The muses care not for the lives of who they call and they will not be ignored. The message is all that matters.
This story is from Lord Dunsany’s Fifty-One Tales, originally published in 1915, and is read aloud by Kay Mack.
You can read the story here, or online at: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7838
One wandering nigh Parnassus chasing hares heard the high Muses.
“Take us a message to the Golden Town.”
Thus sang the Muses.
But the man said: “They do not call to me. Not to such as me speak the Muses.”
And the Muses called him by name.
“Take us a message,” they said, “to the Golden Town.” And the man was downcast for he would have chased hares.
And the Muses called again.
And when whether in valleys or on high crags of the hills he still heard the Muses he went at last to them and heard their message, though he would fain have left it to other men and chased the fleet hares still in happy valleys.
And they gave him a wreath of laurels carved out of emeralds as only the Muses can carve. “By this,” they said, “they shall know that you come from the Muses.”
And the man went from that place and dressed in scarlet silks as befitted one that came from the high Muses. And through the gateway of the Golden Town he ran and cried his message, and his cloak floated behind him. All silent sat the wise men and the aged, they of the Golden Town; cross-legged they sat before their houses reading from parchments a message of the Muses that they sent long before.
And the young man cried his message from the Muses. And they rose up and said: “Thou art not from the Muses. Otherwise spake they.” And they stoned him and he died. And afterwards they carved his message upon gold; and read it in their temples on holy days.
When will the Muses rest? When are they weary? They sent another messenger to the Golden Town. And they gave him a wand of ivory to carry in his hand with all the beautiful stories of the world wondrously carved thereon. And only the Muses could have carved it. “By this,” they said, “they shall know that you come from the Muses.”
And he came through the gateway of the Golden Town with the message he had for its people. And they rose up at once in the Golden street, they rose from reading the message that they had carved upon gold. “The last who came,” they said, “came with a wreath of laurels carved out of emeralds, as only the Muses can carve. You are not from the Muses.” And even as they had stoned the last so also they stoned him. And afterwards they carved his message on gold and laid it up in their temples.
When will the Muses rest? When are they weary? Even yet once again they sent a messenger under the gateway into the Golden Town. And for all that he wore a garland of gold that the high Muses gave him, a garland of kingcups soft and yellow on his head, yet fashioned of pure gold and by whom but the Muses, yet did they stone him in the Golden Town. But they had the message, and what care the Muses?
And yet they will not rest, for some while since I heard them call to me.
“Go take our message,” they said, “unto the Golden Town.”
But I would not go. And they spake a second time. “Go take our message,” they said.
And still I would not go, and they cried out a third time: “Go take our message.”
And though they cried a third time I would not go. But morning and night they cried and through long evenings.
When will the Muses rest? When are they weary? And when they would not cease to call to me I went to them and I said: “The Golden Town is the Golden Town no longer. They have sold their pillars for brass and their temples for money, they have made coins out of their golden doors. It is become a dark town full of trouble, there is no ease in its streets, beauty has left it and the old songs are gone.”
“Go take our message,” they cried.
And I said to the high Muses: “You do not understand. You have no message for the Golden Town, the holy city no longer.”
“Go take our message,” they cried.
“What is your message?” I said to the high Muses.
And when I heard their message I made excuses, dreading to speak such things in the Golden Town; and again they bade me go.
And I said: “I will not go. None will believe me.”
And still the Muses cry to me all night long.
They do not understand. How should they know?
One thought on “Fifty-One Tales: The Messengers”
[…] only to the author, or perhaps a reader in the United Kingdom in the 1920’s. But others, like The Messengers or The Workman linger in my mind. The Workman in particular, haunts me, the image of the man […]