"No one has my form but the I."
Schoppe, in JEAN PAUL'S Titan.
"Joy's a subtil elf.
I think man's happiest when he forgets himself."
||CYRIL TOURNEUR, The Revenger's Tragedy.
On the third day of my journey, I was riding gently along a road,
apparently little frequented, to judge from the grass that grew
upon it. I was approaching a forest. Everywhere in Fairy Land
forests are the places where one may most certainly expect
adventures. As I drew near, a youth, unarmed, gentle, and
beautiful, who had just cut a branch from a yew growing on the
skirts of the wood, evidently to make himself a bow, met me, and
thus accosted me:
"Sir knight, be careful as thou ridest through this forest; for
it is said to be strangely enchanted, in a sort which even those
who have been witnesses of its enchantment can hardly describe."
I thanked him for his advice, which I promised to follow, and
rode on. But the moment I entered the wood, it seemed to me
that, if enchantment there was, it must be of a good kind; for
the Shadow, which had been more than usually dark and
distressing, since I had set out on this journey, suddenly
disappeared. I felt a wonderful elevation of spirits, and began
to reflect on my past life, and especially on my combat with the
giants, with such satisfaction, that I had actually to remind
myself, that I had only killed one of them; and that, but for the
brothers, I should never have had the idea of attacking them, not
to mention the smallest power of standing to it. Still I
rejoiced, and counted myself amongst the glorious knights of old;
having even the unspeakable presumption--my shame and self-
condemnation at the memory of it are such, that I write it as the
only and sorest penance I can perform--to think of myself (will
the world believe it?) as side by side with Sir Galahad!
Scarcely had the thought been born in my mind, when, approaching
me from the left, through the trees, I espied a resplendent
knight, of mighty size, whose armour seemed to shine of itself,
without the sun. When he drew near, I was astonished to see that
this armour was like my own; nay, I could trace, line for line,
the correspondence of the inlaid silver to the device on my own.
His horse, too, was like mine in colour, form, and motion; save
that, like his rider, he was greater and fiercer than his
counterpart. The knight rode with beaver up. As he halted right
opposite to me in the narrow path, barring my way, I saw the
reflection of my countenance in the centre plate of shining steel
on his breastplate. Above it rose the same face--his face--only,
as I have said, larger and fiercer. I was bewildered. I could
not help feeling some admiration of him, but it was mingled with
a dim conviction that he was evil, and that I ought to fight with
"Let me pass," I said.
"When I will," he replied.
Something within me said: "Spear in rest, and ride at him! else
thou art for ever a slave."
I tried, but my arm trembled so much, that I could not couch my
lance. To tell the truth, I, who had overcome the giant, shook
like a coward before this knight. He gave a scornful laugh, that
echoed through the wood, turned his horse, and said, without
looking round, "Follow me."
I obeyed, abashed and stupefied. How long he led, and how long I
followed, I cannot tell. "I never knew misery before," I said to
myself. "Would that I had at least struck him, and had had my
death- blow in return! Why, then, do I not call to him to wheel
and defend himself? Alas! I know not why, but I cannot. One
look from him would cow me like a beaten hound." I followed, and
At length we came to a dreary square tower, in the middle of a
dense forest. It looked as if scarce a tree had been cut down to
make room for it. Across the very door, diagonally, grew the
stem of a tree, so large that there was just room to squeeze past
it in order to enter. One miserable square hole in the roof was
the only visible suggestion of a window. Turret or battlement,
or projecting masonry of any kind, it had none. Clear and smooth
and massy, it rose from its base, and ended with a line straight
and unbroken. The roof, carried to a centre from each of the
four walls, rose slightly to the point where the rafters met.
Round the base lay several little heaps of either bits of broken
branches, withered and peeled, or half- whitened bones; I could
not distinguish which. As I approached, the ground sounded
hollow beneath my horse's hoofs. The knight took a great key
from his pocket, and reaching past the stem of the tree, with
some difficulty opened the door. "Dismount," he commanded. I
obeyed. He turned my horse's head away from the tower, gave him
a terrible blow with the flat side of his sword, and sent him
madly tearing through the forest.
"Now," said he, "enter, and take your companion with you."
- I looked round
- knight and horse had vanished, and behind me lay
the horrible shadow. I entered, for I could not help myself; and
the shadow followed me. I had a terrible conviction that the
knight and he were one. The door closed behind me.
