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  ― 198 ―

Fantasies.

The Romance of a Moth.

“What are they, sisters?” murmured the youngest of the waterlilies lolling in her snowy bell.

“Spirits of the foamflakes,” languidly lisped a full blown beauty. “Do not notice them for they are full of mischief.”

“What a liquid splendour drips from their foreheads. They are nearly as beautiful as we,” reflected the other half regretfully. “There is that insolent fellow again,” and she began closing her curtains as a young moth circled about her, peering with ruby-lighted eyes.

“Well, dreamer, mad as ever,” greeted a voice, rich as the tone of a golden harp-string, when he settled on a bloom-laden wattle bough to stroke his saffron wings. “Still seeking the impossible? Look at me, how beautiful I am. Are you not jealous?” And she shook out a fragrance as a tiny breeze crept in among her leaves to kiss her amorously.

“Softly, my lover,” she breathed. “Ruffle not my royal raiment. Chase that ugly madcap away. He is ever boasting of a dream he has had of a being more beautiful than I. The lilies detest him. Every sunset he hovers near them, spying on their ablutions. Flick him away, he annoys me, dearest.”




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But the little madcap was already gone, heedless of everything but his dream. Through a cloud of fire-flies he fluttered, disorganising their ranks in his flurry at their freakish lights, and sank discomfited on a rock near the waterfall.

“They all think themselves beautiful,” he soliloquised. “But wait awhile, she will abash them.”

He felt uneasy, however, as he remembered his mother's injunction to be cautious, and not be dazzled by the beautiful fiends that lay in wait to lure him to sudden doom.

“Banish it, my child,” she had expostulated when he whispered his dream. “It was a fiend like that dazzling marvel that destroyed thy father.”

Nevertheless she had pondered at the strangeness of it all. Never yet had she heard of a moth possessing an aspiration like her youngest born. What was this lovely creature he had seen and yearned to embrace. So incoherent was his description that her conjecture was very vague. Then it was so unearthly and far away and shimmered so softly. She trembled for her strange offspring. He was not like other moths, content with simple joys. Ever since he was winged a wild craving for some ideal had made him restless and peculiar. Night after night he would leave his companions to return at dawn with weary wings, so wet with dew he could scarcely flutter. Even honey-juice


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failed to delight him. He had never been a cheerful, but of late he was a positively melancholy creature. He had been banned by his kindred as a useless nonentity, who could scarcely forage for himself, an incubus to the tribe. And his mother waxed fearful, pining in secret under a stigma that she gave birth to pests. Yet she loved him more than any child she had ever borne. Then mothers are so foolish!

Meanwhile the young eccentric was curiously watching the antics of the foam spirits. To and fro they sported, as in a shoot of etherealised feathers, shaking their locks of azure fire in the gathering gloom and singing together. Myriads of tiny eyes twinkled at him from a grove of purpling weed in the shallows below. Dangling from out a glaucous cavern behind the descending water could just be discerned the long tresses of some secluded nymph.

“They are very beautiful,” he mused, as a procession of sylphs in the guise of bubbles glided past, fanning their beamy wings. The gloom gradually grew soft and silky. The tinkling airs of innumerable water sprites on some mystic mission ascended from below the fall. Then the moth tightened his wings and waited, his roseate eyes shining with anticipation. Presently a faint radiance of some far-off glory appeared like a dream on the crest of the sliding water. The darkling pools dimpled with smiles when the lustre rested on


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them in a clasp of glistening silver. Then from on high, suspended as in a liquid trance, a sphere like a pearl in a tremulous opaline splendour glanced serenely down on them.

