Storm's Journal

The Tower

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. once
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 horses 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 horses head away from the tower, gave him a terrible
blow with thhe at of his sword, and sent him madly tearing through the

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 knigt 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 oor, in listless wretchedness. I think I must have fallen asleep, and
have slepth for hours; for I suddenly became aware of existence, in
observing that the moon was shining through the hole in the roof. as shhe
rose highher 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
to myself, oh, joy! it was only a dream; the horrible narrow waste is
gone, and I wakee 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 beechtree 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 rst 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 oor. 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 nighht passed away.
I should have died but for this. 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 eart sprang with joy. oh, to be a child
again, innnocent, fearless, without shame or desire! I walked down to the
castle. all were in consternation at my absence. my sisters were seeping
for my loss. they sprang up and  clung to me, with incoherent cries, as I
entered. my old friends came ocking round me. a grey light shone on the
roof of the hall. it was the light of the dawn shining through the square
window of the 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 framee 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 odourous vapour; entered my soul like a long draught of clear
spring water; shone upon me like essential sunlight; soothed me like a
mothers 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 ear 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

	the sun, like a golden knot on high,
	gathers the glories of the sky,
	and binds them into a shining tent,
	roong the world with the rmament.
	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 spring,
	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 cheek, 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. 

(George MacDonald, Phantastes, 1857) 

Back to Storm's Journal

SUBMIT AN ARTICLE posted: may 12, 2004