Now I was indeed in pitiful plight. There was literally nothing
in the tower but my shadow and me. The walls rose right up to
the roof; in which, as I had seen from without, there was one
little square opening. This I now knew to be the only window the
tower possessed. I sat down on the floor, in listless
wretchedness. I think I must have fallen asleep, and have slept
for hours; for I suddenly became aware of existence, in observing
that the moon was shining through the hole in the roof. As she
rose higher and higher, her light crept down the wall over me,
till at last it shone right upon my head. Instantaneously the
walls of the tower seemed to vanish away like a mist. I sat
beneath a beech, on the edge of a forest, and the open country
lay, in the moonlight, for miles and miles around me, spotted
with glimmering houses and spires and towers. I thought with
myself, "Oh, joy! it was only a dream; the horrible narrow waste
is gone, and I wake beneath a beech-tree, perhaps one that loves
me, and I can go where I will." I rose, as I thought, and walked
about, and did what I would, but ever kept near the tree; for
always, and, of course, since my meeting with the woman of the
beech-tree far more than ever, I loved that tree. So the night
wore on. I waited for the sun to rise, before I could venture to
renew my journey. But as soon as the first faint light of the
dawn appeared, instead of shining upon me from the eye of the
morning, it stole like a fainting ghost through the little square
hole above my head; and the walls came out as the light grew, and
the glorious night was swallowed up of the hateful day. The long
dreary day passed. My shadow lay black on the floor. I felt no
hunger, no need of food. The night came. The moon shone. I
watched her light slowly descending the wall, as I might have
watched, adown the sky, the long, swift approach of a helping
angel. Her rays touched me, and I was free. Thus night after
night passed away. I should have died but for this. Every night
the conviction returned, that I was free. Every morning I sat
wretchedly disconsolate. At length, when the course of the moon
no longer permitted her beams to touch me, the night was dreary
as the day.
When I slept, I was somewhat consoled by my dreams; but all the
time I dreamed, I knew that I was only dreaming. But one night,
at length, the moon, a mere shred of pallor, scattered a few thin
ghostly rays upon me; and I think I fell asleep and dreamed. I
sat in an autumn night before the vintage, on a hill overlooking
my own castle. My heart sprang with joy. Oh, to be a child
again, innocent, fearless, without shame or desire! I walked
down to the castle. All were in consternation at my absence. My
sisters were weeping for my loss. They sprang up and clung to
me, with incoherent cries, as I entered. My old friends came
flocking round me. A gray light shone on the roof of the hall.
It was the light of the dawn shining through the square window of
my tower. More earnestly than ever, I longed for freedom after
this dream; more drearily than ever, crept on the next wretched
day. I measured by the sunbeams, caught through the little
window in the trap of my tower, how it went by, waiting only for
the dreams of the night.
About noon, I started as if something foreign to all my senses
and all my experience, had suddenly invaded me; yet it was only
the voice of a woman singing. My whole frame quivered with joy,
surprise, and the sensation of the unforeseen. Like a living
soul, like an incarnation of Nature, the song entered my
prison-house. Each tone folded its wings, and laid itself, like
a caressing bird, upon my heart. It bathed me like a sea;
inwrapt me like an odorous vapour; entered my soul like a long
draught of clear spring-water; shone upon me like essential
sunlight; soothed me like a mother's voice and hand. Yet, as the
clearest forest-well tastes sometimes of the bitterness of
decayed leaves, so to my weary, prisoned heart, its cheerfulness
had a sting of cold, and its tenderness unmanned me with the
faintness of long-departed joys. I wept half-bitterly,
half-luxuriously; but not long. I dashed away the tears, ashamed
of a weakness which I thought I had abandoned. Ere I knew, I had
walked to the door, and seated myself with my ears against it, in
order to catch every syllable of the revelation from the unseen
outer world. And now I heard each word distinctly. The singer
seemed to be standing or sitting near the tower, for the sounds
indicated no change of place. The song was something like this:
The sun, like a golden knot on high,
Gathers the glories of the sky,
And binds them into a shining tent,
Roofing the world with the firmament.
And through the pavilion the rich winds blow,
And through the pavilion the waters go.
And the birds for joy, and the trees for prayer,
Bowing their heads in the sunny air,
And for thoughts, the gently talking springs,
That come from the centre with secret things--
All make a music, gentle and strong,
Bound by the heart into one sweet song.
And amidst them all, the mother Earth
Sits with the children of her birth;
She tendeth them all, as a mother hen
Her little ones round her, twelve or ten:
Oft she sitteth, with hands on knee,
Idle with love for her family.
Go forth to her from the dark and the dust,
And weep beside her, if weep thou must;
If she may not hold thee to her breast,
Like a weary infant, that cries for rest
At least she will press thee to her knee,
And tell a low, sweet tale to thee,
Till the hue to thy cheeky and the light to thine eye,
Strength to thy limbs, and courage high
To thy fainting heart, return amain,
And away to work thou goest again.
