Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Clay Massei, Suzanne L. Shell, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
A DREAMER'S TALES
Poltarnees, Beholder of Ocean
The Madness of Andelsprutz
Where the Tides Ebb and Flow
Idle Days on the Yann
The Sword and the Idol
The Idle City
The Hashish Man
Poor Old Bill
The Day of the Poll
The Unhappy Body
I hope for this book that it may come into the hands of those that were
kind to my others and that it may not disappoint them.
POLTARNEES, BEHOLDER OF OCEAN
Toldees, Mondath, Arizim, these are the Inner Lands, the lands whose
sentinels upon their borders do not behold the sea. Beyond them to the
east there lies a desert, for ever untroubled by man: all yellow it is,
and spotted with shadows of stones, and Death is in it, like a leopard
lying in the sun. To the south they are bounded by magic, to the west by a
mountain, and to the north by the voice and anger of the Polar wind. Like
a great wall is the mountain to the west. It comes up out of the distance
and goes down into the distance again, and it is named Poltarnees,
Beholder of Ocean. To the northward red rocks, smooth and bare of soil,
and without any speck of moss or herbage, slope up to the very lips of the
Polar wind, and there is nothing else there by the noise of his anger.
Very peaceful are the Inner Lands, and very fair are their cities, and
there is no war among them, but quiet and ease. And they have no enemy but
age, for thirst and fever lie sunning themselves out in the mid-desert,
and never prowl into the Inner Lands. And the ghouls and ghosts, whose
highway is the night, are kept in the south by the boundary of magic. And
very small are all their pleasant cities, and all men are known to one
another therein, and bless one another by name as they meet in the
streets. And they have a broad, green way in every city that comes in out
of some vale or wood or downland, and wanders in and out about the city
between the houses and across the streets, and the people walk along it
never at all, but every year at her appointed time Spring walks along it
from the flowery lands, causing the anemone to bloom on the green way and
all the early joys of hidden woods, or deep, secluded vales, or triumphant
downlands, whose heads lift up so proudly, far up aloof from cities.
Sometimes waggoners or shepherds walk along this way, they that have come
into the city from over cloudy ridges, and the townsmen hinder them not,
for there is a tread that troubleth the grass and a tread that troubleth
it not, and each man in his own heart knoweth which tread he hath. And in
the sunlit spaces of the weald and in the wold's dark places, afar from
the music of cities and from the dance of the cities afar, they make there
the music of the country places and dance the country dance. Amiable, near
and friendly appears to these men the sun, and as he is genial to them and
tends their younger vines, so they are kind to the little woodland things
and any rumour of the fairies or old legend. And when the light of some
little distant city makes a slight flush upon the edge of the sky, and the
happy golden windows of the homesteads stare gleaming into the dark, then
the old and holy figure of Romance, cloaked even to the face, comes down
out of hilly woodlands and bids dark shadows to rise and dance, and sends
the forest creatures forth to prowl, and lights in a moment in her bower
of grass the little glowworm's lamp, and brings a hush down over the grey
lands, and out of it rises faintly on far-off hills the voice of a lute.
There are not in the world lands more prosperous and happy than Toldees,
From these three little kingdoms that are named the Inner Lands the young
men stole constantly away. One by one they went, and no one knew why they
went save that they had a longing to behold the Sea. Of this longing they
spoke little, but a young man would become silent for a few days, and
then, one morning very early, he would slip away and slowly climb
Poltarnee's difficult slope, and having attained the top pass over and
never return. A few stayed behind in the Inner Lands and became the old
men, but none that had ever climbed Poltarnees from the very earliest
times had ever come back again. Many had gone up Poltarnees sworn to
return. Once a king sent all his courtiers, one by one, to report the
mystery to him, and then went himself; none ever returned.
Now, it was the wont of the folk of the Inner Lands to worship rumours and
legends of the Sea, and all that their prophets discovered of the Sea was
writ in a sacred book, and with deep devotion on days of festival or
mourning read in the temples by the priests. Now, all their temples lay
open to the west, resting upon pillars, that the breeze from the Sea might
enter them, and they lay open on pillars to the east that the breezes of
the Sea might not be hindered by pass onward wherever the Sea list. And
this is the legend that they had of the Sea, whom none in the Inner Lands
had ever beholden. They say that the Sea is a river heading towards
Hercules, and they say that he touches against the edge of the world, and
that Poltarnees looks upon him. They say that all the worlds of heaven go
bobbing on this river and are swept down with the stream, and that
Infinity is thick and furry with forests through which the river in his
course sweeps on with all the worlds of heaven. Among the colossal trunks
of those dark trees, the smallest fronds of whose branches are man nights,
there walk the gods. And whenever its thirst, glowing in space like a
great sun, comes upon the beast, the tiger of the gods creeps down to the
river to drink. And the tiger of the gods drinks his fill loudly, whelming
worlds the while, and the level of the river sinks between its banks ere
the beast's thirst is quenched and ceases to glow like a sun. And many
worlds thereby are heaped up dry and stranded, and the gods walk not among
them evermore, because they are hard to their feet. These are the worlds
that have no destiny, whose people know no god. And the river sweeps
onwards ever. And the name of the River is Oriathon, but men call it
Ocean. This is the Lower Faith of the Inner Lands. And there is a Higher
Faith which is not told to all. Oriathon sweeps on through the forests of
Infinity and all at once falls roaring over an Edge, whence Time has long
ago recalled his hours to fight in his war with the gods; and falls unlit
by the flash of nights and days, with his flood unmeasured by miles, into
the deeps of nothing.
Now as the centuries went by and the one way by which a man could climb
Poltarnees became worn with feet, more and more men surmounted it, not to
return. And still they knew not in the Inner Lands upon what mystery
Poltarnees looked. For on a still day and windless, while men walked
happily about their beautiful streets or tended flocks in the country,
suddenly the west wind would bestir himself and come in from the Sea. And
he would come cloaked and grey and mournful and carry to someone the
hungry cry of the Sea calling out for bones of men. And he that heard it
would move restlessly for some hours, and at last would rise suddenly,
irresistibly up, setting his face to Poltarnees, and would say, as is the
custom of those lands when men part briefly, "Till a man's heart
remembereth," which means "Farewell for a while"; but those that loved
him, seeing his eyes on Poltarnees, would answer sadly, "Till the gods
forget," which means "Farewell."
Now the king of Arizim had a daughter who played with the wild wood
flowers, and with the fountains in her father's court, and with the little
blue heaven-birds that came to her doorway in the winter to shelter from
the snow. And she was more beautiful than the wild wood flowers, or than
all the fountains in her father's court, or than the blue heaven-birds in
their full winter plumage when they shelter from the snow. The old wise
kings of Mondath and of Toldees saw her once as she went lightly down the
little paths of her garden, and turning their gaze into the mists of
thought, pondered the destiny of their Inner Lands. And they watched her
closely by the stately flowers, and standing alone in the sunlight, and
passing and repassing the strutting purple birds that the king's fowlers
had brought from Asagehon. When she was of the age of fifteen years the
King of Mondath called a council of kings. And there met with him the
kings of Toldees and Arizim. And the King of Mondath in his Council said:
"The call of the unappeased and hungry Sea (and at the word 'Sea' the
three kings bowed their heads) lures every year out of our happy kingdoms
more and more of our men, and still we know not the mystery of the Sea,
and no devised oath has brought one man back. Now thy daughter, Arizim, is
lovelier than the sunlight, and lovelier than those stately flowers of
thine that stand so tall in her garden, and hath more grace and beauty
than those strange birds that the venturous fowlers bring in creaking
wagons out of Asagehon, whose feathers are alternate purple and white.
Now, he that shall love thy daughter, Hilnaric, whoever he shall be, is
the man to climb Poltarnees and return, as none hath ever before, and tell
us upon what Poltarnees looks; for it may be that they daughter is more
beautiful than the Sea."
Then from his Seat of Council arose the King of Arizim. He said: "I fear
that thou hast spoken blasphemy against the Sea, and I have a dread that
ill will come of it. Indeed I had not thought she was so fair. It is such
a short while ago that she was quite a small child with her hair still
unkempt and not yet attired in the manner of princesses, and she would go
up into the wild woods unattended and come back with her robes unseemly
and all torn, and would not take reproof with a humble spirit, but made
grimaces even in my marble court all set about with fountains."
Then said the King of Toldees:
"Let us watch more closely and let us see the Princess Hilnaric in the
season of the orchard-bloom when the great birds go by that know the Sea,
to rest in our inland places; and if she be more beautiful than the
sunrise over our folded kingdoms when all the orchards bloom, it may be
that she is more beautiful than the Sea."
And the King of Arizim said:
"I fear this is terrible blasphemy, yet will I do as you have decided in
And the season of the orchard-bloom appeared. One night the King of Arizim
called his daughter forth on his outer balcony of marble. And the moon was
rising huge and round and holy over dark woods, and all the fountains were
singing to the night. And the moon touched the marble palace gables, and
they glowed in the land. And the moon touched the heads of all the
fountains, and the grey columns broke into fairy lights. And the moon left
the dark ways of the forest and lit the whole white palace and its
fountains and shone on the forehead of the Princess, and the palace of
Arizim glowed afar, and the fountains became columns of gleaming jewels
and song. And the moon made a music at its rising, but it fell a little
short of mortal ears. And Hilnaric stood there wondering, clad in white,
with the moonlight shining on her forehead; and watching her from the
shadows on the terrace stood the kings of Mondath and Toldees. They said.
"She is more beautiful than the moonrise." And the season of the
orchard-bloom appeared. One night the King of Arizim called his daughter
forth on his outer balcony of marble. And the moon was rising huge and
round and holy over dark woods, and all the fountains were singing to the
night. And the moon touched the marble palace gables, and they glowed in
the land. And the moon touched the heads of all the fountains, and the
grey columns broke into fairy lights. And the moon left the dark ways of
the forest and lit the whole white palace and its fountains and shone on
the forehead of the Princess, and the palace of Arizim glowed afar, and
the fountains became columns of gleaming jewels and song. And the moon
made a music at its rising, but it fell a little short of mortal ears. And
Hilnaric stood there wondering, clad in white, with the moonlight shining
on her forehead; and watching her from the shadows on the terrace stood
the kings of Mondath and Toldees. They said:
"She is more beautiful than the moonrise." And on another day the King of
Arizim bade his daughter forth at dawn, and they stood again upon the
balcony. And the sun came up over a world of orchards, and the sea-mists
went back over Poltarnees to the Sea; little wild voices arose in all the
thickets, the voices of the fountains began to die, and the song arose, in
all the marble temples, of the birds that are sacred to the Sea. And
Hilnaric stood there, still glowing with dreams of heaven.
"She is more beautiful," said the kings, "than morning."
Yet one more trial they made of Hilnaric's beauty, for they watched her on
the terraces at sunset ere yet the petals of the orchards had fallen, and
all along the edge of neighbouring woods the rhododendron was blooming
with the azalea. And the sun went down under craggy Poltarnees, and the
sea-mist poured over his summit inland. And the marble temples stood up
clear in the evening, but films of twilight were drawn between the
mountain and the city. Then from the Temple ledges and eaves of palaces
the bats fell headlong downwards, then spread their wings and floated up
and down through darkening ways; lights came blinking out in golden
windows, men cloaked themselves against the grey sea-mist, the sound of
small songs arose, and the face of Hilnaric became a resting-place for
mysteries and dreams.
