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was last updated:
May 17, 2003
chosen and the beloved, who was a dawn unto his own day, had waited
twelve years in the city of Orphalese for his ship that was to
return and bear him back to the isle of his birth.
the twelfth year, on the seventh day of Ielool, the month of
reaping, he climbed the hill without the city walls and looked
seaward; and he beheld his ship coming with the mist.
Then the gates
of his heart were flung open, and his joy flew far over the sea. And
he closed his eyes and prayed in the silences of his soul.
But as he
descended the hill, a sadness came upon him, and he thought in his
I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the
spirit shall I leave this city.
the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the
nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his
aloneness without regret?
fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too
many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these
hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache.
It is not
a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own
Nor is it
a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and
cannot tarry longer.
that calls all things unto her calls me, and I must embark.
stay, though the hours burn in the night, is to freeze and
crystallize and be bound in a mould.
would I take with me all that is here. But how shall I?
cannot carry the tongue and the lips that gave its wings. Alone must
it seek the ether.
and without his nest shall the eagle fly across the sun.
he reached the foot of the hill, he turned again towards the sea,
and he saw his ship approaching the harbour, and upon her prow the
mariners, the men of his own land.
soul cried out to them, and he said:
my ancient mother, you riders of the tides,
have you sailed in my dreams. And now you come in my awakening,
which is my deeper dream.
I to go, and my eagerness with sails full set awaits the wind.
another breath will I breathe in this still air, only another loving
look cast backward,
I shall stand among you, a seafarer among seafarers.
vast sea, sleeping mother,
are peace and freedom to the river and the stream,
another winding will this stream make, only another murmur in this
I shall come to you, a boundless drop to a boundless ocean.
And as he
walked he saw from afar men and women leaving their fields and their
vineyards and hastening towards the city gates.
heard their voices calling his name, and shouting from field to
filed telling one another of the coming of the ship.
said to himself:
day of parting be the day of gathering?
it be said that my eve was in truth my dawn?
shall I give unto him who has left his plough in midfurrow, or to
him who has stopped the wheel of his winepress?
heart become a tree heavy-laden with fruit that I may gather and
give unto them?
my desires flow like a fountain that I may fill their cups?
Am I a
harp that the hand of the mighty may touch me, or a flute that his
breath may pass through me?
of silences am I, and what treasure have I found in silences that I
may dispense with confidence?
is my day of harvest, in what fields have I sowed the seed, and in
what unremembered seasons?
indeed be the hour in which I lift up my lantern, it is not my flame
that shall burn therein.
dark shall I raise my lantern,
guardian of the night shall fill it with oil and he shall light it
things he said in words. But much in his heart remained unsaid. For
he himself could not speak his deeper secret.
he entered into the city all the people came to meet him, and they
were crying out to him as with one voice.
elders of the city stood forth and said:
yet away from us.
noontide have you been in our twilight, and your youth has given us
dreams to dream.
stranger are you among us, nor a guest, but our son and our dearly
not yet our eyes to hunger for your face.
priests and the priestesses said unto him:
the waves of the sea separate us now, and the years you have spent
in our midst become a memory.
walked among us a spirit, and your shadow has been a light upon our
we loved you. But speechless was our love, and with veils has it
it cries aloud unto you, and would stand revealed before you.
has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of
others came also and entreated him. But he answered them not. He
only bent his head; and those who stood near saw his tears falling
upon his breast.
and the people proceeded towards the great square before the temple.
came out of the sanctuary a woman whose name was Almitra. And she
was a seeress.
looked upon her with exceeding tenderness, for it was she who had
first sought and believed in him when he had been but a day in their
hailed him, saying:
of God, in quest of the uttermost, long have you searched the
distances for your ship.
your ship has come, and you must needs go.
your longing for the land of your memories and the dwelling-place of
your greater desires; and our love would not bind you nor our needs
we ask ere you leave us, that you speak to us and give us of your
will give it unto our children, and they unto their children, and it
shall not perish.
aloneness you have watched with our days, and in your wakefulness
you have listened to the weeping and the laughter of our sleep.
therefore disclose us to ourselves, and tell us all that has been
shown you of that which is between birth and death.
Orphalese, of what can I speak save of that which is even now moving
within your souls?
