Part 3 out of 4
at the monastery. For the rest, it must be remembered that they make
their own clothes and tools, grow their own corn and fruits, and
manufacture their own electric light. They have the means of
Such monasteries as Novy Afon are true institutions of Christianity;
they do more for the real welfare of a people than much else on which
immense sums of money are spent. It is a matter of real charity and
real hospitality both of hand and mind combined. The great monastery
sits there among the hills like some immense mother for all the rude,
rough-handed tribes that live about. In her love she sets an example.
By her open-handedness she makes her guests her own children; they
learn of her. Not only does she say with Christ her Master, "Suffer
the little children to come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of
heaven," but she makes of all those who come to her, be they fierce of
aspect or bearded like the pard, her own children. When the night-bell
has rung and all are in their beds--the five hundred brethren, the
many lay workers, the hundreds of guests gathered from all parts of
Russia--the spirit of the monastery spreads itself out over all of
them and keeps them all warm. The whole monastery is a home, and all
those who are within are brothers and sisters.
Though Novy Afon is new, it is built upon an old site. There was a
Christian church there in the second and third centuries, but it was
destroyed by the Persian fire-worshippers; it was restored by the
Emperor Justinian, but destroyed once more by the Turks. So completely
did the Moslem take possession of the country that Christianity
entirely lapsed till the Russian monks sailed down there two years
before the Russo-Turkish war of 1877. Novy Afon is without Christian
traditions. It takes its stand completely in the new, and is part of
that Russian faith which has no past, but only a future. The third
century ruins of the cathedral and the Roman battlements are indeed of
great interest, and many people climb the two thousand feet high crag
to look out from the ancient watch-tower. But the attitude of the
monastery is well explained in the words of a monk:
"People come here to worship God, and we stand here as a witness of
God, to pray continually for the coming of the Kingdom, and to succour
those who come to us. It would be a sign of disrespect to our church
if people came here merely to see the ancient remains."
I for my part, being of the old though also of the new, was eager
to climb the steep stone way along which in ancient days had ridden
crusaders and mediaeval warriors. Great trees now grew through the
rent wall of the cathedral, and slender birches grew straight up in
the nave to the eternal roof which had supplanted that of time--to
But alas for romance, the Russians are restoring the church, clearing
away the old stones, chopping down the trees. An ikon has been set up
within the old building, and the latter is already a place of worship.
Once more: to the eye of a monk a ruined temple is somewhat of an
insult to God. There is no fond antiquarianism; all the old Latin
inscriptions and bas-reliefs that have been found have been mortared
together at random into one wall; all the human bones that have been
unearthed, and they are many, have been thrown unceremoniously into an
open box. Even on the bare white ribs and ancient crumbling skulls,
bourgeois visitors have written their twentieth-century names. Some
ancient skeletons have been preserved in a case from pre-Mahometan
times, and under them is written:
With love, we ask you, look upon us.
We were like you; you will be like us.
The recommendation is unavailing. The bones have been picked up,
passed from hand to hand, scrawled upon, joked over. They are probably
the remains of strong warriors and early Christians, and one can
imagine with what peculiar sensations they, in their day, would have
regarded this irreverence to their bones could they but have looked
forward a thousand years or so.
It seemed to me, looking out from the watch-tower of Iver over the
diminished monastery buildings and the vast and glorious sea, on that
which must change and on that which in all ages remains ever the same,
some reverence might have been begotten for that in the past which
shows what we shall be in the future. The monks might have spared the
bones and buried them; they might have left the ruins as they were.
I am told that in a few years the work of restoration will be
completely achieved, services will be held regularly on the mountain
top, and peasant pilgrims will gladly, if patiently, climb morning and
evening up the stone way to the church, having no thoughts of any time
but that in which they are worshipping. The Russian is racially young.
He is in the morning and full of prophecy; only in the evening will
his eye linger here in the emotions of romance.
Life at the monastery is new life; it is morning there--it is indeed
only a little after the dawn. The day is as yet cool and sweet, and it
gives many promises. We can see what the morning is like if we will
THE BOY WHO NEVER GROWS OLD
Up to Christmas we are walking with the kings to the Babe's cradle,
to the birth of new life and new hope. High in the heavens, and yet
before us over the hard frost-bitten way, gleams the guiding star
whose promise we divine. After Christmas we are walking with the
spring, with a new, young, whispering child-life in the old heart.
Though the winds be cold and snow sweep over the land, we know that
winter and death are spent. Whilst the light grows stronger in the
sky, something in us that is wooed by light responds. New eyes open
in the soul. Spring comes, and then the tramp is marching with the
summer. Down come the floods, and often for hours one takes shelter
from the rain, and it seems as if all we hope for were being
inundated. But, as I wrote before, "the spring is not advanced by
rain, but it gathers strength in the rain to proceed more quickly when
the sun comes out: so also with the tramp." Summer is the year itself,
all that the other seasons have laboured for. It is the glory of the
year. Then may the tramp cease marching, for in the height of summer
nature also must cease, must cease from going forward to turn back. He
may rest in the sun and mature his fruits. Autumn is coming and all
the year's beauties must yield to death.
I think of my autumn on the way to Jerusalem, and all that a day told
me then. The skies became grey at last, and cold searching winds stole
into the summer weather. Many things that by sunlight I should have
rejoiced in became sombre and ugly in the shade. The tobacco farms,
with their myriad tobacco leaves drying and rotting from green into
yellow, became ill-kept and untidy, the peasants harvesting them surly
and unwashed: the sky spread over them no glamour.
I was walking over the swamps of Sukhum, and I noticed all that I
disliked--the deep dust on the road, the broken-down bridges, the
streams that cattle had befouled. It was perhaps a district that
lacked charm even in fine weather.
There were some compensations. In a wilderness of wilted maize fields,
and mud or wattle-built villages, one's eyes rested with affection
upon slender trees laden with rosy pomegranates--the pomegranate on
the branch is a lovely rusty-brown fruit, and the tree is like a briar
with large berries. Then the ancient Drandsky Monastery was a fair
sight, white-walled and green-roofed against the background of black
mountains, the mountains in turn shown off against the snowy ranges
of the interior Caucasus. The clouds hung unevenly over the climbing
mountains, so that far snow-bestrewn headlands looked like the speckly
backs of monsters stalking up into the sky.
I walked through miles and miles of brown bracken and rosy withered
azalea leaves. There came a day of rain, and I spent thirty-six hours
in a deserted house, staring most of the time at the continuous drench
that poured from the sky. I made myself tea several times from the
rainwater that rushed off the roof. I crouched over a log fire, and
wondered where the summer had gone.
It needed but a day of rain to show how tired all nature was. The
leaves that were weighed down with water failed to spring back when
the rain had passed. The dry and dusty shrubs did not wash green as
they do in the spring. All became yellower and browner. That which had
come out of the earth took a long step back towards the earth again.
Tramping all day through a sodden forest, I also experienced the
autumnal feeling, the promise of rest, a new gentleness. All things
which have _lived_ through the summer welcome the autumn, the twilight
of the long hot day, the grey curtain pulled down over a drama which
is played out.
All day the leaves blew down as if the trees were preparing beds for
the night of winter. In a month all the woods would be bare and stark,
the bushes naked, the wild flowers lost in the copse; nought green but
the evergreens. And yet but a week ago, rhododendrons at New Athos,
wild roses and mallow in full bloom at Gudaout, acres of saffron
hollyhocks, and evening primroses at Sotchi!
I had entered an exposed country, colder than much of the land that
lay far to the north.
Two days later the clouds moved away, the zenith cleared, and after it
the whole sky, and then along the west and the south, as far as eye
could see, was a great snow-field, mountain after mountain, and slope
after slope all white to the sky. A cold wind, as of January, blew
keenly from the snow, and even froze the puddles on the road. It
seemed we had journeyed thus suddenly not only to autumn, but to
But at noon the sun was hot again. The new-born brimstone butterflies
were upon the wing, a flutter of lambent green. They were of the time,
and young. They must live all winter and waken every sunny day till
next spring--the ambassadors of this summer to the next.
All that belongs to the past is tired, and even at the bidding of
the sun insect life is loth to rise. The grasshopper is tired, the
dragon-fly loves to crouch among the shadows, the summer-worsted
fritillary butterflies pick themselves out of their resting-places to
flutter a little further; their wings, once thick with yellow down and
shapely, are now all broken, transparent, ragged.
The tramp's summer also is over. He will not lie full length in the
sun till the spring comes round again. For the ground is wet, and the
cold is searching. I walked more miles in the cold fortnight that took
me to Batoum than in a whole month before New Athos. There was in the
air a sting "that bids nor sit nor stand, but go."
Yet thoughts were plentiful, and many memories of past autumns came
back to me. How many are the rich, melancholy afternoons of late
October or early November, golden afternoons that occur year after
year, when one feels one's thoughts parting from the mind easily and
plentifully without urging, as overripe fruit falling at last since no
one has grasped it before.
I hurried along the road, full of sad thoughts. The year was growing
to be an old man. It looked back at spring, at the early days when it
first felt the promises of life's glory and scarcely dared believe
them true, at laughing May, at wide and spacious June, and then the
turning of the year.
It almost seemed to me that I had grown old with the year, that I had
even gathered in my fruits, as indeed I had, only they were more the
year's fruits than mine: I had been the guest of the year.
I walked as within sight of a goal. In my imagination I saw ahead of
me the winter stretches of country that I should come to, all white
with snow, the trees all hoar, the people all frosted. I had literally
become aware of the fact that I was travelling not only over land but
over time. In the far horizon of the imagination I looked to the snowy
landscapes of winter, and they lay across the road, hiding it, so that
it seemed I should go no further.
Old age, old age; I was an old, bearded, heavy-going, wrinkled tramp,
leaning on a stout stick; my grey hairs blew about my old red ears in
wisps. I stopped all passers-by upon the road, and chuckled over old
jokes or detained them with garrulity.
But no, not old; nor will the tramp ever be old, for he has in his
bosom that by virtue of which, even in old age, he remains a boy.
There is in him, like the spring buds among the withered leaves of
autumn, one never-dying fountain of youth. He is the boy who never
Father Time, when he comes and takes some of us along his ways into
middle-age, will have to pull. Time is a dotard, an aged parent; some
boys that are very strong and young are almost too much for him; when
he comes to take them from the garden of boyhood they kick and
punch; when Time tries to coax them, pointing out the advantages of
middle-age, they turn their heads from him and refuse to listen. If at
last they are taken away by main force, it is with their backs to the
future, and their faces all angry, twisted, agonised, looking back at
the garden in which they want to stay.
