Story type: Essay
That we are living in the Dark Age we all know, yet we do not realise half its darkness. We endure physical and moral suffering; but, fortunately or unfortunately, we are oblivious of the sorrow of all sorrows–the Spiritual Tragedy. Such a rust has come over the pure and ancient spirit of life, that the sceptre and the diadem and the starry sway we held are unremembered; and if anyone speaks of these things he is looked at strangely with blank eyes, or with eyes that suspect madness. I do not know whether to call him great, or pity him, who feels such anguish; for although it is the true agony of the crucifixion, it is only gods who are so martyred. With these rare souls memory is not born: life flows on, and they with it go on in dreams: they are lulled by lights, flowers, stars, colours, and sweet odours, and are sheltered awhile from heaven and hell; then in some moment the bubble bursts, and the god awakens and knows himself, and he rises again with giant strength to conquer; or else he succumbs, and the waves of Lethe, perhaps in mercy, blot out his brief knowledge.
I knew such an one many years ago, and I tell of him because I know of no deeper proof of the existence of a diviner nature than that man’s story. Arthur Harvey, as I have heard people describe him, in his early years was gentle, shy, and given to much dreaming. He was taken from school early, came up from the country to the city, and was put to business. He possessed the apathy and unresisting nature characteristic of so many spiritual people, and which is found notably among the natives of India; so he took his daily confinement at first as a matter of course, though glad enough when it was over, and the keen sweet air blew about him in spring or summer evenings, and the earth looked visionary, steeped in dew and lovely colour, and his soul grew rich with strange memories and psychic sensations. And so day-by-day he might have gone on with the alternation of work and dream, and the soul in its imaginings might never have known of the labours of the mind, each working by habit in its accustomed hour, but for an incident which took place about two years after his going to business.
One morning his manager said: “Harvey, take this letter; deliver it, and wait for an answer.” He started up eagerly, glad for the unwonted freedom from his desk. At the door, as he went out, the whole blinding glory of the sunlight was dashed on him. He looked up. Ah! what spaces illimitable of lustrous blue. How far off! How mighty! He felt suddenly faint, small, mean, and feeble. His limbs trembled under him: he shrank from the notice of men as he went on his way. Vastness, such as this, breaking in upon the eye that had followed the point of the pen, unnerved him: he felt a bitter self-contempt. What place had he amid these huge energies? The city deafened him as with one shout: the tread of the multitude; the mob of vehicles; glitter and shadow; rattle, roar, and dust; the black smoke curled in the air; higher up the snowy and brilliant clouds, which the tall winds bore along; all were but the intricate and wondrous workings of a single monstrous personality; a rival in the universe who had absorbed and wrested from him his own divine dower. Out of him; out of him, the power– the free, the fearless–whirled in play, and drove the suns and stars in their orbits, and sped the earth through light and shadow. Out of him; out of him; never to be reconquered; never to be regained. The exultant laugh of the day; the flame of summer; the gigantic winds careering over the city; the far-off divine things filled him with unutterable despair. What was he amid it all? A spark decaying in its socket; a little hot dust clinging together.
He found himself in a small square; he sat down on a bench; his brain burning, his eyes unseeing.
“Oh! my, what’s he piping over?” jeered a grotesque voice, and a small figure disappeared, turning somersaults among the bushes.
“Poor young man! Perhaps he is ill. Are you not well, sir?” asked a sympathetic nurse.
He started up, brought to himself, and muttering something unintelligible, continued his journey through the city. The terrible influence departed, and a new change came over him. The laugh of the urchin rankled in his mind: he hated notice: there must be something absurd or out of the common in his appearance to invoke it. He knew suddenly that there was a gulf between him and the people he lived among. They were vivid, actual, suited to their places. How he envied them! Then the whole superficies of his mind became filled with a desire to conceal this difference. He recalled the various characteristics of those who worked along with him. One knew all topical songs, slang and phrases; another affected a smartness in dress; a third discussed theatres with semi-professional knowledge. Harvey, however, could never have entered the world, or lived in it, if he had first to pass through the portals of such ideas! He delivered his letter; he was wearied out, and as he returned he noticed neither sky nor sunlight, and the hurrying multitudes were indifferent and without character. He passed through them; his mind dull like theirs; a mere machine to guide rapid footsteps.