THEN said Almitra,
Speak to us of Love.
raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a
stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
beckons to you, follow him,
his ways are hard and steep.
his wings enfold you yield to him,
the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
he speaks to you believe in him,
his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the
as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your
growth so is he for your pruning.
he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that
quiver in the sun,
he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the
sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
threshes you to make you naked.
you to free you from your husks.
you to whiteness.
you until you are pliant;
he assigns you to his sacred fire; that you may become sacred bread
for God's sacred feast.
things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your
heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.
But if in
your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of
seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your
laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
possesses not nor would it be possessed;
is sufficient unto love.
love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in
the heart of God."
not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you
worthy, directs your course.
no other desire but to fulfil itself.
you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
and be like a running brook that sings the melody to the night.
the pain of too much tenderness.
wounded by your own understanding of love,
bleed willingly and joyfully.
at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of
at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
home at eventide with gratitude;
to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of
praise upon your lips.
spoke again and said, And what of Marriage, master?
born together, and together you shall be for evermore.
be together when the white wings of death scatter you days.
shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
there be spaces in your togetherness.
the winds of the heavens dance between you.
another, but make not a bond of love:
rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
other's cup but drink not from one cup.
another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same
hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
together yet not too near together:
pillars of the temple stand apart,
oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
AND a woman who
held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
children are not your children.
the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
through you but not from you,
though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
give them your love but not your thoughts,
have their own thoughts.
house their bodies but not their souls,
souls dwell in the house of to-morrow, which you cannot visit, not
even in your dreams.
strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you
with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness;
as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is
THEN said a rich
man, Speak to us of Giving.
but little when you give of your possessions.
when you give of yourself that you truly give.
are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may
need them to-morrow?
to-morrow, what shall to-morrow bring to the over-prudent dog
burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to
the holy city?
is fear of need but need itself?
dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is
those who give little of the much which they have--and they give it
for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts
are those who have little and give it all.
the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is
those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek
joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He
smiles upon the earth.
well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through
the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater
there aught you would withhold?
have shall some day be given;
give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your
say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."
in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
who is worthy to receive his days and his nights is worthy of all
else from you.
who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill
his cup from your little stream.
desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage
and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?
are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride,
that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of
truth it is life that gives unto life--while you, who deem yourself
a giver, are but a witness.
receivers--and you are all receivers--assume no weight of gratitude,
lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be
overmindful of your debt is to doubt his generosity who has the
free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father.
THEN an old man,
a keeper of an inn, said, Speak to us of Eating and Drinking.
that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air
plant be sustained by the light.
you must kill to eat, and rob the newly born of its mother's milk to
quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship,
your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of
forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still
more innocent in man.
kill a beast say to him in your heart:
same power that slays you, I too am slain; and I too shall be
law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier
blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of
you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart:
seeds shall live in my body,
buds of your to-morrow shall blossom in my heart,
fragrance shall be my breath,
together we shall rejoice through all the seasons."
the autumn, when you gather the grapes of your vineyards for the
winepress, say in your heart:
"I too am
a vineyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress,
new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels."
winter, when you draw the wine, let there be in your heart a song
for each cup;
there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the
vineyard, and for the winepress.
THEN a ploughman
said, Speak to us of Work.
that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be
idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of
life's procession that marches in majesty and proud submission
towards the infinite.
work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours
turns to music.
you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together
you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say
to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth's furthest
dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,
keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life.
love life through labour is to be intimate with life's inmost
you in your pain call birth an affliction and the support of the
flesh a curse written upon your brow, then I answer that naught but
the sweat of your brow shall wash away that which is written.
been told also that life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo
what was said by the weary.
And I say
that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
urge is blind save when there is knowledge.
knowledge is vain save when there is work,
work is empty save when there is love;
you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one
another, and to God.
is it to work with love?
It is to
weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your
beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to
build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell
in that house.
It is to
sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if
your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to
charge all things your fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.
have I hear you say, as if speaking in sleep, "He who works in
marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone, is nobler
than he who ploughs the soil.
who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man,
is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet."
say, not in sleep, but in the overwakefulness of noontide, that the
wind speaks not more sweetly the giant oaks than to the least of all
the blades of grass;
alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made
sweeter by his own loving.
love made visible.
you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that
you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and
take alms of those who work with joy.
you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds
but half man's hunger.
you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison
in the wine.
you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle
man's ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.
