Candle of Vision/Chapter 2
The Earth Breath
AFTER that awakening earth began more and more to bewitch me, and to lure me to her heart with honied entreaty.
I could not escape from it even in that busy office where I sat during week-days with little heaps of paper mounting up before me moment by frenzied moment.
An interval of inactivity and I would be aware of that sweet eternal presence overshadowing me.
I was an exile from living nature but she yet visited me.
Her ambassadors were visions that made me part of themselves.
Through the hot foetid air of the gaslit room I could see the feverish faces, the quick people flitting about, and hear the voices; and then room, faces and voices would be gone, and I would be living in the Mother's being in some pure, remote, elemental region of hers.
Instead of the dingy office there would be a sky of rarest amethyst; a snow-cold bloom of cloud; high up in the divine wilderness, solitary, a star; all rapt, breathless and still; rapt the seraph princes of wind and wave and fire, for it was the hour when the King, an invisible presence, moved through His dominions and Nature knew and was hushed at the presence of her Lord.
Once, suddenly, I found myself on some remote plain or steppe, and heard unearthly chimes pealing passionately from I know not what far steeples.
The earth-breath streamed from the furrows to the glowing heavens.
Overhead the birds flew round and round crying their incomprehensible cries, as if they were maddened, and knew not where to nestle, and had dreams of some more enraptured rest in a diviner home.
I could see a ploughman lifting himself from his obscure toil and stand with lit eyes as if he too had been fire-smitten and was caught into heaven as I was, and knew for that moment he was a god.
And then I would lapse out of vision and ecstasy, and hear the voices, and see again through the quivering of the hot air the feverish faces, and seem to myself to be cast out of the spirit.
I could hardly bear after thinking of these things, for I felt I was trapped in some obscure hell.
You, too, trapped with me, dear kindly people, who never said a harsh word to the forgetful boy.
You, too, I knew, had your revelations.
I remember one day how that clerk with wrinkled face, blinking eyes and grizzly beard, who never seemed apart from his work, to have interests other than his pipe and paper, surprised me by telling me that the previous midnight he waked in his sleep, and some self of him was striding to and fro in the moonlight in an avenue mighty with gigantic images; and that dream self he had surprised had seemed to himself unearthly in wisdom and power.
What had he done to be so high in one sphere and so petty in another?
Others I could tell of, too, who had their moment of awe when the spirit made its ancient claim on them.
But none were so happy or so unhappy as I was.
I was happy at times because the divine world which had meant nothing to my childhood was becoming a reality to manhood: and I knew it was not a dream, for comrades in vision soon came to me.
They who could see as I saw, and hear as I heard, and there were some who had gone deeper into that being than I have ever travelled.
I was more miserable than my work-a-day companions, because the very intensity of vision made the recoil more unendurable.
It was an agony of darkness and oblivion, wherein I seemed like those who in nightmare are buried in caverns so deep beneath the roots of the world that there is no hope of escape, for the way out is unknown, and the way to them is forgotten by those who walk in light.
In those black hours the universe, a gigantic presence, seemed at war with me.
I was condemned, I thought, to be this speck of minute life because of some sin committed in remote ages, I and those with me.
We were all lost children of the stars.
Everything that suggested our high original being, a shaft of glory from the far fire in the heavens spearing the gloom of the office, the blue twilight deepening through the panes until it was rich with starry dust, the sunny clouds careering high over the city, these things would stir pangs of painful remembrance and my eyes would suddenly grow blind and wet.
Sometimes, too, I would rebel and plot in my obscurity, and remember moments when the will in me seemed to be a titanic power, and my spirit would brood upon ways of escape and ascent to its native regions, as those fallen angels in Milton's tremendous narrative rose up from torture, and conspired to tear the throne from Him.
And then all that would appear to me to be futile as a speck of dust trying to stay itself against the typhoon, and the last door would close upon me and leave me more hopeless than before.