THE STORY OF ZENOBIA
I have known her in summer and in winter--in summer flushed and
gorgeous like the wild rose, in winter lily-pale, or grey and haggard
as the town she lived in. She was a beautiful daughter of the Earth, a
wondrous flower. The summer night was in her dark hair, the south wind
in her eyes. Whoever looked upon her in silence knew himself in the
presence of the mystery of beauty, of the mystery of an imperious
inner beauty. It was because of this, because of some majestic spirit
manifest in her, shining through her in soul's colours, that I called
her Zenobia, naming her after that Blythedale Zenobia who always wore
the rich hot-house flower in her bosom. And it was to me as if my
Zenobia wore that flower there also, and in silence, a new flower each
day, wondrous and rich. Never could she be seen without that flower
there, and it was as if on that flower depended her very life. Should
the flower at any time be wanting, then all were wanting.
I remember her as she was one June when we gathered eglantine
together, and the richest and deepest of all reds in roses. In the
midsummer afternoons we plucked our garlands and brought them home at
sunset time. Such afternoons they were, tempting all living things
into the symphony of glory, such afternoons of splendour that now,
looking back, it seems to be the very acme of their glory that we also
were to be found there in those woods with all the rest. We came,
soft stepping into the scene, and Nature, which moves continuously,
harmoniously, did in the same moment build a throne and take us in it.
At once the life from us flowed out, and the life about flowed in.
Surely these were days of large orchestras, and of wonderful and
complex melodies. Zenobia moved like a queen over the scene, her rich
garments sweeping over the soft grass, her graceful arms swinging as
with secret blessings. All the living things of the day seemed eager
to be her pages; she was indeed a queen. The world needed her and the
world went well because of her. The birds sang, they had not sung so
sweetly but for her; the sun shone, it had not shone so brightly but
for her; the roses stood on tiptoe on the bushes asking to be picked
by her; the very air played lovingly about her, stealing and giving
The memory of all this comes out to me with a rush whenever I open
a book of poems at a certain page, and with it comes the odour of
sweet-brier and honeysuckle. It was in a June, one of the past Junes
when we also were June glory, beautiful, full-blossoming, and not more
self-conscious than the brier itself. I think now of the greens and
crimsons, the blaze of holy living colour in which we were able to
exist and breathe....The afternoon passed, the evening came. Light
unfolded silken banners of crimson floated down over the sky; crimson
flower torches danced upwards from Zenobia's hands, living rose glowed
from out her cheeks. About us and around floated lambent reds and
blues and greens. The deep lake looked into her eyes, the trees nodded
to her, birds flew over her, the first stars peeped at her.
Mysterious, breathless, was the summer night. An influence of the time
seemed to press upon us; something exhaled from the mystery of flowers
drew sleep down upon us. Twilight lay upon the eyebrows of the girl,
and the cloud of her dark hair nodded over it like the oncoming night.
We sat down upon a grass mound. We ourselves, Nature around us, all
things of the day, seemed under a spell. Sleep lay about the roses,
the bushes mused inwardly, the honeysuckle exhaled enchantment and was
itself enchanted. Then the things of the night came. The myriad midges
performed their rites over the blackthorn and the oak, and blackthorn
and oak looked as if changed into stone. The mice and the shrews
crept safely over the toes of the blackberry bushes, the rabbits came
tumbling along through banks of inanimate grass. And fat night-moths
sucked honey from half-conscious flowers, and the same moths whirred
duskily round our gathered roses or darted daringly into our faces. We
were like the flowers and the grass and the blackberry and blackthorn.
The night which had overtaken them and put them to sleep had settled
upon us also, and the things of the night came out securely at our
feet. For a moment, a sport of habit had betrayed us to the old Eden
habits, had taken us a step into a forgotten harmony. But below the
surface the old fought secretly with the new, that old that seems so
much the newest of the new, that new that really is so old and
stale. The new must have won, and in me first, for I rose suddenly,
brusquely, as if somehow I felt I had unawares been acting
unaccountably foolishly. I looked at my companion; the mood was still
upon her, and I believe she might easily have slumbered on into the
night, but as she saw me rise, the new in her gained reinforcement,
and she too rose in a sort of mild surprise. Now I think I might have
left her there to awaken late in the night, a new Titania with the
moonbeams coming through the forest branches to her.
I awakened her. I think she has often been awakened since then, but
indeed it is seldom now that she is allowed to slip into such slumber.
We walked home and I said some poems on the way; she heard. I think
she heard in the same way as a flower feels the touch of a bee. No
words had she, no poetry of words to give back. She had not awakened
to articulateness. She had no thoughts; she breathed out beauty. She
understood no thoughts; she breathed in beauty from around.
* * * * *
This was Zenobia, this was her aspect when she was taken, when the
change came over her life.
That marvellous mechanism, the modern state, with its mysterious
springs and subterranean attractions and exigencies, drew her in to
itself. The modern state, whose every agent is called Necessity, had
appealed to her. And she had been taken. She settled on the outskirts
of a city and half her life was spent under a canopy of smoke, whilst
in the other half she courted morning and evening twilights. In the
first June of this time, in afternoons and evenings, we had lived
together among the roses, and she had stood at the zenith of her
glory. But with the coming on of autumn the roses withered, and
something of the old dreaminess left her eyes. A little melancholy
settled upon her, and she discovered she was lonely. But the town had
seen her, and henceforth the town took charge of her. It sent its
angels to her. One might wonder what the town used her for, this
inarticulate one--it made her a teacher because of her good memory.
Then it regarded her as "good material." It sent its angels, those
voluntary servants of the state, the acquaintances who call themselves
friends. These at first approved of her, always misunderstood her, and
at length despised her. They misunderstood her, because a person truly
inarticulate was incomprehensible to them. Her naivete they mistook
for insolence, her dreaminess for disrespect. They confused her memory
with her understanding. They gave her books to read, brought her to
lectures, sat her at the theatre, took her to hear sermons, prayed
with her and drank with her the holy wine. And some would say,
"Isn't she coming on?" or "Isn't she developing?" and others, more
perceiving, would say, "Well, even if she isn't getting anything from
it, at least she's seeing life"; while others, more perceiving still,
gave her up as past hope. "She has no brains," they said. Others,
still more perceiving, said she had no soul, no love; she cared for no
one, understood nothing. She, for her part, went on almost as ever,
and remained next to inarticulate. Only now and again the hubbub of
battle in the schoolroom would awaken her to some sort of conscious
exasperation. She would appeal to her class, staring at them with eyes
from which all gentleness and affection had merged into astonishment
and indignation. For the rest, lack of life, lack of sun, lack of life
influence told upon her beauty. She did not understand the influence
of the ill-constituted around her, and did not understand the pain
which now and again thrilled through her being, provoking sighs and
word-sighs. Then those friend-acquaintances, ever on the alert for an
expression of real meaning, interpreted her sighs and longings for
week-ends in the country.
Verily it is true, one cannot serve God and mammon. There was no
health forthcoming through this compromise with life. She merely felt
more pain. She continued her work in the town, and was enrolled and
fixed in many little circles where little wheels moved greater wheels
in the great state-machine. Ostensibly, always now, whatever new she
did was a step toward saving her soul. I met her one January night;
she was going to a tea-meeting in connection with a literary society.
Very grey her face looked. Many of the old beautiful curves were
gone, and mysteries about her dimples and black hair-clusters seemed
departed irrevocably. Still much in her slept safe, untouched as ever,
and, as ever, she was without thoughts. Her memory suggested what she
should say to me. "It will be interesting," she remembered. I helped
her off with coat and furs. She was dressed wonderfully. The gown she
wore--of deep cinnamon and gold--was still the dress of Zenobia, and
at her bosom the strange flower exhaled its mystery. I went in with
her to the hot room. She was evidently a queen here, as in the
forest glades. And her pale face lit up as she moved about among the
"little-worldlings" and exchanged small-talk and cakes and tea. She
was evidently in some way responsible for the entertainment, for the
chairman said "they all owed her so much." I watched her face, it
showed no sign of unusual gratification; had he slighted her, I am
sure she would have listened as equably. What a mask her face was! The
look of graciousness was permanent, and probably only to me did she
betray her continuous sleepiness and lack of interest in the whole
affair. Members propounded stupendously solemn questions about the
"salvation of man," the "state of progress," the mystic meaning of
passages of the Bible, and the like; and I watched her draw on her
memory for answers. She was never at a loss, and her interlocutors
went away, and named their little child-thoughts after her.
I took her away at last and whispered some things in her ears, and
showed her what could be seen of moon and stars from the narrow
street, and something of the old summer feeling came over us. How the
old time sang sorrowfully back, plaintively, piteously. Our steps
sounded along some silent streets, the doors of the little houses were
shut and dark. They might have been the under doors of tombs. Silently
we walked along together, and life sang its little song to us from the
depths of its prison. It sounded like the voice of a lover now lost
for ever, one worth more beyond compare than any that could come
There is no going back. I saw her to her little home and touched her
tenderly at Goodbye.
She went in. The door closed and I was left standing alone in front
of the closed door, and there was none around but myself. Then I was
aware of a gust in the night-breeze blowing up for rain. Time had
changed. Something had been taken from the future and something had
been added to the past. The spiral gusts lifted the unseen litter of
the street, and with them the harpies rose in my breast. And words
impetuous would have burst out like the torrents of rain which the
dark sky threatened.
The torrent came.
A girl like this simply grows like a flower on a heath, blossoms,
fades, withers, and is lost. No more than that. I scarcely tell what
I want to say. Oh, how strongly I would whisper it into the inmost
heart! Life is not thoughts, is not calm, is not sights, is not
reading or music, is not the refinement of the senses,--Life is--life.
This is the great secret. This is the original truth, and if we had
never begun to think, we should never have lost our instinctive
knowledge. In one place flowers rot and die; in another, bloom and
live. The truth is that in this city they rot and die. This is not a
suitable place for a strong life; men and women here are too close
together, there is not enough room for them, they just spring up
thinly and miserably, and can reach no maturity, and therefore wither
away. All around are the ill-constituted, the decaying, the dying.
