Chapter 28 - The Farewell
And now it was evening.
And Almitra the seeress said, "Blessed be this day and this place and your spirit that has spoken."
And he answered, Was it I who spoke? Was I not also a listener?
Then he descended the steps of the Temple and all the people followed him. And he reached his ship and stood upon the deck. And facing the people again, he raised his voice and said: People of Orphalese, the wind bids me leave you. Less hasty am I than the wind, yet I must go. We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us. Even while the earth sleeps we travel. We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered.
Brief were my days among you, and briefer still the words I have spoken.
But should my voice fade in your ears, and my love vanish in your memory, then I will come again, And with a richer heart and lips more yielding to the spirit will I speak. Yea, I shall return with the tide, And though death may hide me, and the greater silence enfold me, yet again will I seek your under standing. And not in vain will I seek. If aught I have said is truth, that truth shall reveal itself in a clearer voice, and in words more kin to your thoughts.
I go with the wind, people of Orphalese, but not down into emptiness; And if this day is not a fulfillment of your needs and my love, then let it be a promise till another day. Man's needs change, but not his love, nor his desire that his love should satisfy his needs. Know, therefore, that from the greater silence I shall return.
The mist that drifts away at dawn, leaving but dew in the fields, shall rise and gather into a cloud and then fall down in rain. And not unlike the mist have I been. In the stillness of the night I have walked in your streets, and my spirit has entered your houses, And your heart-beats were in my heart, and your breath was upon my face, and I knew you all. Aye, I knew your joy and your pain, and in your sleep your dreams were my dreams. And oftentimes I was among you a lake among the mountains. I mirrored the summits in you and the bending slopes, and even the passing flocks of your thoughts and your desires. And to my silence came the laughter of your children in streams, and the longing of your youths in rivers. And when they reached my depth the streams and the rivers ceased not yet to sing. But sweeter still than laughter and greater than longing came to me.
It was the boundless in you; The vast man in whom you are all but cells and sinews; He in whose chant all your singing is but a soundless throbbing. It is in the vast man that you are vast, And in beholding him that I beheld you and loved you. For what distances can love reach that are not in that vast sphere? What visions, what expectations and what presumptions can outsoar that flight? Like a giant oak tree covered with apple blossoms is the vast man in you. His might binds you to the earth, his fragrance lifts you into space, and in his durability you are deathless. You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link. This is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link. To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam.
To judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the seasons for their inconstancy.
Aye, you are like an ocean, And though heavy-grounded ships await the tide upon your shores, yet, even like an ocean, you cannot hasten your tides. And like the seasons you are also, And though in your winter you deny your spring, Yet spring, reposing within you, smiles in her drowsiness and is not offended. Think not I say these things in order that you may say the one to the other, "He praised us well. He saw but the good in us." I only speak to you in words of that which you yourselves know in thought. And what is word knowledge but a shadow of wordless knowledge? Your thoughts and my words are waves from a sealed memory that keeps records of our yesterdays, And of the ancient days when the earth knew not us nor herself, And of nights when earth was upwrought with confusion.
Wise men have come to you to give you of their wisdom. I came to take of your wisdom: And behold I have found that which is greater than wisdom. It is a flame spirit in you ever gathering more of itself, While you, heedless of its expansion, bewail the withering of your days. It is life in quest of life in bodies that fear the grave.
There are no graves here. These mountains and plains are a cradle and a stepping-stone. Whenever you pass by the field where you have laid your ancestors look well thereupon, and you shall see yourselves and your children dancing hand in hand. Verily you often make merry without knowing.
Others have come to you to whom for golden promises made unto you faith you have given but riches and power and glory. Less than a promise have I given, and yet more generous have you been to me. You have given me my deeper thirsting after life. Surely there is no greater gift to a man than that which turns all his aims into parching lips and all life into a fountain. And in this lies my honour and my reward,- That whenever I come to the fountain to drink I find the living water itself thirsty; And it drinks me while I drink it. Some of you have deemed me proud and over shy to receive gifts. Too proud indeed am I to receive wages, but not gifts. And though I have eaten berries among the hills when you would have had me sit at your board, And slept in the portico of the temple when you would gladly have sheltered me, Yet it was not your loving mindfulness of my days and my nights that made food sweet to my mouth and girdled my sleep with visions?
For this I bless you most: You give much and know not that you give at all. Verily the kindness that gazes upon itself in a mirror turns to stone, And a good deed that calls itself by tender names becomes the parent to a curse.
And some of you have called me aloof, and drunk with my own aloneness, And you have said, "He holds council with the trees of the forest, but not with men. "He sits alone on hill-tops and looks down upon our city." True it is that I have climbed the hills and walked in remote places. How could I have seen you save from a great height or a great distance? How can one be indeed near unless he be far? And others among you called unto me, not in words, and they said:
"Stranger, stranger, lover of unreachable heights, why dwell you among the summits where eagles build their nests? Why seek you the unattainable? What storms would you trap in your net, and what vaporous birds do you hunt in the sky? Come and be one of us. Descend and appease your hunger with our bread and quench your thirst with our wine." In the solitude of their souls they said these things; But were their solitude deeper they would have known that I sought but the secret of your joy and your pain, And I hunted only your larger selves that walk the sky. But the hunter was also the hunted; For many of my arrows left my bow only to seek my own breast. And the flier was also the creeper; For when my wings were spread in the sun their shadow upon the earth was a turtle. And I the believer was also the doubter;
For often have I put my finger in my own wound that I might have the greater belief in you and the greater knowledge of you. And it is with this belief and this knowledge that I say, You are not enclosed within your bodies, nor confined to houses or fields. That which is you dwells above the mountain and roves with the wind. It is not a thing that crawls into the sun for warmth or digs holes into darkness for safety, But a thing free, a spirit that envelops the earth and moves in the ether.
If these be vague words, then seek not to clear them. Vague and nebulous is the beginning of all things, but not their end, And I fain would have you remember me as a beginning. Life, and all that lives, is conceived in the mist and not in the crystal.
And who knows but a crystal is mist in decay?