"Than all these things," said the kings, "she is more lovely: but who can
say whether she is lovelier than the Sea?"
Prone in a rhododendron thicket at the edge of the palace lawns a hunter
had waited since the sun went down. Near to him was a deep pool where the
hyacinths grew and strange flowers floated upon it with broad leaves; and
there the great bull gariachs came down to drink by starlight; and,
waiting there for the gariachs to come, he saw the white form of the
Princess leaning on her balcony. Before the stars shone out or the bulls
came down to drink he left his lurking-place and moved closer to the
palace to see more nearly the Princess. The palace lawns were full of
untrodden dew, and everything was still when he came across them, holding
his great spear. In the farthest corner of the terraces the three old
kings were discussing the beauty of Hilnaric and the destiny of the Inner
Lands. Moving lightly, with a hunter's tread, the watcher by the pool came
very near, even in the still evening, before the Princess saw him. When he
saw her closely he exclaimed suddenly:
"She must be more beautiful than the Sea."
When the Princess turned and saw his garb and his great spear she knew
that he was a hunter of gariachs.
When the three kings heard the young man exclaim they said softly to one
"This must be the man."
Then they revealed themselves to him, and spoke to him to try him. They
"Sir, you have spoken blasphemy against the Sea."
And the young man muttered:
"She is more beautiful than the Sea."
And the kings said:
"We are older than you and wiser, and know that nothing is more beautiful
than the Sea."
And the young man took off the gear of his head, and became downcast, and
he knew that he spake with kings, yet he answered:
"By this spear, she is more beautiful than the Sea."
And all the while the Princess stared at him, knowing him to be a hunter
Then the king of Arizim said to the watcher by the pool:
"If thou wilt go up Poltarnees and come back, as none have come, and
report to us what lure or magic is in the Sea, we will pardon thy
blasphemy, and thou shalt have the Princess to wife and sit among the
Council of Kings."
And gladly thereunto the young man consented. And the Princess spoke to
him, and asked him his name. And he told her that his name was Athelvok,
and great joy arose in him at the sound of her voice. And to the three
kings he promised to set out on the third day to scale the slope of
Poltarnees and to return again, and this was the oath by which they bound
him to return:
"I swear by the Sea that bears the worlds away, by the river of Oriathon,
which men call Ocean, and by the gods and their tiger, and by the doom of
the worlds, that I will return again to the Inner Lands, having beheld the
And that oath he swore with solemnity that very night in one of the
temples of the Sea, but the three kings trusted more to the beauty of
Hilnaric even than to the power of the oath.
The next day Athelvok came to the palace of Arizim with the morning, over
the fields to the East and out of the country of Toldees, and Hilnaric
came out along her balcony and met him on the terraces. And she asked him
if he had ever slain a gariach, and he said that he had slain three, and
then he told her how he had killed his first down by the pool in the wood.
For he had taken his father's spear and gone down to the edge of the pool,
and had lain under the azaleas there waiting for the stars to shine, by
whose first light the gariachs go to the pools to drink; and he had gone
too early and had had long to wait, and the passing hours seemed longer
than they were. And all the birds came in that home at night, and the bat
was abroad, and the hour of the duck went by, and still no gariach came
down to the pool; and Athelvok felt sure that none would come. And just as
this grew to a certainty in his mind the thicket parted noiselessly and a
huge bull gariach stood facing him on the edge of the water, and his great
horns swept out sideways from his head, and at the ends curved upwards,
and were four strides in width from tip to tip. And he had not seen
Athelvok, for the great bull was on the far side of the little pool, and
Athelvok could not creep round to him for fear of meeting the wind (for
the gariachs, who can see little in the dark forests, rely on hearing and
smell). But he devised swiftly in his mind while the bull stood there with
head erect just twenty strides from him across the water. And the bull
sniffed the wind cautiously and listened, then lowered his great head down
to the pool and drank. At that instant Athelvok leapt into the water and
shot forward through its weedy depths among the stems of the strange
flowers that floated upon broad leaves on the surface. And Athelvok kept
his spear out straight before him, and the fingers of his left hand he
held rigid and straight, not pointing upwards, and so did not come to the
surface, but was carried onward by the strength of his spring and passed
unentangled through the stems of the flowers. When Athelvok jumped into
the water the bull must have thrown his head up, startled at the splash,
then he would have listened and have sniffed the air, and neither hearing
nor scenting any danger he must have remained rigid for some moments, for
it was in that attitude that Athelvok found him as he emerged breathless
at his feet. And, striking at once, Athelvok drove the spear into his
throat before the head and the terrible horns came down. But Athelvok had
clung to one of the great horns, and had been carried at terrible speed
through the rhododendron bushes until the gariach fell, but rose at once
again, and died standing up, still struggling, drowned in its own blood.
But to Hilnaric listening it was as though one of the heroes of old time
had come back again in the full glory of his legendary youth.
And long time they went up and down the terraces, saying those things
which were said before and since, and which lips shall yet be made to say
again. And above them stood Poltarnees beholding the Sea.
And the day came when Athelvok should go. And Hilnaric said to him:
"Will you not indeed most surely come back again, having just looked over
the summit of Poltarnees?"
Athelvok answered: "I will indeed come back, for thy voice is more
beautiful than the hymn of the priests when they chant and praise the Sea,
and though many tributary seas ran down into Oriathon and he and all the
others poured their beauty into one pool below me, yet would I return
swearing that thou were fairer than they."
And Hilnaric answered:
"The wisdom of my heart tells me, or old knowledge or prophecy, or some
strange lore, that I shall never hear thy voice again. And for this I give
thee my forgiveness."
But he, repeating the oath that he had sworn, set out, looking often
backwards until the slope became to step and his face was set to the rock.
It was in the morning that he started, and he climbed all the day with
little rest, where every foot-hole was smooth with many feet. Before he
reached the top the sun disappeared from him, and darker and darker grew
the Inner Lands. Then he pushed on so as to see before dark whatever thing
Poltarnees had to show. The dusk was deep over the Inner Lands, and the
lights of cities twinkled through the sea-mist when he came to
Poltarnees's summit, and the sun before him was not yet gone from the sky.
And there below him was the old wrinkled Sea, smiling and murmuring song.
And he nursed little ships with gleaming sails, and in his hands were old
regretted wrecks, and mast all studded over with golden nails that he had
rent in anger out of beautiful galleons. And the glory of the sun was
among the surges as they brought driftwood out of isles of spice, tossing
their golden heads. And the grey currents crept away to the south like
companionless serpents that love something afar with a restless, deadly
love. And the whole plain of water glittering with late sunlight, and the
surges and the currents and the white sails of ships were all together
like the face of a strange new god that has looked at a man for the first
time in the eyes at the moment of his death; and Athelvok, looking on the
wonderful Sea, knew why it was that the dead never return, for there is
something that the dead feel and know, and the living would never
understand even though the dead should come and speak to them about it.
And there was the Sea smiling at him, glad with the glory of the sun. And
there was a haven there for homing ships, and a sunlit city stood upon its
marge, and people walked about the streets of it clad in the unimagined
merchandise of far sea-bordering lands.
An easy slope of loose rock went from the top of Poltarnees to the shore
of the Sea.
For a long while Athelvok stood there regretfully, knowing that there had
come something into his soul that no one in the Inner Lands could
understand, where the thoughts of their minds had gone no farther than the
three little kingdoms. Then, looking long upon the wandering ships, and
the marvelous merchandise from alien lands, and the unknown colour that
wreathed the brows of the Sea, he turned his face to the darkness and the
At that moment the Sea sang a dirge at sunset for all the harm that he had
done in anger and all the ruin wrought on adventurous ships; and there
were tears in the voice of the tyrannous Sea, for he had loved the
galleons that he had overwhelmed, and he called all men to him and all
living things that he might make amends, because he had loved the bones
that he had strewn afar. And Athelvok turned and set one foot upon the
crumbled slope, and then another, and walked a little way to be nearer to
the Sea, and then a dream came upon him and he felt that men had wronged
the lovely Sea because he had been angry a little, because he had been
sometimes cruel; he felt that there was trouble among the tides of the Sea
because he had loved the galleons who were dead. Still he walked on and
the crumbled stones rolled with him, and just as the twilight faded and a
star appeared he came to the golden shore, and walked on till the surges
were about his knees, and he heard the prayer-like blessings of the Sea.
Long he stood thus, while the stars came out above him and shone again in
the surges; more stars came wheeling in their courses up from the Sea,
lights twinkled out through all the haven city, lanterns were slung from
the ships, the purple night burned on; and Earth, to the eyes of the gods
as they sat afar, glowed as with one flame. Then Athelvok went into the
haven city; there he met many who had left the Inner Lands before him;
none of them wished to return to the people who had not seen the Sea; many
of them had forgotten the three little kingdoms, and it was rumoured that
one man, who had once tried to return, had found the shifting, crumbled
slope impossible to climb.
Hilnaric never married. But her dowry was set aside to build a temple
wherein men curse the ocean.
Once every year, with solemn rite and ceremony, they curse the tides of
the Sea; and the moon looks in and hates them.
On a waste place strewn with bricks in the outskirts of a town twilight
was falling. A star or two appeared over the smoke, and distant windows
lit mysterious lights. The stillness deepened and the loneliness. Then all
the outcast things that are silent by day found voices.
An old cork spoke first. He said: "I grew in Andalusian woods, but never
listened to the idle songs of Spain. I only grew strong in the sunlight
waiting for my destiny. One day the merchants came and took us all away
and carried us all along the shore of the sea, piled high on the backs of
donkeys, and in a town by the sea they made me into the shape that I am
now. One day they sent me northward to Provence, and there I fulfilled my
destiny. For they set me as a guard over the bubbling wine, and I
faithfully stood sentinel for twenty years. For the first few years in the
bottle that I guarded the wine slept, dreaming of Provence; but as the
years went on he grew stronger and stronger, until at last whenever a man
went by the wind would put out all his might against me, saying, 'Let me
go free; let me go free!' And every year his strength increased, and he
grew more clamourous when men went by, but never availed to hurl me from
my post. But when I had powerfully held him for twenty years they brought
him to the banquet and took me from my post, and the wine arose rejoicing
and leapt through the veins of men and exalted their souls within them
till they stood up in their places and sang Provencal songs. But me they
cast away--me that had been sentinel for twenty years, and was still as
strong and staunch as when first I went on guard. Now I am an outcast in a
cold northern city, who once have known the Andalusian skies and guarded
long ago Provencal suns that swam in the heart of the rejoicing wine."
An unstruck match that somebody had dropped spoke next. "I am a child of
the sun," he said, "and an enemy of cities; there is more in my heart than
you know of. I am a brother of Etna and Stromboli; I have fires lurking in
me that will one day rise up beautiful and strong. We will not go into
servitude on any hearth nor work machines for our food, but we will take
out own food where we find it on that day when we are strong. There are
wonderful children in my heart whose faces shall be more lively than the
rainbow; they shall make a compact with the North wind, and he shall lead
them forth; all shall be black behind them and black above them, and there
shall be nothing beautiful in the world but them; they shall seize upon
the earth and it shall be theirs, and nothing shall stop them but our old
enemy the sea."
