The Forest Giant

The Forest Giant
The Forest Giant

Title page

The Forest Giant



Translated from the French by

Jonathan Cape





















The Odyssey

For years on end it had been rolling, across the plains, through the deep meadow grasses, under the dim echoing archways of the forest. Always, in heat and cold, beneath blue skies, or skies clouded with rain and hail and snow, it had been rolling ceaselessly. One day it would be gilded by the sunlight—but not softened; another day grizzled streaks of rain soaked it—without refreshment. It was buried, to all appearances for ever, by drifts of snow—but was not hurt. It had crossed cataracts of light and floods of shadow; it had been rocked by soft winds and hurled dizzily into the air by the shrieking gusts of cyclones; and it had met all these things—the sweetness of the day, the shade of night, the winters, the springs, the summers—with the same submissive, invulnerable apathy. It had waited its hour, ready, if need be, to wait yet much longer.

Those who boast of their travels and adventures should think over this journey and its conditions. We have glimpses of other countries, we climb mountains, we run through woods and fields; but our varieties and difficulties are as nothing to the differences of its varied blades of grass, to its dark holes in the ground, its mounds of earth or snow, to all the obstacles which it met and overcame or slipped past on its road. Our gallops on shore or voyages at sea do not compare with its mad career as the sport of storms and mountain-torrents. Time and space fought over the little helpless rolling body. The elements loosed out their terrors round it like an evil dream, seeming to toss it about in prize.

Everything seemed to toss it about. It was girt round by immensities, which might be azure or glittering with gold in summer, pallid dull or menacing in winter, silent as the abyss by night, and terrible with a myriad of unknown noises in the day; but nothing daunted it. Within its tiny form it held other visions, greater yet, visions and million-old memories of the childhood of the world, when the waves moaned in another measure, and the agony of the vision of earth was different. So it waited the favourable event which would give it life: or the sign of dissolution, to presage its death.

The light beating of a bird's wings, one dawn, had began its career by flinging it out of the tiny shelter (a crevice in a low branch of the mother-tree) from which the mightiest winds had been unable in long years to tear it. It was falling in slow gyrations through the green air, across the red-barred dawn-fires of the sun, when a quick breath of wind lifted its mossy form and carried it, from near the ground, far out into space. In its flight it grazed, time and again, the rude bark of trees, sank to ground level, skimmed it, and rose once more before it fell at last upon the polished surface of a stone, where it lay till dark and through the night till the next noon. The air above it was heavy with the humming of insects, and around stretched the very old forest, vibrant with life.

The merest trifle might have carried this tiny seed of Californian pine a few inches farther, where lay fat moist soil, good for tree-growth; but such was not its lot. The vast and shining EYE which oversees the dizzy spectacle of the universe, and comprehends it in its dreadful whole as in its least bewildering detail, this EYE had doubtless not lost sight of it. Suddenly all light around was blotted out: a great mass overwhelmed it and carried it away with heavy abrupt movements. It felt itself embedded in a soft warm substance, among grains of sand, dead leaves and grass, which were picked up now and then from the ground, carried awhile, and dropped (only to be replaced by others), in a sequence of rudely rhythmical movement. The pine-seed had been caught up in the frog of an animal's foot, fixed in it deeply, so that it was not till after many days at last delivered, when the beast waded across a brook and left the seed on a dry sand-bank, near sunset, in the deep glow of the evening rays.

The seed had now quitted the forest for an immense, bare, open desert, a new prospect of the world. Here were no rustling grasses nor fluttering leaves, no clashing together of dry branches, no birds to sing nor beasts to howl: none of that rich, wide, strange stirring of the mighty jungle, whose breathing and mysterious rumour was choked (like the cries of its animals and the laboured thrumming of the winds through its vaulted trees) by the rank smell of sap and the exhalations of dead leaves and teeming soil. A light wind blew the seed across the sand, for hours driving it about, backwards, forwards, to right or left, sometimes in great circles, and sometimes stationary against a stone till a new gust should send it forth again, past its obstacle, on yet another abandoned desultory course. The world was overspread with an intense blue, from which light seemed to fall in sheets.

Later this brilliant blue turned to a bleeding red, through which the sun's golden arrows slid into violet bands and faded gently. An exquisite freshness fell from heaven as the purple mildness of evening came down upon the world. Yet the pine-seed could not rest. The wind, as it became sweeter, became stronger, and sent it again across the sand-spaces of its former road, while about it a new life began to stir. Insects which had been hiding all day danced over it, or circled violently about it, or stopped to smell it, or tried in vain to crack open its hard shell. Their grotesque shadows ran blackly over the silver sand. At times green shining specks came near, hovered a moment, and vanished in a soft shiver of wings.

All the while the pine-seed resigned itself with unconquerable patience to its senseless course. Dawn came. The sun climbed high in the heavens. Yesterday's burning blue again hemmed in the world; and after it came night and dawn, and day and night again once more. In the same wide desert the pine-seed rolled about, the sport of the same winds, pitting against their caprice the constant apathetic endurance of its little, round, hard body.

So weeks and months flowed by, times which for other things or other beings elsewhere may have been momentous; but which for the sequoia seed were all alike. Then one day the sky darkened, and rain began to fall. The first slow heavy drops seemed to nail the seed to the sand, and whole days passed; but in the end, just at twilight, water began to trickle over the ground and to collect in plashes here and there over the huge sandy surface.

The strange power of water to absorb light enables it to preserve the clearness of the daylight, even when the light has fled, and makes the shadows which it reflects in the darkness appear even darker than their truth. The sea gives, better than any other thing, a feeling of the mystery of never-ending distances. It strikes not merely on living beings, through their imagination, their blood, their nerves, but seems almost to project itself into materials. These water-plashes at last ran together into little streams which carried off in their current everything not strong enough to resist them. Consequently the pine-seed found itself all at once flooded with freshness. The liquid got right into it, penetrated unreservedly into its outer husk, till the little seed felt itself soaked. None the less it kept its vital force intact, and neither split nor sprouted. The life-force handed down to it through millions of generations was too vigorous and too well-prepared for its special future, whether near or distant, to break up in the tiny frame. Only this time inertia was not its sole defence against the assailing elements: it found in itself a happy elasticity which helped to keep out surplus liquid.

Thus for the whole rainy season the seed wandered about the sand-desert, going with the waters down an imperceptible slope. On all sides the waves now compassed it, with the grey sky coving above it and them in the daytime; but at night it was drowned by water and by darkness. The waters, as ever, darkened the shadows of these shades circling in space. A chill, blind, impenetrable horror overcame the pine-seed. It appeared, almost like an endowed being, to hesitate in its career. It struck against stones, seemed to cling to the tufts of grass which the waters carried down with them, seemed to betray a longing to stop, while the waves, so infinitely great, withdrew it gently but irresistibly from every obstacle. It yielded patiently, strong perhaps in its sense of future greatness. The outside forces, despite their violence, could not prevail over the insignificant seed whose giant bulk would some day laugh at the roaring of the winds and the struggles of the waves; and as it was tossed about during the night in the immensity of shadow and water, may not the sense of past existence have come to life in it, and a memory of that other chaos with the very different terrors, as experienced by its forbears in the first stages of the world? So it journeyed, firmly and humbly, towards the unknown.


The Genus trembles into Consciousness

One day the stream of water by which the seed was carried along sank suddenly—whirling down a funnel in the ground. Slowly the grey light of day grew less as the seed dived deeper and deeper, till in absolute darkness it was rushing madly down the water-spout. Hoarse bellowings resounded about its long subterranean voyage, asserting themselves above the stifled noises of the passage of the buried river through the bowels of the earth. For weeks and months the pine-kernel revolved in these invisible currents, at times slipping slowly along the twisting flow, at other times hurled forward at a dizzy speed in the dwelling coolness of the under-ground.

Suddenly the booming of the flood deepened. A hesitating cautious light came trembling down the waves, and with a huge guggling the seed found itself thrown out into a greenish mass of translucent water, the volume of a river which now took charge of its further course, and in whose stream it long drifted, while the sun gilded the changing surface or the moon turned it all to silver. The tiny seed seemed lost in time, swallowed up in space, as it floated on top of the water or sank into its depth. The contrasts were overwhelming, when the insignificant grain was set beside the river which carried it along, beside the wide champaigns of the two banks, beside the unplumbed void above, in whose pale-blue transparency some far grey and white clouds were fading or floating. How small it looked so set in infinite space! and yet the pine-kernel had its own part to play, and of the thousands of interacting forces in earth and heaven some were specially appointed to fulfil its destiny.

Where did it go in this great smooth-running river? How was it that the immensities among which it wandered did not blot out its faint existence? Had the all-seeing Eye really appointed each one of the many incidents which marked its start in life? Can we, in view of this case, believe that everything has been fore-ordained since the beginning of time (which has never been), and is ordained to the end of time (which also will never be)? No doubt there are the same laws for beings and for things, for constellations of dazzling size as for atoms too small to see, laws which operate in a like spirit and entail like inevitable consequences of related sense. Worlds and beings, objective things and abstractions of thought and instinct all run a similar course of birth, climax, and decline. They begin in nameless processes, develop in phases according to their kinds, and end one day to make room for other transformations equally indescribable.

Accordingly the pine-seed was carried by the river in devious courses, thrown up on the bank, snatched away by the wind, rolled over the plains, cast up the mountain-side, tossed back into the fields, led here and there for an incalculable time, the sport of inapprehensible caprice. A hundred times it nearly fell into a spot favourable for taking root, and as often it was driven away from its goal by forces apparently hostile. If the little seed had been gifted with an observing sense it would probably have seen the lot and end of every event in its own destiny. Once it hung for years a few inches from a suitable hole in some fat land, and was left there unmoved by the fresh winds of spring-time, by the ardent summers, by the icy falls of snow. Nothing helped it; till finally a pebble slipped—for some unrecorded reason—picked it up on one of its muddy faces and held it there for weeks, to set it free again on a path of turf.

Such incidents often happened, to make the seed entertain the common hope of its species, the chance of taking root; but always some unknown force dashed the near fulfilment from it. However, one morning, at the edge of a forest and on rain-softened ground, the sequoia seed at last got leave to germinate. The leave was given suddenly and precisely. A gust of wind, blowing across a dead calm, lifted it some hundreds of yards at a bound, and put it down on the slope of a mound of soil by an open hole. None the less the seed might have lain short of its place for years, for it was fixed firmly enough to nullify the impulse of the winds, and the many and various undulations of the ground-surface; but now at length its natural purpose was nearly achieved. A few minutes later a dung-beetle arrived, took it up between its claws, easily avoided the several obstacles of the mound, and dropped it, as though intelligently, on the very edge of the pit. The insect then, as in obedience to some non-apparent but exact will, began heedlessly to fill in the hole with rich earth.

So from a little seed and a little soil there will be born here a sequoia gigantea, the hugest plant of earth. It seems a miracle that the future bulk of the tree, its grain, its pith, the shape and colour of its needles, the special nature of its sap, the many tens of hundreds of years of its life should be found in a pin-head of vegetable fibre; and another miracle that the microscopic seed should already contain not merely its plant's organic nature, but also its tastes and distastes, its pleasures and its pains, all the range of yet unformed impressions which would colour its existence in the world.

In such changeless fashion does the vital spark of species run through a myriad centuries. It was for the sequoia, as it is for the innumerable forms of life upon earth, for the solar planets, and for those unknown planets circulating in space, fragments perhaps of suns beyond our ken. From this aspect the law of perpetuity seems to be an eternal re-beginning of the same careers, to be pursued through similar stages to a like end.

How often we find in ourselves hopes, desires, griefs, apparently unrelated to our own experiences and circumstances! They come to us from very far, these feelings, and in answering to them we follow a mysterious and indiscoverable chain of forerunners. Their fate is to some extent our own. Like memory (activity's retreating shadow), their sensations mix and mirror themselves brokenly in us, quickening in us hesitant, half-felt surmises about their final cause, or as to why these reflections of a long-lost age are sent to us.

The play of external events upon our destiny seems to us as inexplicable as the inherited influences which direct us from within. The tiny seed, for example, in circumstances apparently hostile and unfavourable to its development, yet by a few exact but unexpected actions of others, found itself free to work out its fate; and to work it out just after a moment when it had seemed indefinitely delayed.

We men living under the sun can usefully apply the lessons of our own existence to this case. We are very far from grasping the whole scheme of the forces which dispose our lives; indeed, we get only faint occasional sidelights upon them. They strike our attention often because of the mysterious symmetry with which certain things seem to happen. We call them good and bad periods when an order of events occurs to help or hinder our fortunes; and it is significant that there should be a family likeness in such series of affairs. The vision of the lean and fat cows in the Bible is only one instance of this age-old observation; and we have also noted that cases apparently hopeless sometimes contain, beyond our sight, their own happy issue which bursts into view through a union of unexpected and apparently unrelated circumstances. This law sways not merely our human affairs but universal fate. Does the all-creating Eye really see and set in motion His whole universe rhythmically, in tune with one principle which is concealed from our sight by the terrifying complexity of detail in daily life in the visible and invisible worlds?

If so, the universe takes shape as a harmonious whole. What we know and what we do not know of the millions of existences everywhere at any time all are driving towards a common end. From the littlenesses here and the greatnesses there would emerge, perhaps, for those who could see it, a whole immeasurably, inconceivably huge. The atoms seem a mass to us, sometimes, though doubtless they differ among themselves. Men, despite their individual characters, appear, when seen in bulk and from a distance, as a group-whole, comparable with bees or ants. From far enough our earth, despite its diversifying hills and plains and valleys, would seem a smooth body; and if some being could comprehend the entire universe at once, by means and from a view-point beyond our understanding, what would it look like all-together?

That no man will ever tell us.


