The Centaur/XX

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
The Centaur by Algernon Blackwood
Chapter XX

"To everything that a man does he must give his undivided attention or his Ego. When he has done this, thoughts soon arise in him, or else a new method of apprehension miraculously appears....

"Very remarkable it is that through this play of his personality man first becomes aware of his specific freedom, and that it seems to him as though he awaked out of a deep sleep as though he were only now at home in the world, and as if the light of day were breaking now over his interior life for the first time.... The substance of these impressions which affect us we call Nature, and thus Nature stands in an immediate relationship to those functions of our bodies which we call senses. Unknown and mysterious relations of our body allow us to surmise unknown and mysterious correlations with Nature, and therefore Nature is that wondrous fellowship into which our bodies introduce us, and which we learn to know through the mode of its constitutions and abilities."

--NOVALIS, Disciples at Saïs. Translated by U.C.B.


And so, at last, the darkness came, a starry darkness of soft blue shadows and phosphorescent sea out of which the hills of the Cyclades rose faint as pictures of floating smoke a wind might waft away like flowers to the sky.

The plains of Marathon lay far astern, blushing faintly with their scarlet tamarisk blossoms. The strange purple glow of sunset upon Hymettus had long since faded. A hush grew over the sea, now a marvelous cobalt blue. The earth, gently sleeping, manifested dreamily. Into the subconscious state passed one half of her huge, gentle life.

The Irishman, responding to the eternal spell of her dream-state, experienced in quite a new way the magic of her Night-Mood. He found it more difficult than ever to realize as separate entities the little things that moved about through the upper surface of her darkness. Wings of silver, powerfully whirring, swept his soul onwards to another place--toward Home.

And the two worlds intermingled oddly. These little separate "outer things" going to and fro so busily became as symbols more or less vital, more or less transparent. They varied according to their simplicity. Some of them were channels that led directly where he was going; others, again, had lost all connection with their vital source and center of existence. To the former belonged the sailors, children, the tired birds that rested on the ship as they journeyed northwards, swallows, doves, and little travelers with breasts of spotted yellow that nested in the rigging; even, in a measure, the gentle, brown-eyed priest; but to the latter, the noisy, vulgar, beer-drinking tourists, and, especially, the fur-merchant.... Stahl, interpreter and intermediary, hovered between--incarnate compromise.

Escaping from everybody, at length, he made his way into the bows; there, covered by the stars, he waited. And the thing he waited for--he felt it coming over him with a kind of massive sensation as little local as heat or cold--was that disentanglement of a part of his personality from the rest against which Stahl had warned him. That portion of his complex personality in which resided desire and longing, matured during these many years of poignant nostalgia, was now slowly and deliberately loosening out from the parent center. It was the vehicle of his Urwelt yearnings; and the Urwelt was about to draw it forth. The Call was on its way.

Hereabouts, then, near the Isles of Greece, lay a channel to the Earth's far youth, a channel for some reason still unclosed. His companions knew it; he, too, had half divined it. The increased psychic activity of all three as they approached Greece seemed explained. The sign--would it be through hearing, sight, or touch?--would shortly come that should convince.

That very afternoon Stahl had said--"Greece will betray them," and he had asked: "Their true form and type?" And for answer the old man did an expressive thing, far more convincing than words: he bent forwards and downwards. He made as though to move a moment on all fours.

O'Malley remembered the brief and vital scene now. The word, however, persistently refused to come into his mind. Because the word was really inadequate, describing but partially a form and outline symbolical of far more,--a measure of Nature and Deity alike.

And so, as a man dreading the entrance to a great adventure that he yet desires, the Irishman waited there alone beneath the cloud of night.... Soft threads of star-gold, trailing the sea, wove with the darkness a veil that hid from his eyes the world of crude effects. All memory of the casual realities of modern life that so distressed his soul, fled far away. The archetypal world, soul of the Earth, swam close about him, enormous and utterly simple. He seemed alone in some hollow of the night which Time had overlooked, and where the powers of sea and air held him in the stretch of their gigantic, changeless hands. In this hollow lay the entrance to the channel down which he presently might flash back to that primal Garden of the Earth's first beauty--her Golden Age... down which, at any rate, the authoritative Call he awaited was to come.... "Oh! what a power has white simplicity!"

Wings from the past, serene and tranquil, bore him toward this ancient peace where echoes of life's brazen clash today could never enter. Ages before Greece, of course, it had flourished, yet Greece had caught some flying remnant ere it left the world of men, and for a period had striven to renew its life, though by poetry but half believed. Over the vales and hills of Hellas this mood had lingered bravely for a while, then passed away forever ... and those who dreamed of its remembrance remain homeless and lonely, seeking it ever again in vain, lost citizens, rejected by the cycles of vainer life and action that succeeded.

The Spirit of the Earth, yes, whispered in his ears as he waited covered by the night and stars. She called him, as though across all the forests on her breast the long sweet winds went whispering his name. Lying there upon the coils of thick and tarry rope, the Urwelt caught him back with her splendid passion. Currents of Earth life, quasi-deific, gentle as the hands of little children, tugged softly at this loosening portion of his Self, urging his very lips, as it were, once more to the mighty Mother's breasts. Again he saw those cloud-like shapes careering over long, bare hills ... and almost knew himself among them as they raced with streaming winds ... free, ancient comrades among whom he was no longer alien and outcast, including his two companions of the steamer. The early memory of the Earth became his own; as a part of her, he shared it too.

The Urwelt closed magnificently about him. Vast shapes of power and beauty, other than human, once his comrades thus, but since withdrawn because denied by a pettier age, moved up, huge and dim, across the sham barriers of time and space, singing the great Earth-Song of welcome in his ears. The whisper grew awfully.... The Spirit of the Earth flew close and called upon him with a shout...!

Then, out of this amazing reverie, he woke abruptly to the consciousness that some one was approaching him stealthily, yet with speed, through the darkness. With a start he sat up, peering about him. There was dew on his clothes and hair. The stars, he saw, had shifted their positions.

He heard the surge of the water from the vessel's bows below. The line of the shore lay close on either side. Overhead he saw the black threads of rigging, quivering with the movement of the ship; the swaying mast-head light; the dim, round funnels; the confused shadows where the boats swung--and nearer, moving between the ropes and windlasses, this hurrying figure whose approach had disturbed him in his gorgeous dream.

And O'Malley divined at once that, though in one sense a portion of his dream, it belonged outwardly to the same world as this long dark steamer that trailed after him across the sea. A piece of his vision, as it were, had broken off and remained in the cruder world wherein his body lay upon these tarry ropes. The boy came up and stood a moment by his side in silence, then, stooping to the level of his head, he spoke:--

"Come," he said in low tones of joy; "come! We wait long for you already!"

The words, like music, floated over the sea, as O'Malley took the outstretched hand and suffered himself to be led quickly toward the lower deck. He walked at first as in a dream continued after waking; more than once it seemed as though they stepped together from the boards and moved through space toward the line of peaked hills that fringed the steamer's course so close. For through the salt night air ran a perfume that suggested flowers, earth, and woods, and there seemed no break in the platforms of darkness that knit sea and shore to the very substance of the vessel.

(prev/next)