That evening, a clerk named Whittaker, a little his senior in the office, was struck by Harvey’s curious and delicate face.
“I say, Harvey,” he said, “how do you spend your evenings?”
Harvey flushed a little at the unwonted interest.
“I take long walks,” he said.
“Do you read much?”
“Do you go to the theatre?”
“Whew! what a queer fellow! No clubs, classes, music-halls– anything of the sort, eh?”
“No,” said Harvey, a little bitterly, “I know nothing, nobody; I am always alone.”
“What an extraordinary life! Why, you are out of the universe completely. I say,” he added, “come along with me this evening. I will initiate you a little. You know you must learn your profession as a human being.”
His manner was very kindly; still Harvey was so shy that he would have found some excuse, but for that chance expression, “out of the universe.” Was not this apartness the very thing he had just been bitterly feeling? While he hesitated and stammered in his awkwardness, the other said: “There, no excuses! You need not go to your lodgings for tea. Come along with me.”
They went off together through the darkening streets. One cheerful and irreverent, brimful of remark or criticism; the other silent, his usual dreaminess was modified, but had not departed, and once, gazing up through the clear, dark blue, where the stars were shining, he had a momentary sense as if he were suspended from them by a fine invisible thread, as a spider hung from her roof; suspended from on high, where the pure and ancient aether flamed around the habituations of eternity; and below and about him, the thoughts of demons, the smoke, darkness, horror and anguish of the pit.
I Cannot tell all the steps by which the young soul came forth from its clouds and dreams, but must hurry over the years. This single incident of his boyhood I have told to mark the character and tendency of his development; spirituality made self-conscious only in departing; life, a falling from ideals which grew greater, more beautiful and luminous as the possibility of realizing them died away. But this ebbtide of inner life was not regular and incessant, but rather after the fashion of waves which retreat surely indeed, but returning again and again, seem for moments to regain almost more than their past altitude. His life was a series of such falls and such awakenings. Every new experience which drew his soul from its quietude brought with it a revelation of a spiritual past, in which, as it now seemed, he had been living unconsciously. Every new experience which enriched his mind seemed to leave his soul more barren. The pathetic anguish of these moments had little of the moral element, which was dormant and uncultivated rather than perverted. He did not ponder over their moral aspect, for he shared the superficial dislike to the ethical, which we often see in purely artistic natures, who cannot endure the entrance of restraint or pain upon their beauty. His greatest lack was the companionship of fine men or noble women. He had shot up far beyond the reach of those whom he knew, and wanting this companionship he grew into a cynical or sensuous way of regarding them. He began to write: he had acquired the faculty of vigourous expression by means of such emotions as were tinged with a mystical voluptuousness which was the other pole to his inner, secret and spiritual being. The double strain upon his energies, which daily work and nightly study with mental productiveness involved, acted injuriously upon his health, and after a year he became so delicate that he could carry on neither one nor other of his avocations without an interval of complete rest. Obtaining leave from his employers, he went back for a period of six weeks to the village where he had been born. Here in the early summer and sunshine his health rapidly improved; his mind even more than his body drank deep draughts of life; and here, more than at any period in his life, did his imagination begin to deal with mighty things, and probe into the secret mysteries of life, and here passed into the long descended line by which the human spirit passed from empire; he began to comprehend dimly by what decadence from starry state the soul of man is ushered into the great visible life. These things came to him not clearly as ideas, but rather as shadowy and shining vision thrown across the air of dawn of twilight as he moved about.
