In the dark one night I lay upon my
bed. I heard the policeman’s feet beat
on the pavement; I heard the wheels of carriages roll
home from houses of entertainment; I heard a woman’s
laugh below my window-and then I fell asleep.
And in the dark I dreamt a dream. I dreamt God
took my soul to Hell.
Hell was a fair place; the water of the lake was blue.
I said to God, “I like this place.”
God said, “Ay, dost thou!”
Birds sang, turf came to the water-edge,
and trees grew from it. Away off among the trees
I saw beautiful women walking. Their clothes were
of many delicate colours and clung to them, and they
were tall and graceful and had yellow hair. Their
robes trailed over the grass. They glided in
and out among the trees, and over their heads hung
yellow fruit like large pears of melted gold.
I said, “It is very fair; I would go up and
God said, “Wait.”
And after a while I noticed a very
fair woman pass: she looked this way and that,
and drew down a branch, and it seemed she kissed the
fruit upon it softly, and went on her way, and her
dress made no rustle as she passed over the grass.
And when I saw her no more, from among the stems came
another woman fair as she had been, in a delicate tinted
robe; she looked this way and that. When she
saw no one there she drew down the fruit, and when
she had looked over it to find a place, she put her
mouth to it softly, and went away. And I saw other
and other women come, making no noise, and they glided
away also over the grass.
And I said to God, “What are they doing?”
God said, “They are poisoning.”
And I said, “How?”
God said, “They touch it with
their lips, when they have made a tiny wound in it
with their fore-teeth they set in it that which is
under their tongues: they close it with their
lip-that no man may see the place, and
I said to God, “Why do they do it?”
God said, “That another may not eat.”
I said to God, “But if they
poison all then none dare eat; what do they gain?”
God said, “Nothing.”
I said, “Are they not afraid
they themselves may bite where another has bitten?”
God said, “They are afraid. In Hell all
He called me further. And the water of the lake
seemed less blue.
Then, to the right among the trees
were men working. And I said to God, “I
should like to go and work with them. Hell must
be a very fruitful place, the grass is so green.”
God said, “Nothing grows in the garden they
We stood looking; and I saw them working
among the bushes, digging holes, but in them they
set nothing; and when they had covered them with sticks
and earth each went a way off and sat behind the bushes
watching; and I noticed that as each walked he set
his foot down carefully looking where he trod.
I said to God, “What are they doing?”
God said, “Making pitfalls into which their
fellows may sink.”
I said to God, “Why do they do it?”
God said, “Because each thinks
that when his brother falls he will rise.”
I said to God, “How will he rise?”
God said, “He will not rise.”
And I saw their eyes gleam from behind the bushes.
I said to God, “Are these men sane?”
God said, “They are not sane; there is no sane
man in Hell.”
And he told me to come further.
And I looked where I trod.
And we came where Hell opened into
a plain, and a great house stood there. Marble
pillars upheld the roof, and white marble steps let
up to it. The wind of heaven blew through it.
Only at the back hung a thick curtain. Fair men
and women there feasted at long tables. They danced,
and I saw the robes of women flutter in the air and
heard the laugh of strong men. What they feasted
with was wine; they drew it from large jars which
stood somewhat in the background, and I saw the wine
sparkle as they drew it.
And I said to God, “I should
like to go up and drink.” And God said,
“Wait.” And I saw men coming in to
the Banquet House; they came in from the back and
lifted the corner of the curtain at the sides and crept
in quickly; and they let the curtain fall behind them;
they bore great jars they could hardly carry.
And the men and women crowded round them, and the
new-comers opened their jars and gave them of the wine
to drink; and I saw that the women drank even more
greedily than the men. And when others had well
drunken they set the jars among the old ones beside
the wall, and took their places at the table.
And I saw that some of the jars were very old and
mildewed and dusty, but others had still drops of
new must on them and shone from the furnace.
And I said to God, “What is
that?” For amid the sound of the singing, and
over the dancing of feet, and over the laughing across
the wine-cups I heard a cry.
And God said, “Stand a way off.”
And he took me where I saw both sides
of the curtain. Behind the house was the wine-press
where the wine was made. I saw the grapes crushed,
and I heard them cry. I said, “Do not they
on the other side hear it?”
God said, “The curtain is thick; they are feasting.”
And I said, “But the men who came in last.
God said, “They let the curtain fall behind
them-and they forget!”