THEN a woman
said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
is your sorrow unmasked.
selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled
with your tears.
else can it be?
deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can
the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the
not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was
hollowed with knives?
are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only
that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in
truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and other say, "Nay, sorrow
is the greater."
unto you, they are inseparable.
they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember
that the other is asleep upon your bed.
you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs
must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
THEN a mason came
forth and said, Speak to us of Houses.
answered and said:
your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house
within the city walls.
as you have home-comings in your twilight, so has the wanderer in
you, the ever-distant and alone.
house is your larger body.
in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night; and it is not
dreamless. Does not your house dream? and dreaming, leave the city
for grove or hilltop?
that I could gather your houses into my hand, and like a sower
scatter them in forest and meadow.
valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you
might seek one another through vineyards, and come with the
fragrance of the earth in your garments.
things are not yet to be.
fear your forefathers gathered you too near together. And that fear
shall endure a little longer. A little longer shall your city walls
separate your hearths from your fields.
me, people of Orphalese, what have you in these houses? And what is
it you guard with fastened doors?
peace, the quiet urge that reveals your power?
remembrances, the glimmering arches that span the summits of the
beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone
to the holy mountain?
have you these in your houses?
you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that
enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a
it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your
its hands are silken, its heart is of iron.
you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeer at the dignity of
mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile
the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks
grinning in the funeral.
children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped
house shall be not an anchor but a mast.
not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that
guards the eye.
not fold your wings that you may pass through doors, nor bend your
heads that they strike not against a ceiling, nor fear to breathe
lest walls should crack and fall down.
not dwell in tombs made by the dead for the living.
though of magnificence and splendour, your house shall not hold your
secret nor shelter your longing.
which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky, whose
door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and the
silences of night.
AND the weaver
said, Speak to us of Clothes.
clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the
though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in
them a harness and a chain.
that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and
less of your raiment.
breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the
you say, "It is the north wind who has woven the clothes we wear."
say, Ay, it was the north wind,
was his loom, and the softening of the sinews was his thread.
his work was done he laughed in the forest.
not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean.
the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a
fouling of the mind?
forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the
winds long to play with your hair.
AND a merchant
said, Speak to us of Buying and Selling.
answered and said:
the earth yields her fruit, and you shall not want if you but know
how to fill your hands.
It is in
exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and
unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice it will but lead
some to greed and others to hunger.
the market-place you toilers of the sea and fields and vineyards
meet the weavers and the potters and the gatherers of spices,--
then the master spirit of the earth, to come into your midst and
sanctify the scales and the reckoning that weighs value against
suffer not the barren-handed to take part in your transactions, who
would sell their words for your labour.
men you should say:
with us to the field, or go with our brothers to the sea and cast
land and the sea shall be bountiful to you even as to us."
there come the singers and the dancers and the flute-players,--buy
of their gifts also.
too are gatherers of fruit and frankincense, and that which they
bring, though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your
before you leave the market-place, see that no one has gone his way
with empty hands.
master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind
till the needs of the least of you are satisfied.
THEN one of the
judges of the city stood forth and said, Speak to us of Crime and
when your spirit goes wandering upon the wind,
alone and unguarded, commit a wrong unto others and therefore unto
that wrong committed must you knock and wait a while unheeded at the
gate of the blessed.
ocean is your god-self;
remains for ever undefiled.
the ether it lifts but the winged.
the sun is your god-self;
not the ways of the mole nor seeks it the holes of the serpent.
god-self dwells not alone in your being.
you is still man, and much in you is not yet man,
shapeless pigmy that walks asleep in the mist searching for its own
the man in you would I now speak.
For it is
he and not your god-self nor the pigmy in the mist that knows crime
and the punishment of crime.
Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as
though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an
intruder upon your world.
But I say
that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the
highest which is in each one of you,
wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in
And as a
single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the
wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.
procession you walk together towards your god-self.
the way and the wayfarers.
one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution
against the stumbling stone.
he falls for those ahead of him, who, though faster and surer of
foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.
also, though the word lie heavy upon your hearts:
murdered is not unaccountable for his own murder,
robbed is not blameless in being robbed.
righteous is not innocent of the deeds of the wicked,
white-handed is not clean in the doings of the felon.
guilty is oftentimes the victim of the injured.
more often the condemned is the burden-bearer for the guiltless and
cannot separate the just from the unjust and the good from the
stand together before the face of the sun even as the black thread
and the white are woven together.
the black thread breaks, the weaver shall look into the whole cloth,
and he shall examine the loom also.