Not alone did this opulence of spiritual life make him happy, another cause conspired with it to this end. He had met a nature somewhat akin to his own: Olive Rayne, the woman of his life.
As the days passed over he grew eager not to lose any chance of speech with her, and but two days before his departure he walked to the village hoping to see her. Down the quiet English lane in the evening he passed with the rapid feet that bear onward unquiet or feverish thought. The clear fresh air communicated delight to him; the fields grown dim, the voice of the cuckoo, the moon like a yellow globe cut in the blue, the cattle like great red shadows driven homeward with much unnecessary clamour by the children; all these flashed in upon him and became part of him: ready made accessories and backgrounds to his dreams, their quietness stilled and soothed the troubled beauty of passion. His pace lessened as he came near the village, half wondering what would serve as excuse for visits following one so soon upon the other. Chance served as excuse. He saw her grey dress, her firm upright figure coming out from among the lilac brushes at the gate of her father’s house. She saw Harvey coming towards her and waited for him with a pleasant smile. Harvey, accustomed to introspect and ideal imaginings, here encountered no shock gazing upon the external. Some last light of day reflected upward from the white gate-post, irradiated her face, and touched with gold the delicate brown hair, the nosrtils, lips, chin, and the lilac of her throat. Her features were clear-cut, flawless; the expression exquisitely grave and pure; the large grey eyes had that steady glow which shows a firm and undisturbed will. In some undefinable way he found himself thinking of the vague objects of his dreams, delicate and subtle things, dew, starlight, and transparencies rose up by some affinity. He rejected them–not those–then a strong warrior with a look of pity on his face appeared and disappeared: all this quick as a flash before she spoke.
“I am going doctoring,” she said. “Old nurse Winder is ill, and my father will not be back until late.” Mr. Rayne was the country doctor.
“May I go with you?” he asked.
“Oh, yes, why not? But I have first to call at two or three places on the way.”
He went with her. He was full of wonder at her. How could she come out of her own world of aspiration and mystic religion and show such perfect familiarity, ease and interest in dealing with these sordid village complaints, moral and physical? Harvey was a man who disliked things like these which did not touch his sense of beauty. He could not speak to these people as she did: he could not sympathize with them. The pain of the old woman made him shrink into himself almost with more disgust than pity. While Olive was bending over her tenderly and compassionately, he tried to imagine what it was inspired such actions and such self-forgetfulness. Almost it seemed for a moment to him as if some hidden will in the universe would not let beauty rest in its own sphere, but bowed it down among sorrows continually. He felt a feeling of relief as they came out agin into the night.
It was a night of miracle and wonder. Withdrawn far aloft into fairy altitudes, the stars danced with a gaiety which was more tremendous and solemn than any repose. The night was wrought out of a profusion of delicate fires. The grass, trees, and fields glowed with the dusky colours of rich pottery. Everywhere silence; everywhere the exultant breathing of life, subtle, universal, penetrating. Into the charmed heart fell the enchantment we call ancient, though the days have no fellows, nor will ever have any. Harvey, filled up with this wonder, turned to his companion.
“See how the Magician of the Beautiful blows with his mystic breath upon the world! How tremulous the lights are; what still ness! How it banishes the memory of pain!”
“Can you forget pain so easily? I hardly noticed the night–it is wonderful indeed. But the anguish it covers and enfolds everywhere I cannot forget.”
“I could not bear to think of pain at any time, still less while these miracles are over and around us. You seem to me almost to seek pain like a lover. I cannot understand you. How can you bear the ugly, the mean, the sordid–the anguish which you meet. You– so beautiful?”
“Can you not understand?” she said, almost impetuously. “Have you never felt pity as universal as the light that floods the world? To me a pity seems to come dropping, dropping, dropping from that old sky, upon the earth and its anguish. God is not indifferent. Love eternal encircles us. Its wishes are for our redemption. Its movements are like the ripples starting from the rim of a pond that overcome the outgoing ripples and restore all to peace.
“But what is pain if there is this love?” asked Harvey.
