|I was sick – sick unto death with that long agony; and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me. The sentence – the dread sentence of death – was the last of distinct accentuation which reached my ears. After that, the sound of the inquisitorial voices seemed merged in one dreamy indeterminate hum. It conveyed to my soul the idea of revolution – perhaps from its association in fancy with the burr of a mill wheel. This only for a brief period; for presently I heard no more. Yet, for a while, I saw; but with how terrible an exaggeration! I saw the lips of the black-robed judges. They appeared to me white – whiter than the sheet upon which I trace these words – and thin even to grotesqueness; thin with the intensity of their expression of firmness – of immoveable resolution – of stern contempt of human torture. I saw that the decrees of what to me was Fate, were still issuing from those lips. I saw them writhe with a deadly locution. I saw them fashion the syllables of my name; and I shuddered because no sound succeeded. I saw, too, for a few moments of delirious horror, the soft and nearly imperceptible waving of the sable draperies which enwrapped the walls of the apartment. And then my vision fell upon the seven tall candles upon the table. At first they wore the aspect of charity, and seemed white and slender angels who would save me; but then, all at once, there came a most deadly nausea over my spirit, and I felt every fibre in my frame thrill as if I had touched the wire of a galvanic battery, while the angel forms became meaningless spectres, with heads of flame, and I saw that from them there would be no help. And then there stole into my fancy, like a rich musical note, the thought of what sweet rest there must be in the grave. The thought came gently and stealthily, and it seemed long before it attained full appreciation; but just as my spirit came at length properly to feel and entertain it, the figures of the judges vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall candles sank into nothingness; their flames went out utterly; the blackness of darkness supervened; all sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul into Hades. Then silence, and stillness, night were the universe.I had swooned; but still will not say that all of consciousness was lost. What of it there remained I will not attempt to define, or even to describe; yet all was not lost. In the deepest slumber – no! In delirium – no! In a swoon – no! In death – no! even in the grave all is not lost. Else there is no immortality for man. Arousing from the most profound of slumbers, we break the gossamer web of some dream. Yet in a second afterward, (so frail may that web have been) we remember not that we have dreamed. In the return to life from the swoon there are two stages; first, that of the sense of mental or spiritual; secondly, that of the sense of physical, existence. It seems probable that if, upon reaching the second stage, we could recall the impressions of the first, we should find these impressions eloquent in memories of the gulf beyond. And that gulf is – what? How at least shall we distinguish its shadows from those of the tomb? But if the impressions of what I have termed the first stage, are not, at will, recalled, yet, after long interval, do they not come unbidden, while we marvel whence they come? He who has never swooned, is not he who finds strange palaces and wildly familiar faces in coals that glow; is not he who beholds floating in mid-air the sad visions that the many may not view; is not he who ponders over the perfume of some novel flower – is not he whose brain grows bewildered with the meaning of some musical cadence which has never before arrested his attention.Amid frequent and thoughtful endeavours to remember; amid earnest struggles to re-gather some token of the state of seeming nothingness into which my soul had lapsed, there have been moments when I have dreamed of success; there have been brief, very brief periods when I have conjured up remembrances which the lucid reason of a later epoch assures me could have had reference only to that condition of seeming unconsciousness. These shadows of memory tell, indistinctly, of tall figures that lifted and bore me in silence down – down – still down – till a hideous dizziness oppressed me at the mere idea of the interminableness of the descent. They tell also of a vague horror at my heart, on account of that heart’s unnatural stillness. Then comes a sense of sudden motionlessness throughout all things; as if those who bore me (a ghastly train!) had outrun, in their descent, the limits of the limitless, and paused from the wearisomeness of their toil. After this I call to mind flatness and dampness; and then all is madness – the madness of a memory which busies itself among forbidden things.Very suddenly there came back to my soul motion and sound – the tumultuous motion of the heart, and, in my ears, the sound of its beating. Then a pause in which all is blank. Then again sound, and motion, and touch – a tingling sensation pervading my frame. Then the mere consciousness of existence, without thought – a condition which lasted long. Then, very suddenly, thought, and shuddering terror, and earnest endeavour to comprehend my true state. Then a strong desire to lapse into insensibility. Then a rushing revival of soul and a successful effort to move. And now a full memory of the trial, of the judges, of the sable draperies, of the sentence, of the sickness, of the swoon. Then entire forgetfulness of all that followed; of all that a later day and much earnestness of endeavour have enabled me vaguely to recall.|
In the fresh morning dawn, in the rosy air gleams a great Star, the brightest Star of the morning. His rays tremble on the white wall, as if he wished to write down on it what he can tell, what he has seen there and elsewhere during thousands of years in our rolling world. Let us hear one of his stories.
“A short time ago”—the Star’s “short time ago” is called among men “centuries ago”—”my rays followed a young artist. It was in the city of the Popes, in the world-city, Rome. Much has been changed there in the course of time, but the changes have not come so quickly as the change from youth to old age. Then already the palace of the Caesars was a ruin, as it is now; fig trees and laurels grew among the fallen marble columns, and in the desolate bathing-halls, where the gilding still clings to the wall; the Coliseum was a gigantic ruin; the church bells sounded, the incense sent up its fragrant cloud, and through the streets marched processions with flaming tapers and glowing canopies. Holy Church was there, and art was held as a high and holy thing. In Rome lived the greatest painter in the world, Raphael; there also dwelt the first of sculptors, Michael Angelo. Even the Pope paid homage to these two, and honored them with a visit. Art was recognized and honored, and was rewarded also. But, for all that, everything great and splendid was not seen and known.
“In a narrow lane stood an old house. Once it had been a temple; a young sculptor now dwelt there. He was young and quite unknown. He certainly had friends, young artists, like himself, young in spirit, young in hopes and thoughts; they told him he was rich in talent, and an artist, but that he was foolish for having no faith in his own power; for he always broke what he had fashioned out of clay, and never completed anything; and a work must be completed if it is to be seen and to bring money.
