The Spiritual Structure of Lilith
A paraphrase of the first draft by MacDonald's son Greville.
Notes by John Docherty
PARAPHRASE OF THE EARLIER MANUSCRIPT-VERSION WITH QUOTATIONS AND COMMENTS.
Note.--It is presumed that the following will not be read except by those who know the story as it was published. Many of these will find in the simpler narrative that follows items that give even more luminous embodiment to the truths involved. 1
The narrator of the story, Mr. Vane, had puzzling experiences as a boy in his strange old home. "Every now and then the whole outspread splendour will suddenly assume the aspect of a passing show revealing things hidden, but there all the time." The mother was never remembered, the father almost forgotten in the house, though everyone felt there had been something unusual about him, some even saying he was not dead but had only disappeared. Young Vane is engrossed in Science. Once, when reading, the old librarian, who had resigned when the father vanished, appears and tells him how he had once followed his old master up into a chamber among the attics and learned something of polarised light--"a kind of light I had never seen before; and there, I saw your father wandering away to a great distance through a misty kind of atmosphere, beyond which I saw the blue tops of mountains sharp against the paler blue of the sky. But the moment I took a step after him I struck against the glass of a mirror that reflected nothing, for I could not see myself in it; and gradually the mist deepened, and I saw your father no more . . ."
The eyes of the old man looked very strange and evoked in the boy a determination to seek his father, but the difficulty was to find the way into his world.
"The red glow of a setting sun shone into the room, and washed with a rosy light all the gilded titles of the books around us. 'Almost every one of these books is a door into another world than that the hall-door opens on,'" said the librarian, who then takes the boy up to the little room among the rafters and explains how polarised light "is the correlative of some sense that is not yet developed in us, but belongs creatures fashioned on principles quite different from ours."
The librarian steps through the mirror's three-dimensional frame and plods away through the mist towards the distant mountain range. But the boy rushes down to the library in terror. One morning, however, a new way into the other-dimensioned land is presented. A vase of primroses is found on his table. Taking them to his sister Imogen at breakfast he drops it, and the flowers vanish, but only to be found growing immediately outside the door into the garden, 2 though it is too early in the year for primroses. He gathers them, turns to take them back to his sister and finds in place of the house a pine-wood with the setting sun seen through. But the bunch of primroses was still looking up at him. 3
Then he sees a Raven, who tells him he has somehow got into this strange country too soon.
"'Therefore I must tell you the way home. You must walk on due east for the space of a mile or so, when you will meet a squirrel with his cheek full of nuts. You will ask him the way home and he will tell you.' 4 Then he set out, walking in a straight line, much faster than I could have thought any bird less than an ostrich could have walked, and I followed, convinced that I was following the ex-librarian at home. . . . When we stept out from among the trees I could see him no more; I was at the bottom of our own garden and the sun was almost at its height. I walked in at the same door by which I had left, and found the remains of breakfast still upon the table. . . ."
After this young Vane goes to school and college, where he studied Science 5 but got no further understanding of a fourth dimension or a sixth sense. He takes his degree and returns home. Imogen now has a very lovely friend with her, her features "with fire and life and motion enough for many faces, only it was all condensed and gathered in her eyes, which were large and dark and deep," making him think of "a whole night-heaven with the stars remaining to give the flashes of their motion. . . ."
Clearly, though the MS. does not actually say it, the young man falls in love with her, and, likely enough, the fact of seeing those eyes as he alone could see them, gives him increased power of vision into the other world. 6 So when the Raven appears again in the pine forest, as in Chapter IV 7 it is "the young lady with the eyes" sitting at the piano, whom he is warned not to hurt by walking through her. 8 When Mr Vane begs the raven to show him the way back because he had promised to drive his sister and her friend to a certain old church, he gets for answer, "'You will have to go through your own heart, I believe,' said the Raven; 'but I am not very sure.'"
Anyhow, the Raven takes him to the churchyard without returning home, as in Chapter V. He hears something like the ghost of glad music. The bird explains; but in the MS. the meaning of the words laborare est orare is developed more simply and profoundly.
"'The people that used to pray there go still, some of them; only they never go to pray now. They go to sing their thought. They're always at prayer. Look, Look!' he cried, as he pointed with his beak up in the air, where a white pigeon was flying round and round, mounting higher and higher, with the sunshine flashing from its wings. 'There's one! I wonder now who has prayed that prayer! A prayer is a thought of the heart. Ah, you don't understand yet! The Heart from which you come is so strong in making that He can even make the power to make; so he endows certain of his children with the power to make things. 9 So sometimes, where others would only wearily lift their heavy thoughts upward, they pray to Him, by sending their thoughts in shape of living things--shapes natural to them, as if they said, "There is one of they own things made as I would make it." And that's a prayer--a word to the big heart from the little one.'"
The remainder of the conversation concerning the prayer-flower is like that in the book--full of suggestions concerning the relation of art to work and of these to the Source of all creative labour. "My art is my prayer," said Wagner to Villiers de l'Isle Adam: it was no less true of every word that George MacDonald wrote.
They arrive at the cottage of the sexton, who is still in the form of the bird, even though he is ultimately known as Adam, the father of men. For some pages the description is much like that in chapter VI. The cottage, however, is not so terribly cold in the MS.
"The wind blew cold, but it seemed to refresh me rather than make me shiver It was like the coolness of a mossy hollow filled with maiden-hair, over which small streams went trickling."
As in the book, they pull up "the plumb-line of gravitation" and so are free of the three dimensions.
"Oh how cold it was already growing, as I stepped across the threshold. A wind from the moor seemed to come blowing in behind me, as if it pushed me into a haven of rest or a prison of enforced repose. 10 In front of me on the opposite wall I saw what I took for the lid of a coffin leaning up against it with bright plate and handles; but presently, almost as soon as I crossed the threshold, I saw that it was only a door, for it opened and a woman came out dressed like her husband in black. To my shuddering astonishment she was marvellously like my sister's friend with the live eyes--so like that to this day I cannot say I know that it was not she."
In the MS. there is no mention of Mara's kitten and the sexton's patting it as though with a spade on a grave, and Eve feeding it and putting it out. We find later that Mara is the Magdalen, a Lady of Sorrow. 11 Her cats, her panther, her fearsome feline army are all repentances, often punitive. At this point in Mr Vane's history the kitten was obviously sent too soon, before she could render him any service.
To anticipate the book's elucidation of Mara's range of service, one may note here the fight of her feline army with a pack of wolves to punish Mr Vane, after a wonderful, if forbidden, ride on the sexton's old horse, who, "terrifically large, moved with the lightness of a winged insect," traversed the Bad Burrow without harm, and filled its rider with ecstatic joy. But it drops dead, and he is left to the mercy of either the wolves or the conquering cats (Chapters XXXI and XXXII). The wolves seem to stand for retribution following the transgression of natural law; while the cats represent remorse and repentance irrespective of natural consequences. 12 The horse is obviously Pegasus or Imagination: but when ridden by one who has not learned to obey, and so has no vision of its celestial origin, it gives but scant service, and perishes.
"'Mr. Vane is very welcome. Does he wish to sleep?' asked the woman. 'I think not,' replied her husband, 'he has not yet done his day's work. . . . No gentleman would turn the shell of his egg into a bedroom and go to sleep in it. . . .'"
The egg-shell here stands for the three-dimensioned world which its bird has risen from. It is Blake's "Mundane Shell" which "finishes where the lark mounts." Eve now brings bread and wine, of course sacramental, as they always will be when we get out of our egg-shell into the larger air.
"I grew stronger and stronger as I ate, and, before I had done, all my discomfort at finding myself in such strange circumstances had vanished, and was replaced by a wondering desire to know what was to become of my very strange adventure. . . . I now felt I could go out to meet whatever should come. . . . [The sexton] patted the table with his palm, reminding me irresistibly of the way they pat down the turf on the graves in the sweet country churchyards--lovingly, coaxingly, as if the accompaniment to an inward lullaby. Perhaps I started at the thought; but he smiled and said 'I am not going to bury you, Mr. Vane, though I am called the sexton of God's best parish. Will you trust me?' He looked me full in the face, and I said, 'I will.''"