Then an old broken kettle spoke, and said: "I am the friend of cities. I
sit among the slaves upon the hearth, the little flames that have been fed
with coal. When the slaves dance behind the iron bars I sit in the middle
of the dance and sing and make our masters glad. And I make songs about
the comfort of the cat, and about the malice that is towards her in the
heart of the dog, and about the crawling of the baby, and about the ease
that is in the lord of the house when we brew the good brown tea; and
sometimes when the house is very warm and slaves and masters are glad, I
rebuke the hostile winds that prowl about the world."
And then there spoke the piece of an old cord. "I was made in a place of
doom, and doomed men made my fibres, working without hope. Therefore there
came a grimness into my heart, so that I never let anything go free when
once I was set to bind it. Many a thing have I bound relentlessly for
months and years; for I used to come coiling into warehouses where the
great boxes lay all open to the air, and one of them would be suddenly
closed up, and my fearful strength would be set on him like accurse, and
if his timbers groaned when first I seized them, or if they creaked aloud
in the lonely night, thinking of woodlands out of which they came, then I
only gripped them tighter still, for the poor useless hate is in my soul
of those that made me in the place of doom. Yet, for all the things that
my prison-clutch has held, the last work that I did was to set something
free. I lay idle one night in the gloom on the warehouse floor. Nothing
stirred there, and even the spider slept. Towards midnight a great flock
of echoes suddenly leapt up from the wooden planks and circled round the
roof. A man was coming towards me all alone. And as he came his soul was
reproaching him, and I saw that there was a great trouble between the man
and his soul, for his soul would not let him be, but went on reproaching
"Then the man saw me and said, 'This at least will not fail me.' When I
heard him say this about me, I determined that whatever he might require
of me it should be done to the uttermost. And as I made this determination
in my unfaltering heart, he picked me up and stood on an empty box that I
should have bound on the morrow, and tied one end of me to a dark rafter;
and the knot was carelessly tied, because his soul was reproaching him all
the while continually and giving him no ease. Then he made the other end
of me into a noose, but when the man's soul saw this it stopped
reproaching the man, and cried out to him hurriedly, and besought him to
be at peace with it and to do nothing sudden; but the man went on with his
work, and put the noose down over his face and underneath his chin, and
the soul screamed horribly.
"Then the man kicked the box away with his foot, and the moment he did
this I knew that my strength was not great enough to hold him; but I
remembered that he had said I would not fail him, and I put all my grim
vigour into my fibres and held by sheer will. Then the soul shouted to me
to give way, but I said:
"'No; you vexed the man.'
"Then it screamed for me to leave go of the rafter, and already I was
slipping, for I only held on to it by a careless knot, but I gripped with
my prison grip and said:
"'You vexed the man.'
"And very swiftly it said other things to me, but I answered not; and at
last the soul that vexed the man that had trusted me flew away and left
him at peace. I was never able to bind things any more, for every one of
my fibres was worn and wrenched, and even my relentless heart was weakened
by the struggle. Very soon afterwards I was thrown out here. I have done
So they spoke among themselves, but all the while there loomed above them
the form of an old rocking-horse complaining bitterly. He said: "I am
Blagdaross. Woe is me that I should lie now an outcast among these worthy
but little people. Alas! for the days that are gathered, and alas for the
Great One that was a master and a soul to me, whose spirit is now shrunken
and can never know me again, and no more ride abroad on knightly quests. I
was Bucephalus when he was Alexander, and carried him victorious as far as
Ind. I encountered dragons with him when he was St. George, I was the
horse of Roland fighting for Christendom, and was often Rosinante. I
fought in tournays and went errant upon quests, and met Ulysses and the
heroes and the fairies. Or late in the evening, just before the lamps in
the nursery were put out, he would suddenly mount me, and we would gallop
through Africa. There we would pass by night through tropic forests, and
come upon dark rivers sweeping by, all gleaming with the eyes of
crocodiles, where the hippopotamus floated down with the stream, and
mysterious craft loomed suddenly out of the dark and furtively passed
away. And when we had passed through the forest lit by the fireflies we
would come to the open plains, and gallop onwards with scarlet flamingoes
flying along beside us through the lands of dusky kings, with golden
crowns upon their heads and scepters in their hands, who came running out
of their palaces to see us pass. Then I would wheel suddenly, and the dust
flew up from my four hooves as I turned and we galloped home again, and my
master was put to bed. And again he would ride abroad on another day till
we came to magical fortresses guarded by wizardry and overthrew the
dragons at the gate, and ever came back with a princess fairer than the
"But my master began to grow larger in his body and smaller in his soul,
and then he rode more seldom upon quests. At last he saw gold and never
came again, and I was cast out here among these little people."
But while the rocking-horse was speaking two boys stole away, unnoticed by
their parents, from a house on the edge of the waste place, and were
coming across it looking for adventures. One of them carried a broom, and
when he saw the rocking-horse he said nothing, but broke off the handle
from the broom and thrust it between his braces and his shirt on the left
side. Then he mounted the rocking-horse, and drawing forth the broomstick,
which was sharp and spiky at the end, said, "Saladin is in this desert
with all his pyjamas, and I am Coeur de Lion." After a while the other boy
said: "Now let me kill Saladin too." But Blagdaross in his wooden heart,
that exulted with thoughts of battle, said: "I am Blagdaross yet!"
THE MADNESS OF ANDELSPRUTZ
I first saw the city of Andelsprutz on an afternoon in spring. The day was
full of sunshine as I came by the way of the fields, and all that morning
I had said, "There will be sunlight on it when I see for the first time
the beautiful conquered city whose fame has so often made for me lovely
dreams." Suddenly I saw its fortifications lifting out of the fields, and
behind them stood its belfries. I went in by a gate and saw its houses and
streets, and a great disappointment came upon me. For there is an air
about a city, and it has a way with it, whereby a man may recognized one
from another at once. There are cities full of happiness and cities full
of pleasure, and cities full of gloom. There are cities with their faces
to heaven, and some with their faces to earth; some have a way of looking
at the past and others look at the future; some notice you if you come
among them, others glance at you, others let you go by. Some love the
cities that are their neighbours, others are dear to the plains and to the
heath; some cities are bare to the wind, others have purple cloaks and
others brown cloaks, and some are clad in white. Some tell the old tale of
their infancy, with others it is secret; some cities sing and some mutter,
some are angry, and some have broken hearts, and each city has her way of
I had said: "I will see Andelsprutz arrogant with her beauty," and I had
said: "I will see her weeping over her conquest."
I had said: "She will sing songs to me," and "she will be reticent," "she
will be all robed," and "she will be bare but splendid."
But the windows of Andelsprutz in her houses looked vacantly over the
plains like the eyes of a dead madman. At the hour her chimes sounded
unlovely and discordant, some of them were out of tune, and the bells of
some were cracked, her roofs were bald and without moss. At evening no
pleasant rumour arose in her streets. When the lamps were lit in the
houses no mystical flood of light stole out into the dusk, you merely saw
that there were lighted lamps; Andelsprutz had no way with her and no air
about her. When the night fell and the blinds were all drawn down, then I
perceived what I had not thought in the daylight. I knew then that
Andelsprutz was dead.
I saw a fair-haired man who drank beer in a cafe, and I said to him:
"Why is the city of Andelsprutz quite dead, and her soul gone hence?"
He answered: "Cities do not have souls and there is never any life in
And I said to him: "Sir, you have spoken truly."
And I asked the same question of another man, and he gave me the same
answer, and I thanked him for his courtesy. And I saw a man of a more
slender build, who had black hair, and channels in his cheeks for tears to
run in, and I said to him:
"Why is Andelsprutz quite dead, and when did her soul go hence?"
And he answered: "Andelsprutz hoped too much. For thirty years would she
stretch out her arms toward the land of Akla every night, to Mother Akla
from whom she had been stolen. Every night she would be hoping and
sighing, and stretching out her arms to Mother Akla. At midnight, once a
year, on the anniversary of the terrible day, Akla would send spies to lay
a wreath against the walls of Andelsprutz. She could do no more. And on
this night, once in every year, I used to weep, for weeping was the mood
of the city that nursed me. Every night while other cities slept did
Andelsprutz sit brooding here and hoping, till thirty wreaths lay
mouldering by her walls, and still the armies of Akla could not come.
"But after she had hoped so long, and on the night that faithful spies had
brought her thirtieth wreath, Andelsprutz went suddenly mad. All the bells
clanged hideously in the belfries, horses bolted in the streets, the dogs
all howled, the stolid conquerors awoke and turned in their beds and slept
again; and I saw the grey shadowy form of Andelsprutz rise up, decking her
hair with the phantasms of cathedrals, and stride away from her city. And
the great shadowy form that was the soul of Andelsprutz went away
muttering to the mountains, and there I followed her--for had she not been
my nurse? Yes, I went away alone into the mountains, and for three days,
wrapped in a cloak, I slept in their misty solitudes. I had no food to
eat, and to drink I had only the water of the mountain streams. By day no
living thing was near to me, and I heard nothing but the noise of the
wind, and the mountain streams roaring. But for three nights I heard all
round me on the mountain the sounds of a great city: I saw the lights of
tall cathedral windows flash momentarily on the peaks, and at times the
glimmering lantern of some fortress patrol. And I saw the huge misty
outline of the soul of Andelsprutz sitting decked with her ghostly
cathedrals, speaking to herself, with her eyes fixed before her in a mad
stare, telling of ancient wars. And her confused speech for all those
nights upon the mountain was sometimes the voice of traffic, and then of
church bells, and then of bugles, but oftenest it was the voice of red
war; and it was all incoherent, and she was quite mad.
"The third night it rained heavily all night long, but I stayed up there
to watch the soul of my native city. And she still sat staring straight
before her, raving; but here voice was gentler now, there were more chimes
in it, and occasional song. Midnight passed, and the rain still swept down
on me, and still the solitudes of the mountain were full of the mutterings
of the poor mad city. And the hours after midnight came, the cold hours
wherein sick men die.
"Suddenly I was aware of great shapes moving in the rain, and heard the
sound of voices that were not of my city nor yet of any that I ever knew.
And presently I discerned, though faintly, the souls of a great concourse
of cities, all bending over Andelsprutz and comforting her, and the
ravines of the mountains roared that night with the voices of cities that
had lain still for centuries. For there came the soul of Camelot that had
so long ago forsaken Usk; and there was Ilion, all girt with towers, still
cursing the sweet face of ruinous Helen; I saw there Babylon and
Persepolis, and the bearded face of bull-like Nineveh, and Athens mourning
her immortal gods.
"All these souls if cities that were dead spoke that night on the mountain
to my city and soothed her, until at last she muttered of war no longer,
and her eyes stared wildly no more, but she hid her face in her hands and
for some while wept softly. At last she arose, and walking slowly and with
bended head, and leaning upon Ilion and Carthage, went mournfully
eastwards; and the dust of her highways swirled behind her as she went, a
ghostly dust that never turned to mud in all that drenching rain. And so
the souls of the cities led her away, and gradually they disappeared from
the mountain, and the ancient voices died away in the distance.