The Kindly Darkness

Buried between two layers of soil the little pine-kernel woke from its inactivity. Underground was warm and moist; and therefore the seed swelled up with comfort, and relaxed itself with pleasure. The damp crept through it, right through it, with a gentle persistence in marked contrast with the brutal attack of the flood which had swept it away but had not broken down its stubborn defence. The heat of the subsoil made the seed ferment, and summoned it to live; but the mysterious centre of life in it found a fellow-feeling in the equally mysterious darkness which wrapped it about, full of the unaccountable impalpable emanations of all life upon earth.

For this dark we have an unreasonable fear, and it is curious to inquire into the causes of the horror of blackness which fixes itself in our hearts at the moment of their first pulsations. The black is soothing, whence therefore our agony at thought of it? Why do our heads swim when we look at a graveyard and reckon the darkness of the tomb; and the nothingness, in its grip, of things which have been but will be no more? Half-stifled we read a name inscribed on the marble slab, and imagine the unknown dead man as he lived—what he did, whom he loved, how he suffered—and we conjure up in our minds the poor blank wraith, now for ever departed from the light of day.

We can go further, and from the one build up the army of those who have lived, of those alive, of those who will live after us: and these unknown shadows press about our familiar faces, flutter and crowd in and out of the stage-properties of our own existence—like dead leaves in the autumn winds. Particular shapes haunt us with disquieting persistency. We find ourselves in streets, or at shows, or in public parks in the midst of a mob of people whom we do not know, but who live beside us; and we hear them speaking, and can picture to ourselves what they care about. They are of all ages, old and young, men, women, children, black-eyed, blue-eyed, grey-eyed, with fair or dark hair or hair withered white, full-lipped, or with lips shrivelled by passing time; but all of them are living, are there, glad or sorry, before our eyes. An idea takes possession of us and strengthens in us till we tremble with it. We think—"All these individuals about us, whom we could touch as they move, and whom we know to have feelings and hopes and preoccupations, all these beings are destined to disappear one day, whatever they do, wherever they may be, no matter how strong, how well-founded, how firm. In a hundred years they will just have existed, will be nowhere discoverable. What will have become of them?" And again we see the cold, forbidding cemeteries, with the ranked and serried silent tombs all shut fast among their flowers. We shiver at the thought that there, under the cover-stones, beneath the turf, below thick layers of soil, are only blanched bones scattered through that dark which makes us tremble with the notion that it is in some strange fashion our enemy.

Such is the common mistake of reason when imagination has taken charge of a mind; and in combating it we must first distinguish between its cause and its effects. These shadows which we fear only have power upon us after we have irrevocably ceased to exist. It is not the darkness which destroys us; on the contrary, it is profoundly creative, doing its work, with that odd prudishness of creation, by choice out of sight.

It was in such a blank darkness underground that the sequoia seed germinated and burst open under the life-impulse. The cotyledons, rich in vivifying substances, gave a beginning of nourishment to the seedling until it was able itself to select the elements which would assist its growth. The darkness cradled the budding plant, and would continue to prove its definite base after it had grown up to strength. In all these functions there was no destructiveness, nothing to excuse our fear of it. The shades stand attentive about the seeds of plants, as they surround the young of birds in the hatching egg, as they contain the foetus in its mother's womb. In the dark is the beginning of nearly all creative processes: even the diamond forms itself so, in the very bowels of the earth, remote from us—there, in a solid blackness, it takes to itself that faceted shape which later will reflect the light from its every point. These unfortunate shadows for which we harbour so unjust a fear!—and so illogical a fear, for when our cells are worn out by the strain and stridency of life and day it is to darkness that we turn for the renewal of our vital force; and when our hearts and spirits demand either calm in which to rest after the blows of misfortune, or mending after the shock of disillusion, again it is to the shadows that we have recourse, and among them that we find hope—which is either the salve of fresh illusions or the satisfaction of reviewing our obtained petitions.

In this shadow-land our pine-microcosm accumulated the strength which enabled it to make an essay at living. First it absorbed the starchy liquid which the cotyledons had prepared for it; then it began itself to hunt in plant fashion for its own necessary sustenance. Through all its pores the tiny rootlet sucked up the particular juices and essences it needed. It grew, and divided itself into branches that it might tap more sub-soil with these many extensions. It is warm down there underground, and the soil was wet, for it was spring-time outside. The earth was pulsating mightily with the sense of new movement, was transmitting its excitement to the air. The light of day and the darkness of the pit communicate with one another by exchanging invisible and indescribable rays. The decaying bodies of men, animals, and vegetable growths affect and influence their corresponding numbers at the moment of conception and during growth—reaching them as freely through the pellucid air as through the solid layers of the soil. Life and death everywhere run into one another: every beginning is an end, and everything ends only to begin again. Innumerable unknown forces come down from heaven to earth, and as many shoot up from earth into the blue sky, all crossing one another, tangled together. Some are destructive, some productive. We cannot classify or estimate these millions of indiscoverable elements. Most of them never enter our orbit; for we must remind ourselves that there are an infinity of creations, of every sort and kind and lot and fate in our universe, ranging from suns to microscopic cells, each subject to tens of thousands of varying conditions, and tending towards an incalculable number of predestined ends—and it is vain for our curious but purblind spirits to try to estimate separately or to distinguish these appalling problems, for our limitations in kind forbid us ever to know the infinity of evolutions in earth and heaven, in the depths of the seas, in the depths of the earth. It is impossible that we should ever learn what are the hidden powers which sway our courses, what are the unknown and unsearchable emanations which breathe around us, or over us, and give us in hardly perceptible fashion a sense of confused joy, a vague sadness, or some heedless inexplicable fear.


Contrasts which are not Contrasts

On the earth it was spring: and the excitement of it drove underground. Our sprouting seed was caught up in this frenzy of living, expanded itself, and pushed downwards and upwards in a double movement, under cover of that odd buckler, the pileorhiza. The light attracted it; but at the same time it plunged deeper into the night, for there it found hidden sympathies, and encouragements which made it fierce and greedy. It grew enormously, draining to itself the scattered nourishment about it. If other existences were starved thereby, so much the worse for them.

Not long ago our plant was a humble seed, ready to beg its tiny life from each powerful menacing blade of grass. To-day it was a successful bully, drinking up all the ichor of its patch of soil: and such conduct is the general rule, even with us men. When we are weak and know it, we are timid crawling things, hating all powers since they seem directed against us: but let us gain a little strength, and we grow proportionately rude, beating down the weaker. So true is it that evolution in nature is only a re-direction of energy. The Eye which controls the universe really seems to have foreseen and planned everything; and things which appear unjust or horrible to us may appear so only because we do not know the full logic of their existence.

It is pleasant to imagine what happens deep down in that secret mansion of the lower earth. The press of life can be no less there than on the face of the ground. Yet we call it a mystery, and rank it with all that is beyond our sense, with that class of event which even our imaginations fail to visualize precisely. If only we could see the sequoia root with our eyes, or had some yet unexpressed means with which to analyse or share its likes and dislikes, watch its battles, follow its sorrows, its joys! Why were we not endowed with some special sense able to feel the satisfied tremor of the growing root when it made contact with kindly elements in the blank night?

From some distance, somewhere deep under the ground, a trickle of water sent it refreshing vibrations, like a call. How did our plant discover the presence of this distant and friendly liquid? Did it experience that familiar feeling of cool freshness which we men have near water, which we would have felt in its place? Yet the plant had no skin like ours, nor nerves, nor sense of smell. It is a mystery how it should have known things, and how it guessed where lay the foodstuffs it needed, and by what resources beyond our knowledge it perceived their existence. It never missed its aim, though it had to reach out, twist, even ramify, to get at these food-elements, and absorb them. In nature there are hundreds of such instincts, and senses, and faculties, besides the feelings, or nerves, or other appurtenances of the flesh of which we are made. In life there are thousands of unknown energies, of secret perceptions, of indescribable vibrations, which we never feel, and shall never know while we are what we are....

Yes, outside it was spring-time. Its light and heat bathed all the surface of the ground, instilling into the under-soil a whole range of influences to affect some of the thousands of embryos which there come to life, by stages which we cannot follow, and of most of which we never become aware. Creation is so leisurely and so retiring that it makes little impression on us. It is destruction which is the striking thing, because it is quick and clear and violent. An instant destroys a thing which we have long seen living and developing. A tree many hundreds of years old is crashed down in a minute by lightning; in a few days a forest fire will destroy a forest which has existed for thousands of years; and this wanton annihilation instils in us a great terror, together with an unintelligent belief in the goddess of destruction, that savage and formidable power which seems to rule the world, and fills us with devout awe: she seems so mighty and so bold and ruthless that we think her the sole goddess of life.

Such an idea comes to us because of the limited range of our knowledge and perceptions, our only criteria of judgment. In such conditions naturally it is the visible and tangible world which makes most effect on us. Yet we should remind ourselves that if a being under our eyes passes in a second from life to death, yet in that same instant millions of similar beings are being created by the mysterious courses of organic nature: just as while lightning is striking and consuming a giant of the forest in one burning moment, simultaneously millions of such trees are germinating in the fruitful heat of mother-earth, beyond our sphere of control. We should note that in all ways and at all times creation has the numerical superiority over destruction, whether it concerns men or animals or plants. In truth we have no reason to complain that our senses have been reduced to such bare limits. How palpitant life would be for us if new faculties superadded to our old gave us to see the invisible, to understand the occult, to apprehend like plants, to feel in vibrations like light, to flow abroad like seas and contemplate the bounds of space.

Let it be enough if we record, without seeking to explain it by finding a parallel in our equipment, how singularly efficient our plant was in insinuating its roots where it would. With the aid of its pileorhiza it passed not merely through crumbling soil, but through stony strata, plaster, and wood. Another mystery, this, how so soft a substance could penetrate hard bodies, which we burst through only by means of a great effort of strength, using tools yet harder. The sequoia root, dipping downward in one direction, thrusting upward in another, without external aid split obstacles against which we have to employ iron and stone: and at last one fine morning its first shoot pierced the top layer of soil to salute the sun.

At this second the plant was, to our eyes, at last born. We commonly pass over its hardest battles, those conditioned by the circumstances of its origin. In reality it was while yet beneath the ground that the little sequoia tree experienced the mother-care of those kindly shades without which it could not have come to life: but few of us take note of that. We so commonly put the effect before the cause and the success before the effort. Yet our little plant went down as much as it went up, with roots very like its crests, though the one struck upward towards the sun, and the other struck downward through the night.

I would say that this inexplicable symmetry is one of the laws which govern the seen, and probably also the unseen, world. Ideas, beings, things, phenomena of all kinds exhibit to us much the same beginnings, similar developments, and parallel endings. This fact we can grasp only piecemeal, not in its whole; but it is clear that always there is an analogy between extremes. We know that plant-roots are like their heads. Dawn and twilight (opposed limits of a natural event) are like one another: the same pallid colours, the same freshness, the same effect of unambitious calm. Sunrise and sunset, respectively the appearance and the disappearance of our day-star, glare at us with a like extravagance of noisy red. Old age and childhood, the two poles of human life, resemble one another in their feebleness and weak vitality. Our great joys are silent as our great sorrows; and the ecstasy of love is not far from the frenzy of hate. Nature is re-born in spring-tide, and falls sadly asleep when autumn closes: and yet these two seasons are very like—showers of rain and gusty winds, shot across with the same weak rays of yellow light.

We find this odd likeness of contrasts not merely in visible nature and in life, but also in the most subtle abstractions of the spiritual world. We expect a great happiness as anxiously as a great misfortune, and when we do things our first conception, and the memory which follows it, trace in our minds the same sort of hazy contour in fleeting neutral tint. The nescience of our birth is like our death's.

Oh! we know very well how some of these resemblances are caused—thanks to the action of the simple laws of physical nature—but our spirit fails when we ask why these analogies should appear with so strange and universal a regularity.


Caught up into the Stream of Life

In the summer when the sky was blue and the air diaphanous, in autumn with its melancholy mist, in winter when the wind blew cold and clean and sharp, our tree lived on and prospered with the passing years. For now it had become a tree, a giant sequoia pine. It stood a little clear of a forest in an open space, and so looked solitary. Its head towered over the surrounding country from its place in the blue and green opalescent gulf of heaven. The forest whose leaves danced tremblingly before its feet was made up of quite other trees: delicate lively things, of middle but swift height, and thin-branched, so that the wind and the sunlight wove patterns easily through their frail screen.

Against this background the seasons passed leisurely, the complete year seeming swifter than its parts: so that if an ever-living spirit could have fixed itself deep within the fibres of the giant trunk while the waves of time broke about it, and counted them as they came, it would have found centuries fly past as lightly as single years. If our faculties and standards of perception had been applicable to the pine, how beautiful we, in its place, would have thought the world! We would have noted the warmth, the sense of space, its limpid clarity: also the colours and shapes and scents of things; but did the tree know how splendid was the scene about it? At times we think that it must have been sensitive to certain things. Yet surely it could not see the distant hill rolling away to the skyline, gay and clean and bright in summer, but pale and solemn in winter. It could not admire the endless plain or the river winding near. It paid no attention to the azure sky in which it bathed itself, nor could it feel—at least not in any human sense—the caressing wind, the rough embraces of the frost, the cool breath of the water. Likewise it could not taste the open air, or know the day flashing round it, or be soothed by the calming shades of night. It was unable to feel, see, hear, or taste movement and light and noise and flavours, as we can; yet it received impressions to which we are blank, and united itself ardently or voluptuously or uneasily with the other elements of its existence. It would require a manufacture of new words (to fit sensations foreign to our nature) before our present understandings could appreciate plant-loves and hatreds, and the things which please them or give them discomfort.