Then follows a description of The Cemetery as in Chapter VII. In spite of his decision and his food, Mr. Vane leaves precipitately but repents and turns to apologise, but cannot find cottage. Presently he sees Mr. Raven walking about, and offers to return. "Not now," says the bird. "Your time is not come or you would have stayed!" Mr. Vane asks the way home. "Home," says Mr. Raven, "is always ever so far away in your hand;" and in the book is added, "and how to get there it is of no use to tell you."
The firefly he is to follow is only barely mentioned in the Ms. In passing, however, we may note its significance. For as soon as he desires to possess its beauty, it begins to flutter down to his hand; as he takes it, its light vanishes, it proves to be only a dead book. Perhaps man's endeavours to interpret celestial truth by grasping it in his own three dimensions of restraint; to intellectualize art; to confine religion into dogma, to reject as sentimentalism all the feelings and aspirations of simple hearts, are all evidence of his lack of faith. Thus handled, the light of scripture itself becomes hidden under its book's binding.
Mr. Vane now reaches the Bad Burrow (Chapter X) the description of which increases in horror every time we encounter it in the book. Here it is the moon, with a face beaming with a reflected, perhaps polarised light, that protects him. But his safety in the MS. had already been ensured.
"It was because I had sat in the house of holy death and had looked upon the faces of them that dwelt therein, that [the monsters] could not for that night harm me. When in after times I speculated on what, vision or reality, the thing might mean, I knew that the ground of that moor outside the house of death was but the out-issue of my own soul, the under soil of the vineyard of my own being, deep in which unknown to myself lay such nameless horrors. . . . Then I looked round and was able to see the kind of place in which I was. The moor lay calm and still. Who would have thought that all that peaceful expanse was but a skin stretched over a world of buried passions and fiercest greed. Ah! it were well thus to bury the dead evil; but how fares it when the buried evil is alive still, and ever ready to break ravening forth! . . ."
This is extraordinarily prophetic of the New Psychology and the submerged subconscious self awakening in dreams, but influencing our conscious actions.
Chapter XI, The Evil Wood, has no counterpart in the MS. Its power and art are obvious enough, as well as its relation to the immediately preceding description of the submerged horrors--not the less real that their power is limited or that a man may think himself safe from their molestation because of the solid crust of earth between him and them. If these are actual inheritance of spiritual encumbrance and possible disaster, the Evil Wood seems to be but a dream of the undisciplined, disorderly mind--purely subjective. 13
William Blake was constantly insisting that "we become what we behold." If this be so--and who doubts it?--it is no less true that we clothe the world with what we are, see it through the strength or weakness of our own eyes, and, yet again become it, in vicious-circle operation. The Evil Wood tells of this danger lurking in the soul of poet and reformer alike. The description of the fearsome conflict between the powers of the air, all destructive even while some rang out with the battle cry of "The Truth! The Truth!" ends with the words, "Such was the battle of the dead, which I saw and heard as I lay under the tree." And "when the sun looked in, he saw never a bone, but here and there a withered branch."
Mr. Vane then comes to the dwarf country. The trees and orchards and fruit are much the same as in Chapters XII, XIII and XIV. But the difference is that in the MS. the people are not merely children but an innocent, feckless, easily influenced people. They are kind and hospitable, as long as they are not inconvenienced. They have no desire for advancement in themselves or in their circumstances, and have little love for their children whom they do not want to be troubled by.
"Presently came some of their women crowding up to me with their little aprons full of all kinds of fruit, friendly offerings for the acceptance of the great being who had come to visit them. They thought I might be their deity, whom some of their 'philosophers by trade' had said was too big to be seen, and they too small for his seeing them. He left them alone anyhow they said, and they hoped he would always do so."
The children had strange experiences sometimes with a big man who might be he. They heard his voice but could not see his face: if they did they died:
"There was, however, one story worth hearing. In it also were two concerned. One came home saying they that they saw the big man and he was very kind to them. He took them both up one in each arm, and they saw right into his great big eyes, and there were such lovely pictures in them. 'And little brother smiled at him,' said the child, 'but I was frightened. Brother put his hands on his face and kissed him; but I tried to get down. Then he set me down, but brother wouldn't let go, and so he carried him away with him, and I came back home alone.' As often as he said this the child would cry afresh; for certainly all bore witness that no trace of the child had been discovered. And this made almost all of the mothers regard him as an ogre who took as many children as pleased him and carried them away to devour them. I could get no nearer to any religion among them. . . ."
"They seemed to have no faculty for progress of any kind. They were quite satisfied with themselves, with their life and living. As for the universe, they had not a thought beyond this that what came in contact with them was the beginning and end of things They were because they were: it was enough for them! Their rainless, waterless country was their perfect condition of life. I wondered what it meant, and wondered the most when I lay down at night and heard the sounds of the waters, gurgling and flowing underneath. All this time I was never thirsty. As the trees grew and flourished without visible communion with water, so my body seemed to go on without drought or longing. but it was not so with my mind. That longed for the sight, the coolness and the motion of the live part of the world.
"Was there for them no mountain, not even a hill to climb? Was there not even a stair to climb--no tower to ascend--no church spire that overlooked the land? Their houses had not even a step up at the door, not one storey above another anywhere. . . .
"I could do nothing for them. I must go elsewhere! But whither? My home was lost; my people were I knew not where. I might as well be afloat on the roaring ring of Saturn, whose waters, though to our eyes lending a calm lucent motionless ring of splendour, rush raving in mountainous conflict of billows ever round and round the far-off spinning planet--a shoreless sea, to escape from whose swiftness would be to fall into the limitless abyss, without even the support of a tumultuous ocean, perhaps without the attraction of any orb to ensure a swiftening fall and ultimate deliverance from the power of material relation."
So Mr. Vane leaves them. He comes to "a rocky slope fissured and furrowed, and lined with green."
"I was at the foot of a dry cataract--a phrase, if you will think of it, just as proper as one in commoner use--a dead man; as if it could be a cataract where were only the rocks down which the water had once flowed! as if there could be a dead man! My heart swelled in me with delight at the thought of the merry, lovely delicious tumult that had once laughed in the face of the universe from those dry rocks. Then it was pretty clear that all the channels I had walked along as I came from the haunted swamp, had once been the channels 'where the waters were wont to go warbling.' What the utter lack of water, evidently for ages long, might have to do with the dwarfed stature of the inhabitants, I could not quite see, so long as they were able to live at all without it."
We already suspect that all water in this land unhampered by the three dimensions flows in the first place from the river of the water of life. According to the book, they had been gathered by Lilith's black magic into her lap and enclosed in a shell which she kept clenched in her hand to the very end; though much of the life-giving water escaped from her at the time of this inequity and sped away underground. More escapes again when her closed hand is wounded. But in the MS. the magic of the waters is closed up in a cloudy blue sapphire which Lilith cherishes less carefully.
How it comes into Mr. Vane's possession is before long told. He finds himself again in a thick wood, but it gives him no pleasure. "A wonderland that delights not is a dreary country." He longs for a companion:
"If I had only a dog that could understand me! Then I began to think how I had been given to loneliness in the world I had left, how I had preferred the company of a book or a pen to that of a live man or woman of my own kind. I had never then learned to come really near to man or woman, but always talked from the surface of my thoughts and was glad to get off again to my silence and my book. If the author of the book had come along, I should have left him for his book."
He arrives at the ruined castle described in Chapter XVI, A Gruesome Dance. But in the MS. it has many rooms, though the form of it is materialized only by the ivy. Up in an attic he finds a bed, with curtain and bedding fit for a prince, though the ceiling is all ivy and trees with their birds, and a jewelled sky shining through. There he sleeps and wakes to see the dance.
"The dancers were different from those I had counted live men and women in this that they did not know they had no faces over their skulls, and the living do not know that they have skulls behind their faces. To them the floor on which they danced was solid, not broken masonry, the holes in which were tracery of climbing plants."