"Now since then have I seen my city alive; but once I met with a traveler
who said that somewhere in the midst of a great desert are gathered
together the souls of all dead cities. He said that he was lost once in a
place where there was no water, and he heard their voices speaking all the
But I said: "I was once without water in a desert and heard a city
speaking to me, but knew not whether it really spoke to me or not, for on
that day I heard so many terrible things, and only some of them were
And the man with the black hair said: "I believe it to be true, though
whither she went I know not. I only know that a shepherd found me in the
morning faint with hunger and cold, and carried me down here; and when I
came to Andelsprutz it was, as you have perceived it, dead."
WHERE THE TIDES EBB AND FLOW
I dreamt that I had done a horrible thing, so that burial was to be denied
me either in soil or sea, neither could there be any hell for me.
I waited for some hours, knowing this. Then my friends came for me, and
slew me secretly and with ancient rite, and lit great tapers, and carried
It was all in London that the thing was done, and they went furtively at
dead of night along grey streets and among mean houses until they came to
the river. And the river and the tide of the sea were grappling with one
another between the mud-banks, and both of them were black and full of
lights. A sudden wonder came in to the eyes of each, as my friends came
near to them with their glaring tapers. All these things I saw as they
carried me dead and stiffening, for my soul was still among my bones,
because there was no hell for it, and because Christian burial was denied
They took me down a stairway that was green with slimy things, and so came
slowly to the terrible mud. There, in the territory of forsaken things,
they dug a shallow grave. When they had finished they laid me in the
grave, and suddenly they cast their tapers to the river. And when the
water had quenched the flaring lights the tapers looked pale and small as
they bobbed upon the tide, and at once the glamour of the calamity was
gone, and I noticed then the approach of the huge dawn; and my friends
cast their cloaks over their faces, and the solemn procession was turned
into many fugitives that furtively stole away.
Then the mud came back wearily and covered all but my face. There I lay
alone with quite forgotten things, with drifting things that the tides
will take no farther, with useless things and lost things, and with the
horrible unnatural bricks that are neither stone nor soil. I was rid of
feeling, because I had been killed, but perception and thought were in my
unhappy soul. The dawn widened, and I saw the desolate houses that crowded
the marge of the river, and their dead windows peered into my dead eyes,
windows with bales behind them instead of human souls. I grew so weary
looking at these forlorn things that I wanted to cry out, but could not,
because I was dead. Then I knew, as I had never known before, that for all
the years that herd of desolate houses had wanted to cry out too, but,
being dead, were dumb. And I knew then that it had yet been well with the
forgotten drifting things if they had wept, but they were eyeless and
without life. And I, too, tried to weep, but there were no tears in my
dead eyes. And I knew then that the river might have cared for us, might
have caressed us, might have sung to us, but he swept broadly onwards,
thinking of nothing but the princely ships.
At last the tide did what the river would not, and came and covered me
over, and my soul had rest in the green water, and rejoiced and believed
that it had the Burial of the Sea. But with the ebb the water fell again,
and left me alone again with the callous mud among the forgotten things
that drift no more, and with the sight of all those desolate houses, and
with the knowledge among all of us that each was dead.
In the mournful wall behind me, hung with green weeds, forsaken of the
sea, dark tunnels appeared, and secret narrow passages that were clamped
and barred. From these at last the stealthy rats came down to nibble me
away, and my soul rejoiced thereat and believed that he would be free
perforce from the accursed bones to which burial was refused. Very soon
the rats ran away a little space and whispered among themselves. They
never came any more. When I found that I was accursed even among the rats
I tried to weep again.
Then the tide came swinging back and covered the dreadful mud, and hid the
desolate houses, and soothed the forgotten things, and my soul had ease
for a while in the sepulture of the sea. And then the tide forsook me
To and fro it came about me for many years. Then the County Council found
me, and gave me decent burial. It was the first grave that I had ever
slept in. That very night my friends came for me. They dug me up and put
me back again in the shallow hold in the mud.
Again and again through the years my bones found burial, but always behind
the funeral lurked one of those terrible men who, as soon as night fell,
came and dug them up and carried them back again to the hole in the mud.
And then one day the last of those men died who once had done to me this
terrible thing. I heard his soul go over the river at sunset.
And again I hoped.
A few weeks afterwards I was found once more, and once more taken out of
that restless place and given deep burial in sacred ground, where my soul
hoped that it should rest.
Almost at once men came with cloaks and tapers to give me back to the mud,
for the thing had become a tradition and a rite. And all the forsaken
things mocked me in their dumb hearts when they saw me carried back, for
they were jealous of me because I had left the mud. It must be remembered
that I could not weep.
And the years went by seawards where the black barges go, and the great
derelict centuries became lost at sea, and still I lay there without any
cause to hope, and daring not to hope without a cause, because of the
terrible envy and the anger of the things that could drift no more.
Once a great storm rode up, even as far as London, out of the sea from the
South; and he came curving into the river with the fierce East wind. And
he was mightier than the dreary tides, and went with great leaps over the
listless mud. And all the sad forgotten things rejoiced, and mingled with
things that were haughtier than they, and rode once more amongst the
lordly shipping that was driven up and down. And out of their hideous home
he took my bones, never again, I hoped, to be vexed with the ebb and flow.
And with the fall of the tide he went riding down the river and turned to
the southwards, and so went to his home. And my bones he scattered among
many isles and along the shores of happy alien mainlands. And for a
moment, while they were far asunder, my soul was almost free.
Then there arose, at the will of the moon, the assiduous flow of the tide,
and it undid at once the work of the ebb, and gathered my bones from the
marge of sunny isles, and gleaned them all along the mainland's shores,
and went rocking northwards till it came to the mouth of the Thames, and
there turned westwards its relentless face, and so went up the river and
came to the hole in the mud, and into it dropped my bones; and partly the
mud covered them, and partly it left them white, for the mud cares not for
its forsaken things.
Then the ebb came, and I saw the dead eyes of the houses and the jealousy
of the other forgotten things that the storm had not carried thence.
And some more centuries passed over the ebb and flow and over the
loneliness of things for gotten. And I lay there all the while in the
careless grip of the mud, never wholly covered, yet never able to go free,
and I longed for the great caress of the warm Earth or the comfortable lap
of the Sea.
Sometimes men found my bones and buried them, but the tradition never
died, and my friends' successors always brought them back. At last the
barges went no more, and there were fewer lights; shaped timbers no longer
floated down the fairway, and there came instead old wind-uprooted trees
in all their natural simplicity.
At last I was aware that somewhere near me a blade of grass was growing,
and the moss began to appear all over the dead houses. One day some
thistledown went drifting over the river.
For some years I watched these signs attentively, until I became certain
that London was passing away. Then I hoped once more, and all along both
banks of the river there was anger among the lost things that anything
should dare to hope upon the forsaken mud. Gradually the horrible houses
crumbled, until the poor dead things that never had had life got decent
burial among the weeds and moss. At last the may appeared and the
convolvulus. Finally, the wild rose stood up over mounds that had been
wharves and warehouses. Then I knew that the cause of Nature had
triumphed, and London had passed away.
The last man in London came to the wall by the river, in an ancient cloak
that was one of those that once my friends had worn, and peered over the
edge to see that I still was there. Then he went, and I never saw men
again: they had passed away with London.
A few days after the last man had gone the birds came into London, all the
birds that sing. When they first saws me they all looked sideways at me,
then they went away a little and spoke among themselves.
"He only sinned against Man," they said; "it is not our quarrel."
"Let us be kind to him," they said.
Then they hopped nearer me and began to sing. It was the time of the
rising of the dawn, and from both banks of the river, and from the sky,
and from the thickets that were once the streets, hundreds of birds were
singing. As the light increased the birds sang more and more; they grew
thicker and thicker in the air above my head, till there were thousands of
them singing there, and then millions, and at last I could see nothing but
a host of flickering wings with the sunlight on them, and little gaps of
sky. Then when there was nothing to be heard in London but the myriad
notes of that exultant song, my soul rose up from the bones in the hole in
the mud and began to climb heavenwards. And it seemed that a lane-way
opened amongst the wings of the birds, and it went up and up, and one of
the smaller gates of Paradise stood ajar at the end of it. And then I knew
by a sign that the mud should receive me no more, for suddenly I found
that I could weep.
At this moment I opened my eyes in bed in a house in London, and outside
some sparrows were twittering in a tree in the light of the radiant
morning; and there were tears still wet upon my face, for one's restraint
is feeble while one sleeps. But I arose and opened the window wide, and
stretching my hands out over the little garden, I blessed the birds whose
song had woken me up from the troubled and terrible centuries of my dream.
There is a faint freshness in the London night as though some strayed
reveler of a breeze had left his comrades in the Kentish uplands and had
entered the town by stealth. The pavements are a little damp and shiny.
Upon one's ears that at this late hour have become very acute there hits
the tap of a remote footfall. Louder and louder grow the taps, filling the
whole night. And a black cloaked figure passes by, and goes tapping into
the dark. One who has danced goes homewards. Somewhere a ball has closed
its doors and ended. Its yellow lights are out, its musicians are silent,
its dancers have all gone into the night air, and Time has said of it,
"Let it be past and over, and among the things that I have put away."
Shadows begin to detach themselves from their great gathering places. No
less silently than those shadows that are thin and dead move homewards the
stealthy cats. Thus have we even in London our faint forebodings of the
dawn's approach, which the birds and the beasts and the stars are crying
aloud to the untrammeled fields.
At what moment I know not I perceive that the night itself is irrevocably
overthrown. It is suddenly revealed to me by the weary pallor of the
street lamps that the streets are silent and nocturnal still, not because
there is any strength in night, but because men have not yet arisen from
sleep to defy him. So have I seen dejected and untidy guards still bearing
antique muskets in palatial gateways, although the realms of the monarch
that they guard have shrunk to a single province which no enemy yet has
troubled to overrun.
And it is now manifest from the aspect of the street lamps, those abashed
dependants of night, that already English mountain peaks have seen the
dawn, that the cliffs of Dover are standing white to the morning, that the
sea-mist has lifted and is pouring inland.
And now men with a hose have come and are sluicing out the streets.
Behold now night is dead.
What memories, what fancies throng one's mind! A night but just now
gathered out of London by the horrific hand of Time. A million common
artificial things all cloaked for a while in mystery, like beggars robed
in purple, and seated on dread thrones. Four million people asleep,
dreaming perhaps. What worlds have they gone into? Whom have they met? But
my thoughts are far off with Bethmoora in her loneliness, whose gates
swing to and fro. To and fro they swing, and creak and creak in the wind,
but no one hears them. They are of green copper, very lovely, but no one
sees them now. The desert wind pours sand into their hinges, no watchman
comes to ease them. No guard goes round Bethmoora's battlements, no enemy
assails them. There are no lights in her houses, no footfall on her
streets, she stands there dead and lonely beyond the Hills of Hap, and I
would see Bethmoora once again, but dare not.
It is many a year, they tell me, since Bethmoora became desolate.
Her desolation is spoken of in taverns where sailors meet, and certain
travellers have told me of it.
I had hoped to see Bethmoora once again. It is many a year ago, they say,
when the vintage was last gathered in from the vineyards that I knew,
where it is all desert now. It was a radiant day, and the people of the
city were dancing by the vineyards, while here and there one played upon
the kalipac. The purple flowering shrubs were all in bloom, and the snow
shone upon the Hills of Hap.
Outside the copper gates they crushed the grapes in vats to make the
syrabub. It had been a goodly vintage.
In the little gardens at the desert's edge men beat the tambang and the
tittibuk, and blew melodiously the zootibar.
