It is marvelous how the archaic wisdom explains all things. Here is an instance, quite unthought of hitherto. Half way between the old land and the new is a place of tossing waters. very ill-omened, where the tears of many travelers mingle with the brine of Varuna. The woefulness of this wet waste is known to all men, but the true inwardness of its sorrow is here first told. Straight downward, under the dark, wailing waters, is the old Atlantean land; and the ghosts of Titans damned, who sinned mightily and proudly in days gone by, still lie there amid the ooze, tossing their arms about despairingly, until the very waters toss in moist sympathy. And of those who pass there, all who in any way shared the evil of the Titans, are doomed by fate to have a part in their restless tossing and sorrow, until the times are fulfilled. And whoever believes not, nor is convinced of the truth of this tale of ages gone, let him pass that way across the waves, and he will confess in sorrow that these things are true.
But after storm comes peace. It came to us one morning, before the waning moon and pale stars had faded from the sky, while the white mists of dawn lay across the placid Delaware. As the stars faded throbbing into the blue, a rosy arrow shot across the sky from east to west, and the sun lit up the woods on the oceanward bank of the river, touching with gold our first sight of the new land, making the earth gleam and shine under the sky-line like the illumined pages of a missal.
And there the similitude of things reverent and revered ceased utterly. The air of the new land, and the white life-breath of it streaming up from the heart of the earth, suggest anything rather than cloistered veneration. There is rather an all-present buoyancy, a vigour stimulating pulse and nerve; so that he who begins by walking will soon quicken his pace, and ere long break into a run—not at all from the hurry to get anywhere, but wholly from that same impetuous life-breath pouring from mother earth into his heels.
And the compelling vigour of the earth-breath is here over all men, so that they build towers like that of Babylon, not indeed to reach unto heaven, but rather to get away from the restless earth. They hew down trees and tear apart the rocks, under the same impulse; pretending to each other, meanwhile, that they are accomplishing the most mighty work of Brahm; but in very sooth because the stirring power of the all-bountiful Mother is overwhelming them, and they move restlessly even in their sleep, building pyramids even in dreamland, and hollowing out dim, fantastic caverns in shadowy hills. They say that, towards the further ocean, men go drowsy even at noon-tide, their eyes half-closed and full of glamour, moving about in worlds not realized, so filled and overcome are they by that most potent and sparkling earth-breath.
It is true absolutely that the people of the new land are dominated by that inward atmosphere, and in no sense dominate it. They have hitherto written nothing on their white and lucent time-screen, from which the last traces of the race that went before them have not quite died away. In older lands, or, we should rather say, in lands more worn and weary, the very air is haunted and heavy with the thoughts, the ambitions, and the sins of untold generations of men who have gone down into the earth. And there are lands and cities, esteemed among the mightiest of the earth, where the inward self of us can hardly breathe for the crowding in of these half-dead remnants of a past that is altogether dead, mingled with heavy imaginings of a present hardly more alive. In those outlived places of the earth, their book of the air, stained and worn like some antique parchment, is written and written over again, scored and crossed in many colours, so that nothing but the ocean depths rolling there for ages can wash it clean again for some new race to paint new picture on.
Here, it is as though we had issued but yesterday from the purifying waters, were it not for that faint and fading memory of the warriors of the forests, still lingering here and there on one page or another of the air-book. And it is not so much a mere unwritten book, a still white canvas, as a luminous sea of buoyant life, stirring and seething, and carrying all men away in its vigorous stream.