What chance had fresh life coming into the tainted air of this
stricken city--this city where provision is made only for the
unhealthy? For here, because something is the matter, every one has
begun conscience-dissecting--thinking--and a rumour has got abroad
that we live to get thoughts of God. And because thoughts of God
are novel and comforting, they have been raised up as the great
desideratum. And the state of society responsible for the production
of these thoughts is considered blessed. The work of intensifying the
characteristics of that society is thought blessed, and because in
ease we think not, we prefer to live in disease. And the progress of
disease we call Progress. So Progress and Thought are substituted for
There _is_ a purpose of God in this city, but there is as much purpose
in the desert. There is no astonishingly great purpose. The disease
will work itself out. And I know God's whole truth to man was revealed
long since, and any one of calm soul may know it. The hope of learning
the purpose through the ages, the following of the gleam, is the
preoccupation of the insane.
What do all these people and this black city want to make of _her_?
She, and ten thousand like her, need life. Life, not thought, or
progress, just the same old human life that has always been going on.
The rain was pouring heavily and I took shelter. I felt calmer; I had
unpacked myself of words. Rather mournfully I now looked out into the
night, and, as it were, ceased to speak to it, and became a listener.
A song of sorrow came from the city, the wailing of mothers
uncomforted, of children orphaned, uncared for, of forsaken ones. I
heard again the old reproach of the children sitting in the market.
"Here surely," I said, "where so many are gathered together, there
is more solitude and lonely grief than in all the wide places of the
earth!" Voices came up to me from thousands in a city where thousands
of hands were uplifted to take a cup of comfort that cannot be
Is there a way out for _her_? Is there a way out for them? "For her
perhaps, for them not," something whispered within me inexorably. "And
Death?" The wind caught up the whisper "death" caressingly and took
it away from me over the city, and wove it in and out through all the
streets and all the dark lanes, and about the little chimneys, and the
Is there a way out for her?--Perhaps. There are some beings so full of
life that even the glutton Death must disgorge them.
THE LITTLE DEAD CHILD
In the little town of Gagri on the Caucasian shore of the Black Sea
there is a beautiful and wonderful church surviving from the sixth
century, a work of pristine Christianity. It is but the size of a
cottage, and just the shape of a child's Noah's Ark, but made of
great rough-hewn blocks of grey stone. One comes upon the building
unexpectedly. After looking at Gagri's ancient ruins, her fortresses,
her wall built by Mithridates, one sees suddenly in a shadowy close
six sorrowful little cypresses standing absolutely still--like heavily
dressed guardsmen--and behind the cypresses and their dark green
brooms, the grey wall of the church, solid, eternal. One's eyes rest
upon it as upon a perfect resting-place. If Gagri has an organic life,
this church must be its beating heart.
I came to Gagri one Saturday afternoon after the first two hundred and
fifty miles tramping of my pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and at this little
church I witnessed a strange sight. I had hardly admired the grey
interior, the bare walls growing into the roof in unbroken curves, the
massive stone rood-screen, the sorrowful faces in the holy pictures,
when a little procession filed into the church; four girls carrying a
flower-bedecked coffin, half a dozen elders, and a pack of children
carrying candles--a sight at once terrible and diurnal, a child's
Russian churches, having no chairs, have the appearance of being
almost empty. In the centre of this emptiness at Gagri church two
trestles were put up, and the open coffin placed upon them; in the
coffin, lying in a bed of fresh flowers and dressed in delicate white
garments, was a little dead child. The coffin was perfectly and even
marvellously arranged; it would be difficult to imagine anything more
beautiful, and at the same time more terrible.
A girl of about four years, she lay in the coffin as in bed, with her
head somewhat raised, and the face looking directly at the altar and
at the sorrowful pictures; on her head was a cream silk embroidered
bonnet, on her forehead, from ear to ear, a paper _riza_ with delicate
line drawings of the story of the girl's angel, St. Olga. A high
lighted candle stood at her head, two little ones at each side, and
two at her feet. The bonnet and the dress were tied with little bits
of pink ribbon; the child's hands, small, white, all lovely, lay one
upon another, and in one of them was a little white cross. The face
and arms were the colour of fine grey wax, the lips thin, dark red and
set--the little dead girl looked steadfastly at the Ikons.
I stood and wondered. Round about the coffin were a score of people,
mostly little children, who every now and then nicked away flies that
were about to settle on the dead body. The grey church and its beauty
melted away. There was only a little grey wax figure lying poised
before the face of Christ, and little children flicking away flies.
Among the flowers in the coffin I noticed a heavy metal cross--it
would be buried with her. Hanging over the trestles at each of the
four corners were gorgeous hand-embroidered towels. "This is some rich
person's child," I thought as I waited--it was twenty minutes before
the father, the mother, and the priest arrived. I was mistaken; this
was the child of ordinary peasants.
* * * * *
I wonder the mother was allowed to come to church; she was frantic
with grief. When she came into the church she fell down on her knees
and hugged the dead body and kissed it and sobbed--sobbed so horribly
that except for the children there was no one present who kept dry
eyes. The husband stood with his hands dangling at his side, his lips
all puckered, his hair awry, and the tears streaming down his red
But when the priest came in he took the good woman aside and quieted
her, and in his words surely was comfort. "Those who die as children
are assured of that glorious life above, for of them Christ said,
'Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, _for
of such is the kingdom of heaven._' Least of all should we grieve when
a child dies."
I held a candle with the others and joined in the little service, and
when the service was over ate of the boiled rice and grapes that were
handed round to save us from evil spirits.
The candles were put out, the priest retired, and then the sobbing
broke forth once more, the people crowded round the coffin and one by
one kissed the little dead one, kissed her again and again. Most of
all the little children kissed her, and the father in distraction
stood by, calling out in broken treble, "Say good-bye to her,
children, say good-bye!"
Last of all, the wild mother said good-bye, and was only taken away
by sheer force. Then the lid was put on the coffin, and the four
girls--they were each about twelve years old--lifted it on the
embroidered towels and carried it out of the church.
The mother fainted and was taken into the open air, where one woman
helped to revive her by pouring water on her head out of an old
kettle, and another by drinking water and spurting it out again in
her face. Meanwhile the father took eight nails--he had them in his
pocket--and with all the crowd looking on, he nailed down the lid of
the coffin. The girls once more lifted their burden upon the beautiful
towels, and they bore it away to the grave. The crowd followed them
All we like dust go down into the grave,
the sound of their singing almost drowned by the beating of their
uneven steps. The music modulated and died away to the silence of the
evening. The little church remained grey and ancient, and the six
cypresses stood unmoved, unmoving, like guards before some sacred
And the pilgrim goes on his way.
HOW THE OLD PILGRIM REACHED BETHLEHEM
At New Athos monastery in one of the common hostels there were some
hundred peasant men and women, mostly pilgrims. It was after supper;
some of the company were melting away to the dormitories, others
There was one topic of conversation common to all. An old greybeard
palmer had broken down that afternoon and died. He had been almost his
whole life on the road to Jerusalem, and we all felt sad to think that
he had been cut off when he was truly nearing the Holy Land.
"He wished to go since he was a little boy," said old Jeremy, an aged
pilgrim in a faded crimson shirt. Every one paid respect to Jeremy and
listened to him. He was a placid greybeard who had spent all his life
upon the road, full of wisdom, gentle as a little child, and very
"He wished to go when he was a little boy--that means he began to go
when he was a little boy, for whenever you begin to wish you begin the
pilgrimage. After that, no matter where you are, you are sure to be on
the way. Up in the north the rivers flow under the earth, and no one
sees them. But suddenly the river appears above the land, and the
people cry out, 'See, the river is flowing to the sea.' But it began
to go to the sea long ago. So it was with Mikhail. All his life he was
a pilgrim. He lived in a distant land. He was born of poor parents,
not here, but far away in the Petchora province--oh, far, far away."
Grandfather Jeremy waved his hand to signify how far.
"Four thousand versts at least, and he hasn't come straight by a long
way. Most of the way he walked, and sometimes he got a lift, sometimes
a big lift that took him on a long way."
"Ah, ah!" said a youngster sympathetically, "and all in vain, all in
Jeremy paid no attention.
"Big lifts," his voice quavered. "And now he is there. Yes, now he is
"There, where he wished to be, in the Holy City. He had got very
tired, and God had mercy on him. God gave him his last lift. He is
there now, long before us."
"I don't see how you make that out," said a young man, a visitor, not
a pilgrim. "God, I reckon, cheated him."
"God never cheats," said Jeremy calmly.
"God..." said the visitor, and was about to raise a discussion and
try to convert these pilgrims from their superstition. But Jeremy
interrupted him. For the old man, though a peasant, had a singular
"Hush! Pronounce not His name lightly. I will tell you a story."
"Silence now!" cried several. "Hear grandfather's story!"
The old man then told the story of an aged pilgrim who had died on his
way to Jerusalem. I thought he was repeating the story of the life of
Mikhail, so like were his present words to those that had gone before.
But the issue was different. In this case the pilgrim died and was
buried in a little village near Odessa.
He was a penniless beggar. In grandfather's picturesque language, "he
had no money; instead of which he bore the reproach of Christ. He
found other men's charity....
"All his life he wandered towards Bethlehem. He used to say he
pilgrimaged not towards Calvary, but towards Bethlehem. The thought
that the Roman officials had treated Christ as a thief was too much
for him to bear.
"He who possessed all things they treated as one who had stolen a
The old man paused at this digression, and stared around him with an
expression of terror and stupefaction.
There was a silence.
"Go on, Jeremy," said some one impatiently.
"He always journeyed towards Bethlehem, and whenever he saw a little
child, a little baby, he would say to the mother that it foretold him
what it would be like for him at the Holy Land. And of the cradles he
would always say they were just the shape of the manger where the baby
Christ was laid.
"He was very dear to mothers, you may be sure, and he never lacked
"He travelled very slowly, for in Moscow a motor-car ran over his
foot, and he always needed a strong staff. He was ill-treated
sometimes in the towns, where the dogs bit him and the street children
aimed stones. But he never took offence. He smiled, and thought how
little his sufferings had been compared with those of the saints.
"So he grew old.
"'You are old, grandfather; you will never reach Jerusalem,' the
peasant women told him. But he always smiled and said, 'As God wills.
Perhaps if I die I shall see it sooner.'
"And he died, poor, wretched, uncared for, in the streets of a little
village near Odessa, and children came and beat off the hungry dogs
from his body with sticks.
"'What is this?' said one policeman to another.