Our tree became part of its whole environment, of the hills, of the plain, of the atmosphere and scents of things, by a constant interchange of matter. Its sap was drawn from the depths of the earth, and rose unchecked through each breathing cell up to the crest of the tree. It flowed rapidly about even the very smallest pores, and thence from the topmost twig fell again as fast (but this time rich with new ingredients) to the lowest root. We can easily gauge the chemical content of these ingredients, but nevertheless the absorption on their passage of the nutritive particles remains a mystery.

They are drawn from all the elements of which the world is made up, even in its most opposed forms: and the various species of active things, whether men or animals or plants, select those actual ones proper for their nourishment, after their kind, and attract them through space and time, through all the multitude of encompassing forces, from solid matter, from vapours or from liquids, whatever their appearance and whatever their composition. The sequoia, for instance, drew to itself what was qualified to make rough its red bark, to harden the fibres of its stem, to make smooth the green composition of its needles; and drew them from the encircling air, from the blue rays of light, from the mist of waters, from every motion and scent about it. From the same vast whole, made up of thousands of dissimilar bodies, the birds draw their plumage, the tortoises their shells, the worms their rings, the flowers their petals, and humankind their complexions, their blood and flesh.

We are fully aware that these substances are all carbon in divers forms; but that raises the fresh question, when we ponder it, whether the whole universe is not of a single sameness—a vision of mind-wracking infinity repeating itself in a perpetual changeless series? and that might lead us to stand in astonished awe before a nature which can make a bone, or pearl-shell, or a wing-case, or a claw, or an eyelash from the same elements whether they are of the air we breathe, of the light shining from our eyes, or of any other transformation of appearance or taste. However, even if the matter be the same, the forces which cause it to take shape are infinite. How many must be the sources of energy which together compose the complete eternal mirror-disk of life, in which from time to time we catch glimpses of vague forms, as it whirls on its mad course, bearing away worlds too big for our failing minds to comprehend, or too small for our blunted senses to distinguish?

Above all, this dazzling multiple disk teaches us motion and harmony: that is to say, labour and love. The largest planet like the smallest atom exists by combination and by movement. Look upon the million needles of the sequoia pine, how they everlastingly breathed in and out, drawing gases and water from the air and returning others. The stomata never stopped work for an instant. Within the seeds the sap worked as unceasingly. Nothing ever dwells in absolute inertia for a moment anywhere. The atmosphere vibrates, light pierces, hearts beat, water flows, the molecules of crystals build themselves together, the stars revolve, the air stirs, the darkness is propitious to growth: through everything is spun the cord of love and labour.

Perhaps, when we contemplate the tireless labour of the bees and ants as they run here and there, and reinforce one another in an endless series of the same acts, with apparently their sole purpose in the next generation—perhaps a dismal weariness steals over us at the sight of such everlasting monotony of labour, and at a feeling that their futile efforts much resemble our own; but we may legitimately remind ourselves that our ignorance of the complete scheme of things inhibits or at least vitiates our judgment; also that the chain of succession, from father to son in an endless series stretching away to infinity, is Nature's first law.

Just as nothing isolated happens in nature, so nothing exists which is isolated or peculiar. What we call our individuality is only a congeries of cells: just as what we call an adventure is a complex of events tending towards a single defined end. It would be wrong for us to pick out and treat of any single one of the tribulations of the pine-seed on its described huge journey, except in relation to the result of the history, the mighty tree towering like a red pillar four hundred feet into the air. Likewise with our storied lives. We will find nothing irregular in them if we realize that they existed before they became patent, and that our minds became aware of them only when they developed in some apparently fresh phase to which we were peculiarly sensitive. A good example is the ray of light which left a star centuries ago, but which we notice only as it enters our limited field of vision.

The least important event has a history going back far beyond our mind's reach: we cannot fix the start of any thing, or of any creature, or of any circumstance. This enormous tree, whose shadow falls across my book, and whose history we are tracing ... what began it? How did the class of giant pine arise? The most evanescent happening carries back through adventure upon adventure to infinity, and if we could trace back everything to its first cause, probably we would be astonished to find small consequences to things which we think magnificent, and would find that our grandest created things took their rise in ordinary and insignificant circumstances.

We may lawfully presume that the past has been universal, and that the future will be the same; for probably everything happened in the eternity which preceded us, and everything will certainly happen in the limitless time which will succeed our paltry moments.

Where do we come from? What was our first shape? Academic questions these, perhaps of no great urgency, but none the less difficult for us to picture. We feel distinctly enough what is good or bad in our experiences of the moment; yet we cannot in the least evade our destinies; and our impotence supplies us with a reason for casting out despair, and accepting with dignity what fate offers.

Seconds build up into minutes, and minutes into hours, and these into the days of our life; and so also far-fetched trifles accumulate into occasions. It depends on our circumstances whether they seek us out or whether we go to them. Every being possessing activity, that is, which has a relation with space and a temporary faculty of volition, moves towards change as change moves towards him. The mobile beings, such as men and beasts and birds, as often as they move, make progress towards some small or large point in their history. Their change of position makes them encounter the unexpected, which is itself perhaps coming towards them. Our pine-tree, however, being of the plant class, was rooted in one place, and had to attend its changes there. For of course its history was full of change. In seed-shape it had wandered across the world, its devious course lying sometimes on the surface of the ground, sometimes in the water, sometimes in the air. Now, being a tree, its wanderings were over; but its normal life yet varied nearly from day to day. The scene (to our eyes changeless) in which it stood no doubt changed without our being able to see the differences. We have no bark or needles or sap, and cannot therefore enter into the feelings of the tree which with them knew how clouds modulated its light, how the passing wind varied its scent and texture according to the distance or direction from which it came, how the rain-drops tasted so one time and so another time, their very elements seeming different according as the seasons varied the sensitiveness of the great lonely tree.

Anyhow, we should remember that with plants it will not be as with us. Lacking our faculties, they may yet be richer than us in other directions, endowed with senses whose deficiency in ourselves we cannot perceive: and perhaps even things have their senses. There may really be "tears in things." It would be an attractive doctrine that the energies which affect inanimate things may affect them in sensible degrees, that the universe (which is a rounded whole) obeys the same laws in forms which change according to circumstance, but remain alike in force and means.


The Law of Balance

How lustreless and same the passage of time appears when we review it in our memory! but how uncertain and varied it is when we live it moment by moment, leaning out of each second to encounter the next! Likewise with the life of the great tree. Its sap on the daily round of work may have had fresh pleasures and discomforts at each revolution; but the tree's life seemed to have slipped past in a tame monotony when taken in a period of thirty or forty centuries. Yet it may be that the sequoia felt the seasons change about it, and that the times and scenes (so constant to our eyes) in which it lived affected it variously, just as its great outline may not have been without influence on its own country. One can picture the huge reddish spout leaping up into the air, with a hazy network of hundreds of branches about it. Its head seemed to be lost in the blue. Its bole was twenty-five paces about, but against its enormous height such a thickness seemed slight, and the whole tree had an air of slender grace, quite unlike other great trees, as, for instance, the baobab, whose trunk might be thicker than a sequoia trunk, but whose height would be incomparably less.

Like all conifers, the root-system of the sequoia was not elaborate. Of course it had great roots, and many of them, and luxuriant ones—but not to compare with the tree's size. Here also one may trace the all-seeing Eye, having regard for universal harmony. If trunk and roots were in due proportion, the tree's appetite would be empowered to satisfy its hunger by ravaging an immense area of ground. Its roots would exhaust the vital essences from a wide circle, and reduce it to a desert. So the principle of balance enters, and applies itself to the pine-giant: and we find if we search diligently into nature that its greatest creatures have their weak spots, and the feeblest things of the world have their unexpected means of defence.

Examples of this law are well found in the fantastic prehistoric time. Through its dense jungle rolled a nightmare shape, a reptile (called the Diplodocus) unnaturally huge, perhaps a hundred feet long and proportionally tall. On the end of its prolonged neck was a grotesque little head, in which stared two glassy stupid eyes. The beast would seem to have been doomed to a miserable life, for to nourish its demensurate body would require nearly unlimited food, and it had only a tiny mouth, able to pick up a spoonful at a time. So poor Diplodocus passed his whole life chewing leaves, and had no time off for sleep or holiday. He could do nothing all the while but eat, and so by the law of compensation his greatness was brought low. If his head had been as good as his body, and if instead of being only a grass-eating lizard he had learned to eat meat, then nothing alive could have resisted him, and he would have depopulated his radius of action.

This harmony in life, this astonishing foresight watching over matter makes one think. Every source of energy in the world has irrefragible bounds marked out for it. The curse of Diplodocus seems to have fallen on our modern whale, whose strength would make the sea barren of other life if its gullet had not been made too small to swallow them. What a danger for the rest of the world that other mammal, the elephant, might have been with his union of strength and intelligence, had his nature not been made so peaceable, and the period of gestation so long!

Lions, tigers and panthers are fierce and powerful, but have found a pitiless exterminator in man. The larger felines have ever been the most tempting game for hunters, who pursue them with particular zest: and things are always so, everywhere. Men give infinite reasons or pretexts, on which they think (or say they think) they acted: but behind all these we can trace the constant operation of an immutable law, to which their obedience is implicit.

This terrible law of compensations cuts often across our brief freedom—across those periods when we fancy ourselves all-powerful, masters of the event. We might really be so, if the Eye was not watching and regulating the smallest details of creation: but as it is, this law which checks excessive strength comes into operation against us, using ourselves as its own means. It may be for this reason that we are tormented by drugs or drinks or other plagues; for most non-human beings are comparatively free of them, and they cause any number of weaknesses and harmful complications, fatal to the health of society. As a crowning debilitant we have our man-devouring wars.

For it really seems that they must be half-divine, these terrible events which impose themselves upon us, as though at the dictates of superhuman authority. If fate did not decree them how could these wars yet pour out the life-blood of our peoples, since man has always condemned them with the whole force of his reason?

No one, whether the greatest conqueror or the most commonplace individual, has ever dared to speak of war without exposing its sorry character: unless he curses it: and such is the plainest common sense. There leap to our minds a thousand reasons against war, whenever we need them. Only when the crisis comes and the clash of peoples is prepared, then human beings savagely acclaim it. They burn with the sense of battle, a madness which comes upon them from without and masters them, so that they can speak only with its voice. Just as the roots of plants have the pileorhiza to stay their first feebleness and let them fight out their rivalries with the other beings of the under-world, so when war begins this obscure law injects us with patriotism, a draught which gives us strength and courage to support the miseries of its train.

Daily it is said, "War would be easily prevented. All that is needful is for every man alive to forswear it. If at the same moment we all refused to make a move against our kind, these fires consuming men would be at once put out." Yes, but exactly this apparently easy agreement and common action never happen. When the moment comes for armed slaughter men are unanimous only in fierce support of pretexts for beginning it. When the storm has passed we are astounded and rather horrified to look back on our bloodthirsty record, and like a river sinking back into its bed after a flood, we return gradually to our habitual peace and quietude:—too late, alas! for the will of the gods has been done and humanity has paid its bloody tribute to their law of death. At the next date of bleeding the whole round will begin again, just as before.

So Diplodocus' little head, his point of weakness, may be made a symbol of this malady of man. And the reason why we should be subjected to this inflexible law? No doubt that our too-great strength be brought down ... but it remains a question whether the too-great strength is because our numbers are over-many for the earth to bear, or because we are near discovering and exploiting the working of the greater powers of nature. It may also be the law of checks and balances pursuing its course against all excessive strengths, which gives the riches and resources of this world to ordinary people, rather than to those mighty spirits with character enough to overturn their generations. One can imagine what might have happened had the great scholars or thinkers whose writings revolutionized life had in their hands the power of a despot or the wealth of Croesus. "You can't have everything" is the hackneyed phrase in which common sense has tried to express one of the most disturbing truths of the universe. However much it may appear so, nowhere is any excess of power allowed to disturb the balance of things. Absolute equality is of course equally out of the question, for harmony is based always on the union of unlike things.

One pine-tree could observe this law working in its sphere of life, through the thousands of years for which it stood there. Generation after generation of birds and insects followed one another on its stem and branches. Some days were dismal, others glorious, just as some hours were unprofitable and others rich. The light and warmth were not always divided to it in equal part. Underground the moisture did not always refresh its mazy roots in fair degree. Clouds often veiled its blue sky: the seasons made that swelling hill bare and sad as often as they made it smile with waving green. The giant tree saw its needles grow from freshness into pallor, and then fall, thousands of times. Some of its branches for no visible reason grew splendidly, while others, also for no visible reason, remained small and stunted. Yet still its life, as a whole, was lived in tune, as ours are to our content, however discordant the individual moments. A single ray of light is enough to scatter the darkness: and when we think of the surroundings in which the giant lived, the idea comes that perhaps we would fear death less if it were not for that haunting picture of our corpses rotting slowly in the darkness underground. We might live more in love with death if we knew that our dust would remain under the sun, to change and re-model itself in plant-fashion, like those yellow leaves which wither and fall before winter comes. It would assuage our minds if we could think that after our end we would live yet in the shimmering day, absorbed particles of that great life-filled space this side the limitless ether of the stars.



As space creates all things out of its own substance only to devour them again at last, so time which itself cannot move or change allots to everything its span of life. Our hours and days are within us, and it is the revolution of the globe, and not time, which makes the seasons. Yet beings and things succeed one another, and their courses give us an illusion that the age grows old. It is a convenient figure, for it is good to say that the days slip past and the seasons wheel round, each in turn.

Once more spring made green the mighty tree. The sun and the winds fretted its newly-budded branches. The giant began to transform itself. Like last year, and the thousands of years before, the sap made buds which pushed out into leaves, into flowers, and at last into fruits from which the future seeds would be born. Each spring inaugurated an ascending change, to be followed, this year as in the dead years, by a descending change.