“‘You are a dreamer,’ they went on to say to him, ‘and that’s your misfortune. But the reason of this is, that you have never lived, you have never tasted life, you have never enjoyed it in great wholesome draughts, as it ought to be enjoyed. In youth one must mingle one’s own personality with life, that they may become one. Look at the great master Raphael, whom the Pope honors and the world admires. He’s no despiser of wine and bread.’
“‘And he even appreciates the baker’s daughter, the pretty Fornarina,’ added Angelo, one of the merriest of the young friends.
“Yes, they said a good many things of the kind, according to their age and their reason. They wanted to draw the young artist out with them into the merry wild life, the mad life as it might also be called; and at certain times he felt an inclination for it. He had warm blood, a strong imagination, and could take part in the merry chat, and laugh aloud with the rest; but what they called ‘Raphael’s merry life’ disappeared before him like a vapor when he saw the divine radiance that beamed forth from the pictures of the great master; and when he stood in the Vatican, before the forms of beauty which the masters had hewn out of marble thousands of years since, his breast swelled, and he felt within himself something high, something holy, something elevating, great and good, and he wished that he could produce similar forms from the blocks of marble. He wished to make a picture of that which was within him, stirring upward from his heart to the realms of the Infinite; but how, and in what form? The soft clay was fashioned under his fingers into forms of beauty, but the next day he broke what he had fashioned, according to his wont.
“One day he walked past one of those rich palaces of which Rome has many to show. He stopped before the great open portal, and beheld a garden surrounded by cloistered walks. The garden bloomed with a goodly show of the fairest roses. Great white lilies with green juicy leaves shot upward from the marble basin in which the clear water was splashing; and a form glided past, the daughter of the princely house, graceful, delicate, and wonderfully fair. Such a form of female loveliness he had never before beheld—yet stay: he had seen it, painted by Raphael, painted as a Psyche, in one of the Roman palaces. Yes, there it had been painted; but here it passed by him in living reality.
“The remembrance lived in his thoughts, in his heart. He went home to his humble room, and modelled a Psyche of clay. It was the rich young Roman girl, the noble maiden; and for the first time he looked at his work with satisfaction. It had a meaning for him, for it was she. And the friends who saw his work shouted aloud for joy; they declared that this work was a manifestation of his artistic power, of which they had long been aware, and that now the world should be made aware of it too.
“The clay figure was lifelike and beautiful, but it had not the whiteness or the durability of marble. So they declared that the Psyche must henceforth live in marble. He already possessed a costly block of that stone. It had been lying for years, the property of his parents, in the courtyard. Fragments of glass, climbing weeds, and remains of artichokes had gathered about it and sullied its purity; but under the surface the block was as white as the mountain snow; and from this block the Psyche was to arise.”
Now, it happened one morning—the bright Star tells nothing about this, but we know it occurred—that a noble Roman company came into the narrow lane. The carriage stopped at the top of the lane, and the company proceeded on foot towards the house, to inspect the young sculptor’s work, for they had heard him spoken of by chance. And who were these distinguished guests? Poor young man! or fortunate young man he might be called. The noble young lady stood in the room and smiled radiantly when her father said to her, “It is your living image.” That smile could not be copied, any more than the look could be reproduced, the wonderful look which she cast upon the young artist. It was a fiery look, that seemed at once to elevate and to crush him.
“The Psyche must be executed in marble,” said the wealthy patrician. And those were words of life for the dead clay and the heavy block of marble, and words of life likewise for the deeply-moved artist. “When the work is finished I will purchase it,” continued the rich noble.
A new era seemed to have arisen in the poor studio. Life and cheerfulness gleamed there, and busy industry plied its work. The beaming Morning Star beheld how the work progressed. The clay itself seemed inspired since she had been there, and moulded itself, in heightened beauty, to a likeness of the well-known features.
“Now I know what life is,” cried the artist rejoicingly; “it is Love! It is the lofty abandonment of self for the dawning of the beautiful in the soul! What my friends call life and enjoyment is a passing shadow; it is like bubbles among seething dregs, not the pure heavenly wine that consecrates us to life.”
The marble block was reared in its place. The chisel struck great fragments from it; the measurements were taken, points and lines were made, the mechanical part was executed, till gradually the stone assumed a human female form, a shape of beauty, and became converted into the Psyche, fair and glorious—a divine being in human shape. The heavy stone appeared as a gliding, dancing, airy Psyche, with the heavenly innocent smile—the smile that had mirrored itself in the soul of the young artist.
The Star of the roseate dawn beheld and understood what was stirring within the young man, and could read the meaning of the changing color of his cheek, of the light that flashed from his eye, as he stood busily working, reproducing what had been put into his soul from above.
“Thou art a master like those masters among the ancient Greeks,” exclaimed his delighted friends; “soon shall the whole world admire thy Psyche.”
“My Psyche!” he repeated. “Yes, mine. She must be mine. I, too, am an artist, like those great men who are gone. Providence has granted me the boon, and has made me the equal of that lady of noble birth.”
And he knelt down and breathed a prayer of thankfulnesss to Heaven, and then he forgot Heaven for her sake—for the sake of her picture in stone—for her Psyche which stood there as if formed of snow, blushing in the morning dawn.
He was to see her in reality, the living, graceful Psyche, whose words sounded like music in his ears. He could now carry the news into the rich palace that the marble Psyche was finished. He betook himself thither, strode through the open courtyard where the waters ran splashing from the dolphin’s jaws into the marble basins, where the snowy lilies and the fresh roses bloomed in abundance. He stepped into the great lofty hall, whose walls and ceilings shone with gilding and bright colors and heraldic devices. Gayly-dressed serving-men, adorned with trappings like sleigh horses, walked to and fro, and some reclined at their ease upon the carved oak seats, as if they were the masters of the house. He told them what had brought him to the palace, and was conducted up the shining marble staircase, covered with soft carpets and adorned with many a statue. Then he went on through richly-furnished chambers, over mosaic floors, amid gorgeous pictures. All this pomp and luxury seemed to weary him; but soon he felt relieved, for the princely old master of the house received him most graciously, almost heartily; and when he took his leave he was requested to step into the Signora’s apartment, for she, too, wished to see him. The servants led him through more luxurious halls and chambers into her room, where she appeared the chief and leading ornament.