"'A _Bogo-moletz_ (God-prayer) dead, that's all,' was the reply.
"'None. If he had any his pockets have been picked.'
"By his passport he belonged to Petchora province, far away. No one
knew him. No one claimed him.
"'It means he must be buried at the public expense,' said the head man
of the village, and spat upon the ground.
"In the whole village only the coffin maker rejoiced, and he had small
cause, since a pauper's coffin costs but a shilling.
"'He must be buried on the common,' said the head man. 'There's no
room in the churchyard.'
"'But a pilgrim,' said an objector. 'You must bury him in consecrated
ground; you can't shut him out of the Heavenly Kingdom.'
"'No matter. Ask the priest. If the dead man can pay for a plot
of ground for a grave, well and good; or if the villagers will
"The head man looked at the little crowd assembled. They were a poor
and needy crowd. No one answered him. Then, without doing any more,
the head man walked away, and the dead body remained in the street.
"It seemed no one would pay for the grave, but in the afternoon a
woman who lived on the outskirts came and claimed the pilgrim as a
distant relative. He could scarcely have been a relative, except
inasmuch as we are all descended from Adam.
"The head man and the village priest rejoiced, and the woman took the
dead body home and washed it, and clothed it in white linen, and she
ordered a three-rouble coffin covered with purple cloth.
"But she was a very poor woman, and when she had paid for the grave
she had no money to pay for singers and for prayers.
"'God will have mercy,' she said. 'And belike he was a good man, a
"And that woman was a virgin," added Jeremy abruptly and, as I
thought, irrelevantly. But the chambers of that old man's mind were
"She was a virgin. What remains to be said? She hired a man to dig a
grave, and another to wheel the barrow with the coffin. She had no
friends who would follow the coffin with her, but in the main street
she found a cripple whom she had once befriended, and two little boys
who liked to sing the funeral chant.
"Thus the old pilgrim was taken to the grave, and in his honour a
simple woman, two street children, and a cripple followed his corse."
* * * * *
There was a long pause.
"You think he died," old Jeremy went on. "Oh, no; he did not die, he
only went on more quickly. When he fell down dead in the street his
soul suddenly began a new life, a life like a dream. Whilst the dogs
were barking and snapping at his old legs he suddenly saw in front of
him in the darkness a great bright star beckoning him, and in his new
life he got up from the road and rushed towards that star--rushed, for
he felt young again, younger than any boy, and all the lameness and
tiredness were passed away.
"Suddenly, in front of him, and coming to meet him, he saw a horse,
draped all in silk, and attendants. A man came up to him and saluted
him, offered him a crown, and bade him rise up upon the horse. He sat
upon the horse, and, looking at himself, saw that he was dressed in
cloth of gold. Behind him was a great train of attendants, carrying
gifts. And they all journeyed forward, towards the star.
"Eh, brothers," said Jeremy, looking round, "what a change in the
estate of our poor friend! He has now become one of the first, because
on earth he was one of the last. He is a king."
The listeners were all silent, and the narrator enjoyed a triumph.
* * * * *
Jeremy's cracked old voice went on, and now again somewhat
irrelevantly. "And the woman, who was a virgin, conceived and bore a
child, and she was so poor that the child was laid in a manger. And
three kings arrived, bearing precious gifts, and they did homage
unto the child. It was at Bethlehem. One of these kings was the poor
pilgrim who died on his way to the Holy Land."
"What woman was this?" said the visitor contemptuously. "Your wits are
wandering, old man. Do you mean it was the same woman who buried him?"
"The same," said Jeremy huskily, "only in a different world. There are
other worlds, you know. But it is very true. He came as one of the
kings. And the woman now has a beautiful child. She knows.... So we
shan't be very sad about Mikhail. I think he also to-day is following
that star, and will be at Bethlehem to-night."
"Only it doesn't happen to be Christmas Eve," said the sceptical
"Eh, hey," said another pilgrim, breaking in, "there's a man--he
doesn't know that it is Christmas every day in the year at Bethlehem."
THE WANDERER'S STORY
I. MY COMPANION
When star passes star once in a thousand years, or perhaps once in the
forever, and does not meet again, what a tale has each to tell! So
with tramps and wanderers when two meet upon the road, what a tale
of life is due from one to the other. Many tramps have I met in the
world. Far from the West I have met those who came far from the East,
and men have passed me coming from the South, and men from the North.
And sometimes men have suddenly appeared on my way as if they had
fallen from the sky, or as if they had started up out of the earth.
One morning when I was dwelling in a cave between a mountain and a
river I met him who tells this story. Probably the reader has never
lived in a cave and does not appreciate cave life--the crawling in at
night, the long and gentle sleep on the soft grey sand, the crawling
out again at morning, the washing in the river, the stick-collecting
and kettle-boiling, the berry-gathering, the lazy hours of noon, the
lying outstretched on the springy turf, sun-drinking, the wading in
the river and the plashing of the rushing water over one's legs; sunny
days, grey days, rainy days, the joyous delight in the beautiful
world, the exploration of one's own heart, the sadness of
It was on a grey day when I met the strange tramp whose life-mystery
is here told. I came upon him on a quiet forenoon, and was surprised
by him. He came, as it were, out of thin air. I had been looking at
the river with eyes that saw not--I was exploring my own heart and its
memories--when suddenly I turned round and saw him, smiling, with a
greeting on his countenance.
It was long since I had looked upon a man; for though quite near the
highway, no one had found me out in my snug cave. I was like a bird
that had built a nest within earshot of a road along which many
schoolboys ran. And any one discovering my little house was like to
say, "Fancy, so near to the road, so unsuspected!"
"Good-morning, friend," said I, "and greeting! You are the first who
has found his way to this cave. You are a wanderer like myself, I
perceive. Come, then, and share my noonday solitude, and in return
give me what you have to share."
"Forgive me," said he, "I thought I heard a voice; that was why I
came. I thought I heard a call, a cry."
I looked at him. He was a strange man, but with something peculiarly
familiar in his figure. His dark hair spread over a brow whiter than
mine, and veiled two deep and gentle eyes; and his sun-tanned face and
dusty hat made him look like a face such as one sometimes sees in a
"You heard not me," I answered, "unless it was my thoughts that you
He smiled. I felt we need not say more. I sat with my back to the sun
and he lay stretched in front of me, and thus we conversed; thus two
wanderers conversed, two like spirits whose paths had crossed.
"Now tell me," said I, "who you are, dear wanderer, stretched out at
my feet like a shadow, and like a shadow of my own life. How long have
you been upon the road, when did you set out, where is your home and
why did you leave it?"
The tramp smiled.
"I am a wanderer and a seeker," he replied. "In one sense the whole
world is my home, in that I know all its roads and am nowhere a
stranger. In another sense I have no home, for I know not where I
began or where I come from. I do not belong to this world."
"What!" said I, starting up suddenly and consequently disturbing my
companion. "You are then an apparition, a dream-face, a shadow. You
came out of thin air!"
I stood up, and he turned familiarly about me and whispered like an
echo in my ear, "Out of thin air." And he laughed.
"And you?" he went on. "On what star did you begin? Can _you_ tell me?
Never yet have I found a man who could answer that question. But we
do not know, because we cannot remember. My conscious life began one
evening long ago when I stepped out of a coach on to a high road,
this same road by which you have your cave. I had come from
God-knows-where. I went backward, I came forward; I went all about and
round about, and never found my kith and kin. I was absorbed into the
world of men and shared its illusions, lived in cities, worked for
causes, worshipped idols. But thanks to the bright wise sun I always
escaped from those 'gloomy agreeable nooks.' It has now become my
religion to avoid the town, the places where men make little homes
which make us forget that in truth we have no homes. I have learned to
do without the town, without the great machine that provides man with
a _living._ I have sucked in a thousand rains, and absorbed a thousand
suns, lain on many thousand banks of the earth. I have walked at the
foot of mountains along long green valleys, I have climbed great
ranges and peeped over them, I have lived in barren and in fertile
places, and my road-companion has been Nature herself."
I smiled upon my visitor and said, "How like you are to me, my friend!
Stay with me and let us talk awhile. Grey days come, and rain, and we
shall live in this cave together and converse. In you I see a brother
man. In you as in a clear mirror I see the picture of my own soul, a
darling shadow. Your songs shall be the words of my happiness, your
yearning shall be the expression of my own aching heart. I shall break
bread with you and we shall bathe together in the river. I shall sleep
with you and wake with you, and be content to see you where'er I
That evening at sunset he crawled with me into the cave. And he slept
so sweetly that I held him in my own heart. Next morning at sunrise we
clambered out together, and together we gathered sticks, and together
bent over the fire and blew into its struggling little flames. Life
was rich. We hob-nobbed together. We doubled all our happinesses, and
we promised to share all our griefs. Sitting on the rocks--there were
many of them about, of all shape and size--we taught one another
songs. I wrote songs; he sang them. I told him of places where I had
been; he described them to me so that they lived again before me.
I told him of beauteous women I had met; he had met them also and
revealed to me their loving hearts. He could give the leaping love
in my heart a precious name. I verily believe that when the sun was
setting golden behind a great cliff, he could bid it stop and shine
upon us an hour longer.
Timid and shy at first, he grew more daring afterwards and interpreted
my wishes even before I was myself aware of them. He was constantly
devising some new happiness. His bird's heart was a fast overflowing
Then when rainy days came we crouched together in the cave like
night-birds sheltered from the day, and we whispered and recounted
and planned. I scribbled in my diary in pencil, and he re-wrote my
scribbling in bright-coloured chalks, and drew side pictures and wrote
poems. Many are the pages we thus wrote together; some he wrote, some
I wrote, and there are many from both of us in this volume. When
I thought to make a book he laughed and said, "You are making to
yourself a graven image." He held it idolatry to imagine that
beautiful visions could be represented in words.
"I shall not worship the book," I urged.
"Other people may, or they may revile it," he answered, laughing.
"It's the same sin."