If any of
you would bring to judgment the unfaithful wife,
also weigh the heart of her husband in scales, and measure his soul
him who would lash the offender look unto the spirit of the
any of you would punish in the name of righteousness and lay the axe
unto the evil tree, let him see to its roots;
verily he will find the roots of the good and the bad, the fruitful
and the fruitless, all entwined together in the silent heart of the
judges who would be just.
judgment pronounce you upon him who though honest in the flesh yet
is a thief in spirit?
penalty lay you upon him who though honest in the flesh yet is a
thief in spirit?
penalty lay you upon him who slays in the flesh yet is himself slain
in the spirit?
prosecute you him who in action is a deceiver and an oppressor,
also is aggrieved and outraged?
shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their
remorse the justice which is administered by the very law which you
would fain serve?
cannot lay remorse upon the innocent nor lift it from the heart of
shall it call in the night, that men may wake and gaze upon
who would understand justice, how shall you unless you look upon all
deeds in the fullness of light?
shall you know that the erect and the fallen are but one man
standing in twilight between the night of his pigmy-self and the day
of his god-self,
the corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone
in its foundation.
THEN a lawyer
said, But what of our Laws, master?
delight in laying down laws,
delight more in breaking them.
children playing by the ocean who build sand-towers with constancy
and then destroy them with laughter.
you guild your sand-towers the ocean brings more sand to the shore,
And when you destroy them the ocean laughs with you.
the ocean laughs always with the innocent.
of those to whom life is not an ocean, and man-made laws are not
whom life is a rock, and the law is a chisel with which they would
carve it in their own likeness?
the cripple who hates dancers?
the ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer of the forest
stray and vagrant things?
the old serpent who cannot shed his skin, and calls all others naked
him who comes early to the wedding-feast, and when over-fed and
tired goes his way saying that all feasts are violation and all
shall I say of these save that they too stand in the sunlight, but
with their backs to the sun?
only their shadows, and their shadows are their laws.
is the sun to them but a caster of shadows?
is it to acknowledge the laws but to stoop down and trace their
shadows upon the earth?
who walk facing the sun, what images drawn on the earth can hold
travel with the wind, what weather-vane shall direct your course?
man's law shall bind you if you break your yoke but upon no man's
shall you fear if you dance but stumble against no man's iron
is he that shall bring you to judgment if you tear off your garment
yet leave it in non man's path?
Orphalese, you can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings
of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?
an orator said, Speak to us of Freedom.
city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself
and worship your own freedom,
slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he
the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen
the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.
heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire
of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to
speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfilment.
be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights
without a want and a grief,
rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above
them naked and unbound.
shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the
chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened
around your noon hour?
that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though
its links glitter in the sun and dazzle your eyes.
is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may
If it is
an unjust law you would abolish, that law was written with your own
hand upon your own forehead.
cannot erase it by burning your law books nor by washing the
foreheads of your judges, though you pour the sea upon them.
And if it
is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected
within you is destroyed.
can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their
own freedom and a shame in their own pride?
And if it
is a care you would cast off, that care has been chosen by you
rather than imposed upon you.
And if it
is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart
and not in the hand of the feared.
all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the
desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the
pursued and that which you would escape.
things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling.
the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a
shadow to another light.
your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of
a greater freedom.
the priestess spoke again and said: Speak to us of Reason and
is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your
judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite.
that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the
discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.
shall I, unless you yourself be also the peacemakers, nay, the
lovers of all your elements?
reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your
your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or
else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.
reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended,
is a flame that burns to its own destruction.
let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it
it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live
through its own daily resurrection, and like the phœnix
rise above its own ashes.
have you consider your judgment and your appetite even as you would
two loved guests in your house.
you would not honour one guest above the other; for he who is more
mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.
hills, when you sit in the cool shade of the white poplars, sharing
the peace and serenity of distant fields and meadows--then let your
heart say in silence, "God rests in reason."
the storm comes, and the mighty wind shakes the forest, and thunder
and lightning proclaim the majesty of the sky,--then let your heart
say in awe, "God moves in passion."
you are a breath in God's sphere and a leaf in God's forest, you too
should rest in reason and move in passion.
a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of Pain.
is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the
sun, so must you know pain.
you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life,
your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always
accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
your pain is self-chosen.