“Ah, how can I answer you? Yet I think it is the triumph of love pushing back sin and rebellion. The cry of this old nature being overcome is pain. And this is universal, and goes on everywhere, through we cannot comprehend it; and so, when we yield to this divine love, and accept the change, we find in pain a secret sweetness. It is the first thrill that heralds an immense dawn.”
“But why do you say it is universal? Is not that a frightful thought?”
“If God is the same yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow, then the life of Christ on earth was a symbol–must be a symbol–of what endures for ever: the Light and Darkness for ever in conflict: a crucifixion in eternity.”
This belief, so terrible, so pathetic, so strange, coming from this young girl affected Harvey profoundly. He did not reject it. The firmness and surety of her utterance, the moral purity of her character, appealed to him who felt his own lack of clear belief and heroic purpose. Like all spiritual people, he assimilated easily the spiritual moods of those whom he came into contact with. Coming from her, the moral, pathetic, and Christian doctrine had that element of beauty which made it blend with his ideal paganism. As he went homewards he pondered over her words, her life, her thoughts. He began to find an inexpressible beauty in her pity, as a feeling welling up from unknown depths, out of the ancient heart of things. Filled with this pity he could overcome his dislike of pain and go forth as the strong warrior of his momentary vision. He found himself repeating again and again her words: “We find in pain a secret sweetness–a secret sweetness–a secret sweetness.” If he could only find it, what might he not dare, to what might he not attain? And revolving all these things upon his restless pillow, there came over him one of those mystic moods I have spoken of: wandering among dim originals, half in dream and half in trance, there was unfolded within him this ancient legend of the soul:–
There was a great Gloom and a great Glory in nature, and the legions of darkness and the glorious hosts were at war perpetually with one another. Then the Ancient of Days, who holds all this within himself, moved the Gloom and the Glory together: the Sons of the Bright Fire he sent into the darkness, and the children of Darkness he brought unto the gates of the day. And in the new life formed out of the union of these two, pain, self-conscious, became touched with a spiritual beauty, and those who were of the Hosts of Beauty wore each one a Crown of Thorns upon the brow.
Harvey rose up early; as he walked to and fro in the white dawn, he found the answers to every question in his mind: they rose up with a sweet and joyful spontaneity. Life became filled with happiest meaning: a light from behind the veil fell upon the things he had before disliked, and in this new light, pain, sorrow, and the old moralities were invested with a significance undreamt of before. In admitting into his own mind Olive Rayne’s ideas, he removed something of their austerity: what he himself rejected, seen in her, added another and peculiar interest to the saintly ideal of her which he had formed. She had once said, peace and rest were inconceivable while there existed strife and suffering in nature. Nowhere could there be found refuge; drawing near unto the divine, this pain only became wider, more intense, almost insufferable, feeling and assimilating the vastness of divine sorrow brooding over the unreclaimed deep. This pity, this consciousness of pain, not her own, filling her own, filling her life, marked her out from everyone he knew. She seemed to him as one consecrated. Then this lover in his mystic passion passed in the contemplation of his well-beloved from the earthly to the invisible soul. He saw behind and around her a form unseen by others; a form, spiritual, pathetic, of unimaginable beauty, on which the eternal powers kept watch, which they nourished with their own life, and on which they inflicted their own pain. This form was crowned, but with a keen- pointed radiance from which there fell a shadowy dropping. As he walked to and fro in the white dawn he made for her a song, and inscribed it.
To One Consecrated
Your paths were all unknown to us:
We were so far away from you,
We mixed in thought your spirit thus–
With whiteness, stars of gold, and dew.
The mighty mother nourished you:
Her breath blew from her mystic bowers:
Their elfin glimmer floated through
The pureness of your shadowy hours.
The mighty mother made you wise;
Gave love that clears the hidden ways:
Her glooms were glory to your eyes;
Her darkness but the Fount of Days.