In the book, Lilith appears and scatters them; we know her always by the sore place in her side. Here the dancers are dispersed otherwise: 14
". . . Suddenly a warm wind that blew stronger swept through the hall and blew out the lights. But the glow of their eyes yet gave light enough with the help of the starry heavens for me to see that it was melting the forms around me, for the flesh was peeling in flakes from their bones, and dropping like rain to the floor, while the whole white skeleton was emerging from the garments and flesh together. A shiver went through the assembly; the lamps of their eyes went out, and I stood alone, or seemed to stand alone amid the broken stones and the cold glimmer of the ivy leaves, while an owl went sweeping silently through the skeleton of the great silent empty room where, for anything I knew, those hundreds might be dancing on still in a region to me more inaccessible than the heaven of heavens."
But elsewhere it is suggested that these dancers, who had lain down to die, rather than to live, were beginning to awake in an immortality that still was a life in Death, as their pre-grave existence had always been. Their living eyes suggest a higher existence yet to be found: the passion and order of the elemental dance indicating one way at least towards a wholesome self-abandonment. The incident of the Gruesome Tragedy next following, but absent in the MS., tallies with this view, though told with humour instead of horror.
Mr Vane has not gone far when he sees at the foot of a tree the emaciated Lilith. Here the MS. follows fairly closely Chapter XVIII, Dead or Alive, and XIX, The White Leech, with certain unimportant differences. These concern the way he restores her to life and how she plays the vampire upon him.
To understand the symbolism of the hot river in which he bathes the emaciated form of Lilith and restores her to life, and with it the craving for the three Dimensions by which alone she will gain power to destroy the innocent children, we must remember the Raven's assertion in the book that Mr. Vane had reached the domain of the seven dimensions. The river stands for the four spiritual dimensions, in fact the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. In the book we learn how, though at first it seemed to be rushing from above in a wild cataract, as if an offshoot of the River of the Water of Life--which is itself reached in the final chapter--"down a stair inside [the cave] at every landing wild to get out," it is seen rising quietly out of the ground, when the cave is entered. It is elemental, substance-giving, not the cold Water of Life that Lilith took from the land. The metallic taste of the hot river stands for Earth, the heat of it for Fire, the river itself for Water: while the Air-element is known by the "bluish mist that rose from it, vanishing as it rose." 15 Lilith, in her desire to get at the children, had passed over the river; and, forgetting its food and sustenance were necessary to her in the country she sought--half-way, we may assume, between the earthly and purely spiritual realms--she fainted and fell and would have perished but for Mr Vane's devotion. He caries her daily to the magical stream, 16 thus endowing her with four of the seven dimensions--with spiritual substance, shall we say?--and revives both her beauty and her criminal craving for the other three, which, if she is to get at the children she must win. In the poet's mind these three, "the plumb-line of gravity" are not identical with the four which the hot river provides. 17 Perhaps we shall not be far out if we name the three bodily substance and the four spiritual substance, substance being the essential nature underlying appearances, while the seven comprise the living Form--a fountain arising from the River of the Water of Life: God's love, indeed, that creates, inspires and redeems the whole world. To get the three Lilith plays the vampire on her benefactor. Later she borrows of him his faculty of human dimension, when he climbs a certain tree to get the balm for her wounds and she binds his feet with the hem of her gown. But it lands him in the fountain of his own garden where the Raven awaits him. In form of a Persian Cat, Lilith is now enabled to follow him. But Adam throws her into the dark closet of the library, takes the half-book from its shelf, now joined to that other half which had lain only in the spiritual library, and reads a lesson from it to Lilith. 18 To frustrate her designs--her black art being almost too much even for Adam--they resort to the room in the roof where light is polarized. But before the vision in the mirror is clear, Lilith, the spotted leopardess, rushes past them through the mirror, and away to her own city, Bulika (Chapters XXVII-XXX). None of these incidents appear in the MS. 19
Thus does Mr. Vane bring Lilith to life again; and, as is explained in Chapters XXIX and XXX, gives her, through his own blood-quality in three dimensions, renewal of power to work hatred upon her and Adam's child Lona and all the race of angelic Innocence who keep company with her in the wilderness--Lona and they standing for the attribute and faculty of motherhood, 20 which Lilith, as yet uncreated as far as three dimensions mean creation, hates because it must restrain her prostituted four-dimensional power. But the stone was held tight in her hand all through. He follows her throughout the day, pleading. Once she turns to him weeping--there was that much good in her, or her beauty had never been revived--but again she outstrips him. At last, as in the book, she flings herself down, exhausted but as if in resignation, only however, to fasten leech-like upon his cheek. When he recovers in the chill of the morning, he sees her, standing before him in radiant beauty. In place of merely striking him with her closed fist, as in the book, she flings her sapphire at him, so that he falls stunned; but he recovers in time to see a spotted leopard bounding away and at last clearing the wall of the distant city.
In the MS. no white leopard from Mara comes racing up to him, then to leap away after Lilith, the spotted leopard. The white leopard in the book comes to the almost ruined man now alive to his own folly in forgetting the Raven's warning, and in letting his own his own passion revive. For, it must be remembered, the whole drama is played in his own soul.
Here again a word will not be out of place concerning the two leopards, which differ widely in significance in the two versions:
In the book the spotted leopard is just Lilith herself in wickedest greed and most bestial hate. The White Leopard is chief among Mara's angels of repentance, sorrow-inflicting, terrifying, yet infinitely pitiful. (Notice her vicarious suffering when the most terrible of such tortures is awaiting Lilith.) She is named Astarte after the beauty-loving goddess who, in the purity of her idea and office, brings sense of shame and misery to those who worship her hideous graven image. 21 She was as much Lilith's own ideal before she fell infatuated with her self as she is every simple-hearted man's and woman's; so that when at last Lilith lies down in the House of the Dead, Mara's White Panther must lie at her feet until both shall awake. So much for the book's rival leopards.
In the MS. we do not wait long to understand that the two leopardesses are conflicting aspects of Lilith's nature. The gentler, named Astarte, is kept caged and muzzled by the other, more terrible leopard, who is Lilith's intimate Self, proud and evil. When Mr. Vane overcomes Astarte, sent to attack a woman who had befriended him, 22 the creature becomes his devoted servant and so falls foul of her mistress more than once. It is this Astarte, Lilith's ideal beauty in which she was first created, who responds to the man's real nobility--not the Self-vampire, the splendour of whose person he can yet hardly disbelieve in, even when he has himself fought her leopard-form, spotted all over with her own eyes. It is this Astarte, this her own undefiled nature, its spots almost vanished, that lies at Lilith's feet in the House of Death.
In the MS. the sapphire appears to take the place in some measure of
Mara's White Panther. At any rate, with the living water at last flowing
from it, come tears,
. . .When I came to myself I was wet from head to foot, and there was a light sound of flowing or rather the murmuring of a ripple of water near and about me. . . . Where did it come from? Then to my surprise I felt my body quite well. My heart was sore enough with the treatment it had received, but the wound on my head was almost healed. I looked about me for the source of the spring and could see none. But in the water I saw lying the stone with which the woman had struck me. It was a strange stone of a dim cloudy blue, with shifting patterns in it--shaped like an egg and about the size of a pigeon's. I took it up and put it in my pocket. Then I set out toward the city . . .hoping to protect the people from the animal I had seen stretching its lithe body in long, cat-like leaps towards its crowded streets. . . ."
He arrives in the city.
In the MS. the account of Bulika is shorter. There being no White Panther throughout, 24the description of its dogging the footsteps of the two dimensioned Shadow is omitted 25. Correspondingly, the White Panther rescuing the baby is not found; and Chapter XXV, describing Mr Vane's meeting with Lilith, is new, including the narration of how, before he is again attacked by Lilith's teeth, the roar of a panther is heard, which terrifies her, though it came from Mara's white leopardess to warn him. 26
The black alabaster hall, Lilith's brain, is not in the MS. It suggests how a man's reason, his ethical sense, his judgement of relative values, become perverted as soon as he accepts enslavement in Astarte's heathen sanctuary, teeming as it does with undisciplined ideas, 27 only half beautiful because unmeaning.