All there was mirth and song and dance, because the vintage had been
gathered in, and there would be ample syrabub for the winter months, and
much left over to exchange for turquoises and emeralds with the merchants
who come down from Oxuhahn. Thus they rejoiced all day over their vintage
on the narrow strip of cultivated ground that lay between Bethmoora and
the desert which meets the sky to the South. And when the heat of the day
began to abate, and the sun drew near to the snows on the Hills of Hap,
the note of the zootibar still rose clear from the gardens, and the
brilliant dresses of the dancers still wound among the flowers. All that
day three men on mules had been noticed crossing the face of the Hills of
Hap. Backwards and forwards they moved as the track wound lower and lower,
three little specks of black against the snow. They were seen first in the
very early morning up near the shoulder of Peol Jagganoth, and seemed to
be coming out of Utnar Vehi. All day they came. And in the evening, just
before the lights come out and colours change, they appeared before
Bethmoora's copper gates. They carried staves, such as messengers bear in
those lands, and seemed sombrely clad when the dancers all came round them
with their green and lilac dresses. Those Europeans who were present and
heard the message given were ignorant of the language, and only caught the
name of Utnar Vehi. But it was brief, and passed rapidly from mouth to
mouth, and almost at once the people burnt their vineyards and began to
flee away from Bethmoora, going for the most part northwards, though some
went to the East. They ran down out of their fair white houses, and
streamed through the copper gate; the throbbing of the tambang and the
tittibuk suddenly ceased with the note of the Zootibar, and the clinking
kalipac stopped a moment after. The three strange travellers went back the
way they came the instant their message was given. It was the hour when a
light would have appeared in some high tower, and window after window
would have poured into the dusk its lion-frightening light, and the cooper
gates would have been fastened up. But no lights came out in windows there
that night and have not ever since, and those copper gates were left wide
and have never shut, and the sound arose of the red fire crackling in the
vineyards, and the pattering of feet fleeing softly. There were no cries,
no other sounds at all, only the rapid and determined flight. They fled as
swiftly and quietly as a herd of wild cattle flee when they suddenly see a
man. It was as though something had befallen which had been feared for
generations, which could only be escaped by instant flight, which left no
time for indecision.
Then fear took the Europeans also, and they too fled. And what the message
was I have never heard.
Many believe that it was a message from Thuba Mleen, the mysterious
emperor of those lands, who is never seen by man, advising that Bethmoora
should be left desolate. Others say that the message was one of warning
from the gods, whether from friendly gods or from adverse ones they know
And others hold that the Plague was ravaging a line of cities over in
Utnar Vehi, following the South-west wind which for many weeks had been
blowing across them towards Bethmoora.
Some say that the terrible gnousar sickness was upon the three travellers,
and that their very mules were dripping with it, and suppose that they
were driven to the city by hunger, but suggest no better reason for so
terrible a crime.
But most believe that it was a message from the desert himself, who owns
all the Earth to the southwards, spoken with his peculiar cry to those
three who knew his voice--men who had been out on the sand-wastes without
tents by night, who had been by day without water, men who had been out
there where the desert mutters, and had grown to know his needs and his
malevolence. They say that the desert had a need for Bethmoora, that he
wished to come into her lovely streets, and to send into her temples and
her houses his storm-winds draped with sand. For he hates the sound and
the sight of men in his old evil heart, and he would have Bethmoora silent
and undisturbed, save for the weird love he whispers to her gates.
If I knew what that message was that the three men brought on mules, and
told in the copper gate, I think that I should go and see Bethmoora once
again. For a great longing comes on me here in London to see once more
that white and beautiful city, and yet I dare not, for I know not the
danger I should have to face, whether I should risk the fury of unknown
dreadful gods, or some disease unspeakable and slow, or the desert's curse
or torture in some little private room of the Emperor Thuba Mleen, or
something that the travelers have not told--perhaps more fearful still.
IDLE DAYS ON THE YANN
So I came down through the wood on the bank of Yann and found, as had been
prophesied, the ship _Bird of the River_ about to loose her cable.
The captain sat cross-legged upon the white deck with his scimitar lying
beside him in its jeweled scabbard, and the sailors toiled to spread the
nimble sails to bring the ship into the central stream of Yann, and all
the while sang ancient soothing songs. And the wind of the evening
descending cool from the snowfields of some mountainous abode of distant
gods came suddenly, like glad tidings to an anxious city, into the
And so we came into the central stream, whereat the sailors lowered the
greater sails. But I had gone to bow before the captain, and to inquire
concerning the miracles, and appearances among men, of the most holy gods
of whatever land he had come from. And the captain answered that he came
from fair Belzoond, and worshipped gods that were the least and humblest,
who seldom sent the famine or the thunder, and were easily appeased with
little battles. And I told how I came from Ireland, which is of Europe,
whereat the captain and all the sailors laughed, for they said, "There are
no such places in all the land of dreams." When they had ceased to mock
me, I explained that my fancy mostly dwelt in the desert of Cuppar-Nombo,
about a beautiful blue city called Golthoth the Damned, which was
sentinelled all round by wolves and their shadows, and had been utterly
desolate for years and years, because of a curse which the gods once spoke
in anger and could never since recall. And sometimes my dreams took me as
far as Pungar Vees, the red walled city where the fountains are, which
trades with the Isles and Thul. When I said this they complimented me upon
the abode of my fancy, saying that, though they had never seen these
cities, such places might well be imagined. For the rest of that evening I
bargained with the captain over the sum that I should pay him for any fare
if God and the tide of Yann should bring us safely as far as the cliffs by
the sea, which are named Bar-Wul-Yann, the Gate of Yann.
And now the sun had set, and all the colours of the world and heaven had
held a festival with him, and slipped one by one away before the imminent
approach of night. The parrots had all flown home to the jungle on either
bank, the monkeys in rows in safety on high branches of the trees were
silent and asleep, the fireflies in the deeps of the forest were going up
and down, and the great stars came gleaming out to look on the face of
Yann. Then the sailors lighted lanterns and hung them round the ship, and
the light flashed out on a sudden and dazzled Yann, and the ducks that fed
along his marshy banks all suddenly arose, and made wide circles in the
upper air, and saw the distant reaches of the Yann and the white mist that
softly cloaked the jungle, before they returned again to their marshes.
And then the sailors knelt on the decks and prayed, not all together, but
five or six at a time. Side by side there kneeled down together five or
six, for there only prayed at the same time men of different faiths, so
that no god should hear two men praying to him at once. As soon as any one
had finished his prayer, another of the same faith would take his place.
Thus knelt the row of five or six with bended heads under the fluttering
sail, while the central stream of the River Yann took them on towards the
sea, and their prayers rose up from among the lanterns and went towards
the stars. And behind them in the after end of the ship the helmsman
prayed aloud the helmsman's prayer, which is prayed by all who follow his
trade upon the River Yann, of whatever faith they be. And the captain
prayed to his little lesser gods, to the gods that bless Belzoond.
And I too felt that I would pray. Yet I liked not to pray to a jealous God
there where the frail affectionate gods whom the heathen love were being
humbly invoked; so I bethought me, instead, of Sheol Nugganoth, whom the
men of the jungle have long since deserted, who is now unworshipped and
alone; and to him I prayed.
And upon us praying the night came suddenly down, as it comes upon all men
who pray at evening and upon all men who do not; yet our prayers comforted
our own souls when we thought of the Great Night to come.
And so Yann bore us magnificently onwards, for he was elate with molten
snow that the Poltiades had brought him from the Hills of Hap, and the
Marn and Migris were swollen with floods; and he bore us in his full might
past Kyph and Pir, and we saw the lights of Goolunza.
Soon we all slept except the helmsman, who kept the ship in the mid-stream
When the sun rose the helmsman ceased to sing, for by song he cheered
himself in the lonely night. When the song ceased we suddenly all awoke,
and another took the helm, and the helmsman slept.
We knew that soon we should come to Mandaroon. We made a meal, and
Mandaroon appeared. Then the captain commanded, and the sailors loosed
again the greater sails, and the ship turned and left the stream of Yann
and came into a harbour beneath the ruddy walls of Mandaroon. Then while
the sailors went and gathered fruits I came alone to the gate of
Mandaroon. A few huts were outside it, in which lived the guard. A
sentinel with a long white beard was standing in the gate, armed with a
rusty pike. He wore large spectacles, which were covered with dust.
Through the gate I saw the city. A deathly stillness was over all of it.
The ways seemed untrodden, and moss was thick on doorsteps; in the
market-place huddled figures lay asleep. A scent of incense came wafted
through the gateway, of incense and burned poppies, and there was a hum of
the echoes of distant bells. I said to the sentinel in the tongue of the
region of Yann, "Why are they all asleep in this still city?"
He answered: "None may ask questions in this gate for fear they will wake
the people of the city. For when the people of this city wake the gods
will die. And when the gods die men may dream no more." And I began to ask
him what gods that city worshipped, but he lifted his pike because none
might ask questions there. So I left him and went back to the _Bird of the
Certainly Mandaroon was beautiful with her white pinnacles peering over
her ruddy walls and the green of her copper roofs.
When I came back again to the _Bird of the River_, I found the sailors
were returned to the ship. Soon we weighed anchor, and sailed out again,
and so came once more to the middle of the river. And now the sun was
moving toward his heights, and there had reached us on the River Yann the
song of those countless myriads of choirs that attend him in his progress
round the world. For the little creatures that have many legs had spread
their gauze wings easily on the air, as a man rests his elbows on a
balcony and gave jubilant, ceremonial praises to the sun, or else they
moved together on the air in wavering dances intricate and swift, or
turned aside to avoid the onrush of some drop of water that a breeze had
shaken from a jungle orchid, chilling the air and driving it before it, as
it fell whirring in its rush to the earth; but all the while they sang
triumphantly. "For the day is for us," they said, "whether our great and
sacred father the Sun shall bring up more life like us from the marshes,
or whether all the world shall end tonight." And there sang all those
whose notes are known to human ears, as well as those whose far more
numerous notes have been never heard by man.
To these a rainy day had been as an era of war that should desolate
continents during all the lifetime of a man.
And there came out also from the dark and steaming jungle to behold and
rejoice in the Sun the huge and lazy butterflies. And they danced, but
danced idly, on the ways of the air, as some haughty queen of distant
conquered lands might in her poverty and exile dance, in some encampment
of the gipsies, for the mere bread to live by, but beyond that would never
abate her pride to dance for a fragment more.
And the butterflies sung of strange and painted things, of purple orchids
and of lost pink cities and the monstrous colours of the jungle's decay.
And they, too, were among those whose voices are not discernible by human
ears. And as they floated above the river, going from forest to forest,
their splendour was matched by the inimical beauty of the birds who darted
out to pursue them. Or sometimes they settled on the white and wax-like
blooms of the plant that creeps and clambers about the trees of the
forest; and their purple wings flashed out on the great blossoms as, when
the caravans go from Nurl to Thace, the gleaming silks flash out upon the
snow, where the crafty merchants spread them one by one to astonish the
mountaineers of the Hills of Noor.