She made all gentleness in you,
And beauty radiant as the morn’s:
She made our joy in yours, then threw
Upon your head a crown of thorns.
Your eyes are filled with tender light,
For those whose eyes are dim with tears;
They see your brow is crowned and bright,
But not its ring of wounding spears.
We can imagine no discomfiture while the heavenly light shines through us. Harvey, though he thought with humility of his past as impotent and ignoble in respect of action, felt with his rich vivid consciousness that he was capable of entering into her subtlest emotions. He could not think of the future without her; he could not give up the hope of drawing nigh with her to those mysteries of life which haunted them both. His thought, companioned by her, went ranging down many a mystic year. He began to see strange possibilities, flashes as of old power, divine magic to which all the world responded, and so on till the thought trembled in vistas ending in a haze of flame. Meanwhile, around him was summer: gladness and youth were in his heart, and so he went on dreaming– forecasting for the earth and its people a future which belongs only to the spiritual soul–dreaming of happy years even as a child dreams.
Later on that evening, while Olive was sitting in her garden, Dr. Rayne came out and handed her a bundle of magazines.
“There are some things in these which may interest you, Olive,” he said: “Young Harvey writes for them, I understand. I looked over one or two. They are too mystical for me. You will hardly find them mystical enough.”
She took the papers from him without much interest, and laid them beside her on the seat. After a time she took them up. As she read her brows began to knit, and her face grew cold. These verses were full of that mystical voluptuousness which I said characterised Harvey’s earlier productions; all his rich imagination was employed to centre interest upon moments of half-sensual sensations; the imagery was used in such a way that nature seemed to aid and abet the emotion; out of the heart of things, out of wild enchantment and eternal revelry shot forth into the lives of men the fires of passion. Nothing could be more unlike the Christ-soul which she worshiped as underlying the universe and on which she had reliance.
“He does not feel pity; he does not understand love,” she murmured. She felt a cold anger arise; she who had pity for most things felt that a lie had been uttered defiling the most sacred things in the Holy of Holies, the things upon which her life depended. She could never understand Harvey, although he had been included in the general kindliness with which she treated all who came near her; but here he seemed revealed, almost vaunting an inspiration from the passionate powers who carry on their ancient war against the Most High.
The lights were now beginning to fade about her in the quiet garden when the gate opened, and someone came down the path. It was Harvey. In the gloom he did not notice that her usual smile was lacking, and besides he was too rapt in his own purpose. He hesitated for a moment, then spoke.
“Olive,” he said tremulously, “as I came down the lanes to say good-bye to you my heart rebelled. I could not bear the thought: Olive, I have learned so many things from you; your words have meant so much to me that I have taken them as the words of God. Before I knew you I shrank from pain; I wandered in search of a false beauty. I see now the purpose of life–to carry on the old heroic battle for the true; to give the consolation of beauty to suffering; to become so pure that through us may pass that divine pity which I never knew until you spoke, and I then saw it was the root of all life, and there was nothing behind it–such magic your words have. My heart was glad this morning for you at this truth, and I saw in it the power which would transfigure the earth. Yet all this hope has come to me through you; I half hold it still through you. To part from you now–it seems to me would be like turning away from the guardian of the heavenly gateway. I know I have but little to bring you. I must make all my plea how much you are to me when I ask can you love me.”