So the sap in its evolution took the common way of all life's forces. It rose towards its highest forms, in turn becoming leaf and flower and fruit: and then it fell away in hard, dry, woodenish particles. Through this history of changing shape passes all we know, ideas as well as things. Even our feelings are not exempt. Everything within and without us alters and re-forms itself: so that there is no changeless situation, nothing which is for ever exactly the same. In the indestructible and turbulent race of matter one universal essence is working in a fixed direction: and if the tree-sap changed into wood, after having triumphally been green leaf and shining flower, so does implacable fate lead our component cells through exquisite childhood into splendid youth, only to change us at last into tottering and wasted creatures of old age.

The elements alter their shape through time and space. In the same light, in the same conditions and circumstances, flowers bloom and fade, our hair turns from its first dark or fair colour into silver, our eyes lose their early fire, our firm red flesh goes dry and shrivelled. These changes happen to the same drop of sap in the plant world, and to the same tissue in the animal world. In the unexplored world of instinct our senses follow a similar evolution. Our enthusiasm for something or other springs to life, lasts awhile, and then chills into complete detachment. "Love is akin to hate," says a proverb: but really the two states run together. Our indifference or our dislike is often born of an exhausted regard: otherwise would we so often come to hate what we once enjoyed? No, these rising and falling changes are not confined to plants, but are a general part of evolution, in material as in immaterial things.

Springtime, however, with its thrill towards active life prevailed once again upon the earth. The sap was boiling up in the inmost pores of the giant tree. It was shaken in mysterious travail, sharing, in its tree-fashion, the corresponding sensations of living beings: but expressing them of course very differently. Its passionate re-birth was shown in the perfumes which it released, in the trembling of its branches, in its needles flashing silver in the moonlight, or golden in the full light of the sun. Yet these enigmatical eddies were those of the new year, the same which make our blood hot and our desires keen.

The universal mysterious analogy of all life again forces itself on our reeling minds. These millions of shoots and needles in the pine were produced with such profusion only to grow old and die, like lives passing away, while the great tree stood steady in the midst of them, rooted and intact. Our nerve cells and tissues in a like fashion renew themselves day and night, without our giving them a thought, so absorbed are we in "living our lives" to our full bent. The pine-tree lived on the subsidiary lives of each of its utricles, and exhausted something of its reserve force with each generation of them passed by: and so do we grow old with each of their deaths as the tiny cells in us die without our heeding.

Life seems to whirl like a top, getting apparently the momentum for a new spin from each spin past, but actually failing steadily towards its final rest. Each slipping moment leaves us inevitably nearer to our end, however it may seem to give us spring and key for fuller existence. Especially in spring-time does a new life seem to be working in us. A mute exhilaration flows through all our nerves, making them tingle like the needles of the giant pine. Beings and things open in one great vibration, whose repercussion is felt even in the dark places underground. Subtle aspirations emanate from here and there, and cross one another confusedly: yet in their varied and varying shapes whirling aloft in the air, inspiring living creatures or burgeoning in plants, they are only multiple aspects of one central influence. These very diverse expressions are all products of one faculty, vivified by the same ichor.

A puff of wind stirred the twigs of the forest giant. The sun was setting in a western sky heaped with purple and violet and rosy clouds. There was a confused movement of many forms of life in the darkling wood, whose smallness beside it made the sequoia tree seem a disproportionate sentinel. Twilight slid into darkness, dissipated early by a silver moon. A cloud of insects rose up the reddish trunk of the pine. They glittered or suggested red and blue and emerald green, blended or particoloured. Their tiny feet swarmed up the rude bark silently. On the ground other tiny insects gleamed greenly through the grass, or darkened its sandy surface with queer black shadows. They paired, in obedience to the instinct which had made the dainty butterflies all the afternoon flutter together intimately. The echo of croaking frogs came keenly from the distance, through the myriad smells of evening.

Everything seemed possessed, reeling with excitement, and with a grave disturbance of spirit, before the might of this hetero-sexual instinct, which drives male upon female, revives the splendour of birds' plumage, sharpens the note of frogs, distils the scents of flowers, causes the shallow stream to laugh aloud, makes the meadow-grasses to dance, and the tigers to roar with excess of life: which is able also to twine serpents in a slimy embrace, and to whirl the deadly scorpions in a loathsome ecstasy. It seems so universal, this omnipotent force, able to run down the moonbeams, to flutter in the wind, to wave with the grasses, to thrill through all the atmosphere. It makes human beings cling together in quivering couples, jerking to the pull of its nameless demand: and truly seems one spirit in these many shapes, an imperious will which in all these varied pairings is shadowing out the frame of the master-law of reproduction. Even the elements appear subject to its sway: for this passion which binds one to another of a kind that every sort may see something of universality in its single mood, may it not be this which puts the little more of glory in the sunlight, that extra softness in the air of night, that repose in open space, that richer music in the waves, that purer purity in heaven, and on earth that sustained thrill?

From head to foot the giant tree responded to the new warmth of sentiment in nature. While the sun shone the birds had mated in its boughs. Now, in the moonshine, the insects had their turn, and clung together silently in the vague shimmering mist of their brilliant colours. Deep in the soil the tap-roots of plants swelled up in pleasure: in the air floated a sea of all imaginable scents, impalpable unseen messengers through space of the universal fluid which betrays itself to our sense of smell on the one side, and on another side in the strange lights of lovers' eyes. If we remember how the loved one would tell us her feelings and her inmost thoughts by a mere glance, then it will not seem to us far-fetched that plants hold converse in the perfumes which they scatter in the air. These invisible and intangible but powerful scents, which spread abroad to invite insects and to stupefy us with nebulous desires, seem to play much the same role as the magnetism of our looks, that other strange power which is able by shuffling the blues and blacks and greens of our eyes to express love or indifference or hate; and without any change of shape or colour can reassure with gentleness or paralyse with terror, conveying the most subtle shades of desire and passion and command.


What the Moon Saw

Meanwhile there were showering down on earth the beams of that moon, mirror and transmitter of the sun, which conveys to us its light without its heat. From the distance came the splashing of water: and on the river bank, where it was nearest to the tree and within sight, lay a man and woman. They were naked, and the water was dripping slowly from their bronzed bodies. They lay aside by side, and the low murmur of their voices and their stifled kisses filled the near air about. Beyond and around them eddied the confused noises of the fields and woods, the scents of evening made lively by the cool damp air, the brightness of the moon's shining on the silvan landscape, a selection of all the sounds and shapes and tints and flavours in the world. The contagion of universal love had caught the lovers, making their eyes hard, their blood hot, their lips red. The everlasting universal thrill which makes the flowers burst into bloom, which makes the insects glitter and the birds sing, was upon these two, flinging them into a mutual passionate embrace.

They were just another instance of the immortal lust of conjoined sexes. Their sighs rustled between their lips like the wind in the grass, they sobbed together like the breaking sea, their flesh tingled with their blood as did the fibres of the forest giant with sap. Their inchoate and always unfulfilled desires took wing in the clear blue evening and became part of the immense and complex harmony of a thousand strains which has reigned since the beginning of the worlds, in the ether, to the stars, about the stars, beyond them, even to the confines of illimitable space.

The great pine-tree in its six thousand years had many times seen substances mating and beings marrying, and was able to record that these two young naked humans were exactly like the thousands of other couples whose loves it had witnessed since that distant time when as a tender plant it had pushed its shy and timid way towards the blue.

For sixty centuries generation of man had succeeded generation beneath the tree, but whatever differences there might have been in their external circumstances or in the superficial accessories of their state, always when in love their couples used to embrace naked on such spring evenings as this, with the same ceremony and as ecstatically as the pair to-day. The forest giant from its lofty crest was thus able to establish that mankind had remained essentially the same through the six thousand years.

Love is the strongest of our passions, but also that which we hide the deepest: whereas we exhibit our ambitions, our pride, our greed, our frenzies, openly. Yet when love does take possession of us it sharpens and exalts our dullest, remotest faculties to the height: but it is a moot point whether we are right to believe it exclusively our work, a sentiment evoked by our own means. There is a disturbing possibility that it may be imposed on us regardless of our will. We are not able to extinguish it, nor to fan it: for its potent causes lie deep beyond our sight, and are fleeting. We often see men carried away by a passion for some one who is not in the least their ideal, and see this passion grow greater or smaller without valid cause. Insignificant trifles, and impressions of the apparent slightest sometimes have enormous consequences in our lives. Love is called up or frightened away by the faintest ghost of a memory, by the waking impression of a forgotten dream, by some homely detail. The faculty of love has been transmitted through our generations for thousands of years, unchanged: for the tremor which excited our forbears in their caves was, in its kind, of the intensity of the embrace of the sexes to-day.

The truth would seem to be that in love we obey an eternal, general and boundless law. In our conceit we think that no emotion is comparable to the fever of passionate mankind. Yet what can we know of the particular sensations possessing inhuman couples? such as the fervour of a plant in seed, or that colossal attraction which drags planets into the orbits of their suns. Our love-dramas and kisses and excitements are mere examples of the universal spasm.

Let us return to the man and woman within sight of the upper branches of the pine as they lay supine on the green bank of the river taking their ease after happy exertions. The slight sound of their voluptuous sighs had died away down the breeze. The vibrations of their meeting flesh had gone abroad through the blue evening, with the beaded moisture evaporating from their skins, and the heating scents of awakened sex, to become part of the endless waves of ether set up by the motions of the stars, by the odorous love-excitements of birds and beasts and reptiles, by the pollen of seeding plants. Of course the embracing couple did not know it: they knew nothing of the movement of the Spheres and their Rivers of life, nor of their component cells nor of the uncounted tribes of germs living within their bodies. Yet at the very crisis of the amorous passion the infinitely small no doubt bear their part in it to some degree, just as the lovers in their act have contributed to the harmony of the universe. We must try to think of ourselves existing as it were detached, hanging between an external medley of forces beyond our ken, and an internal current of life equally inappreciable by our senses. We seem to become sensitive to exterior sensation only locally, in the parts immediately affected. When lovers kiss the delight of it attacks mouth and heart and spirit alone. We never think that our arms or shoulders may also be concerned.

Yet on reflection it would seem incontestable that the mere localization of the conscious emotion cannot prevent its being shared generally by our whole being. The kiss, though expressed only by our lips, is a product of the vitality of all our organs: and likewise in each of our actions we, from our tiny sector of the world, share in the universal harmony, though we cannot know the extent of our contribution nor trace its course through the clash of external forces.

It is a grave thought that in this indescribable whole the separate items of activity undergo an identical evolutionary process. When the sky was blue, in the piercing sunlight of a fragrant summer-time, the forest giant attained its highest pitch, as its branches were rich and supple with sap. Then came days of decline. Under a feeble sun and a lack-lustre sky the air grew cold and faint: and the tree entered on a phase of decline, slow at first but increasing in speed till almost precipitate. Declines and falls have also (like all else) their charts of intensity growing to a climax and falling away inevitably thereafter. A stone flung into the air has a history like the giant tree. It shoots up, up, to its highest point, dwells on it, as it were, for a fraction of a second, and then turns to fall, gently at first, but later coming down with an increasing rush. This change up and change down seem to be one of the prime laws of life and of matter and of energy, from the boundless existence of the constellations to the atoms and the inexpressible complexities of nature. Everything seems subject to such a process and our imaginations cannot conceive anything exempt, or anything which will ever be exempt. A stone flung up and falling, a branch budding and growing bare, a fire flaring up and going out, a sentiment being born, developing and dying, everything good or bad in events and in things, in the animal creation, and in plants, in suns and in particles, in everything that is or happens, exhibit obedience to this universal law of change, growth and decay. Detached atoms retain the character and share the fate of their former whole.

The lovers on the sloping river-bank near the giant tree were thus reproducing the universal harmony, in their narrow and temporary harmony, as they clipped and twined together in rhythmical counterchange of their inmost emotions. They were so much larger than the insects which shone red in the sunset or turned green in the moonshine: they were so much smaller than the tree: yet in their degree and kind they were in accord with the course of nature, as expressed in the force which linked the fireflies and made the tree bear seed. They partook of the ambitions which coming from the mists of time and from the chaos of space make planets revolve in their orbits and electrons whirl together: and if our insatiable curiosity makes us seek to know, however dimly, what is going on up there or down there, let us tell ourselves that we are part of all that is, that we obey the very laws which govern alike the unimaginable whole and its hugest components, and that therefore our infinitesimal experience if we can expand or contract it indefinitely may guide us as to the experiences both of the greatest and of the smallest.

Poor loving couple whom we have left sobbing with pleasure in the harmonious and fragrant evening-light! It was written that their transport should die, like all else in this world, and that a falling cadence should close it, making its course one with those of the suns and trees. The conviction that our joys are transient may make us sad: but we can draw consolation from the idea that all the dwellers in chaos are within the law. By taking thought we can make strong our souls, and still them, with the certain knowledge of our utter helplessness.

Yes, the moment was good for the man and woman by the tall and splendid tree, as they throbbed together in the new sensitiveness of their overcharged emotion: but remorselessly decline will follow on the climax, not merely in the case of the love that grows faint, but for the summer which must yield place to winter, for youth on which old age is waiting, for the spray of water which rises to its height only to fall, for the suns which to-day dazzle us, but for some few ten thousand years are doomed to a slow expiry till they shall go round and round their unyielding prisons of space in blind stiff loneliness. The spiral of being leaps up rapidly to its brilliant apogee, and then runs down again into obscurity while the ring-waves of each action expand ever outward in the infinite.


When the Corselet Snaps

More pine kernels had sprouted near by, and the great tree was now kept company by other russet trunks, tens of centuries younger, but undergoing the same development. They grew and changed against the same background as the older tree, extracting the nourishment which formed their shape and colour, sap and scent, from the same area. Again the law of perpetuity asserted itself in creation.