It is the
bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick
trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and
hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the
cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the
clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.
a man said, Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.
hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
ears thirst for the sound of your heart's knowledge.
know in words that which you have always known in thought.
touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.
And it is
well you should.
hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to
treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
is a sea boundless and measureless.
"I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth."
"I have found the path of the soul." Say rather, "I have met the
soul waking upon my path."
soul walks upon all paths.
walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.
THEN said a
teacher, Speak to us of Teaching.
can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in
the dawning of your knowledge.
teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers,
gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.
If he is
indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but
rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.
astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he
cannot give you his understanding.
musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he
cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm, nor the voice that
who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of
weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.
vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.
as each one of you stands alone in God's knowledge, so must each one
of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of
a youth said, Speak to us of Friendship.
friends is your needs answered.
your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is
your board and your fireside.
come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.
friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor
do you withhold the "ay."
he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all
expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
part from your friend, you grieve not;
which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the
mountain to the climber as clearer from the plain.
there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love
but a net cast forth and only the unprofitable is caught.
your best be for your friend.
must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
always with hours to live.
For it is
his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of
the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is
then a scholar said, Speak of Talking.
when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in
your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.
much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.
thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed
unfold its wings but cannot fly.
those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.
silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and
they would escape.
are those who talk, and without knowledge or forethought reveal a
truth which they themselves do not understand.
are those who have the truth within them, but they tell it not in
bosom of such as these the spirit dwells in rhythmic silence.
meet your friend on the roadside or in the market-place, let the
spirit in you move your lips and direct your tongue.
voice within your voice speak to the ear of his ear;
soul will keep the truth of your heart as the taste of the wine is
colour is forgotten and the vessel is no more.
an astronomer said, Master, what of Time?
measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.
adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit
according to hours and seasons.
you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its
timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness,
that yesterday is but to-day's memory and to-morrow is to-day's
that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within
the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into
you does not feel that his power to love is boundless?
who does not feel that very love, though boundless, encompassed
within the centre of his being, and moving not from love thought to
love thought, nor from love deeds to other love deeds?
not time even as love is, undivided and paceless?
But if in
your thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season
encircle all the other seasons,
to-day embrace the past with remembrance and the future with
one of the elders of the city said, Speak to us of Good and Evil.
good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?
when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it
thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.
good when you are one with yourself.
you are not one with yourself you are not evil.
divided house is not a den of thieves; it is only a divided house.
ship without rudder may wander aimlessly among perilous isles yet
sink not to the bottom.
good when you strive to give of yourself.
are not evil when you seek gain for yourself.
you strive for gain you are but a root that clings to the earth and
sucks at her breast.
the fruit cannot say to the root, "Be like me, ripe and full and
ever giving of your abundance."
fruit giving is a need, as receiving is a need to the root.
good when you are fully awake in your speech.
are not evil when you sleep while your tongue staggers without
stumbling speech may strengthen a weak tongue.
good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps.
are not evil when you go thither limping.
those who limp go not backward.
who are strong and swift, see that you do not limp before the lame,
deeming it kindness.
good in countless ways, and you are not evil when you are not good.
only loitering and sluggard.
the stags cannot teach swiftness to the turtles.
longing for your giant self lies your goodness: and that longing is
in all of you.
some of you that longing is a torrent rushing with might to the sea,
carrying the secrets of the hillsides and the songs of the forest.
others it is a flat stream that loses itself in angles and bends and
lingers before it reaches the shore.
not him who longs much say to him who longs little, "Wherefore are
you slow and halting?"
truly good ask not the naked, "Where is your garment?" nor the
houseless, "What has befallen your house?"
THEN a Priestess
said, Speak to us of Prayer.
in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in
the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.
is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?
And if it
is for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for
your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart.
you cannot but weep when your soul summons you to prayer, she should
spur you again and yet again, though weeping, until you shall come
pray you rise to meet in the air those who are praying at that very
hour, and whom save in prayer you may not meet.
let your visit to that temple invisible be for naught but ecstasy
and sweet communion.
you should enter the temple for no other purpose than asking you
shall not receive:
you should enter into it to humble yourself you shall not be lifted:
if you should enter into it to beg for the good of others you shall
not be heard.
enough that you enter the temple invisible.
teach you how to pray in words.
listens not to your words save when He Himself utters them through
cannot teach you the prayer of the seas and and the forests and the
who are born of the mountains and the forests and the seas can find
their prayer in your heart,
you but listen in the stillness of the night you shall hear them
saying in silence:
who art our winged self, it is thy will in us that willeth.
thy desire in us that desireth.
thy urge in us that would turn our nights, which are thine, into
days, which are thine also.
cannot ask thee for aught, for thou knowest our needs before they
are born in us:
our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all."