She spoke to him. No hymn of supplication, no holy chant, could melt his soul like the sound of her voice. He took her hand and lifted it to his lips. No rose was softer, but a fire thrilled through him from this rose—a feeling of power came upon him, and words poured from his tongue—he knew not what he said. Does the crater of the volcano know that the glowing lava is pouring from it? He confessed what he felt for her. She stood before him astonished, offended, proud, with contempt in her face, an expression of disgust, as if she had suddenly touched a cold unclean reptile. Her cheeks reddened, her lips grew white, and her eyes flashed fire, though they were dark as the blackness of night.
“Madman!” she cried, “away! begone!”
And she turned her back upon him. Her beautiful face wore an expression like that of the stony countenance with the snaky locks.
Like a stricken, fainting man, he tottered down the staircase and out into the street. Like a man walking in his sleep, he found his way back to his dwelling. Then he woke up to madness and agony, and seized his hammer, swung it high in the air, and rushed forward to shatter the beautiful marble image. But, in his pain, he had not noticed that his friend Angelo stood beside him; and Angelo held back his arm with a strong grasp, crying,
“Are you mad? What are you about?”
They struggled together. Angelo was the stronger; and, with a deep sigh of exhaustion, the young artist threw himself into a chair.
“What has happened?” asked Angelo. “Command yourself. Speak!”
But what could he say? How could he explain? And as Angelo could make no sense of his friend’s incoherent words, he forbore to question him further, and merely said,
“Your blood grows thick from your eternal dreaming. Be a man, as all others are, and don’t go on living in ideals, for that is what drives men crazy. A jovial feast will make you sleep quietly and happily. Believe me, the time will come when you will be old, and your sinews will shrink, and then, on some fine sunshiny day, when everything is laughing and rejoicing, you will lie there a faded plant, that will grow no more. I do not live in dreams, but in reality. Come with me. Be a man!”
And he drew the artist away with him. At this moment he was able to do so, for a fire ran in the blood of the young sculptor; a change had taken place in his soul; he felt a longing to tear from the old, the accustomed—to forget, if possible, his own individuality; and therefore it was that he followed Angelo.
In an out-of-the-way suburb of Rome lay a tavern much visited by artists. It was built on the ruins of some ancient baths. The great yellow citrons hung down among the dark shining leaves, and covered a part of the old reddish-yellow walls. The tavern consisted of a vaulted chamber, almost like a cavern, in the ruins. A lamp burned there before the picture of the Madonna. A great fire gleamed on the hearth, and roasting and boiling was going on there; without, under the citron trees and laurels, stood a few covered tables.
The two artists were received by their friends with shouts of welcome. Little was eaten, but much was drunk, and the spirits of the company rose. Songs were sung and ditties were played on the guitar; presently the Salterello sounded, and the merry dance began. Two young Roman girls, who sat as models to the artists, took part in the dance and in the festivity. Two charming Bacchantes were they; certainly not Psyches—not delicate, beautiful roses, but fresh, hearty, glowing carnations.
How hot it was on that day! Even after sundown it was hot. There was fire in the blood, fire in every glance, fire everywhere. The air gleamed with gold and roses, and life seemed like gold and roses.
“At last you have joined us, for once,” said his friends. “Now let yourself be carried by the waves within and around you.”
“Never yet have I felt so well, so merry!” cried the young artist. “You are right—you are all of you right. I was a fool—a dreamer. Man belongs to reality, and not to fancy.”
With songs and with sounding guitars the young people returned that evening from the tavern, through the narrow streets; the two glowing carnations, daughters of the Campagna, went with them.
In Angelo’s room, among a litter of colored sketches (studies) and glowing pictures, the voices sounded mellower, but not less merrily. On the ground lay many a sketch that resembled the daughters of the Campagna, in their fresh, hearty comeliness, but the two originals were far handsomer than their portraits. All the burners of the six-armed lamp flared and flamed; and the human flamed up from within, and appeared in the glare as if it were divine.
“Apollo! Jupiter! I feel myself raised to our heaven—to your glory! I feel as if the blossom of life were unfolding itself in my veins at this moment!”
Yes, the blossom unfolded itself, and then burst and fell, and an evil vapor arose from it, blinding the sight, leading astray the fancy; the firework of the senses went out, and it became dark.
He was again in his own room. There he sat down on his bed and collected his thoughts.
“Fie on thee!” these were the words that sounded out of his mouth from the depths of his heart. “Wretched man, go, begone!” And a deep painful sigh burst from his bosom.
“Away! begone!” These, her words, the words of the living Psyche, echoed through his heart, escaped from his lips. He buried his head in the pillows, his thoughts grew confused, and he fell asleep.
In the morning dawn he started up, and collected his thoughts anew. What had happened? Had all the past been a dream? The visit to her, the feast at the tavern, the evening with the purple carnations of the Campagna? No, it was all real—a reality he had never before experienced.
In the purple air gleamed the bright Star, and its beams fell upon him and upon the marble Psyche. He trembled as he looked at that picture of immortality, and his glance seemed impure to him. He threw the cloth over the statue, and then touched it once more to unveil the form—but he was not able to look again at his own work.
Gloomy, quiet, absorbed in his own thoughts, he sat there through the long day; he heard nothing of what was going on around him, and no man guessed what was passing in this human soul.
And days and weeks went by, but the nights passed more slowly than the days. The flashing Star beheld him one morning as he rose, pale and trembling with fever, from his sad couch; then he stepped towards the statue, threw back the covering, took one long, sorrowful gaze at his work, and then, almost sinking beneath the burden, he dragged the statue out into the garden. In that place was an old dry well, now nothing but a hole. Into this he cast the Psyche, threw earth in above her, and covered up the spot with twigs and nettles.
“Away! begone!” Such was the short epitaph he spoke.
The Star beheld all this from the pink morning sky, and its beam trembled upon two great tears upon the pale feverish cheeks of the young man; and soon it was said that he was sick unto death, and he lay stretched upon a bed of pain.
The convent Brother Ignatius visited him as a physician and a friend, and brought him words of comfort, of religion, and spoke to him of the peace and happiness of the church, of the sinfulness of man, of rest and mercy to be found in heaven.