The MS., however, does give us a fight that explains Lilith's relation to Astarte: it is between something better than herself and something worse, her will.
But to resume; on his arrival in the city he is maltreated because he is in rags., though the people desist at the appearance of a great white spotted leopard. A more humane woman explains that the creature is generally caged and muzzled, but escapes at times and kills children, though some looked upon it as an evil spirit that inhabited sometimes the princess herself when she 'blasted men with her beauty," and sometimes the caged beast. But presently when Mr. Vane leaves the woman she flings a stone at him. Then from somewhere a muzzled leopard springs upon her , and beats her sorely. This is Astarte, the caged panther, but now let lose upon her apparently for her charity to the man her mistress feared. 28 Mr Vane defends the woman, who runs away. But the panther frees herself and lays down at her conqueror's feet. He bids her go home, when she creeps cringingly away to the castle and springs over a wall. Passing round the wall he finds a little door, deeply recessed. 29 Out from it comes the princess telling a companion how she despises and hates him. As they stand in the recess considering the weather, he gathers that they are going out in the moonlight to search for her talisman, the cloudy sapphire, given to her by her godmother--whoever she might have been--Mother Earth, possibly. Then Mr. Vane, knowing this very talisman makes him safe even against her, falls into temptation and longs to look upon her beauty again. He steps in front of the recess to look at her. She is filled with rage and bids her attendant remove Astarte's muzzle and bring her.
"She stood looking at me, with the flame of the most towering scorn in her eyes, but did not vouchsafe a word. Her cloak had fallen half-way from her person, and her neck and shoulders gleamed radiantly white in the moon, and her eyes glowed like black fire above the whiteness. . . . Then swiftly she stepped from the niche and stood where I had been before. The same moment the door opened, and with a suppressed roar, out leaped Astarte. With one bound she was at my throat; but before I could grapple with her she dropped from me like a scorched caterpillar, lay huddled up, and began licking my bare feet. But instantly she sprang up again and stood erect rearing on her hind legs, nor one moment too soon: for, like a great bar of glowing silver, and with a roar like the hate of hell, another panther, larger and whiter, more lovely and more terrible, leapt--not upon me, but upon Astarte. The princess had disappeared, and the new-come panther was white with her skin and spotted all over with her eyes. My soul took the part of Astarte, who could not possibly hold her own before the new-comer. I threw myself into the contest, and with the sapphire struck her between the eyes. She left her hold of Astarte and fell backward. I was on her instantly with my knees on the creature's chest. Then the great eyes of the princess looked up at me pitifully, and I knew with horror that my knee was crushing her under me. I sprang to my feet, but no sooner was I up than she stood before me with blood streaming from her forehead, and now as gentle as Astarte who lay again at my feet, caressing them with every limb of her body. 'I yield,' the princess said. 'You are my master.'. . ."
Then the princess, knowing that she cannot recover her talisman by force, entertains him regally, 30 and again plays the vampire, as in the book (Chapter XXVI). When he recovers he is lying at the foot of a tree in the pine-forest--the very spot where he had first lit upon Lilith's emaciated form. but Astarte is at his feet and the sapphire still in his hand.
"There was a difference between the princess's fate and mine. How she had come to be such a skeleton I could not tell, how I had come to it I knew and she knew. . . . But I had found the stone in her hand cold and dry. But in mine, because of its touching the earth, there was flowing from it a small stream as clear as crystal, away from where I lay through the wood. Of this stream Astarte had drunk, and it had kept her alive. I now drank of it, and found that my strength began at once to come back to me. I thought if the princess could have drunk of the treasure she carried about not knowing its worth, it would have stilled the demon thirst of her soul, and she would not have longed for blood. . . . By slow walking and many rests, I followed it out of the forest, regaling myself as I passed with the grapes of the ruined castle. . . . The water as it went along drew toward itself the hidden springs below; for I remembered how when I lay under the dry waterfall I heard of many waters under the earth; and I thought that if it went on flowing like that it would draw water enough to itself to make at length a river that would fill all the scored channels in the broken country. . . . "
The star-sapphire--for this the talisman is, being mentioned as such in the book, Chapter IV --is revealing its divine magic 31--its blue sky of infinite possibility, its near clouds of rain which yet let the starry sun penetrate to reach the sleeping seed--its power in man's hand when he gives it back to the ministrant earth--its deeps in the infinite calling unto deeps in the temporal. It had been in Lilith's keeping; but she holding it for possession and power alone, it had never been really hers. Though Mr. Vane held it, it was not his, I think, till he gave it again to his mother, the Earth --nor lost it thereby.
He now comes upon the dwarfs again, who, grown in size and self esteem, have less respect for him. They see no virtue in the living streams he sets running, 32 but are furious with him for pruning the tangled and deteriorating fruit trees and his endeavours to teach them how to improve their fruit. They infuriate Astarte, still his devoted servant: indeed, "the devil could no more find refuge in her." At last the Dwarfs overpower him, but cannot force the sapphire from him. As soon as her master is struck by a stone and falls unconscious, then Astarte's righteous wrath becomes terrible, 33 though hitherto she had understood she must do nothing without his will and word. She had not yet quite changed her spots; and subsequent events show that only in the House of the Dead and the divine sleep there made possible would she get them quite washed away. When Mr. Vane awakes he finds Astarte licking his face.
"But this was not the morning, and there were many asleep around me; . . .for every here and there the moon shone on a face the light of which was like her own, a mere reflection from the surface. How many Astarte had slain in her wrath I cannot tell."
So the man and his follower leave the "foolish valley of little men who did not care to be greater," and set out on their journey--whither he had no idea, though it was through the same desert he had passed through before.
"Astarte was happier than she had been for a long time. She had, I think, been perplexed between my will and her own all the time the dwarf people made me work for them; and now that I was free and she had had her vengeance upon them, sweeping them away like mice, she was more than content, and beguiled for me the tedium of a journey without a goal by her gambols in the moonlight. I could not see her spots much in the moonshine; she would dart from my side and away in a long white streak over the channels and scores in the rocky ground. . . ."
They arrive at the Bad Burrow, where Astarte trembles in fear and keeps close to her master, but has some fearsome fights with the monsters who grab at her as she passes. She at last finds she can safely ignore them--but only until the moon sets: then at last she is beaten.
"The moon whose light had been growing less and less powerful as she approached the horizon, went down, and all the hollow of the bog was dark. The same moment reared itself before us the long neck of an unknown and indescribable creature with the face of a corpse, but with mouth wide open and long human teeth. The old shudder laid hold of Astarte, and she flew at its throat. They seemed twisted together inextricably, but the water was beaten into a mist about them by their struggles, and I could ill see what was taking place. It lasted but a moment, then all was still. I looked to see my loved Astarte issue victorious, but there was neither sound nor motion more till presently up came a great breaking bubble from the deeps, and I knew it was the last breath of my friend."
But help is at hand; for, in the misery of his loss, once more Mr. Vane is filled with sense of his worthlessness.
"How long I lay I cannot tell, but at last something touched me on the shoulder, and I rose on my elbow and looked round. 'I thought it was about time for you to come back,' said the Raven; I have been looking out for you every night for the last few nights. . . . You cannot be left in such a miserable condition.' 'I have just lost the best friend I have,' I said. 'No, no,' he interrupted; 'and you have not lost your friend. Has your philosophy not taught you that nothing can be lost? . . . He gave a loud caw, and the next instant came shooting through the dark, like a great white arrow-head, the shining pigeon, his wife. She had a shining stone in her beak, like a serpent stone but much larger. 'That's right,' said he, 'you have brought the lantern! I thought you would know!' Then to me, 'You go home, if you please, into the cottage, and wait there till we come.'"
He obeys and walks disconsolately in the little room adjoining "the endless chamber of the dead--or was it God's library?" Presently Adam and Eve--she had left her lantern in the bog--carry in the drowned body of Astarte and lay it on the floor.
The MS. version of Mr. Vane's willingness now to lie down in the vaults differs from the book's. For one thing, Lona never figures here or elsewhere. Moreover, though in her place we might expect to find some reminder of his "sister's friend," 34 she is not even mentioned again.