She had hardly heard a word of all he said. She was only conscious that he was speaking of love. What love? Had he not written of it? It would have emptied Heaven into the pit. She turned and faced him, speaking coldly and deliberately:
“You could speak of love to me, and write and think of it like this!” She placed her hand on the unfortunate magazines. Harvey followed the movement of her arm. He took the papers up, then suddenly saw all as she turned and walked away,–what the passion of these poems must have seemed to her. What had he been in her presence that could teach her otherwise? Only a doubter and questioner. In a dreadful moment his past rose up before him, dreamy, weak, sensual. His conscience smote him through and through. He could find no word to say. Self-condemned, he moved blindly to the gate and went out. He hardly knew what he was doing. Before him the pale dry road wound its way into the twilight amid the hedges and cottages. Phantasmal children came and went. There seemed some madness in all they were doing. Why did he not hear their voices? They ran round and round; there should have been cries or laughter or some such thing. Then suddenly something seemed to push him forward, and he went on blankly and walked down the lane. In that tragic moment his soul seemed to have deserted him, leaving only a half- animal consciousness. With dull attention he wondered at the muffled sound of his feet upon the dusty road, and the little puffs of smoke that shot out before them. Every now and then something would throb fiercely for an instant and be subdued. He went on and on. His path lay across some fields. He stopped by force of habit and turned aside from the road. Again the same fierce throb. In a wild instant he struggled for recollection and self-mastery, and then the smothered soul rushed out of the clouds that oppressed it. Memories of hope and shame: the morning gladness of his heart: the brilliant and spiritual imaginations that inspired him: their sudden ending: the degradation and drudgery of the life he was to return to on the morrow: all rose up in tumultuous conflict. A feeling of anguish that was elemental and not of the moment filled him. Drifting and vacillating nature–he saw himself as in a boat borne along by currents that carried him, now near isles of beauty, and then whirled him away from their vanishing glory into gloomy gulfs and cataracts that went down into blackness. He was master neither of joy nor sorrow. Without will: unpractical; with sensitiveness which made joy a delirium and gloom a very hell; the days he went forward to stretched out iron hands to bind him to the deadly dull and commonplace. These vistas, intolerable and hopeless, overcame him. He threw himself down in his despair. Around his head pressed the cool grasses wet with dew. Strange and narrow, the boundary between heaven and hell! All around him primeval life innocent and unconscious was at play. All around him, stricken with the fever of life, that Power which made both light and darkness, inscrutable in its workings, was singing silently the lovely carol of the flowers.
Little heaps of paper activities piled themselves up, were added to, diminished, and added to again, all the day long before Harvey at his desk. He had returned to his work: there was an unusual press of business, and night after night he was detained long beyond the usual hours. The iron hand which he had foreseen was laid upon him: it robbed him even of his right to sorrow, the time to grieve. But within him at moments stirred memories of the past, poignant anguish and fierce rebellion. With him everything transformed itself finally into ideal images and aspects, and it was not so much the memory of an incident which stung him as the elemental sense of pain in life itself. He felt that he was debarred from a heritage of spiritual life which he could not define even to himself. The rare rays of light that slanted through the dusty air of the office, mystic gold fallen through inconceivable distances from the pure primeval places, wakened in him an unutterable longing: he felt a choking in his throat as he looked. Often, at night, too, lifting his tired eyes from the pages flaring beneath the bright gas jet, he could see the blueness deepen rich with its ancient clouds of starry dust. What pain it was to him, immemorial quiet, passivity and peace, though over it a million tremors fled and chased each other throughout the shadowy night! What pain it was to let the eyes fall low and see about him the pale and feverish faces looking ghostly through the hot, fetid, animal, and flickering air!
His work over, out into the night he would drag himself wearily– out into the night anywhere; but there no more than within could he escape from that power which haunted him with mighty memories, the scourge which the Infinite wields. Nature has no refuge for those in whom the fire of spirit has been kindled: earth has no glory for which it does not know a greater glory. As Harvey passed down the long streets, twinkling with their myriad lights fading into blue and misty distances, there rose up before him in the visionary air solemn rows of sphinxes in serried array, and starlit pyramids and temples–greatness long dead, a dream that mocked the lives around him, hoarding the sad small generations of humanity dwindling away from beauty. Gone was the pure and pale splendour of the primeval skies and the lustre of the first-born of stars. But even this memory, which linked him in imagination to the ideal past, was not always his: he was weighted, like all his race, with an animal consciousness which cried out fiercely for its proper life, which thirsted for sensation, and was full of lust and anger. The darkness was not only about him, but in him, and struggled there for mastery. It threw up forms of meanness and horrible temptations which clouded over his soul; their promise was forgetfulness; they seemed to say: “Satisfy us, and your infinite longing shall die away: to be of clay is very dull and comfortable; it is the common lot.”
