The Centaur

by Algernon Blackwood

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It was spring--and the flutes of Pan played everywhere. The radiance of the world's first morning shone undimmed. Life flowed and sang and danced, abundant and untamed. It bathed the mountains and that sky of stainless blue. It bathed him too. Dipped, washed, and shining in it, he walked the Earth as she lay radiant in her early youth. The crystal presence of her everlasting Spring flew laughing through a world of light and flowers--flowers that none could ever pluck to die, light that could never fade to darkness within walls and roofs.

All day they wound easily, as though on winged feet, through the steep belt of box and beech woods, and in sparkling brilliant heat across open spaces where the azaleas shone; a cooling wind, fresh as the dawn, seemed ever to urge them forwards. The country, for all its huge scale and wildness, was park-like; the giant, bushy trees wore an air of being tended by the big winds that ran with rustling music among their waving foliage. Between the rhododendrons were avenues of turf, broad-gladed pathways, yet older than the moon, from which a thousand gardeners of wind and dew had gone but a moment before to care for others further on. Over all brimmed up some primal, old-world beauty of a simple life--some immemorial soft glory of the dawn.

Closer and closer, deeper and deeper, ever swifter, ever more direct, O'Malley passed down toward the heart of his mother's being. Along the tenderest pathways of his inner being, so wee, so soft, so simple that for most men they lie ignored or overgrown, he slipped with joy a little nearer--one stage perhaps--toward Reality.

Pan "blew in power" across these Caucasian heights and valleys.

Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan!: Piercing sweet by the river!
Blinding sweet, O great god Pan!
The sun on the hill forgot to die,
And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly
Came back to dream on the river

In front his big leader, no longer blundering clumsily as on that toy steamer with the awkward and lesser motion known to men, pressed forward with a kind of giant sure supremacy along paths he knew, or rather over a trackless, pathless world which the great planet had charted lovingly for his splendid feet. That wind, blowing from the depths of valleys left long since behind, accompanied them wisely. They heard, not the faint horns of Elfland faintly blowing, but the blasts of the Urwelt trumpets growing out of the still distance, nearer, ever nearer. For leagues below the beech woods poured over the enormous slopes in a sea of soft green foam, and through the meadow spaces they saw the sweet nakedness of running water, and listened to its song. At noon they rested in the greater heat, sleeping beneath the shadow of big rocks; and sometimes traveled late into the night, when the stars guided them and they knew the pointing of the winds. The very moonlight then, that washed this lonely world with silver, sheeting the heights of snow beyond, was friendly, half divine ... and it seemed to O'Malley that while they slept they were watched and cared for--as though Others who awaited had already come halfway out to meet them.

And ever, more and more, the passion of his happiness increased; he knew himself complete, fulfilled, made whole. It was as though his Self were passing outwards into hundreds of thousands, and becoming countless as the sand. He was everywhere; in everything; shining, singing, dancing.... With the ancient woods he breathed; slipped with the streams down the still darkened valleys; called from each towering summit to the Sun; and flew with all the winds across the immense, untrodden slopes. About him lay this whole spread being of the flowered Caucasus, huge and quiet, drinking in the sunshine at its leisure. But it lay also within himself, for his expanding consciousness included and contained it. Through it--this early potent Mood of Nature--he passed toward the Soul of the Earth within, even as a child, caught by a mood of winning tenderness in its mother, passes closer to the heart that gave it birth. Some central love enwrapped him. He knew the surrounding power of everlasting arms.

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