Anthem by Ayn Rand


by Ayn Rand


It is a sin to write this. It is a sin

to think words no others think and to put

them down upon a paper no others are to see.

It is base and evil. It is as if we were

speaking alone to no ears but our own.

And we know well that there is no transgression

blacker than to do or think alone.

We have broken the laws. The laws say

that men may not write unless the Council

of Vocations bid them so. May we be forgiven!

But this is not the only sin upon us.

We have committed a greater crime, and for

this crime there is no name. What punishment

awaits us if it be discovered we know not,

for no such crime has come in the memory

of men and there are no laws to provide for it.

It is dark here. The flame of the candle

stands still in the air. Nothing moves in

this tunnel save our hand on the paper. We are

alone here under the earth. It is a fearful

word, alone. The laws say that none among

men may be alone, ever and at any time,

for this is the great transgression and the root

of all evil. But we have broken many laws.

And now there is nothing here save our one body,

and it is strange to see only two legs

stretched on the ground, and on the wall

before us the shadow of our one head.

The walls are cracked and water runs

upon them in thin threads without sound,

black and glistening as blood. We stole the

candle from the larder of the Home of the

Street Sweepers. We shall be sentenced to

ten years in the Palace of Corrective

Detention if it be discovered. But this matters not.

It matters only that the light is precious and

we should not waste it to write when we

need it for that work which is our crime.

Nothing matters save the work, our secret,

our evil, our precious work. Still, we must

also write, for–may the Council have

mercy upon us!–we wish to speak for once

to no ears but our own.

Our name is Equality 7-2521, as it is

written on the iron bracelet which all men

wear on their left wrists with their names

upon it. We are twenty-one years old. We

are six feet tall, and this is a burden, for

there are not many men who are six feet tall.

Ever have the Teachers and the Leaders pointed

to us and frowned and said:

“There is evil in your bones, Equality 7-2521,

for your body has grown beyond the bodies

of your brothers.” But we cannot change

our bones nor our body.

We were born with a curse. It has always

driven us to thoughts which are forbidden.

It has always given us wishes which men

may not wish. We know that we are evil,

but there is no will in us and no power

to resist it. This is our wonder and our

secret fear, that we know and do not resist.

We strive to be like all our brother men,

for all men must be alike. Over the portals

of the Palace of the World Council, there

are words cut in the marble, which we

repeat to ourselves whenever we are tempted:




We repeat this to ourselves, but it helps us not.

These words were cut long ago. There is

green mould in the grooves of the letters

and yellow streaks on the marble, which

come from more years than men could

count. And these words are the truth,

for they are written on the Palace of the

World Council, and the World Council is the

body of all truth. Thus has it been ever

since the Great Rebirth, and farther back

than that no memory can reach.

But we must never speak of the times before

the Great Rebirth, else we are sentenced to

three years in the Palace of Corrective Detention.

It is only the Old Ones who whisper about it in

the evenings, in the Home of the Useless.

They whisper many strange things, of the towers

which rose to the sky, in those Unmentionable

Times, and of the wagons which moved

without horses, and of the lights which

burned without flame. But those times

were evil. And those times passed away,

when men saw the Great Truth which is this:

that all men are one and that there is no

will save the will of all men together.

All men are good and wise. It is only we,

Equality 7-2521, we alone who were born

with a curse. For we are not like our brothers.

And as we look back upon our life,

we see that it has ever been thus and that

it has brought us step by step to our last,

supreme transgression, our crime of crimes

hidden here under the ground.

We remember the Home of the Infants

where we lived till we were five years old,

together with all the children of the City

who had been born in the same year.

The sleeping halls there were white and clean

and bare of all things save one hundred beds.

We were just like all our brothers

then, save for the one transgression:

we fought with our brothers. There are few

offenses blacker than to fight with our

brothers, at any age and for any cause

whatsoever. The Council of the Home told

us so, and of all the children of that year,

we were locked in the cellar most often.

When we were five years old, we were

sent to the Home of the Students, where

there are ten wards, for our ten years of

learning. Men must learn till they reach

their fifteenth year. Then they go to work.

In the Home of the Students we arose when

the big bell rang in the tower and we went

to our beds when it rang again. Before we

removed our garments, we stood in the

great sleeping hall, and we raised our right

arms, and we said all together with the

three Teachers at the head:

“We are nothing. Mankind is all. By the grace

of our brothers are we allowed our lives.

We exist through, by and for our brothers

who are the State. Amen.”

Then we slept. The sleeping halls were white

and clean and bare of all things save one hundred beds.

We, Equality 7-2521, were not happy in

those years in the Home of the Students.

It was not that the learning was too hard

for us. It was that the learning was too easy.

This is a great sin, to be born with a

head which is too quick. It is not good

to be different from our brothers, but it

is evil to be superior to them. The Teachers

told us so, and they frowned when they looked upon us.

So we fought against this curse. We tried

to forget our lessons, but we always remembered.

We tried not to understand what the Teachers taught,

but we always understood it before the Teachers

had spoken. We looked upon Union 5-3992,

who were a pale boy with only half a brain,

and we tried to say and do as they did,

that we might be like them, like Union 5-3992,

but somehow the Teachers knew that we were not.

And we were lashed more often than all the other children.

The Teachers were just, for they had

been appointed by the Councils, and the

Councils are the voice of all justice,

for they are the voice of all men. And if

sometimes, in the secret darkness of our heart,

we regret that which befell us on our

fifteenth birthday, we know that it was

through our own guilt. We had broken

a law, for we had not paid heed to the

words of our Teachers. The Teachers

had said to us all:

“Dare not choose in your minds the

work you would like to do when you leave

the Home of the Students. You shall do

that which the Council of Vocations shall

prescribe for you. For the Council of

Vocations knows in its great wisdom where

you are needed by your brother men, better

than you can know it in your unworthy

little minds. And if you are not needed by

your brother man, there is no reason for

you to burden the earth with your bodies.”

We knew this well, in the years of our

childhood, but our curse broke our will.

We were guilty and we confess it here:

we were guilty of the great Transgression

of Preference. We preferred some work

and some lessons to the others. We did not

listen well to the history of all the

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Categories: Rand, Ayn