Near the giant a young tree was fainting and failing. It had not the strong straight shape of the other conifers, nor their sharp, shining needles. Its current of life was crossed, confused. Its sap did not fill its roots and branches, its wood was unhealthy: while on its gnarled trunk grew and increased year by year a huge boss of dead matter, whose weight seemed to crush the whole organism. The stomata laboured feebly in their task of collecting food from the environs, and so reduced the tree's vitality that it felt no thrill from the bounty of spring or summer, while hardly was there any flavour in the weak sap which crept drop by drop through the sick veins of its branches. It seemed tired and faint-hearted in its travail, this sap, like an aged workman: and the tree's whole attitude and effect was that of old age, of a failing constitution such as marks the last stages of life in trees long past their prime.

For this young sequoia was sick. Its soggy utricles made no response to the new winds of spring-tide, and were as insensible to sunlight and to the rays of a cloudless sky. The fine weather which made the giant so brave and fresh in foliage had no effect on this. Its slow, sad invalid existence made it more and more like a tree whose cadence was closing with its pale, fagged flagging tissue.

To an external observer its sickness was as though the coat of mail which linked in and protected its life had parted, and let all its fibres grow odd and wrong. The course of development had been broken, and the shattered rhythm had thrown out even the smallest cells. Their disordered whole was sad and sick with incurable disease, a premature old age with its petulant inconsequence: and if this sickness might be called premature age, age might be called a slow sickness.

Plants and creatures have their illnesses, things their malformations, planets no doubt their disasters: and since the fates of puissant things are those of futile things may we presume that there are mishaps also for the ordered whole? The analogies between stars and the microscopic dust of chemical particles impress themselves more and more upon our notice. Interstellar space seems proportionately no richer in movement or in matter than atomic space, and fancy, running beyond our physical powers of apprehension from one to other, falls ever into the same nescience. We can guess at a common rhythm behind the march of events and the linked procession of acts: so that our superstitions may be only distorted glimpses of design half-understood, scattered observations which our unequal spirits cannot join together. Our superstitions take precise shape more especially when we are in bodily pain and perturbed in spirit. Our imagination then sublimates the shadows of our fate, flickering over them like a marsh-light in the darkness of our half-knowledge; and achieves only to make their obscurity more obscure.

The young sequoia tree because of its sickness could do no more than just carry on its stunted life. The breath entered faintly into its labouring lungs: its whole life was limited by its deficient sap, and by the futile ineffective busyness of its stomata. Yet it accepted the ill-health as a normal state. The idea of a more fortunate life could not come to it, as it might to men. It had never known any other condition than this painful breathing-in of the life-currents, this poverty of exhalation, and so could not desire a better: whereas human beings in pain feel it all the more since their spirits can disengage themselves from the trammels of the flesh and conjure up visions of a happier fate.

In such a way we make worse our torments each time we long to be delivered from them.

A scented breath of evening floated beneath the starry sky. Plants and creatures came to life at its whisper, which combined with the far-away murmur of the river and the resonance of space to give a new vividness to the grove of young pines. The tall and magnificent giant with the full flush of its grown strength made this sweetness of nature its own. Only the sick tree remained without benefit from the life-giving evening airs. Its sluggish viscid sap stagnated in the clogged stomata. Slowly its faint exhalations were breathed out through its pores: it seemed as though nothing could revive this imperfect organism: and as a matter of fact the first effect of illness is to disorganize the senses, to shatter the harmony of the unit attacked, so that it receives insufficiently and returns to the universal flow an insufficient rhythm.

We have all had experience for a shorter or a longer time of this heart-breaking state of sickness, when a livid mist seems to settle itself thickly over our faculties, and the objective world weighs upon us with the whole weight of our material blemishes. At such a time our sensitiveness to influences outside ourselves is bad, whether it is that our disease-crippled organs are no longer powerful enough to communicate freely with the hidden forces through whose paths we move, or whether it is that these very forces in a manner avoid an unhealthy assemblage. Anyhow, it is only when suffering has disordered our state that we become fully aware of the gulf which lies between the external world and that other world within us.

But what we learn more particularly at such moments is how our senses limit external influences. Our inner world is seething with a form of life which feels special to itself, since all contact with the vital currents of our environment has been cut off. Also, apart from a slight play given to the organs our physical sensibility detaches itself entirely from external adventures and elements. When our being has once reached this absolute it fixes itself there, and no piling up of circumstance, in however extravagant a degree, could move it an inch farther. Thus a loss of consciousness through illness involves as vivid a sense of dizzy falling into space as a literal plunge into some darkling abyss, and the perturbation of an inward malady may strike us as suddenly and sharply as the flash of a real lightning-stroke jazzing across our eyes.

In all the world there is no force able to extend or prolong our sensibility beyond its fixed term; which may be a reflection upon the poverty of our means of apprehension. We would not hear the crash of two colliding planets as loudly as the piercing of our ear-drums by a pin-point, and to be burned alive in some conflagration is for the individual as though the universe went up in flame, since for those few seconds of his agony the intensity of the heat of his burning house is as great upon him as the fires of an incandescent world. A heart struck by a fragment of bursting shell would feel no more if it was caught up and crushed between clashing faces of rock.

So by means of our senses we can measure against our being the greatest physical catastrophes: we can know the supreme degree of our faculty for feeling pain without calling for a clash of worlds to prove it. The limitations of our senses are such that beyond a quite-near point they can register no advance at all. It is all the same sensation whether we fall three hundred or thirty thousand feet.

Its illness made the young sequoia dull to its circumstances, while the forest giant all the while responded to each vibration of its environment. On some days its sap seemed in easy relation with the air and scents and light raining upon it, as if a mysterious fluid somewhere in these many elements was making eager its stomata and dissolving the material resistance of the fibres which cut off the tree's vital fluid from the outer air. At other times, for no clear reason this sympathy between sap and outer world would grow difficult.

When ill-health overtakes us, it closes off from exterior contact the private world in which we exist: but not completely: we are not driven to subsist only on our internal vitality. From there does come the impulse or continuity which leads us up to action: but this energy is reinforced by means existing independently of us, and yet influencing us to our inmost soul.

Our passions come to birth within us, truly: but their growth and final efflorescence may be due to a variety of vibrations sent from without. Our loves and braveries and hates are coloured by powers beyond our will's control. A single sentiment may express itself in divers shapes according to the circumstances in which we move. A passionate outburst may be one in a closed room, another in a street, quite different in open country. The giant tree felt its feelings change according to the state of the landscape over which it towered: just as men are peculiarly liable to be strong or weak, safe or fearful, forthcoming or callous according to their attitude, their stage-setting, the occult influences which hem them in. Otherwise our likes and dislikes, our joys and sorrows would not move us to different expressions of temper in different places and conditions.

The radiant discharges of the sky, the perfumes of space, and humane shades of earth abounded: but the sick tree, in the balmy evening, laboured painfully to breathe them in. A link of its armour of defence had slipped, and about it all the fibres of its being had become displaced.


The Mirror of Changeless Time

The giant tree seemed almost to slumber in the still hazy light of that autumnal afternoon. The sap appeared dispirited, weighed down from tree-top to root by weariness. For some hundreds of years it had not been working at full pitch. The time-worn trunk bristled with dried lifeless branches in whose veins sap had ceased to flow with life-giving effect: and in the covering of needles outside the pine could be seen definite signs of age, even to the extent of sorry bare patches. Its life had now gone dull and very distant, indeed had become little more than a reflection of the old boisterous self. April and August no longer budded into splendid vigour in its utricles. For plants as for creatures perceptions become faint with time, sensations get blurred, lights grow dim, till of the life of yesterday nothing but a colourless print remains, a veiled inconsequent activity. So dull stood the giant on this set November day, as if half-asleep.

Perhaps it was recalling some wordless memory of its six thousand springs? Did its tissues tingle with stored-up impressions? Perhaps a confused sense of important events was moving in those physical parts which had most directly received their impact. Up one side of the time-worn trunk stretched an enormous scar, the relic of a gaping wound where once lightning had struck and gashed the tree so that sap ran out to waste. It took the giant more than a hundred years to close that wound, a period which, for the tree, compared well with the month in which our human flesh heals up: since time has no beginning nor ending, is neither long nor short, has no halting-places and never changes: its duration is relative to the life of the things which are its vehicle, and expresses itself only in them.

Accordingly the giant's decay, in terms, was like our own. It might last for centuries, during which the weakness and partial inertia of the tree would persist: whereas the decay of man is completed in fifteen or twenty years. Yet declines, like lives, in perspective will be seen to have differed only in degree. When man and tree have ceased to exist their respective courses will be summed up in epochs, short for the one and long for the other, but of the same category and as easily tabulated:—for past events all fall into order since they exist only as memories, without the qualities of action which distinguished them in fact. In retrospect fifty years are like six centuries, a year of the past scarcely longer than a charged dragging minute of the present.

Let us imagine that the sequoia, on this misty autumn afternoon was recalling its memories. It could a little titillate its cells by remembering those uncounted days, sunny or overcast, those storm-stricken or magical nights, those sharp or restful dawns. Its six thousand years of memory would be to the tree what his sixty years are to an aged man, for in memory and dream we have two means which smooth away the unlike things in time, and give to it, for one looking backward, an equality which active nature hardly possesses. A dream-second or a second in memory may be a century as easily as a year: just as actions which have taken thousands of years to complete may finally have the same contour as little events of an hour. Our eyes can enclose in their fixed impartial frame a huge landscape or a tiny plot of space. What is passed has no existence except in memory: while as for time—we carry it within ourselves, and pay it out slowly or fast (or unconsciously) according to whether we are busy or interested or indifferent. Hours are elastic periods, which expand or contract according to the attention we pay them, and it is our ideas and our passions which mark them off round the face of our days.

Time may be imaged as a mirror, a confused mirror across whose impassive face tens of thousands of scenes chase each other in a mazy dance: for in it are reflected the innumerable and never-closing consequences of all action, with all the lights, all the shadows, all the extent and motions of the universe. The mirror itself is changeless, and the semblance of movement lies in the reflection, in that endless rout of fleeting images whose transience is to their glass as our little moment to eternity. Our utmost capacity is to project a thought-ray from our place and instant of existence back into the night which hides our coming, or forward to the night which waits our going—rays whose imagined courses towards the poles of the infinite we cannot follow even in thought. Yet they are our only links with past and future, those two names which together spell eternity: the future a past not yet achieved, and the past a future left behind.

Such would have been the thoughts of the sequoia (had it been able to think like us) on this chill November day, as it stood there by the grove of its sons and grandsons, the derived pine-trees which had sprung up about it, yet had not, even the greatest of them, reached to half its height: and something of the same train of thought might have been started by the sight of the neighbouring forest, now in its twentieth generation. These other trees had passed from youth to maturity, and then grown old and died, changing their promise into performance, and at last becoming a mere memory; and each stage of their lives, each tree at every age was to be seen reflected in the impassive glass of time, which kept of them no record nor trace, but preserved itself intact against them, as against all phases of the universe that had been, that was, that ever would be.

Years, hours, minutes and moments are not children of Time, but circumstance made visible in some one or something. Only dreams seem able to assert themselves beyond the face of time's unchanging mirror. They shine and register, wheel and flit in the darkling mist of eternity, with something of its power to embrace æons and seconds alike. Like eternity too they harmonize and arrange the great things of the universe with the least, with things so small that they leave no mark even in the cloud-confines of the immaterial: and again like eternity they have no beginning and no end, and so convey something of the incommunicable character of chaos.

Thus in that lifeless November the giant seemed lost in a white trance. If we are vivid in springtime, in autumn we wish for sleep and dreams. A vagueness is the nature of the falling year. Up above, in space, great deep clouds expanded gradually. They dragged themselves along in languor, while their slow shadows darkened the moist earth and climbed the stripped branches of the giant pine. In this misty autumnal afternoon against its sad background all movement seemed slack. A formless but dreamy instinct seemed implicit in animals and plants and things. The minutes ticked off lazily in the unearthly gleaming half-light, in this soft and yet magical atmosphere above which the giant seemed to hang its head in reverie. Its relaxed needles, weeping boughs and lined rugged trunk made up a mournful-seeming disappointed whole. There was not a breath nor a whisper in the air. Every shape, every colour, every scent, each withering blade of grass supine on the earth, each pebble on the plain, each ripple of light or trembling shadow seemed to give off a similar emanation, a dull slow tonelessness which permeated the toneless air, above, below, about. In one huge fissure of the bole slept a bear, made torpid by the close thick weather. On the ground near the foot of the tree in a tuft of dried grass a dog was sleeping, the dim gaze of its half-open eyes veiled and turned inward. Beside it on a raised turf sat a great insect, the hardly visible vibration of whose wings seemed pensive too. Farther away, but within sight from the tree-top, stood a hut whose people lay silently watching the great clouds pass. They also were dreaming or thinking, allowing the whims of the spirit born of this declining season to play over what had been or what yet might be.

It would seem as though rare influences of all that is incomprehensible and infinite in space, of the chaotic and inconceivable in time, were sometimes allowed to echo down upon things alive and things lifeless, and to swing them in a general and harmonious way. Nature moves on for ever, sleeplessly and untiringly, but from time to time the past seems to bode forward in brief uncertain fashion, casting lights and shadows across the loom of the present. The adamant Now may keep no trace of the dead Then, but the ripples of the past none the less persist in ever-failing widening rings, which pass out into the abyss as ghost-memories: and these, falling sometimes upon the bark of a tree, or upon the nature of a man, or the mind of a dog, or into a sea or a perfume or the half-light of a dewy evening, evoke dreams and clothe the formless with apparent form that it may have relation with material men and things.