In that peerless radiance the moth was transfigured. Dazzled with beauty, reckless, forgetting everything but the dream, he spread his wings and soared towards the fair flame. Over the waterfall he quivered, an aspiring speck. Athwart the limpid beam he struggled. Shaking as with joy the sphere poured out of its magic vase a stream of such luminous splendour that his vision failed—yet he still fluttered up and up, blind, distraught, exultant. A wind blew him back, roaring: “The sea! The sea!” Hither and thither he was tossed like a mote. Still towards that perfection he toiled, as he thought. He could not see the beach besprent with foam-beardlings; he could not hear the ruffianly shouts of the waves. The gleam, the dazzling gleam—nothing else existed. He knew not the lovely glow was now illumining the pavilions of a cloud, and that along a shaft of fiercely-piercing light he was feebly fluttering. An atom overcharged with the intoxicating fluid that propels the whole universe towards the Absolute Perfection he struggled fearlessly towards the imagined glory. Into the white glare that channelled the darkness, his sightless eyes protruding like red sparks, he rushed. A smiting furnace flash, and then—a ruffled


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spot of stunned enthusiasm dropped from the light-house glass into the darkness of death to shape a moral for a famous stanza:

“The desire of the moth for the star,
The night for the morrow;
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow.”




  ― 203 ―

The Poet's Vision.

The visions of this world's so-called madmen are the truths of life. Lift your soul but a mournful inch above your fellow-creatures and they will condemn you as a madman. What is madness, pray? Is it to extinguish in the soul the lights of Paradise and herd with swine, or to unbandage the spirit's eyes and gaze on the beautiful beings that dwell in the fair places of earth? Think you those ancient poets fed on dreams, those seers of the young world babbled for nurseries? These little men of to-day, with rule and tape, how can they with spirits blinded by the smoke of the fires of brute desire perceive the beatific vision of Plato, the spiritual essences of Zoroaster descending like lambent flames, the sylphs that sport through the radiant bubbles of Hermes? How can they know that a wattle abloom is spring's visible trumpet-blast of triumph, that music is the manna on which the angels feed?

I underwent the ordeals that purify the spirit in its earthy mesh. The brute was slowly squeezed out. My spirit was gradually unfilmed. The stars then opened into ethereal pavilions. Night and day I hung about the Blue Mountains and rambled through their valleys,


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listening, gazing, brooding. The waterfalls sang to me a new song, the trees whispered new secrets, the flowers at my feet breathed new intelligences. In lines of yellow fire the wattles invaded the gorges and blazoned a new revelation. Not yet—not yet. Further and further from the sounding halls of the senses my spirit retired. I felt the gasping overburdened joy of life within the trees moving nearer and nearer. I felt the song of waters becoming more spiritually subtle. The turf panted to speak, the dews trembled to sing—not yet, not yet. Driven by an inexplicable impulse I haunted one secluded waterfall. I breathed entreaties, petitions, vows, and the waters chorussed in bass: Soon! Soon! A splendor flew through the falling foam-flakes like gleams of silver. Not yet—not yet. My spirit was still twitched by a tangle of matter. But day by day, night by night, the influence grew, the enchantment deepened, the glamour increased, till one night—a night like this, lovely with moonlight on the falling water—the vision came: first a limb as of sleeping foam, then a shoulder and a throat more white than a lily, and then a beautiful being, with locks of flame and gracious eyes of moonlight, in whose ineffable countenance the joyous innocence and purity our souls crave for slept as in a bridal chamber. Her grave sweet eyes glistened amid the spray that sparkled like hoar frost. The green rock against which rested her lovely head shone like an emerald


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amid the snow-white tapestry of falling foam. Was it an angel muffling smitten harp-chords at their richest tone? She spoke!

I learned the names of the divinities that rule over our beloved country. I dare not reveal their mystic rites, though believe me these are for our welfare. Sadness has prevailed amongst that gentle race for many years through our barterage of high virtues for gold and station. They have their labors, too, as well as we. Mighty and malignant are the powers they have to combat. There are potentates of fire and storm, wielders of flood, slingers of drought, whom they dread and yet against whom they array themselves for our sake. And she, the fairest daughter of the mountain stream, admitted me into the presence of the mountain Genius. More magnificent than Saturn in his prideful days, with limbs more radiantly beautiful than Apollo's, a visage weighty with thought and grandly sculptured, locks like sheaves of sunbeams, he surveyed me from a slanting ridge with kingly beneficence. Thus for weeks I breathed the atmosphere of our divinities, rejoicing to learn the epic of the Bush.

