeds I saw an unburied body lying; and I asked God
why it was.
God said, "Because it was thrown down only yesterday. In a little while,
when the flesh shall have fallen from its bones, they will bury it also,
and plant flowers over it."
And still the feast went on.
Men and women sat at the tables quaffing great bowls. Some rose, and threw
their arms about each other, and danced and sang. They pledged each other
in the wine, and kissed each other's blood-red lips.
Higher and higher grew the revels.
Men, when they had drunk till they could no longer, threw what was left in
their glasses up to the roof, and let it fall back in cascades. Women dyed
their children's garments in the wine, and fed them on it till their tiny
mouths were red. Sometimes, as the dancers whirled, they overturned a
vessel, and their garments were bespattered. Children sat upon the floor
with great bowls of wine, and swam rose-leaves on it, for boats. They put
their hands in the wine and blew large red bubbles.
And higher and higher grew the revels, and wilder the dancing, and louder
and louder the singing. But here and there among the revellers were those
who did not revel. I saw that at the tables here and there were men who
sat with their elbows on the board and hands shading their eyes; they
looked into the wine-cup beneath them, and did not drink. And when one
touched them lightly on the shoulder, bidding them to rise and dance and
sing, they started, and then looked down, and sat there watching the wine
in the cup, but they did not move.
And here and there I saw a woman sit apart. The others danced and sang and
fed their children, but she sat silent with her head aside as though she
listened. Her little children plucked her gown; she did not see them; she
was listening to some sound, but she did not stir.
The revels grew higher. Men drank till they could drink no longer, and lay
their heads upon the table sleeping heavily. Women who could dance no more
leaned back on the benches with their heads against their lovers'
shoulders. Little children, sick with wine, lay down upon the edges of
their mothers' robes. Sometimes, a man rose suddenly, and as he staggered
struck the tables and overthrew the benches; some leaned upon the
balustrades sick unto death. Here and there one rose who staggered to the
wine jars and lay down beside them. He turned the wine tap, but sleep
overcame him as he lay there, and the wine ran out.
Slowly the thin, red stream ran across the white marbled floor; it reached
the stone steps; slowly, slowly, slowly it trickled down, from step to
step, from step to step: then it sank into the earth. A thin white smoke
rose up from it.
I was silent; I could not breathe; but God called me to come further.
And after I had travelled for a while I came where on seven hills lay the
ruins of a mighty banquet-house larger and stronger than the one which I
had seen standing.
I said to God, "What did the men who built it here?"
God said, "They feasted."
I said, "On what?"
God said, "On wine."
And I looked; and it seemed to me that behind the ruins lay still a large
circular hollow within the earth where a foot of the wine-press had stood.
I said to God, "How came it that this large house fell?"
God said, "Because the earth was sodden."
He called me to come further.
And at last we came upon a hill where blue waters played, and white marble
lay upon the earth. I said to God, "What was here once?"
God said, "A pleasure house."
I looked, and at my feet great pillars lay. I cried aloud for joy to God,
"The marble blossoms!"
God said, "Ay, 'twas a fairy house. There has not been one like to it, nor
ever shall be. The pillars and the porticoes blossomed; and the wine cups
were as gathered flowers: on this side all the curtain was broidered with
fair designs, the stitching was of gold."
I said to God, "How came it that it fell?"
God said, "On the side of the wine-press it was dark."
And as we travelled, we came where lay a mighty ridge of sand, and a dark
river ran there; and there rose two vast mounds.
I said to God, "They are very mighty."
God said, "Ay, exceeding great."
And I listened.
God asked me what I was listening to.
And I said, "A sound of weeping, and I hear the sound of strokes, but I
cannot tell whence it comes."
God said, "It is the echo of the wine-press lingering still among the
coping-stones upon the mounds. A banquet-house stood here."
And he called me to come further.
Upon a barren hill-side, where the soil was arid, God called me to stand
still. And I looked around.
God said, "There was a feasting-house here once upon a time."
I said to God, "I see no mark of any!"
God said, "There was not left one stone upon another that has not been
thrown down." And I looked round; and on the hill-side was a lonely grave.
I said to God, "What lies there?"
He said, "A vine truss, bruised in the wine-press!"