From the narrow desert, O man of pride,
Come into the house, so high and wide.
Hardly knowing what I did, I opened the door. Why had I not done
so before? I do not know.
At first I could see no one; but when I had forced myself past
the tree which grew across the entrance, I saw, seated on the
ground, and leaning against the tree, with her back to my prison,
a beautiful woman. Her countenance seemed known to me, and yet
unknown. She looked at me and smiled, when I made my appearance.
"Ah! were you the prisoner there? I am very glad I have wiled
"Do you know me then?"
"Do you not know me? But you hurt me, and that, I suppose, makes
it easy for a man to forget. You broke my globe. Yet I thank
you. Perhaps I owe you many thanks for breaking it. I took the
pieces, all black, and wet with crying over them, to the Fairy
Queen. There was no music and no light in them now. But she
took them from me, and laid them aside; and made me go to sleep
in a great hall of white, with black pillars, and many red
curtains. When I woke in the morning, I went to her, hoping to
have my globe again, whole and sound; but she sent me away
without it, and I have not seen it since. Nor do I care for it
now. I have something so much better. I do not need the globe
to play to me; for I can sing. I could not sing at all before.
Now I go about everywhere through Fairy Land, singing till my
heart is like to break, just like my globe, for very joy at my
own songs. And wherever I go, my songs do good, and deliver
people. And now I have delivered you, and I am so happy."
She ceased, and the tears came into her eyes.
All this time, I had been gazing at her; and now fully recognised
the face of the child, glorified in the countenance of the woman.
I was ashamed and humbled before her; but a great weight was
lifted from my thoughts. I knelt before her, and thanked her,
and begged her to forgive me.
"Rise, rise," she said; "I have nothing to forgive; I thank you.
But now I must be gone, for I do not know how many may be waiting
for me, here and there, through the dark forests; and they cannot
come out till I come."
She rose, and with a smile and a farewell, turned and left me. I
dared not ask her to stay; in fact, I could hardly speak to her.
Between her and me, there was a great gulf. She was uplifted, by
sorrow and well-doing, into a region I could hardly hope ever to
enter. I watched her departure, as one watches a sunset. She
went like a radiance through the dark wood, which was henceforth
bright to me, from simply knowing that such a creature was in it.
She was bearing the sun to the unsunned spots. The light and the
music of her broken globe were now in her heart and her brain.
As she went, she sang; and I caught these few words of her song;
and the tones seemed to linger and wind about the trees after she
Thou goest thine, and I go mine--
Many ways we wend;
Many days, and many ways,
Ending in one end.
Many a wrong, and its curing song;
Many a road, and many an inn;
Room to roam, but only one home
For all the world to win.
And so she vanished. With a sad heart, soothed by humility, and
the knowledge of her peace and gladness, I bethought me what now
I should do. First, I must leave the tower far behind me, lest,
in some evil moment, I might be once more caged within its
horrible walls. But it was ill walking in my heavy armour; and
besides I had now no right to the golden spurs and the
resplendent mail, fitly dulled with long neglect. I might do for
a squire; but I honoured knighthood too highly, to call myself
any longer one of the noble brotherhood. I stripped off all my
armour, piled it under the tree, just where the lady had been
seated, and took my unknown way, eastward through the woods. Of
all my weapons, I carried only a short axe in my hand.
Then first I knew the delight of being lowly; of saying to
myself, "I am what I am, nothing more." "I have failed," I said,
"I have lost myself--would it had been my shadow." I looked
round: the shadow was nowhere to be seen. Ere long, I learned
that it was not myself, but only my shadow, that I had lost. I
learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to
fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and
fancied innocence. I learned that he that will be a hero, will
barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his
work, is sure of his manhood. In nothing was my ideal lowered,
or dimmed, or grown less precious; I only saw it too plainly, to
set myself for a moment beside it. Indeed, my ideal soon became
my life; whereas, formerly, my life had consisted in a vain
attempt to behold, if not my ideal in myself, at least myself in
my ideal. Now, however, I took, at first, what perhaps was a
mistaken pleasure, in despising and degrading myself. Another
self seemed to arise, like a white spirit from a dead man, from
the dumb and trampled self of the past. Doubtless, this self
must again die and be buried, and again, from its tomb, spring a
winged child; but of this my history as yet bears not the record.
Self will come to life even in the slaying of self; but there is
ever something deeper and stronger than it, which will emerge at
last from the unknown abysses of the soul: will it be as a solemn
gloom, burning with eyes? or a clear morning after the rain? or a
smiling child, that finds itself nowhere, and everywhere?