"The sexton's wife now set bread and wine on the table, and I ate and drank and was more sleepy. So she took the candle and led the way, and we entered the long vaulted chamber, and went through between the double row lying feet to feet, until we came to the same place were was the still vacant bed that had before been offered to me. . . . By this time I had grown very cold. 'It is time to undress,' said the sexton. I sat down on the side of the bed, and they tenderly undressed me and then put upon me a long linen nightgown. They helped me onto the bed, and laid me out quite straight, and covered me over with the one cold linen sheet. They took up my clothes and the candle, said good-night and went away, and I heaved a great sigh of relief to find myself in the dark vault with the pale dead. The cold seemed to soothe all care, melt away every pain, comfort every sorrow. I felt like one who breathes with delight the damp odours of the earth's bountiful bosom, aware in it of the ghosts of all the daises and primroses, crocuses and snowdrops waiting in million-folded clouds, to take their bodies again and rise into the upper world of sun and wind."
Presently the sexton and his wife carry in the dead body of Astarte and lay her across his feet, her head couched in her fore paws, her tail curled round, the tip on her spotted back, ready to be wagged the moment she should start to her feet.
In this place follows Chapter XLIII, The Dreams that Came, though the story of the awakening differs in the MS.
"Something moved on the bed, and a moment after heavy feet came up by my side, and a tongue began to lick my face. 'It is Astarte!' I said to myself. . . . I sprang lightly from the bed, and Astarte sprang after me. Through the darkness I could see her green eyes lamping with full-blown pupils to seize upon what light lay even in that home of death. I had not gained the alley between the rows of death-beds, when I saw the candle coming along through the darkness, and went to meet our host and hostess."
He asks for his clothes, but Eve answers him that they were so moth-eaten they could scarcely hold together:
"'You have upon you the long shining garment of death: what do you want more? When you come to the swamp, gather a few rushes, like Dante, and make a belt for your waist. Then you will be well-equipped, for that garment never wears out.'"
The two uprisen ones make for the "swamp of horrors."
Thanks to Eve's serpent-stone left in the bog, Mr. Vane sees down into all its horrors: but nothing moved. He now had but to pass the sapphire into his right hand to make the water flow. As the first drop falls upon the swamp, it becomes a mass of writhing tortures and ugliness, though not a head rises above the surface:
"Then I knew that one day the holy song of the praising universe would enter in at the ears of even the lost tribes of incompleted life and hell itself would pass away. . . ."
But a curious change had come over the world. 35 It is more simply described in the MSS., though some significant touches are not found there.
"Everything that grew had light enough in itself to show its own shape and colour, and so placed itself in my being. . . . When I heard the heather-bells ringing as I passed a full bush, then I felt the joy of the breeze that waked them, and the joy of the bells that responded with their sweet tinkle, and I lent them the hall of my being to be glad in. . . . Everything lived that did not live for itself, and every life about me was bliss, and in myself I knew bliss. Every breath of the dark wind that blew where it listed, as often as I gave it heed was a glory equal to an organ-blast of soaring hallelujahs. Then I saw every little flower straighten its stalk and lift up its neck with outstretched head looking for the sonship of the children of God. . . . Something was coming--coming none the less that it was long on the road . . . and the little necks were stretched out to see, and every morning would thus be stretched out until it came indeed!" 36
On the rocks he finds a sword. Astarte now standing for pure love-power only as against mind-force, is a little afraid of it at first.
"I saw something shining clear as lightening in the moss, in great part overgrown. Drawing it out, I found it was the most lovely sword I had ever beheld; such strength, such flexibility, such an edge on both sides--straight as a line. The hilt was a cross, the guard of wrought iron, beautifully chased and inlaid, and the grip was covered with jewels of all hues and kinds, the pommel being a pear-shaped diamond."
It is interesting to compare the sword of the MS. with that of the book. It is so vital a symbol, its office so urgent, 37 that it burgeoned in the poet's mind to a fuller unfolding. In the MS. it stands for beneficent spiritual force that never slays or inflicts pain, is neither punishment nor penitence, but just intervenes--something like perhaps the miracle of conversion--or just Divine Grace. In the book it appears but once, being the sword given by the angel to Adam when he left the gate. "I heard him say it would divide whatever was not one and indivisible." And so in the book, at Lilith's own last request, it severs her hand--that which could not, in spite of her utter repentance, open and let go what she had held throughout her evil ages of life because seemingly essential to her exercise of power. At the spot where Mara buries it, 38 the earth's waters begin to flow once more and restore its paradisical beauty.
Fitter interpretation may be found; for everyone beholds truth from a different standpoint, and interprets diversely its personal appeal. but the book of Lilith is a prophecy: she has not yet relinquished her power over the elements; and we do not yet see that the life we are now seeking to increase by any means that will save us the labour of living, is but Lilith's 'Life in Death". Yet the hand with its egg-full of the stolen waters was wounded by the woman of Bulika and much of their healing thereby set free.
But to proceed. Mr. Vane and Astarte reach Dwarfland again, and he sets to work once more instructing the Dwarfs. The sword does wonders with the fruit trees. He lays the sapphire in a hole which then fills with the underground water. The stone, be it remembered, is a portion of the blue sky drawing up to it the earth's waters for their downflow again in more vital potency. 39 As man may hold the world in his heart, so the heavens in his hand. But the Dwarfs will not use the water--not though one risen from the dead told them it ran from the River of the Water of Life.
So he leaves them. 40 He is joined by all manner of lovely things that fly or live in trees or burrow among roots, as well as by the Dwarfs' children. These crowd to ride upon Astarte's back, are merry and good. The mothers--like whom they would surely grow had they stayed--come after them, "not entreating their return but raging and scolding because they had gone without leave." So the shining company set out upon a crusade to Bulika. The sapphire water is food and drink for all. All sorts of animals--"save the foxes"--join them. they come to the pine-wood and the house of the spectral dance; they cross and bathe to their benefit in the hot stream. They reach the city: its gates stand open, though no road leads up to them. In the market place the crowd closes round them and the children explain that they are going to the palace. They show not the slightest fear. "At length one of the bigger boys, but quite a child, in pure exuberance of merriment, threw himself upon a very tall man, and before he knew was astride of his shoulders and patting his head with his plump palms. The man flung him on the street, lifting his foot in his brute wrath to strike him. Like a gleaming projectile, Astarte shot over the heads of those that intervened and placed herself instead of the child on the shoulders of the man, dealing him such a blow on the head with her paw as stunned him. They dropped together while I lifted the child and set him on my shoulders instead, where I gave him my sword to carry and so stayed his weeping. It flashed in their eyes like the flaming sword that turned every way at the gate of the garden of the world."
In the palace they meet Lilith, but in her favourite metamorphosis of the larger panther, and a fight follows between her and Astarte. The child with the sword strikes the larger panther with its flat: with a shuddering sigh Lilith resumes her true form, the mark of the sword red on her shoulders.
Astarte falls down and begins to lick Lilith's feet, who, however, turns to flee, but is covered by the swarming children hoping to overcome her with love, little knowing that "a little before she would have torn their heads from their bodies in her rage." Now, as one presumes in her artfulness, 41 she weeps and covers them with kisses. But he dares not trust her.
"Open doors invite presence, and where the power of the Air has been before he will seek entrance again; and a castle where he can refuge at will must either be destroyed or have its doors fast-locked. For weakness is the stronghold of vice."
He binds her with curtain-cords and leaves Astarte and the boy with the sword mounting guard over her. He sprinkles her face with water from the sapphire; then she weeps, and seeing him, a flush rises to her face. This is the first we hear of any colour in her ivory whiteness--any sense of modesty or shame. Then they all leave the city.
The point in the next quoted passage suggests that, like one of Mara's overwhelming feline miseries, Astarte herself, again grand and pure because set free from the destroying Self of Lilith, may, by so small an influence as the touch of her nose, awaken understanding and repentance. Even a Messalina will be saved by Love.