The Wheel of Life Lived

Time then is not to be divided into centuries and hours and minutes: but just as each atom figures a world in itself, so each moment is an eternity, one link in an endless chain which binds the remotest past to the remotest future. Time's mirror may look with changeless face upon the tens of thousands of events which defile before it and pass away leaving no mark;—but that is not to say that these events are without issue, since their consequences ripple out into space for ever and ever. What has happened never wholly ceases to happen. To mankind a sentiment of it may return in many forms—in a snatch of music, in a perfume, in some subtle vibration or illumination of the atmosphere—and these returns are authentic parcels of the original moment, for time is to be divorced neither from material nor immaterial things. This Present, which to us will so soon be Past, keeps, as it flies, something of its true essence, and will revive its influence a year, a century, thousands of centuries later, in some scent or sound, or unforeseen collocation of circumstance.

This continuing process gives us our only approach to the conception of eternity, for there could be no endless time if the hours lived only once and for all, and then died irremediably. Seconds which have their passage grow enriched in its course and cease, only to revive in a new form, after the same fashion as ourselves who, when death has resolved us, will live again in other combinations of our elements, no particle of which can be lost in space or time. Each second comprehends eternity, as each atom the infinite, and the course of all that is in the universe is rotary, an orbit constant as those of stars or of electrons. Everything wheels about space in circles; and probably movement in time is also circular: so that when we find ourselves strangely imagining things which have been, or things which may sometime be, we can explain ourselves to ourselves with the reflection that our momentary path has doubtless that second crossed the emanations of some instant fully lived by another, long ago.

The sensation that we have already seen or lived or heard something is similarly explained. Each active moment is an amalgam of sentiments and wills and multiple elements which split apart as soon as the purpose is achieved. The moments of its duration then scatter through space and time, taking with them remains of their charged sounds, colours, and scents, with atmospheres of joy or sadness not fully perceptible by our limited senses, but certainly to be opined, and almost to be felt. We may pursue this train of thought a little farther, and be prepared to accept that certain places derive a special atmosphere from the events of which they have been the setting, and may preserve it indefinitely. We are often sensible of particular associations which hang about such and such a feature: one place may instil terror, and others peace, disquietude, mystery, or love, without any apparent quality in their disposition to account for the possession of such power. The reason is that the events or thoughts or actions of which they have been the scene have left traces within the four walls of the room, in the branches of the tree, or in the various features of the place. In fact, the seconds of old time are yet living there, loaded with old association, and as they whirl and vibrate they sensitize us with their invisible rays. If we were endowed with new faculties, sensitive to such influences as now escape us, and with them were able to apprehend and analyse these scattered fragments of the past, these waifs of dead adventures, then we might be able to reconstruct the deeds and lives and deaths, all the unplumbed combinations of circumstance in the cities or countries of our passage. This invisible swarm of "seconds which have been" hems us about, wherever and whenever we go, with its traces of suffering and of delight, of unrest, of clashing, of colour: for the emanations of our souls (like those of the souls of things) are heavy with various essences which may grow faint, but never altogether perish.

In this dead November air a soft musical murmur seemed to hang round the giant tree, as if it were mourning its old age and sadness. In this autumnal dreaminess the tree was living again some of its passed life, hearing the times and moments thronging by, contrasting (even in its least fibre) the brilliancy of yesterday with the sadness of the failing present. The numberless radiations of the air which for centuries had made florid its stem seemed to-day to renew about it their health-giving vibrations. This dust of time, the elements of old situations great and small, had come from near or far as the case was: perhaps from the beginning of things in the depths of the abyss. To-morrow, when the great tree would be no more, it might affect other forms, and make fertile other existences.

We go abroad in a throng of atoms, the basic materials of distant and diverse forms of life. Sometimes they breathe upon us, sometimes we hear them, sometimes we see them. At other times they move us to love or hope or fear, melt us to tenderness, brace us to deep efforts, or daze us with weird portents. To this vagabond star-dust we can ascribe a sometime fit of passion or wrath, of madness or joy. The world about us is all peopled with these spirit-mists. We live red moments and white moments, odorous or musical moments, moments of pain or love, brief or slow, loud or peaceful. Space, to repeat, builds up nature out of its own substance: and likewise unchanging time makes use of its own essence to assemble and arrange and fix the order of events.

Evening came down wan and weeping over the uncertain scene. The mist thickened into clouds like smoke, whilst silence and a baseless lethargy soaked through the sluggish air. The giant tree loomed straight and huge in the twilight, its form as ever, its colours those which it had assumed on so many evenings. Neither shape nor appearance was different from those with which it had fronted the autumns of many years, and their intricate pallors; but never before had it looked so desolate in the desolate splendour of its setting. Its sadness was as patent as the sadness of the landscape: and since neither the content nor the surface of this November gloaming appeared different from those of past autumns the source of this changed feeling had to be searched for. There was no motion in the tree, nor stirring of a blade of grass, nor strange gleam through the fog; nor did the chill air feel endued with a particular quality: yet this depression over the world was true and heavy, weighing down all spirits and things from some unknown direction, and by imperceptible means. It could only have been the product of secret universal influences vibrating in space as a cloud of invisible particles able to link time to matter, as dreams to reality.

The giant was weary, the giant was sick: and the mysterious sorrow of its pain was diffused about it like an odour. The low clouds continued to collect together, darkening with their purple masses the violet striations of the unwholesome sky. The still country-side was suddenly stirred by a faint shudder. It was that the sun had set. The first approach of evening yet held relics of the light of day: and through it came another sudden tremor, which awoke the slumbering air, and the inert earth, the pale grass, the scattered pebbles in the plain, the roosting birds, the beasts in their dens men in their houses, and insects in their inmost hiding-places. The pine-tree in turn felt this invisible convulsion penetrate strangely from its crest to its roots.

The convulsion was invisible, indefinable, and immense, and yet its cause seemed wholly hidden. What was this swarm of vivified instants (lived perhaps millions of years ago) which had drifted into the district of the giant pine? How far had they come, these fulfilled seconds, whose course had once been run? Were they the time- and space-enfeebled echo of a cataclysm in some unknown world? (when? and where?) or the travail of a blind sun lost in space, yet casting its ominous enigmatic messages across the worlds?

These very real astral influences, active upon men and also upon all that exists, are understood by us usually in an unworthy and insufficient degree. It is admitted that we are at times bound by the forces of distant heavenly bodies, but this can hardly be as individuals, nor can their waves, when they sway us, be sent forth expressly on our petty account. We must not be so simple as to think that the existence of any one among us can interest or engross the whole activity of a sphere or that its labouring is to make smooth the way of a single man. We feel its influence when our path crosses the direction of its discharged waves; but all beings, all plants, hills, peoples, countries in the same case are influenced at the same time as ourselves, and in a like fashion.

This may explain why associations of things are sometimes swayed to a common feeling or purpose by invisible means. We often note that a sense of gaiety or of suffering, of liveliness or of resignation, of calm or disquietude imposes itself on us and on our neighbours, quite independently of our own state of mind. Both animate and inanimate things are subject to such changes of state, which may last a long or a short time, may be restricted or general, but which generally lead their objects in an undesigned direction. Such forms have probably played a wide and yet undetected part in the history of mankind, and also in the physical history of the globe: they may account for some of our unexpected and abrupt departures from the usual manner, for the irregular impulses which make us commit acts foreign to our normal will and nature. So that the unknown, into which pass our dead acts and ideas, may itself conceal also the sources of our resolutions and of our performances.

The evening closed in yet more, its clouds slowly veiling the heavens, while the mists thickened, and covered up the ground: yet the unnameable trouble, which so mysteriously gripped the region, had faded as mysteriously as it had come. Unchanged, in its surrounding silence and circumstances stood the giant, serene once more. True it was still tired, and the sap in its veins felt enfeebled by advancing age; but the sense of misery and desolation just now weighing upon it had been lifted. The dismal pomp of invisible minutes of grief had wended its way past, invisibly. These sad, dark, disaster-laden minutes—from what black event, and whence had they been derived? What incalculable journey had they made? and whither would their uncontrolled and endless course next tend? And the great tree itself, standing there so stiff under that autumn sky, so remote from ours—what can have been these detached moments of its life and being which come from its stem to interest us, to bring to our lamp-lighted room the ghosts of its joy and the shades of its pain? What were these acts, these enjoyed moments of the giant's life, that they can so float about us, murmur to us, hold our interest, that even to our dreams come memories and broken incidents of what it was? that as the tale of its death draws near to be told, we feel grief for that huge ruddy trunk?

Perhaps it is because the thoughts which take wing from our souls, as from the souls of things, are so many parcels of vital essence, which pass over the face of the mirror of changeless time, and look into it and are pictured there, and then break up and rearrange themselves, but never die.


When the Wood-Dust floated in the Air

Whilst the August sun was pouring its clear warm rays from the blue heavens upon the world, a fine wood-powder continued to rain down from all the internal cavities of the giant's trunk, in a reddish dust which lay deep upon the roots. The tree's substance had been so falling away for centuries, with every now and then a larger dilapidation when some great cavity formed itself within its thickness: while on the outside the harsh bark as slowly decayed.

Beneath the soil in the still-kindly darkness of the earth's heart the roots, regretting their failed vivacity, were now resigned to grow more dry and twisted and inert day by day, powerless any more to suck life-giving nourishment from their ground. On the surface of the earth the eternal counter-change of life and death proceeded. Thousands of births, both plant and animal, occurred, to compensate for the thousands of deaths, the wheel of life impartially grinding out change or creation or destructiveness.

It was now summer. The still air was elastic and alive, and transmitted a shining lightness to the world. All was green and gay and content, serene as the unflecked sky and the splendid sun. Girt about with this joyous and pellucid atmosphere stood the giant, tall as ever, but contrasting more sharply against its pure keenness. The huge embrace, vivid and blue and green, in which heaven held earth, seemed almost violent in opposition to the spirit of the tree, whose dead branches and scarred trunk and weary roots marked a heavy despondency.

Sorrow in spring and summer is quite unlike sorrow in autumn or winter. When the year dies the current of life is dying too, whereas in spring-time the new sharp vigour of life makes any sadness seem doubly desolate. The warm sun and renewal of activity in animals and plants, the liveliness of those about us intensify our grief, which, when autumn comes, is in keeping with the common tendency of nature, and becomes moderate, soothed by the absence of joy in others. Apposition is the greatest tonic of colours, as analogy clears the vision: accordingly this day of fairest summer, with its luxuriant flowers and plants about which the bees were humming in the sunshine so that nature seemed to sing softly to itself in the jocund air and the universal gladness made the far hills come together for joy, this day made prominent the infinite desolation of the giant's aspect.

The gold of the sunlight was gilding the singing ripples of the water, the birds were flinging their loudest notes upon the velvet air, the wild beasts were supine with excess of well-being, the plants were burgeoning and swelling with sap in the afflatus of their perfumes: but the sequoia, alone, was bitten through and compassed with the bitter smell of old age, and felt life draw back from its insensitive branches, from its ruined trunk, from its hidden roots, now lifeless and impassive among the former fertilizing benefits of the juices underground. The trees near-by were preening themselves in the rain of sun-starts, shuddering with the force of the new waves of life pumped into them from the teeming earth. The wind thrilled through their branches and all nature came together in that healthy rush of new life, which had once been common also to the giant tree. Once! for now the inside of its trunk was powdered thick with that rain of fine red wood-dust, falling ever more fast towards the tree's ruin.

Yet the outline of the tree against the clear, thin sky appeared unchanged. At its very head, the topmost twig still bore green and lustrous pine-needles. The remaining life of the sequoia had taken refuge and concentrated itself there, in those few square inches of supple wood and fluid sap. From the first days of spring the tree had seemed to live wholly for this last branch, which was linked directly with a very fine tap root burrowing deep underground. The only pulse of life in the tree was here, in the circulation of these few drops of sap between head and foot. Breath had slowly abandoned the rest of the tree, to hover hazardous and trembling for a weak while between the labouring root and the little green twig lost away up there in the blue.

The tree's entire intention seemed now to lie in this last twig, to the exclusion of any thought of the huge dead mass between. One might say almost that it tried to ignore all the decay, after the fashion of other failing lives. This solitary green branch on the inert bole was like the quivering wing-case of a crushed insect, or the childish and petty busyness of an old man near the grave. Everybody can recall the incomprehensible eagerness of some dying soul to recollect a strayed trifle, as if repose of mind depended on its being put straight: or that other unfortunate on his sick bed who seemed to lose sense of the beating wings of death in listening to the petty ticking of a newly mended watch. Childhood, prime and age have ambitions and goals to suit their strengths, so that the complex and magnificent dreams of youth grow pale and few as life dims in us. Old men have small hopes and mean activity, not because they are weary and sick of life, but because life is abandoning them: and at the final moment, when life leaves us altogether, its last feeblest trace may be a trivial thought which we try to fix, a futile wish we long to satisfy, a foolish interest. This last living branch of the giant tree may prefigure the moment when the last inhabitants of our globe will cling to its last habitable portion while all the rest of it is frozen in an eternal winter, or when the like fate overtakes the last habitable planet of our sky. Life which is made by inches departs by inches: in those sudden cases of apparent and violent destruction it is only that the falling curve dips downward more fast.

This we must consider not as a special act of nature, but as an ultimate effect of life moving towards that new arrangement which is called death. Since everything which exists, small or great, is compounded of various elements (an interaction of multiple energies), so it is logical that life should take hold of its matter piece-meal, and relinquish it, when the time comes, also piecemeal.