One night, filled with this intolerable pain, as he passed through the streets he yielded to the temptation to kill out this torturing consciousness: he accosted one of the women of the streets and walked away with her. She was full of light prattle, and chattered on and on. Harvey answered her not a word; he was set on his stony purpose. Child of the Stars! what had he to do with these things? He sought only his soul’s annihilation. Something in this terrible silence communicated itself to his companion. She looked at his face in the light of a lamp; it was white, locked, and rigid. Child of the Stars, no less, though long forgetful, she shuddered at this association. She recoiled from him crying out “You brute–you brute!” and then fled away. The unhappy man turned homeward and sat in his lonely room with stupid, staring eyes, fixed on darkness and vacancy until the pale green light of dawn began to creep in upon him.
Into this fevered and anguished existence no light had yet come. Drunken with wretchedness, Harvey could not or would not think; and the implacable spirit which followed him deepened and quickened still more the current of his being, and the GLOOM and the GLORY of his dream moved still nearer to each other. Mighty and mysterious spirit, thou who crownest pain with beauty, and by whom the mighty are bowed down from their seats, under they guidance, for such a crowning and for such agony, were coiled together the living streams of evil and good, so that at last the man might know himself–the soul–not as other than Thee!
The ways by which he was brought to that moment were unremembered; the sensations and thoughts and moods which culminated in the fire of self-consciousness could be retraced but vaguely. He had gone out of the city one Sunday, and lying down in the fields under the trees, for a time he grew forgetful of misery. He went once more into the world of dreams. He, or the creature of his imagination, some shadow of himself, lived in and roamed through antique forests where the wonderful days were unbroken by sense of sorrow. Childhood shared in an all-pervading exultation; through the pulses of youth ran the fiery energy that quickened the world; and this shadow of the dreamer dwelling amid the forests grew gradually into a consciousness of a fiery life upon which the surface forms were but films: he entered this kingdom of fire; its life became his life; he knew the secret ways to the sun, and the sunny secrets living in the golden world. “It was I, myself,” rushed into Harvey’s mind: “It was I. Ah, how long ago!” Then for the first time, his visions, dreams and imaginations became real to him, as memories of a spirit traveling through time and space. Looking backwards, he could nowhere find in the small and commonplace surroundings of his life anything which could have suggested or given birth to these vivid pictures and ideas. They began to move about swiftly in his mind and arrange themselves in order. He seemed to himself to have fallen downwards through a long series of lines of ever- lessening beauty–fallen downwards from the mansions of eternity into this truckling and hideous life. As Harvey walked homewards through the streets, some power must have guided his steps, for he saw or knew nothing of what was about him. With the sense of the reality of his imaginations came an energy he had never before felt: his soul took complete possession of him: he knew, though degraded, that he was a spirit. Then, in that supreme moment, gathered about him the memories of light and darkness, and they became the lips through which eternal powers spake to him in a tongue unlike the speech of men. The spirit of light was behind the visions of mystical beauty: the spirit of darkness arrayed itself in the desires of clay. These powers began to war within him: he heard voices as of Titans talking.
The spirit of light spake within him and said–“Arouse now, and be thou my voice in this dead land. There are many things to be spoken and sung–of dead language the music and significance, old world philosophies; you will be the singer of the sweetest songs; stories wilder and stranger than any yet will I tell you–deeds forgotten of the vaporous and dreamy prime.