But upon men and beasts the sun sent drowsiness. The river monsters along
the river's marge lay dormant in the slime. The sailors pitched a
pavilion, with golden tassels, for the captain upon the deck, and then
went, all but the helmsman, under a sail that they had hung as an awning
between two masts. Then they told tales to one another, each of his own
city or of the miracles of his god, until all were fallen asleep. The
captain offered me the shade of his pavillion with the gold tassels, and
there we talked for a while, he telling me that he was taking merchandise
to Perdondaris, and that he would take back to fair Belzoond things
appertaining to the affairs of the sea. Then, as I watched through the
pavilion's opening the brilliant birds and butterflies that crossed and
recrossed over the river, I fell asleep, and dreamed that I was a monarch
entering his capital underneath arches of flags, and all the musicians of
the world were there, playing melodiously their instruments; but no one
In the afternoon, as the day grew cooler again, I awoke and found the
captain buckling on his scimitar, which he had taken off him while he
And now we were approaching the wide court of Astahahn, which opens upon
the river. Strange boats of antique design were chained there to the
steps. As we neared it we saw the open marble court, on three sides of
which stood the city fronting on colonnades. And in the court and along
the colonnades the people of that city walked with solemnity and care
according to the rites of ancient ceremony. All in that city was of
ancient device; the carving on the houses, which, when age had broken it,
remained unrepaired, was of the remotest times, and everywhere were
represented in stone beasts that have long since passed away from
Earth--the dragon, the griffin, the hippogriffin, and the different
species of gargoyle. Nothing was to be found, whether material or custom,
that was new in Astahahn. Now they took no notice at all of us as we went
by, but continued their processions and ceremonies in the ancient city,
and the sailors, knowing their custom, took no notice of them. But I
called, as we came near, to one who stood beside the water's edge, asking
him what men did in Astahahn and what their merchandise was, and with whom
they traded. He said, "Here we have fettered and manacled Time, who would
otherwise slay the gods."
I asked him what gods they worshipped in that city, and he said, "All
those gods whom Time has not yet slain." Then he turned from me and would
say no more, but busied himself in behaving in accordance with ancient
custom. And so, according to the will of Yann, we drifted onwards and left
Astahahn. The river widened below Astahahn, and we found in greater
quantities such birds as prey on fishes. And they were very wonderful in
their plumage, and they came not out of the jungle, but flew, with their
long necks stretched out before them, and their legs lying on the wind
behind, straight up the river over the mid-stream.
And now the evening began to gather in. A thick white mist had appeared
over the river, and was softly rising higher. It clutched at the trees
with long impalpable arms, it rose higher and higher, chilling the air;
and white shapes moved away into the jungle as though the ghosts of
shipwrecked mariners were searching stealthily in the darkness for the
spirits of evil that long ago had wrecked them on the Yann.
As the sun sank behind the field of orchids that grew on the matted summit
of the jungle, the river monsters came wallowing out of the slime in which
they had reclined during the heat of the day, and the great beasts of the
jungle came down to drink. The butterflies a while since were gone to
rest. In little narrow tributaries that we passed night seemed already to
have fallen, though the sun which had disappeared from us had not yet set.
And now the birds of the jungle came flying home far over us, with the
sunlight glistening pink upon their breasts, and lowered their pinions as
soon as they saw the Yann, and dropped into the trees. And the widgeon
began to go up the river in great companies, all whistling, and then would
suddenly wheel and all go down again. And there shot by us the small and
arrow-like teal; and we heard the manifold cries of flocks of geese, which
the sailors told me had recently come in from crossing over the Lispasian
ranges; every year they come by the same way, close by the peak of Mluna,
leaving it to the left, and the mountain eagles know the way they come
and--men say--the very hour, and every year they expect them by the same
way as soon as the snows have fallen upon the Northern Plains. But soon it
grew so dark that we heard those birds no more, and only heard the
whirring of their wings, and of countless others besides, until they all
settled down along the banks of the river, and it was the hour when the
birds of the night went forth. Then the sailors lit the lanterns for the
night, and huge moths appeared, flapping about the ship, and at moments
their gorgeous colours would be revealed by the lanterns, then they would
pass into the night again, where all was black. And again the sailors
prayed, and thereafter we supped and slept, and the helmsman took our
lives into his care.
When I awoke I found that we had indeed come to Perdondaris, that famous
city. For there it stood upon the left of us, a city fair and notable, and
all the more pleasant for our eyes to see after the jungle that was so
long with us. And we were anchored by the market-place, and the captain's
merchandise was all displayed, and a merchant of Perdondaris stood looking
at it. And the captain had his scimitar in his hand, and was beating with
it in anger upon the deck, and the splinters were flying up from the white
planks; for the merchant had offered him a price for his merchandise that
the captain declared to be an insult to himself and his country's gods,
whom he now said to be great and terrible gods, whose curses were to be
dreaded. But the merchant waved his hands, which were of great fatness,
showing the pink palms, and swore that of himself he thought not at all,
but only of the poor folk in the huts beyond the city to whom he wished to
sell the merchandise for as low a price as possible, leaving no
remuneration for himself. For the merchandise was mostly the thick
toomarund carpets that in the winter keep the wind from the floor, and
tollub which the people smoke in pipes. Therefore the merchant said if he
offered a piffek more the poor folk must go without their toomarunds when
the winter came, and without their tollub in the evenings, or else he and
his aged father must starve together. Thereat the captain lifted his
scimitar to his own throat, saying that he was now a ruined man, and that
nothing remained to him but death. And while he was carefully lifting his
beard with his left hand, the merchant eyed the merchandise again, and
said that rather than see so worthy a captain die, a man for whom he had
conceived an especial love when first he saw the manner in which he
handled his ship, he and his aged father should starve together and
therefore he offered fifteen piffeks more.
When he said this the captain prostrated himself and prayed to his gods
that they might yet sweeten this merchant's bitter heart--to his little
lesser gods, to the gods that bless Belzoond.
At last the merchant offered yet five piffeks more. Then the captain wept,
for he said that he was deserted of his gods; and the merchant also wept,
for he said that he was thinking of his aged father, and of how he soon
would starve, and he hid his weeping face with both his hands, and eyed
the tollub again between his fingers. And so the bargain was concluded,
and the merchant took the toomarund and tollub, paying for them out of a
great clinking purse. And these were packed up into bales again, and three
of the merchant's slaves carried them upon their heads into the city. And
all the while the sailors had sat silent, cross-legged in a crescent upon
the deck, eagerly watching the bargain, and now a murmur of satisfaction
arose among them, and they began to compare it among themselves with other
bargains that they had known. And I found out from them that there are
seven merchants in Perdondaris, and that they had all come to the captain
one by one before the bargaining began, and each had warned him privately
against the others. And to all the merchants the captain had offered the
wine of his own country, that they make in fair Belzoond, but could in no
wise persuade them to it. But now that the bargain was over, and the
sailors were seated at the first meal of the day, the captain appeared
among them with a cask of that wine, and we broached it with care and all
made merry together. And the captain was glad in his heart because he knew
that he had much honour in the eyes of his men because of the bargain that
he had made. So the sailors drank the wine of their native land, and soon
their thoughts were back in fair Belzoond and the little neighbouring
cities of Durl and Duz.
But for me the captain poured into a little jar some heavy yellow wine
from a small jar which he kept apart among his sacred things. Thick and
sweet it was, even like honey, yet there was in its heart a mighty, ardent
fire which had authority over souls of men. It was made, the captain told
me, with great subtlety by the secret craft of a family of six who lived
in a hut on the mountains of Hian Min. Once in these mountains, he said,
he followed the spoor of a bear, and he came suddenly on a man of that
family who had hunted the same bear, and he was at the end of a narrow way
with precipice all about him, and his spear was sticking in the bear, and
the wound was not fatal, and he had no other weapon. And the bear was
walking towards the man, very slowly because his wound irked him--yet he
was now very close. And what he captain did he would not say, but every
year as soon as the snows are hard, and travelling is easy on the Hian
Min, that man comes down to the market in the plains, and always leaves
for the captain in the gate of fair Belzoond a vessel of that priceless
And as I sipped the wine and the captain talked, I remembered me of
stalwart noble things that I had long since resolutely planned, and my
soul seemed to grow mightier within me and to dominate the whole tide of
the Yann. It may be that I then slept. Or, if I did not, I do not now
minutely recollect every detail of that morning's occupations. Towards
evening, I awoke and wishing to see Perdondaris before we left in the
morning, and being unable to wake the captain, I went ashore alone.
Certainly Perdondaris was a powerful city; it was encompassed by a wall of
great strength and altitude, having in it hollow ways for troops to walk
in, and battlements along it all the way, and fifteen strong towers on it
in every mile, and copper plaques low down where men could read them,
telling in all the languages of those parts of the earth--one language on
each plaque--the tale of how an army once attacked Perdondaris and what
befell that army. Then I entered Perdondaris and found all the people
dancing, clad in brilliant silks, and playing on the tambang as they
danced. For a fearful thunderstorm had terrified them while I slept, and
the fires of death, they said, had danced over Perdondaris, and now the
thunder had gone leaping away large and black and hideous, they said, over
the distant hills, and had turned round snarling at them, shoving his
gleaming teeth, and had stamped, as he went, upon the hilltops until they
rang as though they had been bronze. And often and again they stopped in
their merry dances and prayed to the God they knew not, saying, "O, God
that we know not, we thank Thee for sending the thunder back to his
hills." And I went on and came to the market-place, and lying there upon
the marble pavement I saw the merchant fast asleep and breathing heavily,
with his face and the palms of his hands towards the sky, and slaves were
fanning him to keep away the flies. And from the market-place I came to a
silver temple and then to a palace of onyx, and there were many wonders in
Perdondaris, and I would have stayed and seen them all, but as I came to
the outer wall of the city I suddenly saw in it a huge ivory gate. For a
while I paused and admired it, then I came nearer and perceived the
dreadful truth. The gate was carved out of one solid piece!
I fled at once through the gateway and down to the ship, and even as I ran
I thought that I heard far off on the hills behind me the tramp of the
fearful beast by whom that mass of ivory was shed, who was perhaps even
then looking for his other tusk. When I was on the ship again I felt
safer, and I said nothing to the sailors of what I had seen.
And now the captain was gradually awakening. Now night was rolling up from
the East and North, and only the pinnacles of the towers of Perdondaris
still took the fallen sunlight. Then I went to the captain and told him
quietly of the thing I had seen. And he questioned me at once about the
gate, in a low voice, that the sailors might not know; and I told him how
the weight of the thing was such that it could not have been brought from
afar, and the captain knew that it had not been there a year ago. We
agreed that such a beast could never have been killed by any assault of
man, and that the gate must have been a fallen tusk, and one fallen near
and recently. Therefore he decided that it were better to flee at once; so
he commanded, and the sailors went to the sails, and others raised the
anchor to the deck, and just as the highest pinnacle of marble lost the
last rays of the sun we left Perdondaris, that famous city. And night came
down and cloaked Perdondaris and hid it from our eyes, which as things
have happened will never see it again; for I have heard since that
something swift and wonderful has suddenly wrecked Perdondaris in a
day--towers, walls and people.
And the night deepened over the River Yann, a night all white with stars.
And with the night there rose the helmsman's song. As soon as he had
prayed he began to sing to cheer himself all through the lonely night. But
first he prayed, praying the helmsman's prayer. And this is what I
remember of it, rendered into English with a very feeble equivalent of the
rhythm that seemed so resonant in those tropic nights.
To whatever god may hear.
