Scene.—A California forest high up in the mountains. A small
stream comes winding through the woods.
DE PETZY and BLAUVELT enter.
BLAUVELT—Here let us rest and make tonight our camp.
And let our tired limbs and aching bones
Be patients, for a time, to such attendants
As nature sends in shape of cooling winds
Which, to the patients placed beneath their care,
Bring balmy odors from the ferns and mosses
And many an herb, till we are healed again.
DE PETZY—I think we could not better our condition
By going further on. Besides, the night—
BLAUVELT—Drop then your gun and rest upon this bank.
How sweet the air, the gurgling of this stream!
There's something soothing and refreshing to me
To find myself afar from human cares;
Far off, beyond the sounding of an echo
Of giant mills and cities soot-begrimmed:
Our sole companion these dumb trees that stand
Holding behind their grim and solemn aspects
The secrets of a thousand passing years
Known to themselves alone; the antlered deer;
Owls whose wise looks tell of their secret knowledge;
And other beasts, spellbound—made dumb by nature
To hold the wondrous things that they have seen.
Why, here's a country to be new-discovered;
One of earth's many realms but brushed by dreams.
DE PETZY—Oft-times, my mind being in a curious mood,
When, knowing I've been never out of it,
But all I've seen and read within myself,
Earth seems more like a dream than any—a fancy,
That strides the stage of sleep. Is it not odd
That we are held here on this piece of earth
That floats a bubble on the seas of space?
Such being our lot seems a disordered dream—
A state of odd enchantment, that of earth.
While real things are unknown all to us.
BLAUVELT—I've often thought something more worthy men
Must back this feeble, childish race for wealth—
As children mud-pies making;
Their mad, absurd expending of life's moment.
That, in earth's forest, was something beyond the wolf;
The lion, whose red jaws have torn the weak;
The eagle, that highwayman that holds up
The little osprey, and thieves from him fish;
The panther, stepping with his cautious tread
O'er crackling twigs in this grim forest;
The grizzly, striding with his massive tread—
Wonders astonishing and unimaginable
Being yet not known.
DE PETZY—There's surely pleasant contrast in these woods,
For, being alone, we have no enemies;
Being far away—off from the race of men—
But having none to hate us, we have not
A place for gentle thoughts to reach their mark.
Therefore, a life apart from all mankind
Is one not natural, one with parts left out.
BLAUVELT— List to the cooing of the unseen dove!
I wonder if they, too, have woes of love—
Heave mighty sighs; then, with disturbed visage,
And eyes grown mournfully large, gaze they upon
Those whom they love, with passionate, pleading looks?
And are they jealous, like men?
And have they friends, or foes, or foolish customs
To break sweet nature's course, and leave love hopeless?
DE PETZY—Throughout the universe is this—one law:
Sorrow's the prophet to each stage of life:
Out-born from pain, its cry proclaims peace added.
Why, sure it is, they have their share of woes,
Wrought chiefly by fear;
Living a life of false alarms wrought out;
Mourn for their friends, and in their sweetest songs
Cast out their griefs into the wide world's ear.
But now I'll leave you to more lonely musings
And wander off t'explore the woods around us.
[Exit DE PETZY. BLAUVELT lies down and goes to sleep. Then enter ELIDAH, AIDEL, and also WAVRA and ELLOCK, two spirits of the woods.]
WAVRA—He lies asleep. Upon his face I'll breathe.
And, through my breath, infuse my nature in him,
As lovers do, when breathing each on each,
Creating such fancies and such odd conclusions—
Harmless, as in him is there naught of hate—
As never yet were lodged in mortal mind.
Then shall he sweep the universe with thought
And stand amazed indeed to see the things
Caught in his net of reason.
AIDEL—But, is not this one of earth's bards, earth's prophets?
One of those rare ones, by us best beloved.
Who may not lie to hold place or position,
But, doing those things that place earth beneath them,
Upon the rungs of such a ladder made,
Can, to us, mount in vision?