I said, “How came they by their jars of wine?”
God said, “In the treading of
the press these are they who came to the top; they
have climbed out over the edge, and filled their jars
from below, and have gone into the house.”
And I said, “And if they had fallen as they
God said, “They had been wine.”
I stood a way off watching in the sunshine, and I
God lay in the sunshine watching too.
Then there rose one among the feasters,
who said, “My brethren, let us pray!”
And all the men and women rose:
and strong men bowed their heads, and mothers folded
their little children’s hands together, and turned
their faces upwards, to the roof. And he who
first had risen stood at the table head, and stretched
out both his hands, and his beard was long and white,
and his sleeves and his beard had been dipped in wine;
and because the sleeves were wide and full they held
much wine, and it dropped down upon the floor.
And he cried, “My brothers and my sisters, let
And all the men and women answered, “Let us
He cried, “For this fair banquet-house we thank
And all the men and women said “We thank thee,
“Thine is this house, dear Lord.”
“Thine is this house.”
“For us hast thou made it.”
“Oh, fill our jars with wine, dear Lord.”
“Our jars with wine.”
“Give peace and plenty in our time, dear Lord.”
“Peace and plenty in our time”-I
said to God, “Whom is it they are talking to?”
God said, “Do I know whom they speak of?”
And I saw they were looking up at the roof; but out
in the sunshine, God lay.
“Our children’s children, Lord, shall
rise and call thee blessed.”
“Our children’s children,
Lord.”-I said to God, “The grapes
are crying!” God said, “Still! I
hear them”-“shall call thee
“Shall call thee blessed.”
“Pour forth more wine upon us, Lord.”
Then men and women sat down and the
feast went on. And mothers poured out wine and
fed their little children with it, and men held up
the cup to women’s lips and cried, “Beloved!
drink,” and women filled their lovers’
flagons and held them up; and yet the feast went on.
And after a while I looked, and I
saw the curtain that hung behind the house moving.
I said to God, “Is it a wind?”
God said, “A wind.”
And it seemed to me, that against
the curtain I saw pressed the forms of men and women.
And after a while the feasters saw it move, and they
whispered, one to another. Then some rose and
gathered the most worn-out cups, and into them they
put what was left at the bottom of other vessels.
Mothers whispered to their children, “Do not
drink all, save a little drop when you have drunk.”
And when they had collected all the dregs they slipped
the cups out under the bottom of the curtain without
lifting it. After a while the curtain left off
I said to God, “How is it so quiet?”
He said, “They have gone away to drink it.”
I said, “They drink it-their own!”
God said, “It comes from this
side of the curtain, and they are very thirsty.”
Then the feast went on, and after
a while I saw a small, white hand slipped in below
the curtain’s edge along the floor; and it motioned
towards the wine jars.
And I said to God, “Why is that hand so bloodless?”
And God said, “It is a wine-pressed hand.”
And men saw it and started to their
feet; and women cried, and ran to the great wine jars,
and threw their arms around them, and cried, “Ours,
our own, our beloved!” and twined their long
hair about them.
I said to God, “Why are they frightened of that
one small hand?”
God answered, “Because it is so white.”
And men ran in a great company towards
the curtain, and struggled there. I heard them
strike upon the floor. And when they moved away
the curtain hung smooth and still; and there was a
small stain upon the floor.
I said to God, “Why do they not wash it out?”
God said, “They cannot.”
And they took small stones and put
them down along the edge of the curtain to keep it
down. Then the men and women sat down again at
And I said to God, “Will those stones keep it
God said, “What think you?”
I said, “If the wind blew?”
God said, “If the wind blew?”
And the feast went on.
And suddenly I cried to God, “If
one should rise among them, even of themselves, and
start up from the table and should cast away his cup,
and cry, ’My brothers and my sisters, stay! what
is it that we drink?’-and with his
sword should cut in two the curtain, and holding wide
the fragments, cry, ’Brothers, sisters, see!
it is not wine, not wine! not wine! My brothers,
oh, my sisters!’ and he should overturn the-
God said, “Be still!-, see there.”
I looked: before the banquet-house,
among the grass, I saw a row of mounds, flowers covered
them, and gilded marble stood at their heads.
I asked God what they were.
He answered, “They are the graves
of those who rose up at the feast and cried.”
And I asked God how they came there.