"As we went along I saw the woman who had first told me what to do and had then thrown a stone at me. . . .She was on the point of laughing me to scorn, but that instant Astarte laid her cold nose to her hand. She looked down, and fell on her knees at my feet. . . ." 42
As they travel, Lilith promises repentance and service. But Mr Vane will not trust her; even for her own safety constant vigilance is needed. They make camp for the night.
"And all the night long terrible shadows, out of which flashed fierce and cunning eyes, kept prowling about our camp; but I had placed the princess in the middle of the host of children and so not an evil creature was able to come nigh her. And all the night long I walked round and round the camp, with my sword in my hand, whose blade and hilt kept flashing in the moonlight; and all the night Astarte walked behind me in my footsteps at half the distance of the circuit. It was a terrible night for both of us; for me I was defending the princess from the longing of the demon to re-enter where once he had been; and Astarte knew that if he entered again there would be the old horrible fight once more, and all the good might be undone."
At last 43 Mr. Vane listens to her pleading and promises, releases her bonds, and lets her walk between himself and Astarte. She thanks him for all he has done 44. He asks how she changes herself into the leopard.; but she protests she does not know: she just becomes one from no will of her own. He urges her to fight the Shadow in her, and shows her one of the triangular bites on her arm. 45 "Is it your own self alone that would be a thing like that?" he asks. Then they talk about the sapphire, which, I understand, she had valued only for the power it gave her in withholding the living water. He scatters it over her once again; she feels invigorated, and says it will make her good. Then he explains that the water can never do that, only herself resisting the Shadow. He tells her how he and his vassals were prowling all night trying to get her, and that the children were her only protection. She is in some despair because she cannot always be in the midst of them.
"'And if you were, you would never be clear of him. As long as he could get in, if it were not for something else outside of you, he is sure of getting in. The only place he cannot get into is one where he driven from the door by the person that dwells in that house. . . . '
"'Come.' I said, 'we will meet him together!' She rose trembling, and I led her through the multitude of sleeping children. But I took care to have my sword in my hand. We walked a little way on to the plain, she trembling a little as if with cold. The moon was half-way down in the west, a clear, thoughtful waning moon, whose radiance fell wide all over the country round, mottling all the land with short shadows. Suddenly she was eclipsed as if the shadow of the world lay upon her. We looked up. She was still visible, but seemed to send out no light. A thick film of something lay over her patient beauty. Then the film swept off to one side, and I saw against her light the jagged outline of a hooked bat-like wing. . . . Something I could neither see nor feel yet shook me from head to foot, but I stood. The next moment the princess turned and sprang upon me. . . . Then I knew that life from me was flowing into the foul hollow of a life in death. A moment more I should have fallen and for the time all would have been lost. Swiftly I laid the cold blade of steel along her back. She shuddered violently. Again the cold stinging wind enveloped us; again the moon was eclipsed. The princess lay at my feet but did not touch me. 'Bind me hand and foot!' she said. 'I am vile, but do not cast me out. I hate myself; but if you knew what the longing was like!' 'If you knew how vile it looks to that moon! But you do not. We start in the morning for the House of Death!' 'You are not going to kill me?' 'That would be no good. I could do that now and here at once. but what good would that do you?' 'It would rid you of me.' 'I do not want to be rid of you. I want you to be rid of the other! There is no way for it but you must die. I must help you to slay yourself.' 'I never can do that.' 'Not without help.' We went back to the camp. She lay down and again I watched all night.. . . .
"I went back to the place where I had left the lady with Astarte and the bears. She was lying with her arm round the neck of the panther, and she was licking her hand. Before the end of the hour, the children came running back, but not shouting as they went away. Some were weeping; all were silent. . . . " 46
They all set out now for the House of Death--where alone Lilith could get quit of herself and of the possibility of the Shadow inhabiting her. But the Bad Burrow had to be passed over first.
"I was afraid for the children, but soon learned I needed have no fear for them. We came to the swamp after the moon was down. It was lighted up through its every watery cavern--none the less terrible for that. The serpent-stone must still be there! Astarte leaped fearlessly upon it. So did the children--the first half of them--looking down with curious eyes into the deeps, but not making out the shapes they saw there! But when the princess stepped on the shaking quags, the whole horrid brood was in a sudden uproar. The whole pit boiled and heaved. They wanted the princess whether as a companion of their life or to devour her I do not know. On all sides around the little army as it went on, arose long necks with billed heads, and tried to reach the lady. . . . "
But the children by childish attack--was it like play, one asks, and therefore of love?-- overcome the monstrous creatures, though one child has to borrow the sword and attack one of the more persistent. Safe at last they come to the sexton's cottage.
"The door stood open. . . . 'Come in at once,' said Eve; and she lifted the princess and carried her in, and shut the door in haste. 'But the children?' 47 'No harm will come to them,' she answered. The same moment a blast of wind dashed against the house, and made it rock, then died moaning away. The princess looked like a corpse. 'It is the big black bat,' said Eve, 'but he can hurt no one in here! . . ."
Then Mr. Vane addresses Lilith: 48
"'If you will lay yourself down on that bed, you will never die; but his power over you will die, and he will be as much afraid of you as he is of this sword I carry.' 'Kill me with it.' 'No, you must die. I could not kill you. The only one who can kill you is the black bat; and when he kills you you never know you are dead, but do whatever he likes and think you are doing it yourself. . . .'
"The woman lighted her candle and led the way to the strangely shaped door. . . .The sexton went out to call in the children, who came running in on their bare little feet, dancing merrily through the strange-shaped door, but not a sound crossed the threshold. The cold, the silence, the something mysterious and strange about the place made them still. Then they began to talk in suppressed voices, almost whispering. . . ."
But following Adam's permission, each finds a bed beside some sleeping form.
Then Mr. Vane takes the princess to her couch--the one indeed on which he had died and risen from.
"'He cannot come here. Not one of your dreams will he disturb. If ever he came here it will be to lie down on one of those beds of his own will and go to sleep. He does not know himself that the day must come when he will do that. Now he is the terrible thing that all the horses in heaven start and rear at sight of except one white one!' . . . She said not another word, but laid down the sheet, and stretched herself out straight with a sigh of safety. I called Astarte, who came bounding. She sprang on the bed and laid down at the princess's feet. I looked at the princess: she was already asleep. I turned to Astarte: she slept also." 49
Then Adam and Eve and Mr. Vane sit in the cottage to await the morning:
"We sat and talked and I learned many things, but whether I was passing through a vision, or other people were alive in it as well as myself, even as it seemed to me, I could not get Adam to say. He would not even tell me whether he was librarian or sexton, not even whether he was the old Adam or the new man, whether Eve was the old Eve or the new Jerusalem. I seemed in a maze about everything. But the sexton said, 'The night is here, and the morning is at hand: hold fast. The night positive is around us; you cannot, but I hear the slow flap of the bat-wings against every side of the cottage. There is one he loves inside--that is, one he would devour because she is pleasing to him; for that is what the children of the night in every world call love--the same love that makes the swine devour their young. But the sun is coming; I hear him not, neither see him; nor can I prove to any soul that he is coming, but I believe it and hold fast.' The old man rose as he spoke; his wife rose also; they looked at each other and smiled; and before me stood the two angels of the resurrection; his countenance was like lightning, and she held in her hand a napkin that flung great flakes of splendour about the place. Then they sat down again and I saw Adam and Eve--the sexton of the world and keeper of the church library. The night began to thin. I heard as a rush of wings, and saw that the room was lighter. 'Come,' said the sexton, 'and you shall see a sight to make God glad.' We rose and followed him to the chamber of death. We had scarcely entered it when he said, 'Hear the golden cock that sits on the clock of the universe.' I listened, and heard--millions of miles away, it seemed--a clear jubilant outcry from a golden throat, notes that sang in defiance of the gates of Hell, the infinite hope and expectation of the troubled universe of God. 'Amen. bird of God!' cried the old man, and the words rang through the silent house, and seemed to go on and on into the infinite spaces. But at the sound of it, like the rising up of a cloud of white doves with wings of silver from among the potsherds, up sprang the little ones, calling aloud 'Crow again, golden cock.' They began hugging and kissing each other as if they had been parted for centuries or rather, as was the truth, as if they were new-born and found their real selves each in the other. Then they came running to me, and such faces for gladness I had never seen--such gladness I had never even dreamed of in my own soul into which it went. . .