In this fashion the internal decomposition of the pine-tree proceeded. Slowly its substance crumbled away to dust, amidst the close smell of age and decay. Tremors of dissolution began to pass through the giant. Dull creakings ran up and down the trunk. Its sorry boughs quivered with a thin resonance, while deep-buried in the soil its roots contracted in agony. A narrow crack opened in the wood just above ground level, and gradually spread round the trunk, growing deeper as it went: while the red tree-dust trickled out through every hollowed place and floated in the air as a fine cloud, proof of dry rot and presage of coming death.

Still, at the very crest there shone out golden in the sunlight that last living branch, fresh and shining in all its needles. The gracious summer had fortified all life upon earth. From a hill far away there came a waft of air, which loaded itself on its passage with the emanations of plain and field and wood, till it reached the district of the tree. Its warm soft breath kissed the giant gently, just waving the little green twig up aloft, and then passed on, as though towards an endless series of new scenes and adventures. Yet it was early checked. A line of trees, making a wall with their interwoven branches, repulsed it, flung it back with a new impulse. It became a gust, sweeping along the ground-level, raising a cloud of leaves and dust and the dried powder of decomposed wood about the base of the sequoia, into whose fissured trunk it blew strongly. The tree shuddered, spiral tremors running up its length and down again, rather as the invigorating sap had once run up and down. At the foot of the tree, where the circular crack was, these tremors were stayed. They ran together, reinforced each other, swelled into lateral shocks. A deep low warning sounded in the body of the wood, and echoed outside. For a little the huge shape shivered in the liquid air, oscillating to right and left, while the tiny plume of green at its summit described vivid curves against the blueness of the sky. Then simply, powerfully, inevitably, as in all natural decisions, came a loud rending like the last cry of an agonizing spirit, and the immense pillar bowed down and fell upon the earth, which shook under the weight, while the sky, suddenly made vacant of such bulk, seemed to leap up as the giant fell. Thick clouds of ruddy dust rose widely into the air, filling it with the damp odour of decay, while the bottom of the trunk feathered out in splinters, as the dried roots, so long hidden from the day, were torn out from both ground and wood.

More than seven thousand years ago a heedless puff of wind had cast a sequoia seed upon the fertile earth: and now another puff had broken down its tree. For more than seventy centuries the forest giant had had its part in this life which we share, and its course (like ours, while they endure) had run curving through time and space till its circle was completed, a perfect round, as all life's movements are, and will be everywhere and evermore. Its very age was inscribed in concentric circles in the thickness of its trunk. The seasons, in their repeated going and coming, had given the impression of a slowly turning wheel, like the terrene revolution or the sun's. The sequoia, a cylinder in core, a cone in shape, had lived amongst fellow-curves. The rounded stars journey in their elliptical orbits, and the electrons likewise in their infinite degree. This unchanging changeless time rounds all things in their span. The hours encompass us, described upon their dial; and even contrasts at the last run together, made to coincide by the slow bending of every line of form. Infinity, if that be the nature of the universe, causes to meet all movement when its arc of direction is completed, and the course of time too seems circular, the rolling of a wheel. Can chaos, the abyss itself, be concentric, after the likeness of everything with which its halls are peopled?

Suppose that an eagle, piercing high beyond our sight in the blue vault of heaven, had seen the giant fall. It would have thought the event and the object petty, across the vast distance. One near-by would have been moved by the greatness of the victim. The greatness and the littleness of things thus seem to depend upon the point of view—a trite, daily, observation, no doubt, but so is life itself to us. Big and little—is it not possible that proportions get their value only subjectively, and that in space they rank less important than to our minds? This concept of relativity, producing itself in everlasting stages across the horizon of our intelligence—may it not be linked with that other law of comparison, the relation of one dimension to another, which ensures something bigger than any object, however big, and something smaller than the almost infinitely small?

Anyhow, measured by human standards, the trunk of the dying giant as it lay there on the ground was huge. The wind was still rustling in its branches, though the air about them was made dense with wood-dust now. It used to be, to our mind, an immense tree ... and soon it will be nothing. Soon? Before the sequoia has given back to space the elements of which it was made, its carcass will have to rot for hundreds or thousands of years. It takes so long for all the constituents of such a tree to be resolved, for the oxygen to go back to oxygen, for the carbon to re-become carbon, the liquid to turn again into liquid. Yet this lapse of time, when the last trace of the tree has ceased to be, will have been as a second. To our fallibility it has seemed long, but eternity, which will bring the ultimate and certain destruction of all matter, recks not of a few thousand centuries.

When it was alive the forest giant harboured in its branches thousands of bodies of insects. Some were crushed violently to dust by accidents. Some perished merely by lapse of time, but all in the end came to nothing: for eternity reduces everything to the same value, sooner or later—reduces them all to nothing. Our thousands of lives, magnificent or sordid, long or short, great or small, as they happen to be on earth, leave no mark in space and time. The glory or the shame of what has been bears value and meaning only in our fitful solitary dreams. Should we consider them as having never existed—all these things which have had life and have, under the law, returned to the chaos which called them forth—now only as the dust of forces and of time? The elements remain eternally unchanged, however protean their assumed shapes: perhaps what we term life and death are only their incidental phases.


What is called Death

The forest giant now lay low in the sunlight waiting the return of its substances to their kindred elements of time or space. For the moment the tree was dead, since it kept yet its living shape; but when nothing of it remained recognizable, it would be as if it had never been. Long and short lives, rich and poor lives, are all made equal at the moment when they have ended.

Like the mass of beings and plants and things, our tree found rest in death. After so many and with so many we ask anxiously, "What is this Death?" a sempiternal, unanswered, fresh and vital question. No one has yet solved it, and probably no one will, for we cannot experience death and retain our power to register its effects. Sometimes we can feel it coming near, or imagine we do, and at that time may try to describe its onset; but such an experience has nothing in common with veritable death. To know it, and to impart our knowledge of it to others, would entail our having control of our faculties, whereas death's first act is to deprive us of just that control.

How much has been said and thought and written about death! And without effect. We should make up our minds that nothing is to be added to what we already know about it. We continually strain to realize the flavour of death by heaping up a confused mass of ideas, by strange and inordinate imaginings, by deliberately forcing our thought and dealing to a point beyond control. Yet these are not means and ways by which to learn; for in our wildest dreams, in our most fearful phantasies, or strangest visions, in all that is unfamiliar, runs the thread of life. We can have no dreams or hallucinations or inventions, born of true imagination or of a fit of madness, unless life give them us—and so how can they hold an idea or sense of death? And this is why we will never, in anticipation, taste death.

We cannot even distinguish and analyse for ourselves the fashion in which death will some day bear us away from life. Death is the non-existent, made not out of silence (which noise explains), nor out of darkness (which light would explain), but out of something inconceivably absolute. Sleep implies an awakening, dreams imply the powers of seeing, thinking, hearing, inertness implies the power of movement; so that nothing in our range of experience, from complete peace to utter terror, can plant in us a true sense of death, and probably no man, to the end of the world, will ever be able to explain it in terms of others' deaths or of his own.

When our spirit has departed (that is, when the bond between the secret and innumerable forces whose continued contact makes our life is at last unloosed), we are only vague shapes in deliquescence. The dead keep nothing of their ancient character. What had been their life is submerged in the infinite whole, as myriads of particles of varying elements. In nature alone is the power to dispose of these dispersed and impalpable essences; so it is finally impossible that an entity such as our present should ever again come together and act after our death. We are, and we will cease to be: that much is certain; but what we will be can never be told.

In some purple and grey evening of the closing year, one of those pale hours which seem to dissolve away our flesh that our spirit may grow more reinforced in itself, we can sit and dream of those who were dear to us, whom life has left so that they are no more found. With far-away eyes and hearts heavy with memories we remember our dead, how brilliant their faces, how dear their voices, how moving their presences once were to us: and from memories so harrowing we have not wracking despair and agony, but only pitying tears, which seem inadequate as issue of the certainty that we will never see again those looks nor hear those voices nor feel those presences. These dead were all in all to us, and yet they have gone without trace left either for us or for the world. And why does our reason not swoon in a nerve-shattering flood of horror when it sees the deaths of people whom we loved, or whom we have merely seen doing and moving, people who have pleased us or hurt us, whose warm hands (full and trembling with life) have touched ours, whose glances have met our own; why are we not terrified as we stand by at their supreme moment when life and death meet, and a world in the winking of an eye is reduced to nothing? And when we have lost our familiar friends, how can we go on living, and talking? how can we take pleasure in things or be sorry, in our usual fashion? And how think of them after they have gone, with such calm regret and resignation, whereas it was a frenzied grief, touching madness, which the anticipation of their future deaths evoked in us?

The answer to these questions is that the knowledge how we must ourselves some day die is always stirring in us, forms part of our flesh and blood, moves in our nerves, and finds our own inevitable destined end prefigured in each death of those about us. We say, or rather we feel obscurely, that what is happening to them will some day happen to us, when the fatal time comes for us to pay this dread tribute which they are paying.

Perhaps it is the same current of ideas, which makes collective disaster, such as war or pestilence, less frightful to us than the tragedies of individuals. The consciousness that we are ourselves exposed to such perils reduces our commiseration, not out of egotism (as is commonly thought), but from a sense that we too will bear our part in the eventual expiation. The idea that in our turn we will suffer this softens in some odd way our dread of the inevitable and the distress we might feel at another's pitiable situation.

The younger sequoia trees which had survived the greatest of their family would flourish for a long while yet, and enjoy the vigour of their cool fragrant sap; but the fall of the giant would be theirs in the end. They would go brittle and inert before the fatal hour. Neither the light of day, nor warmth, nor the kindly earth would any more be profitable to them. Their substance would dissolve infallibly into a fine red dust, smelling mournfully of age. Only time and space, of all the universe, remain for ever changeless.

There was a bustle of ants in the heavy dust of the decaying wood, up and down the fallen trunk of the giant tree, now flecked with alternate bars of light and shade. Here as elsewhere life and death succeeded one another. Flowers bloom as flowers fade, creatures are born as others die, fresh springs rise up here as rivers grow dry elsewhere, crystals are formed as others split: and all the while earth goes forward towards its frozen fate. In high heaven the wheeling stars prepare themselves to receive life, or to grow desolate; all is in flux, transforms itself, repeats itself, dies: even what seems to us most assured and everlasting. While we ourselves, atoms of the universe, endure our sentence of imprisonment in life according to inexorable law, until the term of death.

In such a chaos, where, amidst millions of clashing forces, millions of destinies are being worked out, what can be the purpose of the all-seeing Eye? what inconceivable end has He designed for the living and for the dead, for the stars, for all creation? Our souls and bodies, our births and goings-out, the details and the wholes, what is the final inexpressible combination which will resolve them all? whither does the huge inexplicable movement tend?

In face of such a problem let us remember how we mitigate our terror by being able to take ourselves and our puny acts seriously. They are so small compared with the constellations of the stars, and yet they absorb us. We are able to laugh and cry, to love and hate, in our narrow bounds, forgetting for the while the agony of the unknown which encompasses us, and forgetting to ask the how and why, the purpose of each act of life, its relation to the universe. We are able to exist by and according to the impulses of our own flesh and spirit, as each species exists according to the particular measure and direction of its means.

The forest giant also had its time. A pine-seed after manifold adventures transformed itself, in a course of admirable permutations, into a mighty tree for more than seventy centuries. Yet its hour struck: and in its fate can be read the fates of all created things, after due allowance has been made for variety in age and kind and size. The giant at last lay in peace upon the fertile ground, having had its life, like us, and like us having nothing thereafter in eternity or in the infinite: though while it lived it obeyed the nature of its kind, and all powers in earth and heaven seemed leagued in its support.

So we do all, while we exist. In the small circle which it is happiness for us to fill, we repeat the experience of those who have gone before; and in the breathing air, in the shining light, the dancing heat, the darkening shadow, in the rhythm of the friendly world we carry through to the end the courses laid down for us. And vainly do we seek to learn not merely whence we come and whither we go, but what and why we are, while we exist.


The Theory of Eternal Sleeplessness

What can chaos be but the mass of elements not yet conjoined with those other atoms which have been embodied and which have returned to the mass?

The fallen tree was now sunken in an endless sleep. The rays of the sun playing over its ruined trunk gradually absorbed its colours. The discoloured redness of its substance, the yellow of its rotted dust, the fresh green of its last shoots slowly faded, while the winds took away its antique smell and the blue atmosphere re-incorporated the oxygen, the carbon, and the last elements of moisture in its wood. Finally the whole shape of the former tree disappeared, so that there remained on earth no visible or tangible trace of its former inhabitant; though its substance still existed. Its component parts could be found in the light and air, in the clouds, in a vibration, a breath, on a stone, either in material substances or in invisible radiations. They were the old elements of the sequoia, exactly as they had been in essence, though now their forms were so different that they conjured up no memories of the vanished tree. On the analogy it may well be that the solid particles, the liquids, the essences which together make up our apparent forms, have had equally varied incarnations, have been beautiful or vile, have been drab or splendid, have been delicious-smelling, have encountered a thousand unexpected changes and adventures before they were re-born as us. The energy which moves us, the matter which gives us substance, the impulses which excite us, the dreams which trouble us, and the occasional mysteries which vibrate in our souls and bodies may come from sources thousands of years old, and through a myriad phases of existence.

In face of these unexplored ramifications of our personality it seems impossible that we should ever be able to tie effect to cause, or learn the reason of these secret longings of ours, or of those strange instincts and reactions, those preferences, those fears. They come to us from so far, the forces which order our doings: and though each element remains intact and unadulterated, yet signs of the many moments they have passed embodied in various shapes cling to them always, like fine dust.