He said, “The men of the banquet-house
rose and cast them down backwards.”
I said, “Who buried them?”
God said, “The men who cast them down.”
I said, “How came it that they
threw them down, and then set marble over them?”
God said, “Because the bones cried out, they
And among the grass and weeds I saw an unburied body
lying; and I asked
God why it was.
God said, “Because it was thrown
down only yesterday. In a little while, when
the flesh shall have fallen from its bones, they will
bury it also, and plant flowers over it.”
And still the feast went on.
Men and women sat at the tables quaffing
great bowls. Some rose, and threw their arms
about each other, and danced and sang. They pledged
each other in the wine, and kissed each other’s
Higher and higher grew the revels.
Men, when they had drunk till they
could no longer, threw what was left in their glasses
up to the roof, and let it fall back in cascades.
Women dyed their children’s garments in the
wine, and fed them on it till their tiny mouths were
red. Sometimes, as the dancers whirled, they
overturned a vessel, and their garments were bespattered.
Children sat upon the floor with great bowls of wine,
and swam rose-leaves on it, for boats. They put
their hands in the wine and blew large red bubbles.
And higher and higher grew the revels,
and wilder the dancing, and louder and louder the
singing. But here and there among the revellers
were those who did not revel. I saw that at the
tables here and there were men who sat with their
elbows on the board and hands shading their eyes;
they looked into the wine-cup beneath them, and did
not drink. And when one touched them lightly
on the shoulder, bidding them to rise and dance and
sing, they started, and then looked down, and sat there
watching the wine in the cup, but they did not move.
And here and there I saw a woman sit
apart. The others danced and sang and fed their
children, but she sat silent with her head aside as
though she listened. Her little children plucked
her gown; she did not see them; she was listening
to some sound, but she did not stir.
The revels grew higher. Men drank
till they could drink no longer, and lay their heads
upon the table sleeping heavily. Women who could
dance no more leaned back on the benches with their
heads against their lovers’ shoulders.
Little children, sick with wine, lay down upon the
edges of their mothers’ robes. Sometimes,
a man rose suddenly, and as he staggered struck the
tables and overthrew the benches; some leaned upon
the balustrades sick unto death. Here and there
one rose who staggered to the wine jars and lay down
beside them. He turned the wine tap, but sleep
overcame him as he lay there, and the wine ran out.
Slowly the thin, red stream ran across
the white marbled floor; it reached the stone steps;
slowly, slowly, slowly it trickled down, from step
to step, from step to step: then it sank into
the earth. A thin white smoke rose up from it.
I was silent; I could not breathe;
but God called me to come further.
And after I had travelled for a while
I came where on seven hills lay the ruins of a mighty
banquet-house larger and stronger than the one which
I had seen standing.
I said to God, “What did the men who built it
God said, “They feasted.”
I said, “On what?”
God said, “On wine.”
And I looked; and it seemed to me
that behind the ruins lay still a large circular hollow
within the earth where a foot of the wine-press had
I said to God, “How came it that this large
God said, “Because the earth was sodden.”
He called me to come further.
And at last we came upon a hill where
blue waters played, and white marble lay upon the
earth. I said to God, “What was here once?”
God said, “A pleasure house.”
I looked, and at my feet great pillars lay. I
cried aloud for joy to
God, “The marble blossoms!”
God said, “Ay, ’twas a
fairy house. There has not been one like to it,
nor ever shall be. The pillars and the porticoes
blossomed; and the wine cups were as gathered flowers:
on this side all the curtain was broidered with fair
designs, the stitching was of gold.”
I said to God, “How came it that it fell?”
God said, “On the side of the wine-press it
And as we travelled, we came where
lay a mighty ridge of sand, and a dark river ran there;
and there rose two vast mounds.
I said to God, “They are very mighty.”
God said, “Ay, exceeding great.”
And I listened.
God asked me what I was listening to.
And I said, “A sound of weeping,
and I hear the sound of strokes, but I cannot tell
whence it comes.”
God said, “It is the echo of
the wine-press lingering still among the coping-stones
upon the mounds. A banquet-house stood here.”
And he called me to come further.
Upon a barren hill-side, where the
soil was arid, God called me to stand still.
And I looked around.
God said, “There was a feasting-house here once
upon a time.”
I said to God, “I see no mark of any!”
God said, “There was not left
one stone upon another that has not been thrown down.”