And at the head of the grave stood a cross, and on its foot lay a crown of
And as I turned to go, I looked backward. The wine-press and the banquet-
house were gone; but the grave yet stood.
And when I came to the edge of a long ridge there opened out before me a
wide plain of sand. And when I looked downward I saw great stones lie
shattered; and the desert sand had half covered them over.
I said to God, "There is writing on them, but I cannot read it."
And God blew aside the desert sand, and I read the writing: "Weighed in
the balance, and found--" but the last word was wanting.
And I said to God, "It was a banquet-house?"
God said, "Ay, a banquet-house."
I said, "There was a wine-press here?"
God said, "There was a wine-press."
I asked no further question. I was very weary; I shaded my eyes with my
hand, and looked through the pink evening light.
Far off, across the sand, I saw two figures standing. With wings upfolded
high above their heads, and stern faces set, neither man nor beast, they
looked out across the desert sand, watching, watching, watching! I did not
ask God what they were, for I knew what the answer would be.
And, further and yet further, in the evening light, I looked with my shaded
Far off, where the sands were thick and heavy, I saw a solitary pillar
standing: the crown had fallen, and the sand had buried it. On the broken
pillar sat a grey owl-of-the-desert, with folded wings; and in the evening
light I saw the desert fox creep past it, trailing his brush across the
Further, yet further, as I looked across the desert, I saw the sand
gathered into heaps as though it covered something.
I cried to God, "Oh, I am so weary."
God said, "You have seen only one half of Hell."
I said, "I cannot see more, I am afraid of Hell. In my own narrow little
path I dare not walk because I think that one has dug a pitfall for me; and
if I put my hand to take a fruit I draw it back again because I think it
has been kissed already. If I look out across the plains, the mounds are
burial heaps; and when I pass among the stones I hear them crying aloud.
When I see men dancing I hear the time beaten in with sobs; and their wine
is living! Oh, I cannot bear Hell!"
God said, "Where will you go?"
I said "To the earth from which I came; it was better there."
And God laughed at me; and I wondered why he laughed.
God said, "Come, and I will show you Heaven."
And partly I awoke. It was still and dark; the sound of the carriages had
died in the street; the woman who laughed was gone; and the policeman's
tread was heard no more. In the dark it seemed as if a great hand lay upon
my heart, and crushed it. I tried to breathe and tossed from side to side;
and then again I fell asleep, and dreamed.
God took me to the edge of that world. It ended. I looked down. The
gulf, it seemed to me, was fathomless, and then I saw two bridges crossing
it that both sloped upwards.
I said to God, "Is there no other way by which men cross it?"
God said, "One; it rises far from here and slopes straight upwards.
I asked God what the bridges' names were.
God said, "What matter for the names? Call them the Good, the True, the
Beautiful, if you will--you will yet not understand them."
I asked God how it was I could not see the third.
God said, "It is seen only by those who climb it."
I said, "Do they all lead to one heaven?"
God said, "All Heaven is one: nevertheless some parts are higher than
others; those who reach the higher may always go down to rest in the lower;
but those in the lower may not have strength to climb to the higher;
nevertheless the light is all one."
And I saw over the bridge nearest me, which was wider than the other,
countless footmarks go. I asked God why so many went over it.
God said, "It slopes less deeply, and leads to the first heaven."
And I saw that some of the footmarks were of feet returning. I asked God
how it was.
He said, "No man who has once entered Heaven ever leaves it; but some, when
they have gone half way, turn back, because they are afraid there is no
I said, "Has none ever returned?"
God said, "No; once in Heaven always in Heaven."
And God took me over. And when we came to one of the great doors--for
Heaven has more doors than one, and they are all open--the posts rose up so
high on either side I could not see the top, nor indeed if there were any.
And it seemed to me so wide that all Hell could go in through it.
I said to God, "Which is the larger, Heaven or Hell?"
God said, "Hell is as wide, but Heaven is deeper. All Hell could be
engulfed in Heaven, but all Heaven could not be engulfed in Hell."
And we entered. It was a still great land. The mountains rose on every
hand, and there was a pale clear light; and I saw it came from the rocks
and stones. I asked God how it was.
But God did not answer me.
I looked and wondered, for I had thought Heaven would be otherwise. And
after a while it began to grow brighter, as if the day were breaking, and I
asked God if the sun were not going to rise.