The voice came yet again closer, full of sweet promise, with magical utterance floating around him. He became old–inconceivably old and young together. He was astonished in the wonders of the primal world. Chaos with tremendous agencies, serpentine powers, strange men-beasts and men-birds, the crude first thought of awakening nature was before him; from inconceivable heights of starlike purity he surveyed it; he went forth from glory; he descended and did battle; he warred with behemeths, with the flying serpents and the monstrous creeping things. With the Lords of Air he descended and conquered; he dwelt in a new land, a world of light, where all things were of light, where the trees put forth leaves of living green, where the rose would blossom into a rose of light and lily into a white radiance, and over the vast of gleaming plains and through the depths of luminous forests, the dreaming rivers would roll in liquid and silver flame. Often he joined in the mad dance upon the highlands, whirling round and round until the dark grass awoke fiery with rings of green under the feet. And so, on and on through endless transformations he passed, and he saw how the first world of dark elements crept in upon the world of beauty, clothing it around with grossness and veiling its fires; and the dark spirits entered by subtle ways into the spheres of the spirits of light, and became as a mist over memory and a chain upon speed; the earth groaned with the anguish. Then this voice cried within him–“Come forth; come out of it; come out, oh king, to the ancestral spheres, to the untroubled spiritual life. Out of the furnace, for it leaves you dust. Come away, oh king, to old dominion and celestial sway; come out to the antique glory!”
Then another voice from below laughed at the madness. Full of scorn it spake, “You, born of clay, a ruler of stars? Pitiful toiler with the pen, feeble and weary body, what shall make of you a spirit?” Harvey thrust away this hateful voice. From his soul came the impulse to go to other lands, to wander for ever and ever under the star-rich skies, to be a watcher of the dawn and eve, to live in forest places or on sun-nurtured plains, to merge himself once more in the fiery soul hidden within. But the mocking voice would not be stifled, showing him how absurd and ridiculous it was “to become a vagabond,” so the voice said, and finally to die in the workhouse. So the eternal spirit in him, God’s essence, conscious of its past brotherhood, with the morning stars, the White Aeons, in its prisonhouse writhed with the meanness, till at last he cried, “I will struggle no longer; it is only agony of spirit to aspire here at all; I will sit and wait till the deep darkness has vanished.”
But the instruction was not yet complete; he had learned the primal place of spirit; he had yet to learn its nature. He began to think with strange sadness over the hopes of the world, the young children. He saw them in his vision grow up, bear the burden in silence or ignorance; he saw how they joined in dragging onward that huge sphinx which men call civilization; there was no time for loitering amid the beautiful, for if one paused it was but to be trampled by the feet of the many who could not stay or rest, and the wheels of the image ground that soul into nothingness. He felt every pain almost in an anguish of sympathy. Helpless to aid, to his lips came the cry to another which immemorial usage has made intuitive in men. But It is high and calm above all appeal; to It the cries from all the sorrowing stars sound but as one great music; lying in the infinite fields of heaven, from the united feelings of many universes It draws only a vast and passionless knowledge, without distinction of pleasure or pain. From the universal which moves not and aids not, Harvey in his agony turned away. He himself could fly from the struggle; thinking of what far place or state to find peace, he found it true in his own being that nowhere could the soul find rest while there was still pain or misery in the world. He could imagine no place or state where these cries of pain would not reach him: he could imagine no heaven where the sad memory would not haunt him and burn him. He knew then that the nature of the soul was love eternal; he knew that if he fled away a divine compassion would compel him to renew his brotherhood with the stricken and suffering; and what was best forever to do was to fight out the fight in the darkness. There was a long silence in Harvey’s soul; then with almost a solemn joy he grew to realize at last the truth of he himself–the soul. The fight was over; the Gloom and the Glory were linked together, and one inseparably. Harvey was full of a sense of quietness, as if a dew fell from unseen places on him with soothing and healing power. He looked around. He was at the door of his lodgings. The tall narrow houses with their dull red hues rose up about him; from their chimneys went up still higher the dark smoke; but behind its nebulous wavering the stars were yet; they broke through the smoke with white lustre. Harvey looked at them for a moment, and went in strangely comforted.
–March 15-June 15, 1894