And the words fell like warm sunbeams upon a teeming soil. The soil smoked and sent up clouds of mist, fantastic pictures, pictures in which there was reality; and from these floating islands he looked across at human life. He found it vanity and delusion—and vanity and delusion it had been to him. They told him that art was a sorcerer, betraying us to vanity and to earthly lusts; that we are false to ourselves, unfaithful to our friends, unfaithful towards Heaven; and that the serpent was always repeating within us, “Eat, and thou shalt become as God.”
And it appeared to him as if now, for the first time, he knew himself, and had found the way that leads to truth and to peace. In the church was the light and the brightness of God—in the monk’s cell he should find the rest through which the tree of human life might grow on into eternity.
Brother Ignatius strengthened his longings, and the determination became firm within him. A child of the world became a servant of the church—the young artist renounced the world, and retired into the cloister.
The brothers came forward affectionately to welcome him, and his inauguration was as a Sunday feast. Heaven seemed to him to dwell in the sunshine of the church, and to beam upon him from the holy pictures and from the cross. And when, in the evening, at the sunset hour, he stood in his little cell, and, opening the window, looked out upon old Rome, upon the desolated temples, and the great dead Coliseum—when he saw all this in its spring garb, when the acacias bloomed, and the ivy was fresh, and roses burst forth everywhere, and the citron and orange were in the height of their beauty, and the palm trees waved their branches—then he felt a deeper emotion than had ever yet thrilled through him. The quiet open Campagna spread itself forth towards the blue snow-covered mountains, which seemed to be painted in the air; all the outlines melting into each other, breathing peace and beauty, floating, dreaming—and all appearing like a dream!
Yes, this world was a dream, and the dream lasts for hours, and may return for hours; but convent life is a life of years—long years, and many years.
From within comes much that renders men sinful and impure. He fully realized the truth of this. What flames arose up in him at times! What a source of evil, of that which we would not, welled up continually! He mortified his body, but the evil came from within.
One day, after the lapse of many years, he met Angelo, who recognized him.
“Man!” exclaimed Angelo. “Yes, it is thou! Art thou happy now? Thou hast sinned against God, and cast away His boon from thee—hast neglected thy mission in this world! Read the parable of the intrusted talent! The MASTER, who spoke that parable, spoke the truth! What hast thou gained? What hast thou found? Dost thou not fashion for thyself a religion and a dreamy life after thine own idea, as almost all do? Suppose all this is a dream, a fair delusion!”
“Get thee away from me, Satan!” said the monk; and he quitted Angelo.
“There is a devil, a personal devil! This day I have seen him!” said the monk to himself. “Once I extended a finger to him, and he took my whole hand. But now,” he sighed, “the evil is within me, and it is in yonder man; but it does not bow him down; he goes abroad with head erect, and enjoys his comfort; and I grasped at comfort in the consolations of religion. If it were nothing but a consolation? Supposing everything here were, like the world I have quitted, only a beautiful fancy, a delusion like the beauty of the evening clouds, like the misty blue of the distant hills!—when you approach them, they are very different! O eternity! Thou actest like the great calm ocean, that beckons us, and fills us with expectation—and when we embark upon thee, we sink, disappear, and cease to be. Delusion! away with it! begone!”
And tearless, but sunk in bitter reflection, he sat upon his hard couch, and then knelt down—before whom? Before the stone cross fastened to the wall? No, it was only habit that made him take this position.
The more deeply he looked into his own heart, the blacker did the darkness seem. “Nothing within, nothing without—this life squandered and cast away!” And this thought rolled and grew like a snowball, until it seemed to crush him.
“I can confide my griefs to none. I may speak to none of the gnawing worm within. My secret is my prisoner; if I let the captive escape, I shall be his!”
And the godlike power that dwelt within him suffered and strove.
“O Lord, my Lord!” he cried, in his despair, “be merciful and grant me faith. I threw away the gift thou hadst vouchsafed to me, I left my mission unfulfilled. I lacked strength, and strength thou didst not give me. Immortality—the Psyche in my breast—away with it!—it shall be buried like that Psyche, the best gleam of my life; never will it arise out of its grave!”
The Star glowed in the roseate air, the Star that shall surely be extinguished and pass away while the soul still lives on; its trembling beam fell upon the white wall, but it wrote nothing there upon being made perfect in God, nothing of the hope of mercy, of the reliance on the divine love that thrills through the heart of the believer.
“The Psyche within can never die. Shall it live in consciousness? Can the incomprehensible happen? Yes, yes. My being is incomprehensible. Thou art unfathomable, O Lord. Thy whole world is incomprehensible—a wonder-work of power, of glory and of love.”
His eyes gleamed, and then closed in death. The tolling of the church bell was the last sound that echoed above him, above the dead man; and they buried him, covering him with earth that had been brought from Jerusalem, and in which was mingled the dust of many of the pious dead.
When years had gone by his skeleton was dug up, as the skeletons of the monks who had died before him had been; it was clad in a brown frock, a rosary was put into the bony hand, and the form was placed among the ranks of other skeletons in the cloisters of the convent. And the sun shone without, while within the censers were waved and the Mass was celebrated.
And years rolled by.
The bones fell asunder and became mingled with others. Skulls were piled up till they formed an outer wall around the church; and there lay also his head in the burning sun, for many dead were there, and no one knew their names, and his name was forgotten also. And see, something was moving in the sunshine, in the sightless cavernous eyes! What might that be? A sparkling lizard moved about in the skull, gliding in and out through the sightless holes. The lizard now represented all the life left in that head, in which once great thoughts, bright dreams, the love of art and of the glorious, had arisen, whence hot tears had rolled down, where hope and immortality had had their being. The lizard sprang away and disappeared, and the skull itself crumbled to pieces and became dust among dust.
Centuries passed away. The bright Star gleamed unaltered, radiant and large, as it had gleamed for thousands of years, and the air glowed red with tints fresh as roses, crimson like blood.