ELIDAH—One of the ones who speak in metaphors,
Which, of men's thought, being nearest to the language
Wrought by our state, enables us to give back
To them their wisdom—
With courage that is not the drum'd-drugged sort.
These speak the truth, when that, if that they tell,
Means loss of bread, of place, of benefice.
Soldiers may take a chance to die, and fear not,
If clacquers clack, or drums go loud enough,
What is called death. Here's of another class;
He's of a band—of those strange sturdy ones
That fear not
The poverty before which governors quake;
At which (while they blanch and their stomachs weaken)—
Orders obeying rather than the truth—
Generals and admirals, then denying it,
Or, in place of it, stating what is not.
Have hidden over and concealed their guilt.
While toward such men bend we men's high plaudits.
Their wealth and honors,
Against our dear ones have we turned men's jeers,
And had them buffet them, and hand them wounds.
Yet, while at their amazement we have laughed—
Seeing what rotten fruit the others got,
While these had life—our laughter was for love's sake.
And soldiers, also, who were more than such.
And admirals have been, and such again will be,
Who will obey the truth and bear what comes
When they those disobey, by whom they're ordered
To do against it, and serve 'gainst the right.
WAVRA—Shall we then plague him?
ELLOCK—Is't not against Etheeia's commands.
Who, for the part she takes in that great work
That is now brewing in the higher heavens
To help the world—would bring these two together?
WAVRA—Not if such thoughts are placed within his brain
T'attract him out of earth.
I'll let him, in his dreams, tread upward,
And, being the hero of his deeds of sleep,
Go onward; upwards, through those many realms—
That have high words, of which they are upbuilt.
That make them to the low invisible—
Where waking mortals could not be and live.
I'll show a thousand varied scenes in hell
Where, there, the laughter of a woman's eyes
Would end his peace forever;
I'll show the green and monstrous angular sprites
That, in the chilly southern seas of ice
Where shines the southern cross, control the waters
And make the choppy seas dash icy waves
Against the mighty domes and towers of ice
Full many feet in air;
That drag the howling winds from point to point,
Shrieking as if in pain;
That lead the deadly winds against the ships,
Icing the rigging; freezing the sailors' thumbs,
And then—white fogs unfold upon the waters.
And all the while, so various are the sounds—
The loud reports, the rattling of floating ice—
That hell itself seems there to have an echo.
I'll show those fourteen stars west of the cross,
Where dwell the dreaded mutineers from Venus.
We'll show where was the pyramid first made.
We'll show the cloud-bound caves of distant realms
Where roam forever spirits of wild beasts.
And then we'll show the wild north-central heaven
Where come the poisonous winds from every point
Named on the compass; mingling their poisonous breaths—
[Here is left out a portion of the matter referred to in the Prefatory Note, in order that the institutions of learning of the world may determine the question as to whether or not it is probable, from so much of the work as has been placed before them, that the portion not placed before them is of such a character that it should be permitted— at the same time that they erect and idolize and endow buildings of stone and wood—as they stand and look on, to perish; not needed to be put into expression; not needed to be taught in their colleges and schools.
As it is into their hands that the people have placed on trust large endowments to be used for the encouragement of, and as a means of giving recognition to, the work of those who give their own, in order that they may work in the art kingdom; and as teachers and rulers over the schools have, many of them, given to one another the title of Master in these matters that belong to the kingdom of art, it will be for them, sitting in the character of Masters in the art kingdom, to determine whether or not it is for them to pass upon the question here presented—which is of it.
Much better would it be if these charity funds, now used to aid youth, are not well used, that they should be used to improve and add to the comforts of those noble, charitable homes, alms-houses, that, because the heart is ever wiser than doctrines taught by what may be called the Pharisees of science, have been established for those less able to help and care for themselves than the young, those who have expended more of their energies in the work of the world than the young—the old.]