God said, "No; we are coming to where the people are."
And as we went on it grew brighter and brighter till it was burning day;
and on the rock were flowers blooming, and trees blossomed at the roadside;
and streams of water ran everywhere, and I heard the birds singing; I asked
God where they were.
God said, "It is the people calling to one another."
And when we came nearer I saw them walking, and they shone as they walked.
I asked God how it was they wore no covering.
God said, "Because all their body gives the light; they dare not cover any
And I asked God what they were doing.
God said, "Shining on the plants that they may grow."
And I saw that some were working in companies, and some alone, but most
were in twos, sometimes two men and sometimes two women; but generally
there was one man and one woman; and I asked God how it was.
God said, "When one man and one woman shine together, it makes the most
perfect light. Many plants need that for their growing. Nevertheless,
there are more kinds of plants in Heaven than one, and they need many kinds
And one from among the people came running towards me; and when he came
near it seemed to me that he and I had played together when we were little
children, and that we had been born on the same day. And I told God what I
felt; God said, "All men feel so in Heaven when another comes towards
And he who ran towards me held my hand, and led me through the bright
lights. And when we came among the trees he sang aloud, and his companion
answered, and it was a woman, and he showed me to her. She said, "He must
have water"; and she took some in her hands, and fed me (I had been afraid
to drink of the water in Hell), and they gathered fruit for me, and gave it
me to eat. They said, "We shone long to make it ripen," and they laughed
together as they saw me eat it.
The man said, "He is very weary; he must sleep" (for I had not dared to
sleep in Hell), and he laid my head on his companion's knee and spread her
hair out over me. I slept, and all the while in my sleep I thought I heard
the birds calling across me. And when I woke it was like early morning,
with the dew on everything.
And the man took my hand and led me to a hidden spot among the rocks. The
ground was very hard, but out of it were sprouting tiny plants, and there
was a little stream running. He said, "This is a garden we are making, no
one else knows of it. We shine here every day; see, the ground has cracked
with our shining, and this little stream is bursting out. See, the flowers
And he climbed on the rocks and picked from above two little flowers with
dew on them, and gave them to me. And I took one in each hand; my hands
shone as I held them. He said, "This garden is for all when it is
finished." And he went away to his companion, and I went out into the
And as I walked in the light I heard a loud sound of much singing. And
when I came nearer I saw one with closed eyes, singing, and his fellows
were standing round him; and the light on the closed eyes was brighter than
anything I had seen in Heaven. I asked one who it was. And he said,
"Hush! Our singing bird."
And I asked why the eyes shone so.
And he said, "They cannot see, and we have kissed them till they shone so."
And the people gathered closer round him.
And when I went a little further I saw a crowd crossing among the trees of
light with great laughter. When they came close I saw they carried one
without hands or feet. And a light came from the maimed limbs so bright
that I could not look at them.
And I said to one, "What is it?"
He answered, "This is our brother who once fell and lost his hands and
feet, and since then he cannot help himself; but we have touched the maimed
stumps so often that now they shine brighter than anything in Heaven. We
pass him on that he may shine on things that need much heat. No one is
allowed to keep him long, he belongs to all"; and they went on among the
I said to God, "This is a strange land. I had thought blindness and
maimedness were great evils. Here men make them to a rejoicing."
God said, "Didst thou then think that love had need of eyes and hands!"
And I walked down the shining way with palms on either hand. I said to
God, "Ever since I was a little child and sat alone and cried, I have
dreamed of this land, and now I will not go away again. I will stay here
and shine." And I began to take off my garments, that I might shine as
others in that land; but when I looked down I saw my body gave no light. I
said to God, "How is it?"
God said, "Is there no dark blood in your heart; is it bitter against
And I said, "Yes--"; and I thought--"Now is the time when I will tell God,
that which I have been, meaning to tell him all along, how badly my fellow-
men have treated me. How they have misunderstood me. How I have intended
to be magnanimous and generous to them, and they--." And I began to tell
God; but when I looked down all the flowers were withering under my breath,
and I was silent.