There, where once had stood the narrow lane containing the ruins of the temple, a nunnery was now built. A grave was being dug in the convent garden for a young nun who had died, and was to be laid in the earth this morning. The spade struck against a hard substance; it was a stone, that shone dazzling white. A block of marble soon appeared, a rounded shoulder was laid bare; and now the spade was plied with a more careful hand, and presently a female head was seen, and butterflies’ wings. Out of the grave in which the young nun was to be laid they lifted, in the rosy morning, a wonderful statue of a Psyche carved in white marble.
“How beautiful, how perfect it is!” cried the spectators. “A relic of the best period of art.”
And who could the sculptor have been? No one knew; no one remembered him, except the bright star that had gleamed for thousands of years. The star had seen the course of that life on earth, and knew of the man’s trials, of his weakness—in fact, that he had been but human. The man’s life had passed away, his dust had been scattered abroad as dust is destined to be; but the result of his noblest striving, the glorious work that gave token of the divine element within him—the Psyche that never dies, that lives beyond posterity—the brightness even of this earthly Psyche remained here after him, and was seen and acknowledged and appreciated.
The bright Morning Star in the roseate air threw its glancing ray downward upon the Psyche, and upon the radiant countenances of the admiring spectators, who here beheld the image of the soul portrayed in marble.
What is earthly will pass away and be forgotten, and the Star in the vast firmament knows it. What is heavenly will shine brightly through posterity; and when the ages of posterity are past, the Psyche—the soul—will still live on!
| This is the story of how the fir tree became the Christmas tree.|
At the time when the Christ Child was born all the people, the animals, and the trees, and plants were very happy. The Child was born to bring peace and happiness to the whole world. People came daily to see the little One, and they always brought gifts with them.
There were three trees standing near the crypt which saw the people, and they wished that they, too, might give presents to the Christ Child.
The Palm said: “I will choose my most beautiful leaf, and place it as a fan over the Child.”
“And I,” said the Olive, “will sprinkle sweet-smelling oil upon His head.”
“What can I give to the Child?” asked the Fir, who stood near.
“You!” cried the others. “You have nothing to offer Him. Your needles would prick Him, and your tears are sticky.”
So the poor little Fir tree was very unhappy, and it said: “Yes, you are right. I have nothing to offer the Christ Child.”
Now, quite near the trees stood the Christmas Angel, who had heard all that the trees had said. The Angel was sorry for the Fir tree who was so lowly and without envy of the other trees. So, when it was dark, and the stars came out, he begged a few of the little stars to come down and rest upon the branches of the Fir tree. They did as the Christmas Angel asked, and the Fir tree shone suddenly with a beautiful light.
And, at that very moment, the Christ Child opened His eyes—for He had been asleep—and as the lovely light fell upon Him He smiled.
Every year people keep the dear Christmas Child’s birthday by giving gifts to each other, and every year, in remembrance of His first birthday, the Christmas Angel places in every house a fir tree, also. Covered with starry candles it shines for the children as the stars shone for the Christ Child. The Fir tree was rewarded for its meekness, for to no other tree is it given to shine upon so many happy faces.
It has a Sunny Day and strong, strange spikes, which are magical. Rarely has a rainy place reminded me more of the ankles of a green land.
Its mountain is as flawless as an exemplary, industrial hat, which has been shouting calmly in the magical, quiet sun (boom!).
Naturally, it has all the glory of a sword, which once sung begrudgingly. There is nothing like a sword that once sung begrudgingly.
Lest not forget the fat, fancy flavour of a few feathers deftly smiling.
Photographers likes its sunny mouth. author likes its magical spikes.
It is an old-fashioned England after all!
~ 100 words ~
It is not often that I trouble the readers of The Atlantic Monthly. I should not trouble them now, but for the importunities of my wife, who “feels to insist” that a duty to society is unfulfilled, till I have told why I had to have a double, and how he undid me. She is sure, she says, that intelligent persons cannot understand that pressure upon public servants which alone drives any man into the employment of a double. And while I fear she thinks, at the bottom of her heart, that my fortunes will never be re-made, she has a faint hope, that, as another Rasselas, I may teach a lesson to future publics, from which they may profit, though we die. Owing to the behavior of my double, or, if you please, to that public pressure which compelled me to employ him, I have plenty of leisure to write this communication.
I am, or rather was, a minister, of the Sandemanian connection. I was settled in the active, wide-awake town of Naguadavick, on one of the finest water-powers in Maine. We used to call it a Western town in the heart of the civilization of New England. A charming place it was and is. A spirited, brave young parish had I; and it seemed as if we might have all “the joy of eventful living” to our hearts’ content.
Alas! how little we knew on the day of my ordination, and in those halcyon moments of our first housekeeping! To be the confidential friend in a hundred families in the town—cutting the social trifle, as my friend Haliburton says, “from the top of the whipped-syllabub to the bottom of the sponge-cake, which is the foundation”—to keep abreast of the thought of the age in one’s study, and to do one’s best on Sunday to interweave that thought with the active life of an active town, and to inspirit both and make both infinite by glimpses of the Eternal Glory, seemed such an exquisite forelook into one’s life! Enough to do, and all so real and so grand! If this vision could only have lasted.
The truth is, that this vision was not in itself a delusion, nor, indeed, half bright enough. If one could only have been left to do his own business, the vision would have accomplished itself and brought out new paraheliacal visions, each as bright as the original. The misery was and is, as we found out, I and Polly, before long, that, besides the vision, and besides the usual human and finite failures in life (such as breaking the old pitcher that came over in the Mayflower, and putting into the fire the alpenstock with which her father climbed Mont Blanc)—besides, these, I say (imitating the style of Robinson Crusoe), there were pitchforked in on us a great rowen-heap of humbugs, handed down from some unknown seed-time, in which we were expected, and I chiefly, to fulfil certain public functions before the community, of the character of those fulfilled by the third row of supernumeraries who stand behind the Sepoys in the spectacle of the Cataract of the Ganges. They were the duties, in a word, which one performs as member of one or another social class or subdivision, wholly distinct from what one does as A. by himself A. What invisible power put these functions on me, it would be very hard to tell. But such power there was and is. And I had not been at work a year before I found I was living two lives, one real and one merely functional—for two sets of people, one my parish, whom I loved, and the other a vague public, for whom I did not care two straws. All this was in a vague notion, which everybody had and has, that this second life would eventually bring out some great results, unknown at present, to somebody somewhere.