THEN a hermit,
who visited the city once a year, came forth and said, Speak to us
is a freedom-song,
But it is
It is the
blossoming of your desires,
But it is
not their fruit.
It is a
depth calling unto a height,
But it is
not the deep nor the high.
It is the
caged taking wing,
But it is
not space encompassed.
very truth, pleasure is a freedom-song.
fain would have you sing it with fullness of heart; yet I would not
have you lose your hearts in the singing.
your youth seek pleasure as if it were all, and they are judged and
not judge nor rebuke them. I would have them seek.
shall find pleasure, but not her alone;
her sisters, and the least of them is more beautiful than pleasure.
not heard of the man who was digging in the earth for roots and
found a treasure?
of your elders remember pleasures with regret like wrongs committed
regret is the beclouding of the mind and not its chastisement.
should remember their pleasures with gratitude, as they would the
harvest of a summer.
Yet if it
comforts them to regret, let them be comforted.
are among you those who are neither young to seek nor old to
their fear of seeking and remembering they shun all pleasures, lest
they neglect the spirit or offend against it.
in their foregoing is their pleasure.
they too find a treasure though they dig for roots with quivering
me, who is he that can offend the spirit?
nightingale offend the stillness of the night, or the firefly the
your flame or your smoke burden the wind?
the spirit is a still pool which you can trouble with a staff?
Oftentimes in denying yourself pleasure you do but store the desire
in the recesses of your being.
but that which seems omitted to-day, waits for to-morrow?
body knows its heritage and its rightful need and will not be
body is the harp of your soul,
And it is
yours to bring forth sweet music from it or confused sounds.
you ask in your heart, "How shall we distinguish that which is good
in pleasure from that which is not good?"
your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the
pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,
But it is
also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.
the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a
need and an ecstasy.
Orphalese, be in your pleasures like the flowers and the bees.
a poet said, Speak to us of Beauty.
shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself
be your way and your guide?
shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?
aggrieved and the injured say, "Beauty is kind and gentle.
young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us."
passionate say, "Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.
tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us."
and the weary say, "Beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our
voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear
of the shadow."
restless say, "We have heard her shouting among the mountains,
her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the
roaring of lions."
the watchmen of the city say, "Beauty shall rise with the dawn from
noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say, "We have seen her
leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset."
say the snow-bound, "She shall come with the spring leaping upon the
the summer heat the reapers say, "We have seen her dancing with the
autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair."
things have you said of beauty,
truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,
beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
It is not
a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
rather a heart inflamed and a soul enchanted.
It is not
the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you
hear though you shut your ears.
It is not
the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,
rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in
Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
are life and you are the veil.
eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
are eternity and you are the mirror.
an old priest said, Speak to us of Religion.
spoken this day of aught else?
religion all deeds and all reflection,
which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise
ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or
tend the loom?
separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his
spread his hours before him, saying, "This for God and this for
myself; This for my soul and this other for my body"?
hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.
wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.
and the sun will tear no holes in his skin.
who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.
freest song comes not through bars and wires.
And he to
whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet
visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.
daily life is your temple and your religion.
you enter into it take with you your all.
plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute,
things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight.
reverie you cannot rise above your achievements nor fall lower than
with you all men:
adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself
lower than their despair.
you would know God, be not therefore a solver of riddles.
look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.
into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching
His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.
see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in
spoke, saying, We would ask now of Death.
know the secret of death.
shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the
mystery of light.
would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto
the body of life.
and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the
seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before
the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the
mark of the king?
Yet is he
not more mindful of his trembling?
is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the
is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless
tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb
the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
now it was evening.
Almitra the seeress said, Blessed be this day and this place and
your spirit that has spoken.
answered, Was it I who spoke?
Was I not
also a listener?
descended the steps of the Temple and all the people followed him.