And God called me to come up higher, and I gathered my mantle about me and
And the rocks grew higher and steeper on every side; and we came at last to
a place where a great mountain rose, whose top was lost in the clouds. And
on its side I saw men working; and they picked at the earth with huge
picks; and I saw that they laboured mightily. And some laboured in
companies, but most laboured singly. And I saw the drops of sweat fall
from their foreheads, and the muscles of their arms stand out with labour.
And I said, "I had not thought in heaven to see men labour so!" And I
thought of the garden where men sang and loved, and I wondered that any
should choose to labour on that bare mountain-side. And I saw upon the
foreheads of the men as they worked a light, and the drops which fell from
them as they worked had light.
And I asked God what they were seeking for.
And God touched my eyes, and I saw that what they found were small stones,
which had been too bright for me to see before; and I saw that the light of
the stones and the light on the men's foreheads was the same. And I saw
that when one found a stone he passed it on to his fellow, and he to
another, and he to another. No man kept the stone he found. And at times
they gathered in great company about when a large stone was found, and
raised a great shout so that the sky rang; then they worked on again.
And I asked God what they did with the stones they found at last. Then God
touched my eyes again to make them stronger; and I looked, and at my very
feet was a mighty crown. The light streamed out from it.
God said, "Each stone as they find it is set here."
And the crown was wrought according to a marvellous pattern; one pattern
ran through all, yet each part was different.
I said to God, "How does each man know where to set his stone, so that the
pattern is worked out?"
God said, "Because in the light his forehead sheds each man sees faintly
outlined that full crown."
And I said, "But how is it that each stone is joined along its edges to its
fellows, so that there is no seam anywhere?"
God said, "The stones are alive; they grow."
And I said, "But what does each man gain by his working?"
God said, "He sees his outline filled."
I said, "But those stones which are last set cover those which were first;
and those will again be covered by those which come later."
God said, "They are covered, but not hid. The light is the light of all.
Without the first, no last."
And I said to God, "When will this crown be ended?"
And God said, "Look up!"
I looked up; and I saw the mountain tower above me, but its summit I could
not see; it was lost in the clouds.
God said no more.
And I looked at the crown: then a longing seized me. Like the passion of
a mother for the child whom death has taken; like the yearning of a friend
for the friend whom life has buried; like the hunger of dying eyes for a
life that is slipping; like the thirst of a soul for love at its first
spring waking, so, but fiercer was the longing in me.
I cried to God, "I too will work here; I too will set stones in the
wonderful pattern; it shall grow beneath MY hand. And if it be that,
labouring here for years, I should not find one stone, at least I will be
with the men that labour here. I shall hear their shout of joy when each
stone is found; I shall join in their triumph, I shall shout among them; I
shall see the crown grow." So great was my longing as I looked at the
crown, I thought a faint light fell from my forehead also.
God said, "Do you not hear the singing in the gardens?"
I said, "No, I hear nothing; I see only the crown." And I was dumb with
longing; I forgot all the flowers of the lower Heaven and the singing
there. And I ran forward, and threw my mantle on the earth and bent to
seize one of the mighty tools which lay there. I could not lift it from
God said, "Where hast THOU earned the strength to raise it? Take up thy
And I took up my mantle and followed where God called me; but I looked
back, and I saw the crown burning, my crown that I had loved.
Higher and higher we climbed, and the air grew thinner. Not a tree or
plant was on the bare rocks, and the stillness was unbroken. My breath
came hard and quick, and the blood crept within my finger-tips. I said to
God, "Is this Heaven?"
God said, "Yes; it is the highest."
And still we climbed. I said to God, "I cannot breathe so high."
God said, "Because the air is pure?"
And my head grew dizzy, and as I climbed the blood burst from my finger-
Then we came out upon a lonely mountain-top.
No living being moved there; but far off on a solitary peak I saw a lonely
figure standing. Whether it were man or woman I could not tell; for partly
it seemed the figure of a woman, but its limbs were the mighty limbs of a
man. I asked God whether it was man or woman.
God said, "In the least Heaven sex reigns supreme; in the higher it is not
noticed; but in the highest it does not exist."
And I saw the figure bend over its work, and labour mightily, but what it
laboured at I could not see.
I said to God, "How came it here?"