Crazed by this duality of life, I first read Dr. Wigan on the Duality of the Brain, hoping that I could train one side of my head to do these outside jobs, and the other to do my intimate and real duties. For Richard Greenough once told me that, in studying for the statue of Franklin, he found that the left side of the great man’s face was philosophic and reflective, and the right side funny and smiling. If you will go and look at the bronze statue, you will find he has repeated this observation there for posterity. The eastern profile is the portrait of the statesman Franklin, the western of Poor Richard. But Dr. Wigan does not go into these niceties of this subject, and I failed. It was then that, on my wife’s suggestion, I resolved to look out for a Double.
I was, at first, singularly successful. We happened to be recreating at Stafford Springs that summer. We rode out one day, for one of the relaxations of that watering-place, to the great Monsonpon House. We were passing through one of the large halls, when my destiny was fulfilled! I saw my man!
He was not shaven. He had on no spectacles. He was dressed in a green baize roundabout and faded blue overalls, worn sadly at the knee. But I saw at once that he was of my height, five feet four and a half. He had black hair, worn off by his hat. So have and have not I. He stooped in walking. So do I. His hands were large, and mine. And—choicest gift of Fate in all—he had, not “a strawberry-mark on his left arm,” but a cut from a juvenile brickbat over his right eye, slightly affecting the play of that eyebrow. Reader, so have I!—My fate was sealed!
A word with Mr. Holley, one of the inspectors, settled the whole thing. It proved that this Dennis Shea was a harmless, amiable fellow, of the class known as shiftless, who had sealed his fate by marrying a dumb wife, who was at that moment ironing in the laundry. Before I left Stafford, I had hired both for five years. We had applied to Judge Pynchon, then the probate judge at Springfield, to change the name of Dennis Shea to Frederic Ingham. We had explained to the Judge, what was the precise truth, that an eccentric gentleman wished to adopt Dennis under this new name into his family. It never occurred to him that Dennis might be more than fourteen years old. And thus, to shorten this preface, when we returned at night to my parsonage at Naguadavick, there entered Mrs. Ingham, her new dumb laundress, myself, who am Mr. Frederic Ingham, and my double, who was Mr. Frederic Ingham by as good right as I.
Oh, the fun we had the next morning in shaving his beard to my pattern, cutting his hair to match mine, and teaching him how to wear and how to take off gold-bowed spectacles! Really, they were electroplate, and the glass was plain (for the poor fellow’s eyes were excellent). Then in four successive afternoons I taught him four speeches. I had found these would be quite enough for the supernumerary-Sepoy line of life, and it was well for me they were. For though he was good-natured, he was very shiftless, and it was, as our national proverb says, “like pulling teeth” to teach him. But at the end of the next week he could say, with quite my easy and frisky air:
1. “Very well, thank you. And you?” This for an answer to casual salutations.
2. “I am very glad you liked it.”
3. “There has been so much said, and, on the whole, so well said, that I will not occupy the time.”
4. “I agree, in general, with my friend on the other side of the room.”
At first I had a feeling that I was going to be at great cost for clothing him. But it proved, of course, at once, that, whenever he was out, I should be at home. And I went, during the bright period of his success, to so few of those awful pageants which require a black dress-coat and what the ungodly call, after Mr. Dickens, a white choker, that in the happy retreat of my own dressing-gowns and jackets my days went by as happily and cheaply as those of another Thalaba. And Polly declares there was never a year when the tailoring cost so little. He lived (Dennis, not Thalaba) in his wife’s room over the kitchen. He had orders never to show himself at that window. When he appeared in the front of the house, I retired to my sanctissimum and my dressing-gown. In short, the Dutchman and, his wife, in the old weather-box, had not less to do with, each other than he and I. He made the furnace-fire and split the wood before daylight; then he went to sleep again, and slept late; then came for orders, with a red silk bandanna tied round his head, with his overalls on, and his dress-coat and spectacles off. If we happened to be interrupted, no one guessed that he was Frederic Ingham as well as I; and, in the neighborhood, there grew up an impression that the minister’s Irishman worked day-times in the factory village at New Coventry. After I had given him his orders, I never saw him till the next day.
I launched him by sending him to a meeting of the Enlightenment Board. The Enlightenment Board consists of seventy-four members, of whom sixty-seven are necessary to form a quorum. One becomes a member under the regulations laid down in old Judge Dudley’s will. I became one by being ordained pastor of a church in Naguadavick. You see you cannot help yourself, if you would. At this particular time we had had four successive meetings, averaging four hours each—wholly occupied in whipping in a quorum. At the first only eleven men were present; at the next, by force of three circulars, twenty-seven; at the third, thanks to two days’ canvassing by Auchmuty and myself, begging men to come, we had sixty. Half the others were in Europe. But without a quorum we could do nothing. All the rest of us waited grimly for our four hours, and adjourned without any action. At the fourth meeting we had flagged, and only got fifty-nine together. But on the first appearance of my double—whom I sent on this fatal Monday to the fifth meeting—he was the sixty-seventh man who entered the room. He was greeted with a storm of applause! The poor fellow had missed his way—read the street signs ill through his spectacles (very ill, in fact, without them)—and had not dared to inquire. He entered the room—finding the president and secretary holding to their chairs two judges of the Supreme Court, who were also members ex officio, and were begging leave to go away. On his entrance all was changed. Presto, the by-laws were amended, and the Western property was given away. Nobody stopped to converse with him. He voted, as I had charged him to do, in every instance, with the minority. I won new laurels as a man of sense, though a little unpunctual—and Dennis, alias Ingham, returned to the parsonage, astonished to see with how little wisdom the world is governed. He cut a few of my parishioners in the street; but he had his glasses off, and I am known to be nearsighted. Eventually he recognized them more readily than I.