And he reached his ship and stood upon the deck.
facing the people again, he raised his voice and said:
Orphalese, the wind bids me leave you.
hasty am I than the wind, yet I must go.
wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have
ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us.
while the earth sleeps we travel.
the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our
fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered.
were my days among you, and briefer still the words I have spoken.
should my voice fade in your ears, and my love vanish in your
memory, then I will come again,
a richer heart and lips more yielding to the spirit will I speak.
shall return with the tide,
And though death may hide me, and the greater silence enfold me, yet again will I
seek your understanding.
And not in vain will I seek.
If aught I have said is truth, that
truth shall reveal itself in a clearer voice, and in words more kin
to your thoughts.
I go with the wind, people of Orphalese,
but not down into emptiness;
And if this day is not a fulfilment of
your need and my love, then let it be a promise till another day.
Man's needs change, but not his love,
nor his desire that his love should satisfy his needs.
Know, therefore, that from the greater
silence I shall return.
The mist that drifts away at dawn,
leaving but dew in the fields, shall rise and gather into a cloud
and then fall down in rain.
And not unlike the mist have I been.
In the stillness of the night I have
walked in your streets, and my spirit has entered your houses,
And your heart-beats were in my heart,
and your breath was upon my face, and I knew you all.
Ay, I knew your joy and your pain, and
in your sleep your dreams were my dreams.
And oftentimes I was among you a lake
among the mountains.
I mirrored the summits in you and the
bending slopes, and even the passing flocks of your thoughts and
And to my silence came the laughter of
your children in streams, and the longing of your youths in rivers.
And when they reached my depth the
streams and the rivers ceased not yet to sing.
But sweeter still than laughter and
greater that longing came to me.
It was the boundless in you;
The vast man in whom you are all but
cells and sinews;
He in whose chant all your singing is
but a soundless throbbing.
It is in the vast man that you are
And in beholding him that I beheld you
and loved you.
For what distances can love reach that
are not in that vast sphere?
What visions, what expectations and
what presumptions can outsoar that flight?
Like a giant oak tree covered with
apple blossoms is the vast man in you.
His might binds you to the earth, his
fragrance lifts you into space, and in his durability you are
You have been told that, even like a
chain, you are as weak as your weakest link.
This is but half the truth. You are
also as strong as your strongest link.
To measure you by your smallest deed is
to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam.
To judge you by your failures is to
cast blame upon the seasons for their inconstancy.
Ay, you are like an ocean,
And though heavy-grounded ships await
the tide upon your shores, yet, even like an ocean, you cannot
hasten your tides.
And like the seasons you are also,
And though in your winter you deny your
Yet spring, reposing within you, smiles
in her drowsiness and is not offended.
Think not I say these things in order
that you may say the one to the other, "He praised us well. He saw
but the good in us."
I only speak to you in words of that
which you yourselves know in thought.
And what is word knowledge but a shadow
of wordless knowledge?
Your thoughts and my words are waves
from a sealed memory that keeps records of our yesterdays,
And of the ancient days when the earth
knew not us nor herself,
And of nights when earth was upwrought
Wise men have come to you to give you
of their wisdom. I came to take of your wisdom:
And behold I have found that which is
greater than wisdom.
It is a flame spirit in you ever
gathering more of itself,
While you, heedless of its expansion,
bewail the withering of your days.
It is life in quest of life in bodies
that fear the grave.
There are no graves here.
These mountains and plains are a cradle
and a stepping-stone.
Whenever you pass by the field where
you have laid your ancestors look well thereupon, and you shall see
yourselves and your children dancing hand in hand.
Verily you often make merry without
Others have come to you to whom for
golden promises made unto your faith you have given but riches and
power and glory.
Less than a promise have I given, and
yet more generous have you been to me.
You have given me my deeper thirsting
Surely there is no greater gift to a
man than that which turns all his aims into parching lips and all
life into a fountain.
And in this lies my honour and my
That whenever I come to the fountain to
drink I find the living water itself thirsty;
And it drinks me while I drink it.
Some of you have deemed me proud and
overshy to receive gifts.
Too proud indeed am I to receive wages,
but not gifts.
And though I have eaten berries among
the hills when you would have had me sit at your board,
And slept in the portico of the temple
when you would gladly have sheltered me,
Yet it was not your loving mindfulness
of my days and my nights that made food sweet to my mouth and
girdled my sleep with visions:
For this I bless you most:
You give much and know not that you
give at all.