"Lest they worship or revile idolatrously, I shall write a notice,"
said I. "For though I praise Nature ill, and express her ill, she, the
wonderful spirit, is beyond all praise or blame." And I wrote these
words: "_Lest any one should think that in these pages life itself is
accounted for, any beauty set down in words, any yearning defined, or
sadness utterly plumbed, it is hereby notified that such appreciation
is false--that in these pages lies only the symbol of life, the
guide-post to the hearts of those who wrote the words. Follow, gentle
reader, the directions we have given; tread the roads that we have
trod, and see again what we have seen._"
To which I added this note: "_The poetry is from my companion's pen,
the prose from mine._"
And my companion, not content with that, wrote a postscript: "_There
is no prose, and the pen by itself writes nothing at all._"
II. HOW MY COMPANION FOUND HIMSELF IN A COACH
"There is one event in my life that I cannot account for," said
my companion, "and it has conditioned all my living, an event
psychologically strange. I appear, in a way, to have lost my memory at
one era of my existence. I look at the event I am going to relate,
and simply stare in perplexed wonder. Somewhere, somewhen, I lost
something in my mind! What was that something?
"Most people can tell the story of their life as they themselves
remember it. Their memory takes them back to their earliest years, and
the memory seems satisfactory to them. But there is a mystery in mine
which to my mind remains unexplained. I remember nothing before the
age of twenty-one. As far as my memory is concerned I might have been
born then. More strange still, I recognise nothing of a past before
then, and no one comes out of that past and claims recognition of me.
"This I remember in a dim phantasmal way as the very beginning of
things: my getting into a coach in a white mist. Even in that I
constantly feel a doubt that my imagination has been playing false
with memory. Certainly I do remember finding myself in a coach, but at
the startled moment when my conscious life began, it appeared to me
that I had never been anywhere in my life but sitting in the coach. A
certain intellectual _horror vacuum_ may have evoked that mental image
of an entering of the coach, but even then I wholly fail to fill in
the life and place from which I came. All behind that strange misty
entering on the coach-steps is grey, empty mist-land.
"It was a large, smooth-rolling coach, most like a commodious omnibus,
and full of a most jovial company. I sat half-way along one of the two
lengthy seats, and opposite me was a red-faced man, with large shiny
eyes and greasy hair. On one side of me was a jolly country girl of
about twenty-five, on the other a thin, dry-looking man. There was an
incessant din of conversation and singing; we were leaning towards one
another, and saying what jolly fellows we were, we should never part.
A bottle was always going round, and every now and then the postilion
blew his horn; six horses clattered in front, the dust rolled off
behind. I remember myself in a strange state of excitement.
"It was afternoon when I began to think. Actually, at that time I knew
I had no memory, but I dared not face the fact. I strove to evade
thought by being one of the company. How my cheeks burned as I laughed
and talked! I remember pulling a fat man by the sleeve, and whispering
in his ear some secret that made us roll back and collapse in
laughter. And the coach sped on.
"It seemed an eternal afternoon--chiefly because it filled up all the
past for me. I could remember nought before it.
"At last, however, a grand sunset ran scarlet over the whole sky--we
still jested, and it was at this time that a little dwarf-like man in
a corner appeared fearful to me; there was a fiery reflection of
the sunset in his eyes. I saw him once so, I dared not look again.
Thoughts were fighting me. My jollity was losing ground. I foresaw
that in a short time I should cease to belong to the company, that I
should belong utterly to myself, and there would be no escaping from
my thoughts. Then at last we passed out of the sunlit country into a
place of grey light. It was really natural; the sunset was gone, here
was grey twilight. But my disordered mind expected I know not what,
either eternal sunset or sudden black night; I cannot say now. I was
struck with terror. And standing still with myself, I felt absolutely
confounded by the self-question I asked.
"'Where are we going?'
"Till that moment I had not realised that ignorance of the Past meant
ignorance of the Future. I asked where we were going. The laughter and
conversation increased. I was answered, but in a jargon I found quite
incomprehensible. Another question.
"'Who under heaven were these people?'
"I stood up and staggered. I must have appeared drunk, for I was
greeted with howls and cheers, an inferno of cries and laughter; and
the red-faced man stood up also and clung to me, and brought his queer
face close up to mine. The girl also clung to me. Then it occurred to
me, this was the crisis of a nightmare; in a moment these phantasmal
restraints would burst, and I should find myself peacefully--where?
"I remember what seemed a prolonged struggle among laughter and sighs
and affectionate clingings, and I got at last out at the door and
down the steps. I found myself weakly turning about on my heels on an
excessively dusty road. Just ahead of me the coach rolled off into the
future stretches of the road, the postilion wound his horn, and the
clouds of dust rose up behind the wheels.
"And I was in an open place in the cool of evening. A grey-blue sky
above, with the faintest glitter of first stars! I was alone. The past
was a mystery; my future unexplored, full of the unimaginable; the
ultimate future of course like my past.
"Such was my beginning--the event of my life, in the shadow of which I
live and by virtue of which, though I know every road and house of the
world, I yet am homeless. No happening in my being but I must view it
in the light of that strange initial mystery. With the problem of that
past unsolved, I have never found anything in the ordinary matters of
life proposed as all-absorbing occupations. Because of that, I am upon
the road. I have made research, and have asked questions of all whom
I have met, but I got no answer, and I tired most people with my
problem. They say to me lightly, 'Your coach was a dream,' and I
answer, 'If so, then what before the dream? '"
"We are all of us like you and your coach," I said to my companion.
"Some of us know it and some do not, that is all. Some forget the
mystery and others remember it."
"_We_ remember it," said the wanderer. "Because of it we are
irreconcilables, but ..." he added, looking with a smile at the
beautiful world about our cave, "almost reconciled; inconsolable, yet
seeing how lovely is this mysterious universe, almost consoled. Most
men forget, but many remember; yet whether they remember or no, they
are all orphans nevertheless, lost children and homeless ones. We who
sing and write and who remember are the voices of humanity. We speak
for millions who are voiceless."
One long sunny morning we talked of the life of the wanderer, and
my companion continued his story and recounted how he had found a
brotherhood of men like himself.
"When first I found myself thus upon the world, I was full of hope to
find an answer to the mystery. But the many fellow-beings I met upon
my road were as profitless as my companions in the coach. They could
not explain me, they could not explain the world or themselves, and
in the midst of teeming knowledges they were obliged to confess one
ignorance; among the myriad objects which they could explain they had
to acknowledge a whole universe of the inexplicable. I said to them,
'What is all your knowing worth beside the terrible burden of your
ignorance, and what are things that you can explain compared with
those that are inexplicable?'
"But I found these people proud of their little knowledges, and of the
matters they could explain. They were not even startled when I called
upon them to remember the great volcano of ignorance, on the slopes of
which they were building their little palaces.
"First I despised them, and then I loved them. But I shuddered at the
thought that I, an unknown person, unknown to myself and unrecognised
by a God, should love people equally unknown--a shadow loved other
shadows, and like a shadow I trembled.
"When I learned to love, I felt like a god--just as when the sun
learned to warm, he knew that he was a sun. I became like a sun over a
little world, and people who did not understand basked in my light and
"But one day love was lost in a cloud, as the sun is lost in a mist
which it itself has raised from the earth, and I thought: 'What a
fool am I, content to dwell among such people, and be as a king over
_them_. All that divides me from them is that I know that I know not,
and they do not even know that. For they rank their earth knowledge as
something more worthy than all their ignorance. I will go forth into
the world, and seek for those who are like myself, irreconcilable in
front of the inexplicable.'
"I sought them in towns and found them not, for the people, like
foolish virgins forgetful of the bridegroom, slumbered and slept. I
sought them upon deserts and mountains, and upon the wild plains, but
there man was of the earth and beautiful, though not aware of his
kingdom beyond the earth. But in the country places I met wise old men
who kept candles burning before my shrine, and in the houses of the
poor I met the body-wearied, world-defeated, and they, having lost
all, found the one hope that I cherished. And in the pages of books,
by converse with the dead, I found the great spiritual brotherhood.
"We are many upon the world--we irreconcilables. We cry inconsolably
like lost children, 'Oh, ye Gods, have ye forgotten us? Oh, ye Gods,
or servants of gods, who abandoned us here, remember us!'
"For perhaps we are kidnapped persons. Perhaps thrones lie vacant on
some stars because we are hidden away here upon the earth. I for one
have a royal seal on my bosom, a mysterious mark, the sign of a royal
house. Ah, my brothers, we are all scions of that house.
"One day I met a man who voluntarily sought death in order to
penetrate the mystery of the beyond. But no sign showed itself forth
to us, and we know not whether by his desperate deed he won what we
have lost, or whether, perchance, he lost all that we can ever win.
"The burden of my ignorance is hard to bear," he cried. The burden of
our ignorance is hard to bear. Thus we cry, but there comes no answer,
and the eternal silence which enfolds the earth is unbroken. Yet the
stars still shine, promising but not fulfilling.
We have become star-gazers, we irreconcilables; expecters of signs and
wonders. We live upon every ridge of the world, and have made of every
mountain a watch-tower; and from the towers we strain our eyes to see
past the stars.
For the stars are perchance but the flowers in a garden, or the lights
upon the walls of a garden, and beyond them is the palace of our
"And since the early days till now," said my companion, "I have
wandered about the world, sometimes sojourning a while in a town, but
seldom for long. For the town is not a good place."
Then I told him how the town had tempted me, and we compared
experiences. We told of the times when we had come nigh forgetting.
"Just think," said I to him, "I should never have found you had I been
swallowed up in the town."
"And I should never have lain at your feet in the sun," he replied.
"You would never have noticed me in the town."
IV. "HOW THE TOWNSMAN TEMPTED ME"
"Once I was tempted by a townsman," said the wanderer, "but instead of
converting me with his town, he was himself converted by the country.
"For many years I wandered by seashores, asking questions of the sea.
When I came to the sea it was singing its melancholy song, the song
that it has sung from its birth, and it paused neither to hear nor to
answer me. Ever rolling, ever breaking, ever weeping, it continued its
indifferent labour. I walked along its far-stretching sands, leaving
footprints which it immediately effaced. I clambered upon its cliffs
and sat looking out to sea for days, my eyes shining like lighthouse
fires. But the sea revealed not itself to me. Or perhaps it had no
self to reveal. And I could not reveal myself to it; but the sea
expressed itself to me as a picture of my mystery.
"I wandered inland to placid lakes, the looking-glasses of the clouds.
I threw pebbles into their waters, disturbing their pure reflections,
but the disturbances passed away harmlessly into nothingness, and the
lakes once more reflected the sky.
"Then I said to my heart, 'We must wander over all the world in search
of my homeland, but chance shall not be my guide. I shall loose the
reins to thee. Where thou leadest I will follow.'
"I followed my heart through verdant valleys up into a mountain high
above a great town. And there for some while I made my abiding place.