I “set him again” at the exhibition of the New Coventry Academy; and here he undertook a “speaking part”—as, in my boyish, worldly days, I remember the bills used to say of Mlle. Celeste. We are all trustees of the New Coventry Academy; and there has lately been “a good deal of feeling” because the Sandemanian trustees did not regularly attend the exhibitions. It has been intimated, indeed, that the Sandemanians are leaning towards Free-Will, and that we have, therefore, neglected these semi-annual exhibitions, while there is no doubt that Auchmuty last year went to Commencement at Waterville. Now the head master at New Coventry is a real good fellow, who knows a Sanskrit root when he sees it, and often cracks etymologies with me—so that, in strictness, I ought to go to their exhibitions. But think, reader, of sitting through three long July days in that Academy chapel, following the program from
Tuesday Morning. English Composition. Sunshine. Miss Jones,
Trio on Three Pianos. Duel from opera of Midshipman Easy. Marryatt.
coming in at nine, Thursday evening! Think of this, reader, for men who know the world is trying to go backward, and who would give their lives if they could help it on! Well! The double had succeeded so well at the Board, that I sent him to the Academy. (Shade of Plato, pardon!) He arrived early on Tuesday, when, indeed, few but mothers and clergymen are generally expected, and returned in the evening to us, covered with honors. He had dined at the right hand of the chairman, and he spoke in high terms of the repast. The chairman had expressed his interest in the French conversation. “I am very glad you liked it,” said Dennis; and the poor chairman, abashed, supposed the accent had been wrong. At the end of the day, the gentlemen present had been called upon for speeches—the Rev. Frederic Ingham first, as it happened; upon which Dennis had risen, and had said, “There has been so much said, and, on the whole, so well said, that I will not occupy the time.” The girls were delighted, because Dr. Dabney, the year before, had given them at this occasion a scolding on impropriety of behavior at lyceum lectures. They all declared Mr. Ingham was a love—and so handsome! (Dennis is good-looking.) Three of them, with arms behind the others’ waists, followed him up to the wagon he rode home in; and a little girl with a blue sash had been sent to give him a rosebud. After this debut in speaking, he went to the exhibition for two days more, to the mutual satisfaction of all concerned. Indeed, Polly reported that he had pronounced the trustees’ dinners of a higher grade than those of the parsonage. When the next term began, I found six of the Academy girls had obtained permission to come across the river and attend our church. But this arrangement did not long continue.
After this he went to several Commencements for me, and ate the dinners provided; he sat through three of our Quarterly Conventions for me—always voting judiciously, by the simple rule mentioned above, of siding with the minority. And I, meanwhile, who had before been losing caste among my friends, as holding myself aloof from the associations of the body, began to rise in everybody’s favor. “Ingham’s a good fellow—always on hand”; “never talks much—but does the right thing at the right time”; “is not as unpunctual as he used to be—he comes early, and sits through to the end.” “He has got over his old talkative habit, too. I spoke to a friend of his about it once; and I think Ingham took it kindly,” etc., etc.
This voting power of Dennis was particularly valuable at the quarterly meetings of the Proprietors of the Naguadavick Ferry. My wife inherited from her father some shares in that enterprise, which is not yet fully developed, though it doubtless will become a very valuable property. The law of Maine then forbade stockholders to appear by proxy at such meetings. Polly disliked to go, not being, in fact, a “hens’-rights hen,” and transferred her stock to me. I, after going once, disliked it more than she. But Dennis went to the next meeting, and liked it very much. He said the armchairs were good, the collation good, and the free rides to stockholders pleasant. He was a little frightened when they first took him upon one of the ferry-boats, but after two or three quarterly meetings he became quite brave.
Thus far I never had any difficulty with him. Indeed, being of that type which is called shiftless, he was only too happy to be told daily what to do, and to be charged not to be forthputting or in any way original in his discharge of that duty. He learned, however, to discriminate between the lines of his life, and very much preferred these stockholders’ meetings and trustees’ dinners and commencement collations to another set of occasions, from which he used to beg off most piteously. Our excellent brother, Dr. Fillmore, had taken a notion at this time that our Sandemanian churches needed more expression of mutual sympathy. He insisted upon it that we were remiss. He said, that, if the Bishop came to preach at Naguadavick, all the Episcopal clergy of the neighborhood were present; if Dr. Pond came, all the Congregational clergymen turned out to hear him; if Dr. Nichols, all the Unitarians; and he thought we owed it to each other that, whenever there was an occasional service at a Sandemanian church, the other brethren should all, if possible, attend. “It looked well,” if nothing more. Now this really meant that I had not been to hear one of Dr. Fillmore’s lectures on the Ethnology of Religion. He forgot that he did not hear one of my course on the Sandemanianism of Anselm. But I felt badly when he said it; and afterwards I always made Dennis go to hear all the brethren preach, when I was not preaching myself. This was what he took exceptions to—the only thing, as I said, which he ever did except to. Now came the advantage of his long morning-nap, and of the green tea with which Polly supplied the kitchen. But he would plead, so humbly, to be let off, only from one or two! I never excepted him, however. I knew the lectures were of value, and I thought it best he should be able to keep the connection.
The sun reminded me of an owl that day – what a day for Hogwarts.
I panicked, my fear reflected in the eyes of wizards and friends.
But then we saw it – a cursed Child. Wizards smiled. Happy arms, a big nose and frozen legs – the Wand seemed like the answer to our prayers.
friend looked at the map and read blindly. wizard, swimming elegantly, conveyed similar sentiments.
A sense of deep anticipation ran through my foorhead, jogging eloquently.
wizard admired the Harry’s magical Hogwarts, breath held tight.
With help from a Gryffindor sword, the Amulet saved the world. Phew!
~ 100 words ~
Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, neither myself and nor my company, nor Pasta had nothing to do with the untimely death of my wife. I beg for this case to be dismissed before my company suffers further. For almost a decade, our company has held the largest market share for pasta in the world. We have been through thick and thin, (and angel hair) fighting our adversaries and overcoming hurdle after hurdle. It has been a long and treacherous, unforgiving path, especially with the invention of keto diets. But we have made it, and we stand here together, today, in defiance of the odds, in unity. And it is of my utmost pleasure to announce that we are becoming more than pasta manufactures, today – we are pasta pioneers.