Verily the kindness that gazes upon
itself in a mirror turns to stone,
And a good deed that calls itself by
tender names becomes the parent to a curse.
And some of you have called me aloof,
and drunk with my own aloneness,
And you have said, "He hold council
with the trees of the forest, but not with men.
"He sits alone on hill-tops and looks
down upon our city."
True it is that I have climbed the
hills and walked in remote places.
How could I have seen you save from a
great height or a great distance?
How can one be indeed near unless he be
And others among you called unto me,
not in words, and they said:
"Stranger, stranger, lover of
unreachable heights, why dwell you among the summits where eagles
build their nests?
"Why seek you the unattainable?
"And what vaporous birds do you hunt in
"Come and be one of us.
"Descend and appease your hunger with
our bread and quench your thirst with our wine."
In the solitude of their souls they
said these things;
But were their solitude deeper they
would have known that I sought but the secret of your joy and your
And I hunted only your larger selves
that walk the sky.
But the hunter was also the hunted;
For many of my arrows left my bow only
to seek my own breast.
And the flier was also the creeper;
For when my wings were spread in the
sun their shadow upon the earth was a turtle.
And I the believer was also the
For often have I put my finger in my
own wound that I might have the greater belief in you and the
greater knowledge of you.
And it is with this belief and this
knowledge that I say,
You are not enclosed within your
bodies, nor confined to houses or fields.
That which is you dwells above the
mountain and roves with the wind.
It is not a thing that crawls into the
sun for warmth or digs holes into darkness for safety,
But a thing free, a spirit that
envelops the earth and moves in the ether.
If these be vague words, then seek not
to clear them.
Vague and nebulous is the beginning of
all things, but not their end,
And I fain would have you remember me
as a beginning.
Life, and all that lives, is conceived
in the mist and not in the crystal.
And who knows but a crystal is mist in
This would I have you remember in
That which seems most feeble and
bewildered in you is the strongest and most determined.
Is it not your breath that has erected
and hardened the structure of your bones?
And is it not a dream which none of you
remember having dreamt, that builded your city and fashioned all
there is in it?
Could you but see the tides of that
breath you would cease to see all else,
And if you could hear the whispering of
the dream you would hear no other sound.
But you do not see, nor do you hear,
and it is well.
The veil that clouds your eyes shall be
lifted by the hands that wove it,
And the cay that fills your ears shall
be pierced by those fingers that kneaded it.
And you shall see
And you shall hear.
Yet you shall not deplore having known
blindness nor regret having been deaf.
For in that day you shall know the
hidden purposes in all things.
And you shall bless darkness as you
would bless light.
After saying these things he looked
about him, and he saw the pilot of his ship standing by the helm and
gazing now at the full sails and now at the distance.
And he said:
Patient, over patient, is the captain
of my ship.
The wind blows, and restless are the
Even the rudder begs direction;
Yet quietly my captain awaits my
And these my mariners, who have heard
the choir of the greater sea, they too have heard me patiently.
Now they shall wait no longer.
I am ready.
The stream has reached the sea, and
once more the great mother holds her son against her breast.
Fare you well, people of Orphalese.
This day has ended.
It is closing upon us even as the
water-lily upon its own to-morrow.
What was given us here we shall keep,
And if it suffices not, then again must
we come together and together stretch our hands unto the giver.
Forget not that I shall come back to
A little while, and my longing shall
gather dust and foam for another body.
A little while, a moment of rest upon
the wind, and another woman shall bear me.
Farewell to you and the youth I have
spent with you.
It was but yesterday we met in a dream.
You have sung to me in my aloneness,
and I of your longings have built a tower in the sky.
But now our sleep has fled and our
dream is over, and it is no longer dawn.
The noontide is upon us and our half
waking has turned to fuller day, and we must part.
If in the twilight of memory we should
meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to
me a deeper song.
And if our hands should meet in another
dream we shall build another tower in the sky.
So saying he made a signal to the
seamen, and straightaway they weighed anchor and cast the ship loose
from its moorings, and they moved eastward.
And a cry came from the people as from
a single heart, and it rose into the dusk and was carried out over
the sea like a great trumpeting.
Only Almitra was silent, gazing after
the ship until it had vanished into the mist.
And when all the people were dispersed
she still stood alone upon the sea-wall, remembering in her heart
"A little while, a moment of rest upon
the wind, and another woman shall bear me."
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