For I had learned that from a mountain I could see further than from
a valley. In the towns my horizons had been all walls, but from this
high mountain I looked far over the world.
* * * * *
"One day there came towards my mountain a townsman who tried to lure
me to the city below. He was too tired to climb up to me, but from low
down he called out,' You unhappy one, come down out of the height and
live with us in the town. We have learnt the art of curing all
sorrow. Let us teach you to forget it, and live among our many little
"And I answered him, 'It is our glory that we shall never forget.'
Nevertheless I was tempted and came down.
"The townsman was exceedingly glad, and even before I reached the
gates of his city he said to me, 'In after years you will remember me
as the man who saved you.'
"'How?' said I. 'Am I already saved?'
"'No,' he replied. 'But in the town is your salvation. You will find
work to do, and you will not need to return to your mountain to pray.
You will understand that work itself is prayer--_laborare est orare_.
Your prayer towards the sky was barren and profitless, but prayer
towards the earth, _work_, will give full satisfaction to your soul.'
"And I mocked him.
"'What lie is this?' I said. 'How do you dare to confuse labour and
prayer? Learn from me, my friend, that work is work, and prayer is
prayer. It is written in the old wisdom--"Six parts of thy time shalt
thou work for thy bread, and on the seventh thou shalt pray." _Orare
est orare; laborare est laborare_.'
"On the outskirts of the town there were men paving the streets.
'Behold how these men pray!' exclaimed my companion. 'They pave the
streets; that is their prayer. They do not gaze at the stars; their
eyes are ever on the earth, their home. They have forgotten that there
are any stars. They are happy!'
"'Their souls sleep,' I answered him.
"'Quite so,' he replied, 'their souls sleep and thus they are happy.
They had no use for their souls, therefore we purveyed them sleep,
"balm of hurt minds." We gave them narcotics.'
"'Tell me your narcotics.'
"'The Gospel of Progress--that is our opium; it gives deep sleep and
sweet dreams. It is the most powerful of drugs. When a man takes it
once he takes it again, for it tempts him with the prospect of its
"'I shall not taste of it,' said I, 'for I prize Truth above all
dreams. What other narcotics have you, sleep-inducing?'
"My companion paused a moment, then replied:
"' There are two sovereign remedies for the relief of your sorrow, a
life of work, or a life of pleasure. But work needs to be done under
the influence of the Gospel of Progress. Without a belief in progress,
man cannot believe that work is prayer, and that God is a taskmaster.
His soul wakes up. He commits suicide or crime. Or he deserts the
city, and goes, as you have done, up into the mountains.'
"'One narcotic helps out the other,' I hazarded.
"'Quite so. Pleasure is the alternative remedy, a perfectly delightful
substitute for your life: wine, the theatre, art, women. But as in
taking laudanum, one must graduate the doses--take too much and you
"'Wine,' I said. 'I have heard of it. It has been praised by the
poets, and its service is that it makes one forget! The theatre, its
comedies and farces and cunning amusements all designed to help me to
forget! Art with its seductions is to obsess the soul with foreign
thoughts! Women who languish upon one's eyes and tempt with their
beauties, they also would steal away our memories. I will have none of
"'I spoke of women in general,' said my tempter. 'But think of one
woman marvellously wrought for thee, the achiever and finisher of
thy being, the answer to all thy questionings, the object of all thy
yearnings. In the town thou wilt find the woman for thee, and she will
bear thee children.'
"'You misinterpret my needs, O friend of the town,' I said. 'I do not
look to the stars to find a woman. My yearnings are not towards a
woman of this earth. Well do I know that you have offered me the most
deadly delusion in this woman, _perfectly wrought for my being_. You
have taken hold of all my inexpressible yearning and have written over
it the word _woman_. And when one of us irreconcilables marries, it
often happens that he forgets his loneliness and loses the sense of
his mystery. His wife becomes a little house which he lives inside,
and his soul is covered up and lost by her. Where he used to see the
eternal stars, he sees a woman, and as he understands her, he thinks
he understands himself."
"'But consider,' proceeded my tempter, 'the woman who is exactly the
complement of yourself, a woman marvellously and uniquely fashioned
to round you off and supply your deficiencies, and use your
"'If such there be,' I replied, 'I shall not seek her in the town.
I know what you mean. I ought to make a home and rear up the second
generation. I ought to renounce my own future and dedicate myself to a
child so that the mistakes in the old may be set right in the new. I
must try to put a child on the road that I missed when I myself was a
child, put it in the old coach, perhaps, with a passport in its hand.
Even so, that solves no problem, rather multiplies my own problem.
What is deathless in man is not answered in that way. What does it
profit man that mankind goes on? We cannot tell. But it is clear that
we learn nothing new thereby. Rather, as it seems, we forget what we
"My friend smiled and said, 'You will think differently later.'
Meanwhile he brought me into the heart of his town, a great city of
idolaters and opium-eaters. And he took me to the gaming tables of
pleasure and the gaming tables of work, and he sought to enchant me
with figures and hypnotise me with the gleam of gold. He showed me how
fortunes were made in roulette and in commerce, and tried to bring
upon me the gambler's madness. And I smiled and said:
"'Behold the eyes of yonder gambler; his soul is asphyxied with gold.
He pays that homage to the base gleam of a metal that I do to the
light of the stars. He is an idolater.'
"In the centre of the city a terrible fear troubled my soul, for it
realised that it alone in all this great city of souls preserved
its conscience and its wakefulness. By the glare of men's eyes it
understood how all were somnambulists. We walked among millions who
walked in their sleep. And in their sleep they committed terrible
crimes. They looked at me with eyes that saw not; at the bidding of
strange dreams they went forward secretly.
"I beheld the thousand mockeries, and chief among them the mockery of
our eternal mystery. Instead of the church that is the dome of heaven
itself they had built churches of stone. And the people, urged by
their dreams, congregated themselves in these churches and were
ministered unto by false priests. And dreams of truth conflicted with
nightmare enacted themselves. The churches fell out among themselves,
and the people fought one another. False priests stood by irresolute,
their soft, shapeless lips having been smoothed away by maxims and old
words. And they stood in front of idols in a semblance of defence.
"I pushed many priests aside; I thrust my sword through many idols.
"'Come,' I said, 'your town is terrible. Let me away into my mountain
again. You wish me to consider this world worthy of me; you offer me
its small things in exchange for my great thing. You have not even
small things to offer. Farewell!'
"'And what is your doctrine?' he said to me at parting. As if we had a
"'For you,' I said, 'the worship of the explained; for us the
remembrance of the inexplicable.'"
V. HIS CONVERSION
"'But your religion?' said the townsman. 'You spoke of your religion.
What do you mean by religion?'
"'Religion is to have charity: never to condemn, never to despair,
never to believe that the finite can ever quite cover up the infinite,
never to believe that anything is wholly explained, to see the
inexplicable in all things, and to remember that words are idols and
judgments are blasphemies. For words are the naming of things that are
without name, and judgments are the limiting of the wonder of God.
And what we call God is the inexplicable, the indefinable, the great
Unknown to whom in the midst of the idolatry of Athens an altar was
"'As a child I learnt that God was He who made the world in six days,'
said the townsman. 'God was He who delivered unto Moses the ten
commandments. Is not this the same which you profess?'
"'The same,' I answered. 'But you worship Him idolatrously. You limit
the wonder of God by words. You limit God's fruitfulness to six days:
and you say the world is finished and made. But for us the world is
never finished; every spring is a new creation, every day God adds or
takes away. And you limit God's laws to ten: you limit the Everlasting
Wisdom to ten words. Words are your idols, the bricks out of which
your idols and oracles are built. Listen, I will tell you what I have
always found in towns. I have found words worshipped as something holy
in themselves. Words were used to limit God, debase man. So is it in
your town. Once man thought words; now words are beginning to think
man. Once man conceived future progress; now your idol Progress is
beginning to conceive future man. It is the same as with money; once
man made money, but now in your idolatry money makes the man. Once man
entered commerce that he might have more life; now he enters life that
he may have more commerce. Of women, the very vessels and temples of
human life, you have made clerks; of priestesses unto the Living God
you have made vestals of the dead gold calf. You have insulted the
dignity of man.'
"I waited, but the townsman was silent.
"'Is that not so?' I urged.
"'You have your point of view; we have ours. You have your religion
and we ours,' said the townsman obstinately. 'And _you_ use words, do
you not? You have your terminology; you have your idols, just as we
have. If not, then how do you use your words?'
"Then I answered him: 'When I found myself upon the world I soon came
under the sway of your words. Progress tempted me; commerce promised
me happiness. I obeyed commandments and moral precepts, and eagerly
swallowed rules of life. I prostrated myself before the great high
public idols, I bowed to the little household gods, and cherished
dearly your little proverb-idols and maxim-idols. The advice of
Polonius to his son and such literature was to me the ancient wisdom.
I became an idolater, and my body a temple of idolatry.'
"'How then did you escape?' asked my companion.
"'In this wise,' I answered. 'In my temple, as in ancient Athens, in
the midst of the idols was an altar to the Unknown God, which altar
from the first was present. That altar was to the mystery and beauty
"'By virtue of this altar I discovered my idolatry, and I recognised
the forces of death to which I had bound myself. I broke away and
escaped, and in place of all my idols I substituted my aspiring human
heart, and it beat like a sacred presence in the clear temple of my
"'Then words I degraded from their fame, and trampling them under my
feet, I sang triumphantly to the limitless sky.'
"'But still you use words,' said the townsman, 'you irreconcilables.'
"'Yes. When we had degraded their fame and humbled them so that they
came to us fawningly, asking to be used, we exalted them to be our
servants. Now we are masters over them, and not they over us. They are
content to be used, if but for a moment, and then forgotten for ever.
We use them to reproduce in other minds the thoughts that are in our
own. Woe if they ever get out of hand and become our masters again!
They are our exchange metals. Woe if ever again we melt down those
metals and recast them as idols!
"'Come with me into the country,' I urged; and the townsman, as if
foreseeing release from the bondage of his soul, allowed my flowing
life to float him away from the haunts of his idolatry. Then as we
passed from under the canopy of smoke and entered into the bright
outside universe, I went on:
"'Words are become but a small part of our language. We converse in
more ways and with more people than of yore. All nature speaks to us;
mountain and sea, river and plain, valley and forest; and we reveal
our hearts to them, our longing, our hope, our happiness. And yet
never entirely reveal. Not with words only do we converse, but with
pictures, with music, with scent, with ... but words cannot name the
sacred nameless mediums. And man speaks to man without words; with his
eyes, with his hands, with his love...."