God said, "By a bloody stair. Step by step it mounted from the lowest
Hell, and day by day as Hell grew farther and Heaven no nearer, it hung
alone between two worlds. Hour by hour in that bitter struggle its limbs
grew larger, till there fell from it rag by rag the garments which it
started with. Drops fell from its eyes as it strained them; each step it
climbed was wet with blood. Then it came out here."
And I thought of the garden where men sang with their arms around one
another; and the mountain-side where they worked in company. And I
And I said, "Is it not terribly alone here?"
God said, "It is never alone!"
I said, "What has it for all its labour? I see nothing return to it."
Then God touched my eyes, and I saw stretched out beneath us the plains of
Heaven and Hell, and all that was within them.
God said, "From that lone height on which he stands, all things are open.
To him is clear the shining in the garden, he sees the flower break forth
and the streams sparkle; no shout is raised upon the mountain-side but his
ear may hear it. He sees the crown grow and the light shoot from it. All
Hell is open to him. He sees the paths mount upwards. To him, Hell is the
seed ground from which Heaven springs. He sees the sap ascending."
And I saw the figure bend over its work, and the light from its face fell
And I said to God, "What is it making?"
And God said, "Music!"
And he touched my ears, and I heard it.
And after a long while I whispered to God, "This is Heaven."
And God asked me why I was crying. But I could not answer for joy.
And the face turned from its work, and the light fell upon me. Then it
grew so bright I could not see things separately; and which were God, or
the man, or I, I could not tell; we were all blended. I cried to God,
"Where are you?" but there was no answer, only music and light.
Afterwards, when it had grown so dark again that I could see things
separately, I found that I was standing there wrapped tight in my little
old, brown, earthly cloak, and God and the man were separated from each
other, and from me.
I did not dare say I would go and make music beside the man. I knew I
could not reach even to his knee, nor move the instrument he played. But I
thought I would stand there on my little peak and sing an accompaniment to
that great music. And I tried; but my voice failed. It piped and
quavered. I could not sing that tune. I was silent.
Then God pointed to me, that I should go out of Heaven.
And I cried to God, "Oh, let me stay here! If indeed it be, as I know it
is, that I am not great enough to sing upon the mountain, nor strong enough
to labour on its side, nor bright enough to shine and love within the
garden, at least let me go down to the great gateway; humbly I will kneel
there sweeping; and, as the saved pass in, I will see the light upon their
faces. I shall hear the singing in the garden, and the shout upon the
God said, "It may not be;" he pointed.
And I cried, "If I may not stay in Heaven, then let me go down to Hell, and
I will grasp the hands of men and women there; and slowly, holding one
another's hands, we will work our way upwards."
Still God pointed.
And I threw myself upon the earth and cried, "Earth is so small, so mean!
It is not meet a soul should see Heaven and be cast out again!"
And God laid his hand on me, and said, "Go back to earth: that which you
seek is there."
I awoke: it was morning. The silence and darkness of the night were gone.
Through my narrow attic window I saw the light of another day. I closed my
eyes and turned towards the wall: I could not look upon the dull grey
In the streets below, men and women streamed past by hundreds; I heard the
beat of their feet on the pavement. Men on their way to business; servants
on errands; boys hurrying to school; weary professors pacing slowly the old
street; prostitutes, men and women, dragging their feet wearily after last
night's debauch; artists with quick, impatient footsteps; tradesmen for
orders; children to seek for bread. I heard the stream beat by. And at
the alley's mouth, at the street corner, a broken barrel-organ was playing;
sometimes it quavered and almost stopped, then went on again, like a broken
I listened: my heart scarcely moved; it was as cold as lead. I could not
bear the long day before me; and I tried to sleep again; yet still I heard
the feet upon the pavement. And suddenly I heard them cry loud as they
beat, "We are seeking!--we are seeking!--we are seeking!" and the broken
barrel-organ at the street corner sobbed, "The Beautiful!--the Beautiful!--
the Beautiful!" And my heart, which had been dead, cried out with every
throb, "Love!--Truth!--the Beautiful!--the Beautiful!" It was the music I
had heard in Heaven that I could not sing there.
And fully I awoke.
Upon the faded quilt, across my bed a long yellow streak of pale London
sunlight was lying. It fell through my narrow attic window.
I laughed. I rose.
I was glad the long day was before me.
Paris and London.
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