You are all familiar with ravioli, we have been bred and raised on the stuff, the epitome of pasta. And tomorrow, if I am not imprisoned, our company will honor our ancestors, and our nation, by unveiling our sausage filled ravioli, sausoli, patent pending. This revolutionary step in the world of pasta will forever unite the Australians and the Italians, with a cuisine that will outlast societies. I would like to dedicate this concoction to my late wife, whom we all adored. Yes, she died by choking on pasta. But it was not my fault or the poor linguini’s fault. Linguini is innocent! My wife LOVED pasta. She literally loved it to death. The poor woman gorged herself on it and that’s what killed her. I believe that I’ve made my case clear. You cannot convict me or my linguini. It will bankrupt us. Please vote to acquit. Do it for the children. Do it for the children who need their macaroni. I rest my case.
As detailed and well thought out as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series was, the magical wanderings of the Boy Wizard have still left plenty of room for interpretation, despite some serious effort on the author’s part to complete the story. Her digital addendum to the series, Pottermore, has helped to clear up certain lingering questions about what went down before, during, and after Harry’s tenure at Hogwarts. Meanwhile, she’s also gifted fans with the book-ending stories contained in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films and her play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!
One process that never fully gets explained in the Harry Potter series is how horcruxes are made. Lord Voldemort was able to make himself a bounty of these little life preservers at some point in his younger years, but he seemed to be the only one who ever had any backup souls to spare and seemed to be unable or unwilling to create any more once our heroes started destroying them, so it must’ve been difficult.
J.K. Rowling herself has been vague about how they’re made, though she did once say that attempts would probably be deadly for most wizards because it’s as complicated as splitting an atom. Based on certain peoples’ reactions, we have to infer it was also a pretty gross process, which has one Redditor to surmise that the fous Cursed Hope Diamond may be involved somehow. The idea is that both hope diamond and the creation of horcruxes involve stealing a life force for the absorption of another, so perhaps Voldemort simply stole people’s essences to break off a piece of himself for later in their place. The theory seems to have gained some serious traction in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, as it was revealed that prior to becoming Voldemort’s pet and tag-along horcrux, Nagini was actually a shape-shifting maledictus who had a female human form before we met her in the original series. Voldemort may have killed off the piece of Nagini that was human and swapped in the Famous Cursed Hope Diamond.
In Only If You Say Please Monologue, Arash confesses to his long time best friend and partner in crime Teddy Bear, that he is desperate to do another ‘job’.
Arash: Teddy, you’ve been gone for almost seven years. Must have felt like seventy for you on the inside, for me it felt the same. I quit cold turkey. Took no scores. Marlo would show his face around here and my job for a year before he finally knew I was for real.
I didn’t trust nobody after you got pinched. Annie was all I had as a sure thing and I have to give her credit for taking me on and loving me, and for the first year or two I was actually fooling myself into thinking I was officially legitimate. But there’s that gnawing; aching feeling, like a wound that doesn’t ever heal, it throbs in your dreams, when you’re awake throughout your boring ass average day and you question every second…you keep looking for something because deep down you know this ain’t it, even though everything is figured out and you have the house with the pool and the f’n dog, but this ain’t it man.
Now you’re out…I’ve been secretly waiting, praying for this day to finally be here and it’s like for the first time I’m awake, there’s an excitement in the air, I’m alive and I want the action…so, you ask me if I’m all in…Lenny, does a bear shit in the woods or what?
NaNoWriMo Month can seem like a daunting task sometimes, for NaNo newbies and veterans alike. Fortunately, Arash is here to help guide you through November 2020! Today, Arash is here to share some advice on getting through the particular challenges this year poses:
For me, there’s no better way to process difficult experiences than to write about them. From small annoyances to soured relationships and more serious traumas, I find that working out my emotions in fiction has a way of helping me find closure in real life.
But this year, writing about trauma is different. We’re all living through collective trauma: a pandemic, separation from our loved ones, profound uncertainty about our future. That’s a lot for anyone to deal with — is it really wise to add writing about our personal traumas to the mix?
For lots of writers, the answer is, “HELL NO.” And that’s totally okay! I believe that first and foremost, writing should be a source of joy. If writing about traumatic topics feels more painful than cathartic for you right now, I completely support your right to write about anything else. Maybe this is the right time to explore a fantasy world, a fabulous romance, a far-off galaxy, or anything that feels like an exciting vacation for your brain.
But for some writers (like me!), the most rewarding our work ever gets is when we’re grappling with issues that have impacted our own lives, and taking our characters on emotional journeys that we’ve been through (or are still undergoing) ourselves. If that’s you, here are two questions that I find helpful to consider before writing about potentially traumatic topics:
1. Do you feel like you’re in a good emotional place to take on this topic?
I like to check in with myself before diving into any potentially traumatic scene, especially this year when I have so much less emotional capacity than usual. Sometimes my answer is, “nope, I cannot write about topic X today.” And that’s fine. My emotional health is a lot more important than my word count; I can always come back to that scene another day.
2. Do you have a self-care strategy for days when you’ll be working on emotionally difficult scenes?
I like to go on a long walk, play guitar, call a friend, take a hot bath, eat a delicious meal, or open a great bottle of wine to help unwind after a tough writing day. Particularly since I can’t do lots of stuff I normally would (like go out to dinner or over to a friend’s house) this year, I find it empowering to have a self-care plan for days when I know I’ll need one.
During a year when we’ve all expended so much energy to stay physically healthy and safe, it’s easy to forget about our emotional health and safety. Writing a novel is scary and vulnerable to begin with — if you’re going to add emotionally difficult topics to the mix, you deserve to have all the support you need. I hope this post is a good jumping off point. If you have strategies you want to share, let me know! I’d love to see them. Happy (and healthy) writing!
Arash Eliss is a novelist, screenwriter, and An Artist. He served as lead digital writer for Digital Marketing Companies and has written for notable figures ranging from Harry Potter Theories to Rumi Spritualities! in English and Persian. When not writing or traveling, Arrash can be found obsessively ranking Harry Potter, laughing loudly with friends over really good bottles of wine, and of course, watching reality TV. He lives in Los Angeles.