The children try to awaken Astarte with embraces, but she sleeps on. The Princess Lilith also will not wake, nor the one child named Peter who now crept under the coverlet beside her. 50
Mr Vane's father wakes with the children.
Then comes the description of the Resurrection morning--curiously reminiscent of some of Blake's accounts--and different from the book's version. 51
"It was the most glorious of resurrection mornings, for all mornings are resurrections, and all springtimes and all lamentations. But now the order of our march was different. I used to lead the children in the time past; but now they took the lead, and I followed. The butterflies and darting dragons hovered about the heads of the children in a cloud of colours and flashes, sometimes falling down on them and rising again like a snow storm of many-coloured flakes, as they flew on. I came after with the bears and all the other creatures about me. And when we set out it was not in the direction again of the fearful swamp. we had done with that and the worm that dwelt in it." 52
Yet here in the book comes the most horrible description of all and ending with a word of exposition: "But they were not dead. So long as exist men and women of unwholesome mind, that lake will still be peopled with loathsomeness." Earlier in the book Adam had said, "An evil thing must live with its evil until it chooses to be good. That alone is the slaying of evil."
"We went on through the cold sleepers on and on, and came at last to a huge iron-bound and iron-studded door. It seemed to open of itself as we drew near: if there were those that opened it, we could not see them. What a burst of glory was it as the two leaved gates gave way! I looked back, and beheld the front of a splendid church, but all in ruins, more than half fallen, but on the highest peak that was left stood the golden cock that shouted to the universe. It was a summer day like the best in the world I had met. The new heavens and the new earth were the same, only I saw into the soul of them--or rather the soul of them and of everything I met came into me, and made friends with my soul, and told me we all came from the same place, and meant the same thing different ways. Something like this was the talk that everything had with us as we went. But wither we were going I knew but vaguely. We walked over soft meadows filled with the sweetest flowers, who--which had nearly dropped out of our vocabulary--who looked up into our faces with a clear meaning in their own; and whatever that meaning was, there was a welcome mingled with it."
Mr Vane now walked with his father, but in a certain awe of him, though all was well:
"For him who has slept in the eternal cemetery, there is no dividing element left when he wakes. So I waited without fear. . . . By and by we saw before us a great city, built somehow like a city of old on a plain around a mountain and up the sides of the mountain to where the great palace stood among the clouds. Never had I seen such a city. The moment it came in view, my father turned to me, and we fell in each other's arms. 'The one thing we have--of all in the world we have left--is our love,' he said. . . . 'In a few miles more, you and I will know that we are brothers, dearer than any brothers in the world you have left.'
"Great clouds gathered about the palace on the mountain-top. Gray and dark and purple, they began to move as against each other and toss and gyrate. Suddenly a blinding flash played about the little army, but it blinded none of them 53. . . . Then my eyes and my father's were opened too, and we saw that the great quivering flash that played about us was all made of angel-faces, that lamped themselves visible for a moment, crowding and centring, and then vanishing. We walked on and on. These were the messengers that came to welcome us. Another flash came: it was full of the face of men and women and children. A third: it was full of the souls of all kinds of creatures, beasts and birds. . . . Then there came a sweet rain, and it made us cool, and breathe deep, and step out with strong strides. Before it was over the sun came out, and shone like all the gems we know on the earth. 'Now I know,' said my father, 'why he gives precious stones to them that dwell on the earth!--it is because they cannot always have the rain and sun of this country, whence they went out, 54 to make them glad!'
"Then suddenly we came to the margin of a great full river.
"The children plunged in with a shout, and were swept away swimming strong in the great torrent. We followed all of us and swam, but were borne far down the torrent--else how should we have found the great stairs that went right into the water--stairs of malachite and porphyry, stairs that rose higher and higher on the crown of arches that rose higher and yet higher towards the city. Out upon these stairs the children scrambled, in ones and twos, in threes and fours, now a dozen and now but one, and off at full speed and up and up. The stairs went right across the tops of the houses in the plain, and straight to the palace gates. The children were almost breathless, such a climb it was before they reached them. An angel, like Albert Dürer's Melancholia, sat at the open gate. They tumbled on her in swarms. She tried to stop them, that their entrance might be decent and orderly. It was no use., they overcrowded her and away up more stairs and more. Then came more angels down meeting them, and caught them one by one and took them away and fed them and put them to bed. So was the kingdom of heaven taken by storm by the children of the Dwarfs. 'Ah!' said the colonel of the guard, 'it is good! I wanted another corps of infantry to send against a certain army of black bats that I hear of on the outskirts! These will make short work of them!' The name of the colonel was Cacourgos Heteros [the other malefactor]. 55 Then approaching us, he bowed low, and without a word more than "Welcome home!" he turned and led the way still further. We went in at a lovely gate, but what it was made of I could not tell, but it had something to do with what the sunrise is built of. Then I saw the source of the great river we had crossed. It came rushing from among rocks--with a perfect plentifulness! and something seemed built over it from which it came out, but it was neither a bridge nor a house nor a church. What it was I could not see for a white cloud upon it, but I knew that that was the cloud from out of which had come the lightening alive with livings. But before we got up to it along the torrent dash of the live water, the white cloud sank down to us--close to us. A hand came out of the cloud and took that of my father, and drew him within the whiteness. Then the hand came out again and took my left hand, and the hand was warm and soft and strong--the very hand of a brother, and drew me along by the edge of the cloud to a little door with a golden lock that I saw just through the edge of the cloud. This the hand opened and gently pushed me through. I turned quickly, but saw only the board of a large clasped volume close, and heard its lock shut with a click. I turned again--and lo, I stood in the morning room of the house where I was born, and my sister and her friend sat at the table at breakfast. They bade me good morning as if I had just come in from the garden. Afterward, when I told them some things, they said I had dreamed. But I have my own thoughts.
"Life was rather dull for a while; but a comforter was given me, and the name of my comforter is Hope."
N.B.--We may recall how Mr. Vane saw in Eve's face that which he had seen in his sister's friend; and we may assume that the pilgrim in this Apocalyptic allegory had left to him, when sent back to his mundane life, 56 still one doorway from which he could look out on the promised land; a doorway that looked from the world of three frail dimensions into that other where dreams and hopes have surer substance; a doorway dim lit by the candle of the Lord, whose beams, polarized and penetrating, deny the Shadow but lead the pilgrim onward to the ancient revelations; a doorway from servitude to freedom, from make-shift systems to the Kingdom of Heaven within and without. For this of the other world was still Mr. Vane's--the creative Love, blossoming in splendour and bearing fruit to the glory and enjoyment of God onward and forever.