One wonders whence came the particles which composed the giant tree, from what previous embodiments, and into what shapes they reassembled after the pine was dead. What had been green in the tree might be black or transparent when next its elements took visible form. What had made the tree seem solid might be liquid or vapour in the new assemblage. The fragrant pine-fumes might be solid and common next time. Common? Well, hardly perhaps, for there is neither beautiful nor ugly, noble nor ignoble in the universe. Such qualities are conferred upon things by their impact upon our senses. This or that vortex of atoms which to-day gives us exquisite dreams may in a later evolution be some combination utterly hateful to our taste. A process which wounds us to-day may to-morrow bring forth a marvellous constellation of molecules. The indestructible elements whirl unceasing in the universe, moving from an out-worn structure to a new one, dissolving and amalgamating without rest till they rejoin the ever-lasting silence—whence they will leap out again to like adventures, or towards yet unknown variations, in turn to scatter in a dust of atoms. An embodiment may last for a day or for hundreds of thousands of years; but its inevitable end is in the chaos of infinity.

On the sun-bathed earth an irrefragable peace had at last drowned the ruins of the tree. With its death one particular adventure in creation was run. The forces which had made it tangible would continue to function, but their specific combination as a pine-tree was ended for ever. The forest giant henceforward would be as before its birth—a part of the body of eternal nature. Around it the rhythm of the world would flow, neither faster nor slower than of old, with light and shadow, ice and fire, birth and death, all things just as before, but not it: these similar conditions cannot be of this tree's atoms, nor partakers of its life, nor a union of its elements. Its race was run: as in this world all things must some while end. The tree with the ruddy trunk and green needles was dead: and they are dead, or will die, those insects with the gaudy wing-cases, the bright-scaled fish, the downy birds, the sharp-fanged animals, proud mankind, diamonds of the purest water, black carbon, seas, mountains, world and suns. The eternal universal is built up of perishable parts, and our blind career is only a succession of incidents like or unlike, a drawn-out flicker of beginnings and endings, a steady stream of sensations, of bubbles swelling up and bursting, one single life made up of a myriad lives. They beat and flow and scatter, to be re-born after each change.

We are all ephemeral in terms of our allotted situation, and eternal in terms of the universe. Everything which is still, as everything which moves about us, is no more than a whirl of situations constantly made and unmade: and so our substances, those which now make up ourselves, will infallibly scatter us some day. Elements seem to grow tired at last of being confined in one special shape, to be weary of being so long a man, a stone, a river, a fire. Their weariness is ours, in sum. We feel vigorous or weak, joyful or sad, perturbed or resigned according to the prosperity of our cells: and we all, whatever our age and health, encounter hours in which, without reason given, our whole being longs for annihilation. At other times—in common experience it happens often at that hour when lamps should be lit—there swells up in us an indeterminate wish to be other than we are: and our flesh goes dead, our hearts cold, our heads empty of desire.

May this not be our dissatisfied elements, desirous of change, speaking within us? And the often-just premonitions of death which come to men, how explain them other than as the stirring of our elements quickened by radiations from the unknown? The trouble of those stricken by a sudden and mortal fate, their inexplicable distress, the panic-stricken flock of teeming thoughts vainly seeking escape in their shadowy subconsciousness—all this morbid poignant possessed state must be due to our cells' foreknowledge that shortly their architecture will be changed. Our independent life puts no obstacle in the way of that universal ebb and flow, which sets through us and subjects us to the same law of eternal change which rules the rest of chaos.

For these reasons the close of a career should not be to us a melancholy sight. To be born, to exist, to die should seem simple, natural, unchangeable things, only shades of difference even when considered to the farthest obscurity of their never-ending course. But to be eternal, there is a vision which exceeds! To be eternal!

The universe withstands, unmoved, the passing of trees and beings and things. In its season everything must defile before the mirror of changeless time. Plants in their fading go the way of suns as they grow cold, of dreams as they pass on waking, of an insect as it perishes. In the imperishable universe things are born only to die. We, as atoms of the stream of life, can stiffen ourselves with the knowledge that we suffer only the common fate of all created things; that the same fate rules both material and spiritual things, men and stars following one curve in their careers; and that in nature no situation can endure unaltered.

As we dwell on it, the idea of being eternal becomes impossible to our spirits. To be infinitely active for ever, what a prospect of overwhelming sameness! Perpetual life would be for us no less than a never-ending sleeplessness. We would have to endure with a constant endurance of constant circumstances, while others about us were born and died, while plants grew green and withered, whilst the rivers ran, and the suns burned themselves out; we would have to watch the ebb and flow of things, and the measured flight of hours, the evolution of form, the levelling of fine distinction. The same dreams, the same senses would function, without ever a stop, without ever a relieving variation—what a vision of weariness and monotonous despair! Like a great wide eye in which were mirrored chaos and its thousand ghostly shapes, an eye limpid but glassy, strained and aching with its long stare, over which it was ordered that no easeful lid might ever close.

Everlasting life for men an everlasting insomnia? Let us call to mind some of those nights when sleep would not visit us, when open-eyed we gazed into the dark as though it were luminous, our temples all one ring of ice, and in our stagnant veins a biding weariness which nothing could relieve. Life throbbed in our ears with an unchanging beat. The air about us might be loud with rumour, or be silent; there might be a clock ticking, or a storm raging in the night outside, but anyhow, and however our mood, the sleeplessness always in the end prevailed over all circumstances, and knotted up the customary arabesques of our sensation into one pattern, mechanical and terrifying in its regularity. A cold terror would take hold of us—the lucid ordered distraction of severe insomnia—and we would be lost in a passionless despair, in that desert of opaque oppression which is ultimate fatigue.

Each cell in us called aloud on sleep, while our whole being thrummed with the rhythm of life. The entire existence of the aged and the very sick is an unended longing for repose, and no small part of the agony and horror of a death-bed is this cruel wakefulness which holds the eyes ever on the watch. Eternal peace has no terrors for the dying: but if that necessary nescience was not to follow after, if their wakefulness was to endure world without end—what then?

Despite our pains life is sweet, while it runs within its proper bounds; but it would be intolerable if it were endless. On this mortal earth the giant tree had passed into its last rest, leaving the general current of life behind it to continue unchecked. The sequoia, even if it had had the power, would not have been sorry no longer to breathe in the odours of the world, nor feel the sunlight, nor pump the sap up and down its weather-beaten trunk. At its hour of death it was desiring death, the great sleep in which lay repose, with all its strength, even with its finest stomata, its inmost grain, its remotest root; and if this was the issue of its seven thousand years, such should be the issue of a dog's corresponding fifteen years, of a man's seventy years, of a planet's millions.

In the midst of eternity an age is not so long.


Within a Cell

Through all the changing pomp of seasons, while the sun showered down its yellow rays, while the rain striped it with grey markings, and the snow lay heavy and white upon it, the vision of the tree was present to me, first as a colossal column, standing up in heaven, then as a broken ruin, prostrate on the ground. As through a light haze I have tried to distinguish the splendour of its life, and the tragedy of its death: and all this while the blue and green and grey country in which the sequoia lived and died has become in some degree my own country, a part of me. I grew to love those distant hills, modulating away to invisibility on some shining day of spring; I learned to feel the sadness of the autumn twilights which made the background of the pine-tree go so pale and lifeless and desolate. I traced at length the slow circulation of the giant's sap, and became sensitive like the tree to light and shadow, to all the influences, exciting or soporific, of the type of country in which I had placed it. Nevertheless, all this creation of a vast landscape, and the huge form of the tree, took shape, endured, and ended in a tiny space, one of those imperceptible and secret compartments called cells, parts of our bodies immeasurable by human wit.

Outside my window the world was growing feeble in the failing autumn, but from the white page which I slowly darkened with my writing bloomed for my sight a summer scene of green and gold, where once the giant tree had stood, but which now was again become clear ground and azure sky: and I told myself how shortly my memory-cell would produce for me a new mind-landscape, new images, new sentiments. Such dreams, born within ourselves, have the vividness of real incidents, while they last: to such a degree that it seems questionable whether the physical shocks we undergo and the palpable matter we encounter are really the intensest experiences of our lives. May it not be rather that our sharpest colouring comes from the volatile and obscure matter of our ideas and dreams, with its rich palette of innumerable shades? Only by means of the abstract part of our nature do we commune with the universe. Our likes and dislikes, our delights and despairs are not the issue of our carnal parts, offspring of our blood and nerves, except in so far as these are submissive conductors of the hidden reactions of our imagination. A single dream will change the current of our life, and our actions are the product of the powerful but hidden inner world of our minds.

So that it is our imagination which rules our conduct. Our physical performance is the reflex of our conception of the deed. Our will is the developed image of the dark, fertile, capricious, imperceptible force which we call fancy. We can mingle this fancy in almost material fashion with all the things and beings on our path through life, so strange in composition is this substance or fluid. Everything which is ours, even our passions, obey its commands. It can make us chaste or ardent, will purify our flesh in the presence of our sisters, and inflame the same matter when our thoughts turn concupiscently towards a woman with whom we can feasibly have dealings. Fanatics owe their superhuman endurance during horrible mutilations of the flesh to this same power, which also gives to martyrs the perfect calm of soul in which they tread the threshold of an awful death.

May not this flexible mistress of our understanding be made of the same essence as the motive force of the universe? Not our reason but our imagination enables us to grasp the conception of illimitable chaos, to comprehend the music of the farthest spheres, to overleap all distance and cast the sum of the faintest stars. By it we can distinguish between world and world, in their far-fetched and fleeting changes from the incandescent minute of the nucleus to that last frozen silence in which the dead planets circulate: and also by its means we can see the smallness of things, even when they are atoms inexpressibly small.

Not that our imagination is universal. There are causes we will never fathom, effects we can never know, forces too occult for us. Yet we have monitions of them; their flickering image hovers sometimes just beyond our grasp, their last repeated echo dies away in a murmur just too weak for us to understand.

Therefore in the depths of our subconsciousness the immane with its thousand heads mirrors itself vaguely, like a wide field agreeing to compress its forms and rarefy its details within the tiny sphere of a prismatic drop of water.

Our dreams take shape, and endure and fade, having seemed reality while they endured. Images and sounds and scents of strange marvellous richness dance restlessly through our inner world.

This other life which palpitates in us is often more engrossing to us than our public life, and always more fickle. It has no bounds, so far as supply of incident and vision is concerned: but is absolutely limited (as much as is our physical life) in its extent of influence. Its scope is for ourselves alone. Our designs are made and our actions prepared in this domain of our dark fancy, and the adventures we there conceive only lose in richness and range when they are translated into physical terms. Of that realm we are absolute master, and we rule our universe thence. In it time and space both bow at our behest. By a simple whim we transpose seasons in a moment, that we may inhabit tropics and the frozen north at once. Elements and creatures and things are at our mercy. In this world, and only in this world, are we given to know freedom and omnipotence.

How do things go in this secret and magical realm of ours, where we have power to work the miracles denied us in daily life? There we can love and hate, as we would wish to do, physically, can taste the fill of love's joys, and all of ambition or of crime. We can change our shape, attend the marvellous revels of fairy-land, witness horrible massacres, contemplate the incredible clash of suns. In this our private world neither days nor hours exist to limit us. We can live a thousand centuries in a moment, or spin out a moment across unending years. This dream-control of matter empowers us somewhat to understand the terrible play of events across eternity and the infinite, for it must proceed rather in the same manner: and since the thousand flying shades of chaos can be reflected in our subconsciousness, it follows that our fancy and our dreams must be made of the same stuff as the nameless force which rules the universe.

The forest giant also had its life in a dream—a life which seemed to last for more than seventy centuries, in the precise surroundings wherein stood this substantial ghost. The dream which made it did not fade wholly with its death, for to my fancy clouds of wood-dust, with their sad musty taste, seemed yet to float after its fall over the vacant place where the tree had stood.

My memories of the landscape in which the dream had passed endured after the ending of the dream. Birds seemed to fly over the prostrate giant, and thousands of busy insects flitted about its hollow trunk. The sound of the water came yet to me from far off, while the sunlight was golden where the tree had breathed, and night drew its dark curtain round the spot. A mighty rumour filled the space about—for in the subtle world of dream lively truth is given by our imagination to shapes and sounds and smells, which become ours to create, to destroy, or to revive at will.

And from my middle place, hanging between the external world which is ours and the inner world which belongs to me alone, I ask myself, hesitating and afraid, if our dreams are not perhaps more than dreams, if we ourselves are not perhaps creations of some fancy greater than our own, greater even than our understanding? In which case the external universe might be to the all-seeing Eye what the world of our imagination is to us—another way of saying that one substance makes substantial the mighty whole, but that the means, the forces, the expression of it are innumerable.

It is a strange speculation that we may be ourselves products of the creative thought of some being beyond our thought: yet very far-reaching is the power of our imagination which can pass from star to star, can people space, and conjure up new worlds, can shadow out to itself the incomprehensible. It is afraid of no height and of no depth: but one idea escapes it, gives it dizzy pause—speculation upon the beginning and the end of creation. Yet in time our spirit calms itself, grows resigned to the idea that there was no beginning, and will be no end, only an interminable progression. Such is the only sober escape from the unbearable notions of a precise beginning and a pre-destined final end, ideas which if driven home would wreck our peace. A beginning—but how could this be? Whence could it come? and when and how? and an end—but what could come after that? Would it be the starting-point of a new evolution, of a fresh departure in time? Besides, the very ideas are absurd, self-contradictory. Nature has no exceptions, no isolated events.

In such a haze of strange ideas and confused visions my dream draws to its close. However, we do not make them of hazardous and fugitive web. Into them are woven real figments of our life and immanent seconds from the stock of unchanging time. Their elements will float forth across the universe after the dissolution of the adventures whose apparent, if mental, form they have for the moment composed. These scattered moments of my faded dream will distribute an impression of the life of the great pine-tree, which was born and lived and died in its place, till the sense of it pierces to a tiny immeasurable point, one of those secret places which we call our cells ... and then it seems to me that there rises a thin mist of russet wood-powder, amid a heartrending savour of old age....