Wherever there be sailors whether of river or sea: whether their way be
dark or whether through storm: whether their peril be of beast or of rock:
or from enemy lurking on land or pursuing on sea: wherever the tiller is
cold or the helmsman stiff: wherever sailors sleep or helmsmen watch:
guard, guide and return us to the old land, that has known us: to the far
homes that we know.
To all the gods that are.
To whatever god may hear.
So he prayed, and there was silence. And the sailors laid them down to
rest for the night. The silence deepened, and was only broken by the
ripples of Yann that lightly touched our prow. Sometimes some monster of
the river coughed.
Silence and ripples, ripples and silence again.
And then his loneliness came upon the helmsman, and he began to sing. And
he sang the market songs of Durl and Duz, and the old dragon-legends of
Many a song he sang, telling to spacious and exotic Yann the little tales
and trifles of his city of Durl. And the songs welled up over the black
jungle and came into the clear cold air above, and the great bands of
stars that look on Yann began to know the affairs of Durl and Duz, and of
the shepherds that dwelt in the fields between, and the flocks that they
had, and the loves that they had loved, and all the little things that
they had hoped to do. And as I lay wrapped up in skins and blankets,
listening to those songs, and watching the fantastic shapes of the great
trees like to black giants stalking through the night, I suddenly fell
When I awoke great mists were trailing away from the Yann. And the flow of
the river was tumbling now tumultuously, and little waves appeared; for
Yann had scented from afar the ancient crags of Glorm, and knew that their
ravines lay cool before him wherein he should meet the merry wild Irillion
rejoicing from fields of snow. So he shook off from him the torpid sleep
that had come upon him in the hot and scented jungle, and forgot its
orchids and its butterflies, and swept on turbulent, expectant, strong;
and soon the snowy peaks of the Hills of Glorm came glittering into view.
And now the sailors were waking up from sleep. Soon we all ate, and then
the helmsman laid him down to sleep while a comrade took his place, and
they all spread over him their choicest furs.
And in a while we heard the sound that the Irillion made as she came down
dancing from the fields of snow.
And then we saw the ravine in the Hills of Glorm lying precipitous and
smooth before us, into which we were carried by the leaps of Yann. And now
we left the steamy jungle and breathed the mountain air; the sailors stood
up and took deep breaths of it, and thought of their own far off Acroctian
hills on which were Durl and Duz--below them in the plains stands fair
A great shadow brooded between the cliffs of Glorm, but the crags were
shining above us like gnarled moons, and almost lit the gloom. Louder and
louder came the Irillion's song, and the sound of her dancing down from
the fields of snow. And soon we saw her white and full of mists, and
wreathed with rainbows delicate and small that she had plucked up near the
mountain's summit from some celestial garden of the Sun. Then she went
away seawards with the huge grey Yann and the ravine widened, and opened
upon the world, and our rocking ship came through to the light of the day.
And all that morning and all the afternoon we passed through the marshes
of Pondoovery; and Yann widened there, and flowed solemnly and slowly, and
the captain bade the sailors beat on bells to overcome the dreariness of
At last the Irusian mountains came in sight, nursing the villages of
Pen-Kai and Blut, and the wandering streets of Mlo, where priests
propitiate the avalanche with wine and maize. Then night came down over
the plains of Tlun, and we saw the lights of Cappadarnia. We heard the
Pathnites beating upon drums as we passed Imaut and Golzunda, then all but
the helmsman slept. And villages scattered along the banks of the Yann
heard all that night in the helmsman's unknown tongue the little songs of
cities that they knew not.
I awoke before dawn with a feeling that I was unhappy before I remembered
why. Then I recalled that by the evening of the approaching day, according
to all foreseen probabilities, we should come to Bar-Wul-Yann, and I
should part from the captain and his sailors. And I had liked the man
because he had given me of his yellow wine that was set apart among his
sacred things, and many a story he had told me about his fair Belzoond
between the Acroctian hills and the Hian Min. And I had liked the ways
that his sailors had, and the prayers that they prayed at evening side by
side, grudging not one another their alien gods. And I had a liking too
for the tender way in which they often spoke of Durl and Duz, for it is
good that men should love their native cities and the little hills that
hold those cities up.
And I had come to know who would meet them when they returned to their
homes, and where they thought the meetings would take place, some in a
valley of the Acroctian hills where the road comes up from Yann, others in
the gateway of one or another of the three cities, and others by the
fireside in the home. And I thought of the danger that had menaced us all
alike outside Perdondaris, a danger that, as things have happened, was
And I thought too of the helmsman's cheery song in the cold and lonely
night, and how he had held our lives in his careful hands. And as I
thought of this the helmsman ceased to sing, and I looked up and saw a
pale light had appeared in the sky, and the lonely night had passed; and
the dawn widened, and the sailors awoke.
And soon we saw the tide of the Sea himself advancing resolute between
Yann's borders, and Yann sprang lithely at him and they struggled awhile;
then Yann and all that was his were pushed back northward, so that the
sailors had to hoist the sails and, the wind being favorable, we still
And we passed Gondara and Narl and Haz. And we saw memorable, holy Golnuz,
and heard the pilgrims praying.
When we awoke after the midday rest we were coming near to Nen, the last
of the cities on the River Yann. And the jungle was all about us once
again, and about Nen; but the great Mloon ranges stood up over all things,
and watched the city from beyond the jungle.
Here we anchored, and the captain and I went up into the city and found
that the Wanderers had come into Nen.
And the Wanderers were a weird, dark, tribe, that once in every seven
years came down from the peaks of Mloon, having crossed by a pass that is
known to them from some fantastic land that lies beyond. And the people of
Nen were all outside their houses, and all stood wondering at their own
streets. For the men and women of the Wanderers had crowded all the ways,
and every one was doing some strange thing. Some danced astounding dances
that they had learned from the desert wind, rapidly curving and swirling
till the eye could follow no longer. Others played upon instruments
beautiful wailing tunes that were full of horror, which souls had taught
them lost by night in the desert, that strange far desert from which the
None of their instruments were such as were known in Nen nor in any part
of the region of the Yann; even the horns out of which some were made were
of beasts that none had seen along the river, for they were barbed at the
tips. And they sang, in the language of none, songs that seemed to be akin
to the mysteries of night and to the unreasoned fear that haunts dark
Bitterly all the dogs of Nen distrusted them. And the Wanderers told one
another fearful tales, for though no one in Nen knew ought of their
language yet they could see the fear on the listeners' faces, and as the
tale wound on the whites of their eyes showed vividly in terror as the
eyes of some little beast whom the hawk has seized. Then the teller of the
tale would smile and stop, and another would tell his story, and the
teller of the first tale's lips would chatter with fear. And if some
deadly snake chanced to appear the Wanderers would greet him as a brother,
and the snake would seem to give his greetings to them before he passed on
again. Once that most fierce and lethal of tropic snakes, the giant
lythra, came out of the jungle and all down the street, the central street
of Nen, and none of the Wanderers moved away from him, but they all played
sonorously on drums, as though he had been a person of much honour; and
the snake moved through the midst of them and smote none.
Even the Wanderers' children could do strange things, for if any one of
them met with a child of Nen the two would stare at each other in silence
with large grave eyes; then the Wanderers' child would slowly draw from
his turban a live fish or snake. And the children of Nen could do nothing
of that kind at all.
Much I should have wished to stay and hear the hymn with which they greet
the night, that is answered by the wolves on the heights of Mloon, but it
was now time to raise the anchor again that the captain might return from
Bar-Wul-Yann upon the landward tide. So we went on board and continued
down the Yann. And the captain and I spoke little, for we were thinking of
our parting, which should be for long, and we watched instead the
splendour of the westerning sun. For the sun was a ruddy gold, but a faint
mist cloaked the jungle, lying low, and into it poured the smoke of the
little jungle cities, and the smoke of them met together in the mist and
joined into one haze, which became purple, and was lit by the sun, as the
thoughts of men become hallowed by some great and sacred thing. Some times
one column from a lonely house would rise up higher than the cities'
smoke, and gleam by itself in the sun.
And now as the sun's last rays were nearly level, we saw the sight that I
had come to see, for from two mountains that stood on either shore two
cliffs of pink marble came out into the river, all glowing in the light of
the low sun, and they were quite smooth and of mountainous altitude, and
they nearly met, and Yann went tumbling between them and found the sea.
And this was Bar-Wul-Yann, the Gate of Yann, and in the distance through
that barrier's gap I saw the azure indescribable sea, where little
fishing-boats went gleaming by.
And the sun set, and the brief twilight came, and the exultation of the
glory of Bar-Wul-Yann was gone, yet still the pink cliffs glowed, the
fairest marvel that the eye beheld--and this in a land of wonders. And
soon the twilight gave place to the coming out of stars, and the colours
of Bar-Wul-Yann went dwindling away. And the sight of those cliffs was to
me as some chord of music that a master's hand had launched from the
violin, and which carries to Heaven or Faery the tremulous spirits of men.
And now by the shore they anchored and went no further, for they were
sailors of the river and not of the sea, and knew the Yann but not the
And the time was come when the captain and I must part, he to go back to
his fair Belzoond in sight of the distant peaks of the Hian Min, and I to
find my way by strange means back to those hazy fields that all poets
know, wherein stand small mysterious cottages through whose windows,
looking westwards, you may see the fields of men, and looking eastwards
see glittering elfin mountains, tipped with snow, going range on range
into the region of Myth, and beyond it into the kingdom of Fantasy, which
pertain to the Lands of Dream. Long we regarded one another, knowing that
we should meet no more, for my fancy is weakening as the years slip by,
and I go ever more seldom into the Lands of Dream. Then we clasped hands,
uncouthly on his part, for it is not the method of greeting in his
country, and he commended my soul to the care of his own gods, to his
little lesser gods, the humble ones, to the gods that bless Belzoond.
THE SWORD AND THE IDOL
It was a cold winter's evening late in the Stone Age; the sun had gone
down blazing over the plains of Thold; there were no clouds, only the
chill blue sky and the imminence of stars; and the surface of the sleeping
Earth began to harden against the cold of the night. Presently from their
lairs arose, and shook themselves and went stealthily forth, those of
Earth's children to whom it is the law to prowl abroad as soon as the dusk
has fallen. And they went pattering softly over the plain, and their eyes
shone in the dark, and crossed and recrossed one another in their courses.
Suddenly there became manifest in the midst of the plain that fearful
portent of the presence of Man--a little flickering fire. And the children
of Earth who prowl abroad by night looked sideways at it and snarled and
edged away; all but the wolves, who came a little nearer, for it was
winter and the wolves were hungry, and they had come in thousands from the
mountains, and they said in their hearts, "We are strong." Around the fire
a little tribe was encamped. They, too, had come from the mountains, and
from lands beyond them, but it was in the mountains that the wolves first
winded them; they picked up bones at first that the tribe had dropped, but
they were closer now and on all sides. It was Loz who had lit the fire. He
had killed a small furry beast, hurling his stone axe at it, and had
gathered a quantity of reddish-brown stones, and had laid them in a long
row, and placed bits of the small beast all along it; then he lit a fire
on each side, and the stones heated, and the bits began to cook. It was at
this time that the tribe noticed that the wolves who had followed them so
far were no longer content with the scraps of deserted encampments. A line
of yellow eyes surrounded them, and when it moved it was to come nearer.