And I looked round; and on the hill-side was a lonely
I said to God, “What lies there?”
He said, “A vine truss, bruised in the wine-press!”
And at the head of the grave stood
a cross, and on its foot lay a crown of thorns.
And as I turned to go, I looked backward.
The wine-press and the banquet-house were gone; but
the grave yet stood.
And when I came to the edge of a long
ridge there opened out before me a wide plain of sand.
And when I looked downward I saw great stones lie
shattered; and the desert sand had half covered them
I said to God, “There is writing
on them, but I cannot read it.”
And God blew aside the desert sand,
and I read the writing: “Weighed in the
balance, and found-” but the last
word was wanting.
And I said to God, “It was a banquet-house?”
God said, “Ay, a banquet-house.”
I said, “There was a wine-press here?”
God said, “There was a wine-press.”
I asked no further question.
I was very weary; I shaded my eyes with my hand, and
looked through the pink evening light.
Far off, across the sand, I saw two
figures standing. With wings upfolded high above
their heads, and stern faces set, neither man nor
beast, they looked out across the desert sand, watching,
watching, watching! I did not ask God what they
were, for I knew what the answer would be.
And, further and yet further, in the
evening light, I looked with my shaded eyes.
Far off, where the sands were thick
and heavy, I saw a solitary pillar standing:
the crown had fallen, and the sand had buried it.
On the broken pillar sat a grey owl-of-the-desert,
with folded wings; and in the evening light I saw
the desert fox creep past it, trailing his brush across
Further, yet further, as I looked
across the desert, I saw the sand gathered into heaps
as though it covered something.
I cried to God, “Oh, I am so weary.”
God said, “You have seen only one half of Hell.”
I said, “I cannot see more,
I am afraid of Hell. In my own narrow little
path I dare not walk because I think that one has dug
a pitfall for me; and if I put my hand to take a fruit
I draw it back again because I think it has been kissed
already. If I look out across the plains, the
mounds are burial heaps; and when I pass among the
stones I hear them crying aloud. When I see men
dancing I hear the time beaten in with sobs; and their
wine is living! Oh, I cannot bear Hell!”
God said, “Where will you go?”
I said “To the earth from which I came; it was
And God laughed at me; and I wondered why he laughed.
God said, “Come, and I will show you Heaven.”
And partly I awoke. It was still
and dark; the sound of the carriages had died in the
street; the woman who laughed was gone; and the policeman’s
tread was heard no more. In the dark it seemed
as if a great hand lay upon my heart, and crushed
it. I tried to breathe and tossed from side to
side; and then again I fell asleep, and dreamed.
God took me to the edge of that world.
It ended. I looked down. The gulf, it seemed
to me, was fathomless, and then I saw two bridges
crossing it that both sloped upwards.
I said to God, “Is there no
other way by which men cross it?”
God said, “One; it rises far
from here and slopes straight upwards.”
I asked God what the bridges’ names were.
God said, “What matter for the names? Call
them the Good, the True, the
Beautiful, if you will-you will yet not
I asked God how it was I could not see the third.
God said, “It is seen only by those who climb
I said, “Do they all lead to one heaven?”
God said, “All Heaven is one:
nevertheless some parts are higher than others; those
who reach the higher may always go down to rest in
the lower; but those in the lower may not have strength
to climb to the higher; nevertheless the light is
And I saw over the bridge nearest
me, which was wider than the other, countless footmarks
go. I asked God why so many went over it.
God said, “It slopes less deeply, and leads
to the first heaven.”
And I saw that some of the footmarks
were of feet returning. I asked God how it was.
He said, “No man who has once
entered Heaven ever leaves it; but some, when they
have gone half way, turn back, because they are afraid
there is no land beyond.”
I said, “Has none ever returned?”
God said, “No; once in Heaven always in Heaven.”
And God took me over. And when
we came to one of the great doors-for Heaven
has more doors than one, and they are all open-the
posts rose up so high on either side I could not see
the top, nor indeed if there were any.
And it seemed to me so wide that all Hell could go
in through it.
I said to God, “Which is the larger, Heaven
God said, “Hell is as wide,
but Heaven is deeper. All Hell could be engulfed
in Heaven, but all Heaven could not be engulfed in
And we entered. It was a still
great land. The mountains rose on every hand,
and there was a pale clear light; and I saw it came
from the rocks and stones. I asked God how it
But God did not answer me.