"With that we walked some way together silently till at last the
townsman put his arm in mine and said: 'In my temple also is an altar
with an effaced inscription, methinks to the Ever-Living God. By your
words you have revealed it to me. Let me accompany you into the beauty
of the world, and interpret thou to me the mystery of its beauty.'
"As if I could interpret!
"'Behold,' I said, 'forest and mountain, the little copse and the
grass under it, and delicate little flowers among the grass. List to
the lark's song in the heavens, the wind soughing in the trees, the
whispering of the leaves. In the air there is a mysterious incense
spread from God's censers, the very language of mystery. Now you see
far into the beauty of the world and hear tidings from afar. All the
horizons of your senses have been extended. Are you not glad for
all these impressions, these pictures and songs and perfumes? Every
impression is a shrine, where you may kneel to God.'
"'It is a beautiful world,' said he.
"'It is beautiful in all its parts and beautiful every moment,' I
replied. 'My soul constantly says "_Yes_" to it. Its beauty is the
reminder of our immortal essence. The town is dangerous in that it has
little beauty. It causes us to forget. It is exploring the illusion
of trade, and its whole song is of trade. If you understand this, you
have a criterion for Life--
"'_The sacred is that which reminds us; the secular is that which bids
"'When you have impressions of sight, noise, and smell, and these
impressions have no shrine where one may kneel to God, it is a sure
sign that you have forgotten Him, that you are dwelling in the courts
"'But it is painful to remember,' said my companion, 'and even now I
have great pain. It is hard to leave the old, and painful to receive
the new. My heart begins to ache for loneliness, and I long for the
gaiety of the town and its diversions. I should like once more to
drown my remembrances.'
"I bade him have courage, for he was in the pains of birth. The old
never lets out the new without pain and struggle, but when the new
is born it is infinitely worthy. And my new friend was comforted. We
spent many days upon the road, looking at beauty, conversing with one
another, worshipping and marvelling. Along the country paths flowers
looked up, and beautiful suns looked out of strange skies. Often
it seemed we had been together upon the same road a thousand years
before. Was it a remembrance of the time before my entering into the
coach? The flowers by the roadside tried to whisper a word of the
answer to my question. It seemed that we were surrounded by mysteries
just about to reveal themselves. Or, anon, it seemed as if we had
missed our chance, as if an unseen procession had just filed by and we
had not distinguished it.
"My friend was leaving behind all his idols. We sat upon a ridge
together, and looked back upon the valley and the city which we had
left. There was what my soul abhorred, and what I feared his soul
might be too weak to face--the kaleidoscope of mean colours turning
in the city, tickling our senses, striving to bind our souls and to
mesmerise. Some colours would have drawn our tears, some would have
persuaded smiles over our lips. Combinations of colours, groupings,
subtle movements and shapings sought to interest and absorb our
"'Behold,' said I. 'In the city which calls itself the world, the
townsmen are casting up dice! Is it possible we shall be stricken with
woe, or immensely uplifted in joy because of the falling of a die? Oh
world too sordid to be opposed to us! Oh world too poor to be used by
us! Is not the world's place under our feet, for it is of earth and we
"But my friend was not with me. He wavered as if intoxicated, and
wished to return to the city. 'Oh glorious world,' said he, and sighed
himself towards the gates we had left.
"Then seeing the brightness of my face, which just then reflected a
great brightness in the sky, and remembering that his pain was only a
bridge into the new, he gained possession of himself and turned his
eyes away from the town.
"'More than my old self and its weak flesh do I value the new young
life that is to be,' said he. 'Though I am a man and a creature of
pleasure, I am become as a woman that bears children. For the time is
coming when I shall give birth to one younger than myself, later than
"'Your old self will reappear more beautiful, new-souled,
transfigured,' I replied.
"Then my companion looked at me with eyes that were full both of
yearning and of pain, and he said, 'Though I would fain stay with you,
yet must I go apart. For I have one battle yet to fight, and that I
can only fight alone. Farewell, dear friend, husband of the woman that
is in me!'
"Then said I farewell and we embraced and parted, for I saw that it
was meet for him to commune alone with God and gain strength to win
"The town lay in the west; he went into the north and I into the east.
Once more I was alone."
"Come, let us devise new means of happiness," said my companion. "Let
us wander up-stream to the silent cradle of the river. For all day
long I hear the river calling my name."
And we journeyed a three days' tramp into the mountains, following the
silver river upward and upward to the pure fountain of its birth. And
on the way, moved by the glow of intercourse, I told my companion the
story of Zenobia, and also that of the old pilgrim whom I met at New
Athos. It was strange to us that the peasants in the country should
live and die so much more worthily than the educated folk who live in
the towns. God made the country, man made the town, and the devil made
the country town, was not for us an idle platitude but a burning fact,
though we agreed that man was often a much more evil creator than the
devil, and that the great capitals of Europe and America were the
worst places for Man's heavenly spirit that Time had ever known.
Imagine our three days' journeying, the joy of the lonely one who has
found a companion, the sharing of happiness that is doubling it; the
beauty to live in, the little daintinesses and prettinesses of Nature
to point out; the morning, sun-decked and dewy, the wide happiness of
noon, the shadows of the great rocks where we rested, and the flash of
the green and silver river tumbling outside in the sunshine; quiescent
evening and the old age of the day, sunset and the remembrance of the
day's glory, the pathos of looking back to the golden morning.
The first night we made our bed where the plover has her nest, in a
grassy hollow on the shelf of a mountain.
"The day is done," said my companion. "A little space of time has
died. Now see the vision of the Eternal, which comes after death;" and
he pointed to the night sky, in which one by one little lamps were
The bright world passed away, faded away in my eyes and became at last
a dark night sky in which shone countless stars. During the day, my
soul expressed itself to itself in the beauty which is for an hour,
but at night it re-expressed itself in terms of the Infinite. I looked
to my companion, and his eyes and lips shone in the darkness so
that he seemed dressed in cloth cut from the night sky itself, and
interwoven with stars. We lay together and looked up into the far high
sky, we breathed lightly: it seemed we exhaled the scent of flowers
that we had inbreathed in the morning--we slept.
And then the morning! The quiet, quiet hours, the flitting of moths in
the dawn twilight, the mysterious business of mice among the stones
about us, the cold fleeting air just before sunrise, full of ghosts,
our own awakening and the majestic sunrise, the exaggeration of all
shapes, the birth of shadows, the beaming heralds, glorious rose-red
summits and effulgent silvered crags, ten thousand trumpets raised to
the zenith, and ten thousand promises outspoken!
We arose, my companion and I--he only seemed to come to life when the
first beam touched me. I greeted the sun with my voice, and turning
round, there at my feet was my friend, familiar, dear, so ready for
living that one would have said the sun himself was his father.
"I was dead," said he, "and behold I am alive again. The world passed
away, and behold, at the voice of a trumpet, it hath come back. Beauty
faded yestreen from colour into darkness, from life to death, and
to-day it hath out-blossomed once again; the Sun was its father, dear
gentle Night its mother...."
And running with me, he clambered upon a rock and outstretched his
arms to the sun as if he were a woman looking to a strong man.
"Greater is the glory of sunrise than the glory of sunset, for the
sunrise promises what shall be, whereas the sunset only tells the
glory of the past. The sunrise promises beautiful days, the sunset
looks back upon beauty as if there were nothing in the future to
compare with what has just departed."
Thus sang my friend, and we scampered along to the newly wakened
river. Cold and fresh was the water, as if it also had slept in the
night. It was full of the night, but the morning which was in us
strove with it, and at a stroke conquered it. The sun laughed to see
us playing in the water, and we greeted him with handfuls of sparkles.
The river was lusty and strong; it wrestled with us, grasped, pushed,
pulled, buffeted, threw stones, charged forward in waves, laboriously
rolled boulders against us....
We made our morning fire; its blue smoke rose slowly and crookedly,
and the brittle wood burning crackled like little dogs barking; the
kettle hissed on the hot, black stones where we had balanced it over
the fire, it puffed, it growled, blew out its steam and boiled, boiled
over; tea, bread and cheese, bright yellow plums from a tree hard
by, and then away once more we sped on our journey, not walking, but
running, scarcely running but flying, leaping, clambering ... and my
companion performed the most astonishing feats, for he was ever more
lively than I was.
The sun strengthened. First it had empowered us to go forward, but
after some hours it bid us rest. Seven o'clock ran to eight, eight to
nine; nine to ten was hot, ten was scorching, and by eleven we were
conquered. We rested and let the glorious husband of the earth look
down upon us, and into us.
"How pathetic it is that men are even now at this moment sweating,
and grinding, and cursing in a town," said my companion to me. He was
lying outstretched before me on a slope of the sheep-cropped downs.
"They altogether miss life, life, the inestimable boon. And they get
nothing in return. Even what they hope to gain is but dust and ashes.
They waited perhaps a whole eternity to be born, and when they die it
may be that for a whole eternity they must wait again. God allotted
them each year eighty days of summer and eighty summers in their
lives, and they are content to sell them for a small price, content to
earn wages.... And their share in all this beauty, they hardly know of
it, their share in the sun.
"Have you not realised that we have more than our share of the sun?
The sun is fuller and more glorious than we could have expected. That
is because millions of people have lived without taking their share.
We feel in ourselves all _their_ need of it, all their want of it.
That is why we are ready to take to ourselves such immense quantities
of it. We can rob no one, but, on the contrary, we can save a little
to give to those who have none--when we meet them. You must pull down
the very sun from heaven and put it in your writings. You must give
samples of the sun to all those who live in towns. Perhaps some of
those attracted by the samples will give up the smoke and grind of
cities and live in this superfluity of sunshine."
Then I said to my joyous comrade: "Many live their lives of toil and
gloom and ugliness in the belief that in another life after this they
will be rewarded. They think that God wills them to live this life of
"Then perhaps in the next life they will again live in toil and gloom,
postponing their happiness once more," said my companion. "Or on the
Day of Judgment they will line up before God and say with a melancholy
countenance, 'Oh Lord we want our wages for having lived!' ...
An insult to God and to our glorious life, but how terrible, how
unutterably sad! And the reply of the angel sadder still, 'Did you not
know that life itself was a reward, a glory?'"