And then, whilst in the plentitude of all my spirit had craved for, I fell!




  ― 206 ―

The Philosopher's Dream.

He dreamed he stood on a huge mountain alone with the stars and solitude of night. Before him stretched a broad streamless valley filled with the flowing of a spectral twilight that showed all things but nothing as it was. He had no fear, neither did he marvel wherefore he was there. He felt that somewhere in that valley a scene was about to be enacted, a colossal pageantry evolved, with which his thoughts would be interwoven. Meanwhile a hush, such as broods in the pine woods ere the tempest be heard through their boughs, settled on him. Suddenly in the middle of the valley, dimly revealed by the spectral light, loomed a vast shapeless Image craped, across the front of which ran these words in letters of fire: “I am the Riddle of Death; come and uncloak me, ye dwellers of earth.” Then it seemed a finger touched the dreamer's eyes and a voice born of the silence whispered: “Behold the procession of the would-be solvers of the Great Riddle.” At once a film fell from his vision and he saw the whole valley distinctly.

Scarce had the whisper faded when a procession of men slowly and with solemn faces moved towards the


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Image. The first glanced at it curiously and then glided into the darkness beyond. Soft as the fall of a dew-drop on a lily came a single word of that mysterious voice: “Confutzee.” Another figure strode forward and endeavored to withdraw the crape, a lappet lifted a little and he staggered—dazzled by what he had glimpsed—and with hand to his eyes retired in reverie. Mournful as a weak wind among leaves came the voice thrilling itself away: “Gautama.”

Figure after figure now stepped forward, some in Oriental robes and carrying in their hands the symbols of office; some thoughtfully and slow with faces haggard and mournful; but all endeavored to uncloak the Image and all were doomed to absolute failure. Others stood afar off and stared at it stupidly as though their minds had tottered.

Suddenly the crowd parted and a man smeared with dust and blood staggered toward it, turned, and fixing his unearthly eyes on the multitude that pressed upon him, calmly smiled. Such a radiance beamed around him that the Image could not be discerned in the darkness behind him. A train of worshippers kneeled before him, crowned him, and to their dazzled eyes angelic wings sprang from his shoulders. The dreamer felt a thrill of joy that the Image had ceased to cast its shadow o'er the lives of men. But a shiver went through him when a man with furrowed face and searching eyes


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moved towards the glorious figure. He gazed long and earnestly into its face and behold! the radiance began to languish. Silently and with slow and determined steps a second took the other's place when he retired, and perused it patiently and lo! the eyes lost their seraphic magnificence, and became human and sorrowful. A third pushed himself forward with hurried steps, and fixing his keen eyes on the beautiful countenance sarcastically smiled. There was a sudden snap and the crown fell—and the crowd recoiled with wonder and fear. Cool and unembarrassed and with a sneer deepening round the edges of his lips the man turned not, but stared at the face more intently than ever. A hoarse cry reverberated through the valley as with a clash the angelic wings fell and were broken. Then, and only then, did the man step lightly aside and glide into the darkness. “Voltaire,” whispered the voice as the dreamer shut his startled eyes.

When he again looked the Image craped, and still bearing the dismal words of fire, loomed as heretofore. Many lay before it, some praying, some beseeching, some cursing, some dumb with a terrible despair. Once a man rushed forward and smote it with a scimitar, but the blade shivered, and the man sank crying: “Allah! Allah!”

Phantoms and black night-mares drifted round it; there was a sound of lamentation and much weeping,


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the jostling of a panic-stricken multitude, the uplifting of white and ghastly faces, the wringing of hands and the deep muttering of many voices in prayer; then the mountain shook, the valley upheaved, there was a rush of bewildering lights, a whirlwind of terrible shapes; and then, the majestic gloom and solemn hush of a dead and wandering world.

With a convulsive start the philosopher awoke to find the east coloring with the dawn and the birds were holding life's high festival in his garden trees.

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