NOTES -- by John Docherty
Greville is implying that the final version simply presents the same truths as the first draft, but in a more complex fashion. This is misleading. He is not suggesting that the cruder imagery of the first draft is better than that of the published version, only that it is sometimes more luminous. back
MacDonald does not state that these are the identical flowers, but Greville may be correct. MacDonald emphasises that they are growing neither outside nor inside, but 'as if growing within the door, or at least on the very threshold.' back
He is setting out on the proverbial 'primrose path . . .'. back
This does not happen. Vane the science graduate is too stupid to be able to determine compass directions from the moss on tree trunks, so the raven has to lead him home. back
There is much autobiography in the MS., most obviously at the beginning and with the Dwarfs. back
Compare The Flight of the Shadow p.79 or Phantastes p.7. Other people besides MacDonald did recognise the extraordinary power of his wife's eyes. back
These chapter references are to the final version. back
Greville realises that if Vane does not recognise the otherworldly 'scent' in the girl's piano playing, metaphorically it will be the same as if he clumsily walked through her. back
i.e. creative artists. MacDonald retains something of the Doctrine of Election here. back
Clearly MacDonald is thinking here of his own bookplate, derived from Blake's etching. back
Mara is the sorrow associated with repentance. But linking her with the Magdalen suggests that she is additionally the sin which induces the sorrow, which is not the case. back
It is crucial to remember always that MacDonald is writing myth. But often, as here, the myth is very close to allegory. Greville's simple interpretation of the cats and wolves is adequate. But the horse is far more than just 'Imagination': all other critics primarily associate it with the Will. back
It is scarcely credible that Greville thought of this image as 'purely subjective'! But the internal aspect of the image--which he alone has emphasised--is equally important. back
This is incorrect: the dancers are only momentarily disturbed by the apparition of Lilith. Their dispersal is virtually the same in both versions. back
For some unknown reason, Greville here inverts the traditional conception of four earthly and three heavenly 'elements' which is reflected in such things as the four cardinal and three spiritual virtues and the four earthly and three heavenly petitions of Our Lord's Prayer--and also in the form of the Wise Woman's cottage in Chapter XIX of Phantastes. Nevertheless, he is apparently the only critic of Lilith who has recognised the true meaning of the hot stream. back
In both versions Vane bathes Lilith only once in the stream, after this her improvised couch is suspended over it. back
This complex sentence upon the relationships between elements and dimensions contains inspired speculation, but as it stands it is little more than mumbo-jumbo. It is dismissed as such by C.S.Lewis in his letters to Arthur Greeves. back
Adam is able to put Lilith in the closet only when he has subdued her by reading parts of the poem to her. back
Greville is referring in this sentence to the sequence of events from when Vane climbs the tree in the palace courtyard. But his next paragraph goes back to before Vane reaches the city. back
MacDonald is careful to demonstrate that the Little Ones are not a 'race'. Motherhood, although a major element of Lona's loving Innocence, is not very relevant to the Little Ones. back
In this obscure sentence Greville appears to be alluding to the same primitive conceptions of the Earth/Love Goddess as C.S. Lewis explores in Till We Have Faces. back
Astarte 'broke loose', she was not sent to attack anyone. Only when the woman has just thrown a stone 'with all her force' at Vane is she attacked by Astarte. back
The meaning here, and for much of the paragraph, is not comprehensible. The first few times that the sapphire is used there is suffering, but no tears are mentioned. back
Greville apparently means that Astarte appears less frequently in this episode in the MS. than in the book. back
Readers will have noticed that Greville frequently writes as if the MS. were the last version of the story, not the first. This can be confusing at times. back
Greville follows MacDonald's practice in the MS. and frequently describes the leopardesses as leopards or panthers. back
C.S. Lewis seems to borrow from Greville here for his description of the interior of the temple in Till We Have Faces. back
Greville seems to forget that he has already just described this episode. His details are slightly more accurate on this occasion. In the MS. the people of the city apparently do not realise there are two leopardesses. back
Greville assumes that all the adventures recounted occured in a man's (Vane's) brain. But, to be recounted, any adventure must previously have been in the brain of the person who experienced it. MacDonald tried to make the reader aware at the beginning of Vane's adventures that although Vane describes only his spiritual impressions he moves in two worlds concurrently. This was most obvious in the incident of the piano-playing lady and the music-bluebells. It is highly unlikely that MacDonald would have created an elaborate allegory between the little door to the palace and a woman's genitalia in the MS. if he did not intend to depict a man and a woman encountering each other. This encounter takes place at three levels: in the body--represented by the palace; in the depraved 'Self'--represented by the larger panther; and in the soul-- represented by Astarte. back
Vane then enters by the little recessed door and finds that Lilith's 'attendant' has rapidly transformed the passage leading from the door into 'a live avenue'. back
Vane's own star sapphire, which he recognises as a talisman in the MS., does bear some sort of relationship to the stone Lilith owns. And MacDonald knew a great deal about gem-stones. But--as with Greville's speculations on the seven elements--his purple perceptions in this paragraph, although not invalid, are hopelessly muddled. back
The waters which flowed into their country from the sapphire stone have caused the dwarfs to grow. Vane does not create any more streams while with them. back
Compare II Kings 2. 24 and Jeremiah 13. 23. back
Greville does not explain why we might expect this. back
MacDonald calls this change curious, yet most of Vane's description tallies with that of all seers who have viewed the world with cleansed gates of perception. back
Most passages are less allegorical--and more beautiful--in their final versions in the book. And often, as with this passage, the final version is undeniably the more luminous. But Greville seems to appreciate his father's writing most when it is closest to simple allegory. back
The functions of the sword are very important in the MS. But it can scarcely be called a 'vital' symbol when everything achieved with its aid is achieved without it in later versions. back
Actually it is Vane who buries the hand. back
Greville is apparently the only critic who has recognised that the stone's power of drawing water upwards--thus restoring the cycle of heavenly regeneration of the earth--is fully as important as its water-releasing power which creates rivers. back
For some inexplicable reason the following eight pages of the paraphrase have no mention of the final version of the book and no extended commentary. More commentary is badly needed. back
Lilith's change of heart is brief but genuine. Greville's implication of 'artfulness' is as unjustified here as it is where he implies that the children are consciously hoping to overcome Lilith with love. back
The next sentence, as might be expected, is 'I told her she need not fear me.' Greville is disengenious to imply that it is Love which causes the woman to kneel. back
Greville's careful selection of passages to quote at this point wonderfully brings out his father's true meaning. In the full text of the MS. by contrast, Vane's preaching at the captive Lilith is so interminable as to defeat its purpose for most readers. back
Lilith's actual words are 'I do not know whether I can honestly thank you.' back
This is incorrect. Vane urges Lilith to fight to prevent the Shadow getting into her, and he shows her a bite on his own arm. back
The end of this passage requires explanation. The reason for the children's sadness is that they were going back to their homes and their parents the Dwarfs, but have been repulsed by their mothers and so have returned to Vane. back
It is Lilith who asks this! In the book it is her first manifestation of genuine concern for anyone other than herself. back
In passages of preaching like this the name Vane is inappropriate. It implies not only an irresolute nature (turning with the wind), but also, by its implied homonym 'Vain', a proud and arrogant nature. With the Dwarf's, however, his preaching is certainly in vain, and his self-rightuousness is very close to vanity. The actual name used in the MS. is Fane, which also can mean a weathervane but is more often used in its meanings of a banner (a standard) or a temple--usually a lost or buried temple. back
This confirms what was noted earlier, that Astarte primarily represents 'the soul'. If she simply represented 'Vane's soul' she would not have to lie down a second time in the House of Death. back
'Crept' is apparently a misprint for 'slept'. back
Apart from the very beginning, and Vane's conversation with his father, the pilgrimage in the MS. differs from that in the book only in details. Only parts are reminiscent of Blake. back
Why Greville now reduces the inhabitants of the Burrow to one worm is not clear. back
Greville has carefully omitted the weaker passages from this description since they are particularly distressing where such a stupendous event is being described. But readers should remember, wherever they find the writing inadequate for its subject, that the MS. is a first draft which was never intended for publication. Where apparently weak passages exist in the final published book it is clear that MacDonald consciously intended to create a mood of bathos. back
Greville avoids quoting most of his father's more unorthodox theological views, but cannot easily omit them all in this episode. It is puzzling that while Vane's father acknowledges that he, and apparently his son, formerly knew the country, Vane states that he has 'never seen' the city. back
'The other malefactor' is Greville's translation, but it is the literal one. If MacDonald intended a literal interpretation, then this is presumably the good thief on the cross. If so, then he has become a Swedenborgian-style, ex-human angel! The way the children are fed, put to bed, and so on, likewise resembles Swedenborg's teachings. Predictably, the animals who accompanied the pilgrimage are similarly treated. But MacDonald's predeliction for inviting individual animals into heaven extended only to members of those species to which he himself was particularly attracted! Bats are rigorously excluded! back
Greville here at first seems to be denying MacDonald's observation in "The Shadows" that true visions 'instead of making common things look commonplace . . . ma[k]e common things disclose the wonderful that [i]s in them.' But the rest of the paragraph shows that he agrees with his father. back
© 1997-2013, Introduction and notes by John Docherty.