THE UNCONQUERABLE HOPE
Once, long ago, when an earthquake rent the hills, and mountains
became valleys, and the earth itself opened and divided, letting in
the sea, a new island was formed far away upon an unvisited ocean. Out
of an inland province of a vast continent this island was made, all
the land upon it having been submerged, and all the peoples that dwelt
to north and to south, to east and to west, having been drowned.
There survived upon the island a few men and women who remained
undisputed masters of the land, and they lived there and bred there.
No one visited them, for the island was remote, unknown; and they
visited no one, for they had never seen the sea before, they had not
even known of its existence, and they did not know how to fashion a
The island became fertile, and men and women married, and bore sons
and daughters. The people in the island multiplied and grew rich. But
all the while they lived without the invention of the boat, and they
thought their island was the whole world, not knowing of the other
lands that lay beyond the sea.
The original people died in their time, and their sons and daughters
and grandsons and granddaughters, and the newer, later, survived and
gave birth to newer and later still. And the story of the origin of
the island was handed down from generation to generation.
The story was a matter of fact. It became history, it became legend
and tradition, it became a myth, it became almost the foundation of
religion. For a thousand years a lost family of mankind dwelt on that
island on the unvisited sea, and none of their kindred ever came out
of its barren sea-horizons to claim them.
And then, lest these children of men should utterly forget, a child
was born who should understand. As happens once in many centuries, a
wise man arose, and he interpreted the legends and traditions, and
refreshed in the memory of this people the significance of their
He taught them the mystery of the sea, and of the beyond, that
hitherto unimaginable beyond, so that men yearned to cross the ocean.
Then the ignorant rose up and slew that man, thinking him an evil one,
luring men to their death. And those who had understood him sorrowed
greatly. His life had been pure, white, without reproach, and the
light that shone in his eyes was the same that burned in the stars.
But though the ignorant could destroy his body, they could not destroy
the fair life that he had lived, that wonderful example of how men may
stand in the presence of the eternal mysteries.
There arose followers who dedicated themselves to the truth he had
revealed, that truth boundless and infinite as the sea itself.
And they lit a fire like the sacred fire in the temples of the
fire-worshippers, and that fire should never be extinguished until
some sign rose out of the horizon, illumining and dissolving the
"Who knows," they say, "but that we are the descendants of kings?
There is that in us that is foreign to this land, something not
indigenous to this soil, of which this island is not worthy. It cometh
from afar and had elsewhere its begetting. In us are latent unnamed
powers, senses that in this island cannot be used. Our eyes are
unnecessarily bright, our hearts superfluously strong. This Earth
cannot satisfy us, it cannot afford scope enough, we cannot try
ourselves upon it. This is the hope that we keep holy, that out of the
heavens or across the sea our kindred, our masters, or our gods will
claim us and take us to a new land where our hearts' meaning may
completely show itself outwardly to the sky; where our latent senses
will find the things that can be sensed, and our faculties that which
can be made, where our hearts and wills may be satisfied, and we may
find wings with which to soar over all seas."
Behold these dedicates, with their torch of remembrance kindled in
the night of ignorance, these living eternally in the presence of the
mystery! They pine upon shores, looking over the unbridgeable abyss,
yearning their souls towards that ultimate horizon, with limbs vainly
strong, eyes vainly keen, hearts ready for an adventure they may not
undertake. At their feet wails the sea with never-ending sadness.
In their minds are haunting tunes, the echoes of the wailing of the
waves. They cry, and no one hears; they sing, and no one responds;
they are like those who have loved once and lost, and who may never be
These nurse in their hearts the unconquerable hope.
* * * * *
So is it with us upon the world, we irreconcilable ones; we stand upon
many shores and strain our eyes to see into the unknown. We are upon
a deserted island and have no boats to take us from star to star, not
only upon a deserted island but upon a deserted universe, for even
the stars are familiar; they are worlds not unlike our own. The whole
universe is our world and it is all explained by the scientists, or
is explicable. But beyond the universe, no scientist, not any of us,
knows anything. On all shores of the universe washes the ocean of
ignorance, the ocean of the inexplicable. We stand upon the confines
of an explored world and gaze at many blank horizons. We yearn towards
our natural home, the kingdom in which our spirits were begotten. We
have rifled the world, and tumbled it upside-down, and run our fingers
through all its treasures, yet have not come upon the charter of our
birth. We explored Beauty till we came to the shore of a great sea; we
explored music, and came upon the outward shore of harmony and earthly
truth, and found its limits.
Some spoke of our limitations, but it is our glory that our hearts
know no limitations except those which are the defects of the world.
The world is full of limitations, but our hearts scorn them, being
full of boundless power.
Some day for us shall come into that blank sky-horizon which is called
the zenith, a stranger, a man or a god, perhaps not like ourselves,
yet having affinities with ourselves, and correlating ourselves to
some family of men or gods of which we are all lost children. We shall
then know our universal function and find our universal orbit.
As yet the True Sun stands in the antipodes, the great light is not
vouchsafed. In the night of ignorance our little sun is shining and
stars gleam upon our sky-horizons. But when the True Sun shines their
brightness will be obscured, and we shall know a new day and a new
night, a new heaven and a new earth.
It is written, "When He appears we shall be like Him."
THE PILGRIMAGE TO JERUSALEM
Once, possibly, upon the world, man did not know of God; he had not
looked to the blank horizon and spoken to the Someone beyond. He had
all the need to speak, all the oppression in his soul, all the sorrow
and longing pent up in him and the tears unshed, but knew no means of
relief, did not even conceive of any one beyond himself. He had no
great Father, as we have. A strange, unhappy life he lived upon
the world, uncomforted, unfriended. He looked at the stars and
comprehended them not; and at the graves, and they said nought. He
walked alone under heaven's wide hollowness.
We of later days have God as a heritage, or if we did find Him of
ourselves, the road was made easy for us. But some one far away back
in human life found God first, and said to Him the first prayer; some
hard, untutored savage found out the gentlest and loveliest fact in
our religion. A savage came upon the pearl and understood it and fell
down in joy. A man one day named God and emptied his heart to Him in
prayer. And he told the discovery to his brothers, and men all began
to pray. The world lost half its heaviness at once. Men learned that
their prayers were nearly all the same, that God heard the same story
from thousands and hundreds of thousands of hearts. Thus men came
nearer to one another, and knew themselves one in the presence of God,
and they prayed together and formed churches. Man, the homeless one,
had advanced a step towards his home, for he began to live partly in
I am reminded of this by the joy which accompanies the personal
discovery of some new rite which brings us into relation with the
Following that hypothetical first man, how many real first men there
have been, each discovering new things about God and the beyond,
giving mankind new letters in the Sanscrit, and each discovery
accompanied by joy and relief.
The conception of life as part of a journey to the heavenly city
was, I think, one of these discoveries; and its rite was the church
procession to the altar. In symbolic act man learned to make the
journey beyond the blank horizon. He enlarged the church procession
to the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and he enlarged the pilgrimage to
Jerusalem to the pilgrimage of life itself. In the understanding of
life as a pilgrimage, the wanderer and seeker has the world for his
We are all on the road to the City of Jerusalem. Those who are
consciously on the road may call themselves pilgrims; they have a life
of glory in the heart as well as of toiling by the way. They are in a
certain definite perspective, and they see all things that happen
to them in the light of the pilgrimage. I for my part, directly I
definitely set out for Jerusalem, on the very first day, at the sight
of the first stranger who crossed my path, exclaimed to myself, "I
meet him on the way to Jerusalem; that makes a difference, does it
But not only does the goal of the pilgrimage lend a new significance
to the present and the future; it also lights up the past. It makes
every idlest step of worth. It makes us so understanding of the past
that we would not alter one jot or tittle in it. Our whole life is
transfigured. Every deed of our hands, every thought of our minds and
word of our lips, every deed of others or of Nature seen, every word
of man or sound of Nature heard, is made into one glowing garment--the
story of our life-pilgrimage _via_ the present moment to the Heavenly
I started on my pilgrimage long ago, so long ago I can hardly tell
when. As Jeremy the pilgrim said of Mikhail: "He wished to go when he
was a little boy; that means, he began to go then, for whenever you
begin to wish you begin the pilgrimage. After that, no matter where
you are, you are sure to be on the way." It is a stage in the
awakening of consciousness, that wishing to go; the next stage is
intending to go, and the next, deciding to go and setting out--but
independently of these wishes and intentions and decisions, we were
really on the road, and going all the while. By our true wishes we
divine our destiny.
Yes, even long ago I wished, and to-day I am still on the way, though
I have actually pilgrimaged to Jerusalem in Palestine. My pilgrimage
was a pilgrimage within a pilgrimage. It was the drawing of a picture
on earth of a journey in heaven. As a day is to a year, and as a year
to man's life, so is man's life to that which we do not know, the
course of our life beyond Time's blank horizon. If I have often
stopped to tell of a little day, or a little hour in the day, it
is because I sought there a picture of Eternity, of the whole
significance of the pilgrimage.
I suppose I did not know that when I first left England to go to
Russia I was turning my face toward Jerusalem. Yet it was so. For I
should never have gone direct from London to the Holy Land. If I had
attempted such a journey I should probably have failed to reach the
great Shrine, for it is only a certain sort of people travelling in a
certain sort of way who find admittance easily. By the Russian peasant
I was enabled to go. It is strange to think that even when I was
journeying northward to Archangel I was winding my way Jerusalem-ward
in the sacred labyrinth. And I could not have gone straight southward
with the pilgrims without wandering in contrary directions first of
all, for it was necessary to come into sympathy and union with the
peasant soul. There is a peasant deep down in my soul, or a peasant
soul deep down in me, as well as an exterior, sensitive, cultured
soul. I had to discover that peasant, to realise myself as one of the
poor in spirit to whom is the kingdom.
Christ preached His gospel to the peasant. His is a peasant's gospel,
it seems to me, such a gospel as the peasants of Russia would take to
themselves to-day if Jesus came preaching to them in the way He did to
the common _people_ of the Jews. The cultured would disdain it, until
a new St. Paul interpreted it for them in terms that they could
understand, so giving it a "vogue". Both the peasants and the cultured
would be Christians, but with this difference, that in one case the
seed would be growing on the surface, and in the other from the
depths. The peasant, of course, has no _surface_; he is the good black
earth all ready for the seed.
There is a way for the cultured: it is to discover the peasant down
beneath their culture, the original elemental soil down under the