Sunday, March 16, 2014

David Lindsay, from A Voyage to Arcturus

"Who is Earthrid, and why is it called Swaylone's Island?"
"They say Earthrid came from Threal, but I know nothing else about him. As for Swaylone, if you like I will tell you his legend."
"If you please," said Maskull.
"In a far-back age," began Gleameil, "when the seas were hot, and clouds hung heavily over the earth, and life was rich with transformations, Swaylone came to this island, on which men had never before set foot, and began to play his music—the first music in Tormance. Nightly, when the moon shone, people used to gather on this shore behind us, and listen to the faint, sweet strains floating from over the sea. One night, Shaping (whom you call Crystalman) was passing this way in company with Krag. They listened a while to the music, and Shaping said 'Have you heard more beautiful sounds? This is my world and my music.' Krag stamped with his foot, and laughed. 'You must do better than that, if I am to admire it. Let us pass over, and see this bungler at work.' Shaping consented, and they passed over to the island. Swaylone was not able to see their presence. Shaping stood behind him, and breathed thoughts into his soul, so that his music became ten times lovelier, and people listening on that shore went mad with sick delight. 'Can any strains be nobler?' demanded Shaping. Krag grinned and said, 'You are naturally effeminate. Now let me try.' Then he stood behind Swaylone, and shot ugly discords fast into his head. His instrument was so cracked, that never since has it played right. From that time forth Swaylone could utter only distorted music; yet it called to folk more than the other sort. Many men crossed over to the island during his lifetime, to listen to the amazing tones, but none could endure them; all died. After Swaylone's death, another musician took up the tale; and so the light has passed down from torch to torch, till now Earthrid bears it."
"An interesting legend," commented Maskull. "But who is Krag?"
"They say that when the world was born, Krag was born with it—a spirit compounded of those vestiges of Muspel which Shaping did not know how to transform. Thereafter nothing has gone right with the world, for he dogs Shaping's footsteps everywhere, and whatever the latter does, he undoes. To love he joins death; to sex, shame; to intellect, madness; to virtue, cruelty; and to fair exteriors, bloody entrails. These are Krag's actions, so the lovers of the world call him 'devil.' They don't understand, Maskull, that without him the world would lose its beauty."
"Krag and beauty!" exclaimed he, with a cynical smile.
"Even so. That same beauty which you and I are now voyaging to discover. That beauty for whose sake I am renouncing husband, children, and happiness.... Did you imagine beauty to be pleasant?"
"That pleasant beauty is an insipid compound of Shaping. To see beauty in its terrible purity, you must tear away the pleasure from it."
"Do you say I am going to seek beauty, Gleameil? Such an idea is far from my mind."
She did not respond to his remark. After waiting for a few minutes, to hear if she would speak again, he turned his back on her once more. There was no more talk until they reached the island.

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