I looked and wondered, for I had thought
Heaven would be otherwise. And after a while
it began to grow brighter, as if the day were breaking,
and I asked God if the sun were not going to rise.
God said, “No; we are coming to where the people
And as we went on it grew brighter
and brighter till it was burning day; and on the rock
were flowers blooming, and trees blossomed at the
roadside; and streams of water ran everywhere, and
I heard the birds singing; I asked God where they
God said, “It is the people calling to one another.”
And when we came nearer I saw them
walking, and they shone as they walked. I asked
God how it was they wore no covering.
God said, “Because all their
body gives the light; they dare not cover any part.”
And I asked God what they were doing.
God said, “Shining on the plants that they may
And I saw that some were working in
companies, and some alone, but most were in twos,
sometimes two men and sometimes two women; but generally
there was one man and one woman; and I asked God how
God said, “When one man and
one woman shine together, it makes the most perfect
light. Many plants need that for their growing.
Nevertheless, there are more kinds of plants in Heaven
than one, and they need many kinds of light.”
And one from among the people came
running towards me; and when he came near it seemed
to me that he and I had played together when we were
little children, and that we had been born on the same
day. And I told God what I felt; God said, “All
men feel so in Heaven when another comes towards them.”
And he who ran towards me held my
hand, and led me through the bright lights. And
when we came among the trees he sang aloud, and his
companion answered, and it was a woman, and he showed
me to her. She said, “He must have water”;
and she took some in her hands, and fed me (I had
been afraid to drink of the water in Hell), and they
gathered fruit for me, and gave it me to eat.
They said, “We shone long to make it ripen,”
and they laughed together as they saw me eat it.
The man said, “He is very weary;
he must sleep” (for I had not dared to sleep
in Hell), and he laid my head on his companion’s
knee and spread her hair out over me. I slept,
and all the while in my sleep I thought I heard the
birds calling across me. And when I woke it was
like early morning, with the dew on everything.
And the man took my hand and led me
to a hidden spot among the rocks. The ground
was very hard, but out of it were sprouting tiny plants,
and there was a little stream running. He said,
“This is a garden we are making, no one else
knows of it. We shine here every day; see, the
ground has cracked with our shining, and this little
stream is bursting out. See, the flowers are
And he climbed on the rocks and picked
from above two little flowers with dew on them, and
gave them to me. And I took one in each hand;
my hands shone as I held them. He said, “This
garden is for all when it is finished.”
And he went away to his companion, and I went out into
the great pathway.
And as I walked in the light I heard
a loud sound of much singing. And when I came
nearer I saw one with closed eyes, singing, and his
fellows were standing round him; and the light on
the closed eyes was brighter than anything I had seen
in Heaven. I asked one who it was. And he
said, “Hush! Our singing bird.”
And I asked why the eyes shone so.
And he said, “They cannot see,
and we have kissed them till they shone so.”
And the people gathered closer round him.
And when I went a little further I
saw a crowd crossing among the trees of light with
great laughter. When they came close I saw they
carried one without hands or feet. And a light
came from the maimed limbs so bright that I could
not look at them.
And I said to one, “What is it?”
He answered, “This is our brother
who once fell and lost his hands and feet, and since
then he cannot help himself; but we have touched the
maimed stumps so often that now they shine brighter
than anything in Heaven. We pass him on that
he may shine on things that need much heat. No
one is allowed to keep him long, he belongs to all;”
and they went on among the trees.
I said to God, “This is a strange
land. I had thought blindness and maimedness
were great evils. Here men make them to a rejoicing.”
God said, “Didst thou then think
that love had need of eyes and hands!”
And I walked down the shining way
with palms on either hand. I said to God, “Ever
since I was a little child and sat alone and cried,
I have dreamed of this land, and now I will not go
away again. I will stay here and shine.”
And I began to take off my garments, that I might shine
as others in that land; but when I looked down I saw
my body gave no light. I said to God, “How
God said, “Is there no dark
blood in your heart; is it bitter against none?”
And I said, “Yes-“;
and I thought-“Now is the time when
I will tell God, that which I have been, meaning to
tell him all along, how badly my fellow-men have treated
me. How they have misunderstood me. How I
have intended to be magnanimous and generous to them,
and they .” And I began to tell
God; but when I looked down all the flowers were withering
under my breath, and I was silent.
And God called me to come up higher,
and I gathered my mantle about me and followed him.
And the rocks grew higher and steeper
on every side; and we came at last to a place where
a great mountain rose, whose top was lost in the clouds.
And on its side I saw men working; and they picked
at the earth with huge picks; and I saw that they
laboured mightily. And some laboured in companies,
but most laboured singly. And I saw the drops
of sweat fall from their foreheads, and the muscles
of their arms stand out with labour. And I said,
“I had not thought in heaven to see men labour
so!” And I thought of the garden where men sang
and loved, and I wondered that any should choose to
labour on that bare mountain-side. And I saw
upon the foreheads of the men as they worked a light,
and the drops which fell from them as they worked
And I asked God what they were seeking for.
And God touched my eyes, and I saw
that what they found were small stones, which had
been too bright for me to see before; and I saw that
the light of the stones and the light on the men’s
foreheads was the same. And I saw that when one
found a stone he passed it on to his fellow, and he
to another, and he to another. No man kept the
stone he found. And at times they gathered in
great company about when a large stone was found,
and raised a great shout so that the sky rang; then
they worked on again.
And I asked God what they did with
the stones they found at last. Then God touched
my eyes again to make them stronger; and I looked,
and at my very feet was a mighty crown. The light
streamed out from it.
God said, “Each stone as they find it is set
And the crown was wrought according
to a marvellous pattern; one pattern ran through all,
yet each part was different.
I said to God, “How does each
man know where to set his stone, so that the pattern
is worked out?”
God said, “Because in the light
his forehead sheds each man sees faintly outlined
that full crown.”
And I said, “But how is it that
each stone is joined along its edges to its fellows,
so that there is no seam anywhere?”
God said, “The stones are alive; they grow.”
And I said, “But what does each man gain by
God said, “He sees his outline filled.”
I said, “But those stones which
are last set cover those which were first; and those
will again be covered by those which come later.”
God said, “They are covered, but not hid.
The light is the light of all.
Without the first, no last.”
And I said to God, “When will this crown be
And God said, “Look up!”
I looked up; and I saw the mountain
tower above me, but its summit I could not see; it
was lost in the clouds.
God said no more.
And I looked at the crown: then
a longing seized me. Like the passion of a mother
for the child whom death has taken; like the yearning
of a friend for the friend whom life has buried; like
the hunger of dying eyes for a life that is slipping;
like the thirst of a soul for love at its first spring
waking, so, but fiercer was the longing in me.
I cried to God, “I too will
work here; I too will set stones in the wonderful
pattern; it shall grow beneath my hand. And
if it be that, labouring here for years, I should
not find one stone, at least I will be with the men
that labour here. I shall hear their shout of
joy when each stone is found; I shall join in their
triumph, I shall shout among them; I shall see the
crown grow.” So great was my longing as
I looked at the crown, I thought a faint light fell
from my forehead also.
God said, “Do you not hear the singing in the
I said, “No, I hear nothing;
I see only the crown.” And I was dumb with
longing; I forgot all the flowers of the lower Heaven
and the singing there. And I ran forward, and
threw my mantle on the earth and bent to seize one
of the mighty tools which lay there. I could not
lift it from the earth.
God said, “Where hast thou
earned the strength to raise it? Take up thy
And I took up my mantle and followed
where God called me; but I looked back, and I saw
the crown burning, my crown that I had loved.
Higher and higher we climbed, and
the air grew thinner. Not a tree or plant was
on the bare rocks, and the stillness was unbroken.
My breath came hard and quick, and the blood crept
within my finger-tips. I said to God, “Is
God said, “Yes; it is the highest.”
And still we climbed. I said to God, “I
cannot breathe so high.”
God said, “Because the air is pure?”
And my head grew dizzy, and as I climbed
the blood burst from my finger-tips.
Then we came out upon a lonely mountain-top.
No living being moved there; but far
off on a solitary peak I saw a lonely figure standing.
Whether it were man or woman I could not tell; for
partly it seemed the figure of a woman, but its limbs
were the mighty limbs of a man. I asked God whether
it was man or woman.
God said, “In the least Heaven
sex reigns supreme; in the higher it is not noticed;
but in the highest it does not exist.”
And I saw the figure bend over its
work, and labour mightily, but what it laboured at
I could not see.
I said to God, “How came it here?”
God said, “By a bloody stair.
Step by step it mounted from the lowest Hell, and
day by day as Hell grew farther and Heaven no nearer,
it hung alone between two worlds. Hour by hour
in that bitter struggle its limbs grew larger, till
there fell from it rag by rag the garments which it
started with. Drops fell from its eyes as it strained
them; each step it climbed was wet with blood.
Then it came out here.”
And I thought of the garden where
men sang with their arms around one another; and the
mountain-side where they worked in company. And
And I said, “Is it not terribly alone here?”
God said, “It is never alone!”
I said, “What has it for all its labour?
I see nothing return to it.”
Then God touched my eyes, and I saw
stretched out beneath us the plains of Heaven and
Hell, and all that was within them.
God said, “From that lone height
on which he stands, all things are open. To him
is clear the shining in the garden, he sees the flower
break forth and the streams sparkle; no shout is raised
upon the mountain-side but his ear may hear it.
He sees the crown grow and the light shoot from it.
All Hell is open to him. He sees the paths mount
upwards. To him, Hell is the seed ground from
which Heaven springs. He sees the sap ascending.”
And I saw the figure bend over its
work, and the light from its face fell upon it.
And I said to God, “What is it making?”
And God said, “Music!”
And he touched my ears, and I heard it.
And after a long while I whispered to God, “This
And God asked me why I was crying. But I could
not answer for joy.
And the face turned from its work,
and the light fell upon me. Then it grew so bright
I could not see things separately; and which were God,
or the man, or I, I could not tell; we were all blended.
I cried to God, “Where are you?” but there
was no answer, only music and light.
Afterwards, when it had grown so dark
again that I could see things separately, I found
that I was standing there wrapped tight in my little
old, brown, earthly cloak, and God and the man were
separated from each other, and from me.
I did not dare say I would go and
make music beside the man. I knew I could not
reach even to his knee, nor move the instrument he
played. But I thought I would stand there on
my little peak and sing an accompaniment to that great
music. And I tried; but my voice failed.
It piped and quavered. I could not sing that
tune. I was silent.
Then God pointed to me, that I should go out of Heaven.
And I cried to God, “Oh, let
me stay here! If indeed it be, as I know it is,
that I am not great enough to sing upon the mountain,
nor strong enough to labour on its side, nor bright
enough to shine and love within the garden, at least
let me go down to the great gateway; humbly I will
kneel there sweeping; and, as the saved pass in, I
will see the light upon their faces. I shall
hear the singing in the garden, and the shout upon
God said, “It may not be;” he pointed.
And I cried, “If I may not stay
in Heaven, then let me go down to Hell, and I will
grasp the hands of men and women there; and slowly,
holding one another’s hands, we will work our
Still God pointed.
And I threw myself upon the earth
and cried, “Earth is so small, so mean!
It is not meet a soul should see Heaven and be cast
And God laid his hand on me, and said,
“Go back to earth: that which you seek
I awoke: it was morning.
The silence and darkness of the night were gone.
Through my narrow attic window I saw the light of another
day. I closed my eyes and turned towards the
wall: I could not look upon the dull grey world.
In the streets below, men and women
streamed past by hundreds; I heard the beat of their
feet on the pavement. Men on their way to business;
servants on errands; boys hurrying to school; weary
professors pacing slowly the old street; prostitutes,
men and women, dragging their feet wearily after last
night’s debauch; artists with quick, impatient
footsteps; tradesmen for orders; children to seek for
bread. I heard the stream beat by. And at
the alley’s mouth, at the street corner, a broken
barrel-organ was playing; sometimes it quavered and
almost stopped, then went on again, like a broken
I listened: my heart scarcely
moved; it was as cold as lead. I could not bear
the long day before me; and I tried to sleep again;
yet still I heard the feet upon the pavement.
And suddenly I heard them cry loud as they beat, “We
are seeking!-we are seeking!-we
are seeking!” and the broken barrel-organ at
the street corner sobbed, “The Beautiful!-the
Beautiful!-the Beautiful!” And my
heart, which had been dead, cried out with every throb,
Beautiful!” It was the music I had heard in
Heaven that I could not sing there.
And fully I awoke.
Upon the faded quilt, across my bed
a long yellow streak of pale London sunlight was lying.
It fell through my narrow attic window.
I laughed. I rose.
I was glad the long day was before me.
Paris and London.