So the men of the tribe hastily tore up brushwood, and felled a small tree
with their flint axes, and heaped it all over the fire that Loz had made,
and for a while the great heap hid the flame, and the wolves came trotting
in and sat down again on their haunches much closer than before; and the
fierce and valiant dogs that belonged to the tribe believed that their end
was about to come while fighting, as they had long since prophesied it
would. Then the flame caught the lofty stack of brushwood, and rushed out
of it, and ran up the side of it, and stood up haughtily far over the top,
and the wolves seeing this terrible ally of Man reveling there in his
strength, and knowing nothing of this frequent treachery to his masters,
went slowly away as though they had other purposes. And for the rest of
that night the dogs of the encampment cried out to them and besought them
to come back. But the tribe lay down all round the fire under thick furs
and slept. And a great wind arose and blew into the roaring heart of the
fire till it was red no longer, but all pallid with heat. With the dawn
the tribe awoke.
Loz might have known that after such a mighty conflagration nothing could
remain of his small furry beast, but there was hunger in him and little
reason as he searched among the ashes. What he found there amazed him
beyond measure; there was no meat, there was not even his row of
reddish-brown stones, but something longer than a man's leg and narrower
than his hand, was lying there like a great flattened snake. When Loz
looked at its thin edges and saw that it ran to a point, he picked up
stones to chip it and make it sharp. It was the instinct of Loz to sharpen
things. When he found that it could not be chipped his wonderment
increased. It was many hours before he discovered that he could sharpen
the edges by rubbing them with a stone; but at last the point was sharp,
and all one side of it except near the end, where Loz held it in his hand.
And Loz lifted it and brandished it, and the Stone Age was over. That
afternoon in the little encampment, just as the tribe moved on, the Stone
Age passed away, which, for perhaps thirty or forty thousand years, had
slowly lifted Man from among the beasts and left him with his supremacy
beyond all hope of reconquest.
It was not for many days that any other man tried to make for himself an
iron sword by cooking the same kind of small furry beast that Loz had
tried to cook. It was not for many years that any thought to lay the meat
along stones as Loz had done; and when they did, being no longer on the
plains of Thold, they used flints or chalk. It was not for many
generations that another piece of iron ore was melted and the secret
slowly guessed. Nevertheless one of Earth's many veils was torn aside by
Loz to give us ultimately the steel sword and the plough, machinery and
factories; let us not blame Loz if we think that he did wrong, for he did
all in ignorance. The tribe moved on until it came to water, and there it
settled down under a hill, and they built their huts there. Very soon they
had to fight with another tribe, a tribe that was stronger than they; but
the sword of Loz was terrible and his tribe slew their foes. You might
make one blow at Loz, but then would come one thrust from that iron sword,
and there was no way of surviving it. No one could fight with Loz. And he
became ruler of the tribe in the place of Iz, who hitherto had ruled it
with his sharp axe, as his father had before him.
Now Loz begat Lo, and in his old age gave his sword to him, and Lo ruled
the tribe with it. And Lo called the name of the sword Death, because it
was so swift and terrible.
And Iz begat Ird, who was of no account. And Ird hated Lo because he was
of no account by reason of the iron sword of Lo.
One night Ird stole down to the hut of Lo, carrying his sharp axe, and he
went very softly, but Lo's dog, Warner, heard him coming, and he growled
softly by his master's door. When Ird came to the hut he heard Lo talking
gently to his sword. And Lo was saying, "Lie still, Death. Rest, rest, old
sword," and then, "What, again, Death? Be still. Be still."
And then again: "What, art thou hungry, Death? Or thirsty, poor old sword?
Soon, Death, soon. Be still only a little."
But Ird fled, for he did not like the gentle tone of Lo as he spoke to his
And Lo begat Lod. And when Lo died Lod took the iron sword and ruled the
And Ird begat Ith, who was of no account, like his father.
Now when Lod had smitten a man or killed a terrible beast, Ith would go
away for a while into the forest rather than hear the praises that would
be given to Lod.
And once, as Ith sat in the forest waiting for the day to pass, he
suddenly thought he saw a tree trunk looking at him as with a face. And
Ith was afraid, for trees should not look at men. But soon Ith saw that it
was only a tree and not a man, though it was like a man. Ith used to speak
to this tree, and tell it about Lod, for he dared not speak to any one
else about him. And Ith found comfort in speaking about Lod.
One day Ith went with his stone axe into the forest, and stayed there many
He came back by night, and the next morning when the tribe awoke they saw
something that was like a man and yet was not a man. And it sat on the
hill with its elbows pointing outwards and was quite still. And Ith was
crouching before it, and hurriedly placing before it fruits and flesh, and
then leaping away from it and looking frightened. Presently all the tribe
came out to see, but dared not come quite close because of the fear that
they saw on the face of Ith. And Ith went to his hut, and came back again
with a hunting spear-head and valuable small stone knives, and reached out
and laid them before the thing that was like a man, and then sprang away
And some of the tribe questioned Ith about the still thing that was like a
man, and Ith said, "This is Ged." Then they asked, "Who is Ged?" and Ith
said, "Ged sends the crops and the rain; and the sun and the moon are
Then the tribe went back to their huts, but later in the day some came
again, and they said to Ith, "Ged is only as we are, having hands and
feet." And Ith pointed to the right hand of Ged, which was not as his
left, but was shaped like the paw of a beast, and Ith said, "By this ye
may know that he is not as any man."
Then they said, "He is indeed Ged." But Lod said, "He speaketh not, nor
doth he eat," and Ith answered, "The thunder is his voice and the famine
is his eating."
After this the tribe copied Ith, and brought little gifts of meat to Ged;
and Ith cooked them before him that Ged might smell the cooking.
One day a great thunderstorm came trampling up from the distance and raged
among the hills, and the tribe all hid away from it in their huts. And Ith
appeared among the huts looking unafraid. And Ith said little, but the
tribe thought that he had expected the terrible storm because the meat
that they had laid before Ged had been tough meat, and not the best parts
of the beasts they slew.
And Ged grew to have more honour among the tribe than Lod. And Lod was
One night Lod arose when all were asleep, and quieted his dog, and took
his iron sword and went away to the hill. And he came on Ged in the
starlight, sitting still, with his elbows pointing outwards, and his
beast's paw, and the mark of the fire on the ground where his food had
And Lod stood there for a while in great fear, trying to keep to his
purpose. Suddenly he stepped up close to Ged and lifted his iron sword,
and Ged neither hit nor shrank. Then the thought came into Lod's mind,
"Ged does not hit. What will Ged do instead?"
And Lod lowered his sword and struck not, and his imagination began to
work on that "What will Ged do instead?"
And the more Lod thought, the worse was his fear of Ged.
And Lod ran away and left him.
Lod still ruled the tribe in battle or in the hunt, but the chiefest
spoils of battle were given to Ged, and the beasts that they slew were
Ged's; and all questions that concerned war or peace, and questions of law
and disputes, were always brought to him, and Ith gave the answers after
speaking to Ged by night.
At last Ith said, the day after an eclipse, that the gifts which they
brought to Ged were not enough, that some far greater sacrifice was
needed, that Ged was very angry even now, and not to be appeased by any
And Ith said that to save the tribe from the anger of Ged he would speak
to Ged that night, and ask him what new sacrifice he needed.
Deep in his heart Lod shuddered, for his instinct told him that Ged wanted
Lod's only son, who should hold the iron sword when Lod was gone.
No one would dare touch Lod because of the iron sword, but his instinct
said in his slow mind again and again, "Ged loves Ith. Ith has said so.
Ith hates the sword-holders."
"Ith hates the sword-holders. Ged loves Ith."
Evening fell and the night came when Ith should speak with Ged, and Lod
became ever surer of the doom of his race.
He lay down but could not sleep.
Midnight had barely come when Lod arose and went with his iron sword again
to the hill.
And there sat Ged. Had Ith been to him yet? Ith whom Ged loved, who hated
And Lod looked long at the old sword of iron that had come to his
grandfather on the plains of Thold.
Good-bye, old sword! And Lod laid it on the knees of Ged, then went away.
And when Ith came, a little before dawn, the sacrifice was found
acceptable unto Ged.
THE IDLE CITY
There was once a city which was an idle city, wherein men told vain tales.
And it was that city's custom to tax all men that would enter in, with the
toll of some idle story in the gate.
So all men paid to the watchers in the gate the toll of an idle story, and
passed into the city unhindered and unhurt. And in a certain hour of the
night when the king of that city arose and went pacing swiftly up and down
the chamber of his sleeping, and called upon the name of the dead queen,
then would the watchers fasten up the gate and go into that chamber to the
king, and, sitting on the floor, would tell him all the tales that they
had gathered. And listening to them some calmer mood would come upon the
king, and listening still he would lie down again and at last fall asleep,
and all the watchers silently would arise and steal away from the chamber.
A while ago wandering, I came to the gate of that city. And even as I came
a man stood up to pay his toll to the watchers. They were seated
cross-legged on the ground between him and the gate, and each one held a
spear. Near him two other travellers sat on the warm sand waiting. And the
"Now the city of Nombros forsook the worship of the gods and turned
towards God. So the gods threw their cloaks over their faces and strode
away from the city, and going into the haze among the hills passed through
the trunks of the olive groves into the sunset. But when they had already
left the Earth, they turned and looked through the gleaming folds of the
twilight for the last time at their city; and they looked half in anger
and half in regret, then turned and went away for ever. But they sent back
a Death, who bore a scythe, saying to it: 'Slay half in the city that
forsook us, but half of them spare alive that they may yet remember their
old forsaken gods.'
"But God sent a destroying angel to show that He was God, saying unto him:
'Go into that city and slay half of the dwellers therein, yet spare a half
of them that they may know that I am God.'
"And at once the destroying angel put his hand to his sword, and the sword
came out of the scabbard with a deep breath, like to the breath that a
broad woodman takes before his first blow at some giant oak. Thereat the
angel pointed his arms downwards, and bending his head between them, fell
forward from Heaven's edge, and the spring of his ankles shot him
downwards with his wings furled behind him. So he went slanting earthward
through the evening with his sword stretched out before him, and he was
like a javelin that some hunter hath hurled that returneth again to the
earth: but just before he touched it he lifted his head and spread his
wings with the under feathers forward, and alighted by the bank of the
broad Flavro that divides the city of Nombros. And down the bank of the
Flavro he fluttered low, like to a hawk over a new-cut cornfield when the
little creatures of the corn are shelterless, and at the same time down
the other bank the Death from the gods went mowing.
"At once they saw each other, and the angel glared at the Death, and the
Death leered back at him, and the flames in the eyes of the angel
illumined with a red glare the mist that lay in the hollows of the sockets
of the Death. Suddenly they fell on one another, sword to scythe. And the
angel captured the temples of the gods, and set up over them the sign of
God, and the Death captured the temples of God, and led into them the
ceremonies and sacrifices of the gods; and all the while the centuries
slipped quietly by, going down the Flavro seawards.
"And now some worship God in the temple of the gods, and others worship the
gods in the temple of God, and still the angel hath not returned again to
the rejoicing choirs, and still the Death hath not gone back to die with
the dead gods; but all through Nombros they fight up and down, and still
on each side of the Flavro the city lives."
And the watchers in the gate said, "Enter in."
Then another traveler rose up, and said: