Anthem by Ayn Rand

the bird, and we ate it, and no meal had

ever tasted better to us. And we thought

suddenly that there was a great satisfaction

to be found in the food which we need

and obtain by our own hand. And we wished

to be hungry again and soon, that we might

know again this strange new pride in eating.

Then we walked on. And we came to a

stream which lay as a streak of glass among

the trees. It lay so still that we saw no

water but only a cut in the earth, in which

the trees grew down, upturned, and the

sky lay at the bottom. We knelt by

the stream and we bent down to drink.

And then we stopped. For, upon the blue

of the sky below us, we saw our own face

for the first time.

We sat still and we held our breath.

For our face and our body were beautiful.

Our face was not like the faces of our brothers,

for we felt not pity when looking upon it.

Our body was not like the bodies of our brothers,

for our limbs were straight and thin and hard and strong.

And we thought that we could trust this being who looked

upon us from the stream, and that we had nothing to fear

with this being.

We walked on till the sun had set.

When the shadows gathered among the trees,

we stopped in a hollow between the roots,

where we shall sleep tonight. And suddenly,

for the first time this day, we remembered

that we are the Damned. We remembered it,

and we laughed.

We are writing this on the paper we had

hidden in our tunic together with the

written pages we had brought for the World

Council of Scholars, but never given to them.

We have much to speak of to ourselves,

and we hope we shall find the words

for it in the days to come. Now, we

cannot speak, for we cannot understand.


We have not written for many days.

We did not wish to speak. For we needed

no words to remember that which has happened to us.

It was on our second day in the forest that

we heard steps behind us. We hid in the bushes,

and we waited. The steps came closer.

And then we saw the fold of a white tunic

among the trees, and a gleam of gold.

We leapt forward, we ran to them, and

we stood looking upon the Golden One.

They saw us, and their hands closed into

fists, and the fists pulled their arms down,

as if they wished their arms to hold them,

while their body swayed. And they could

not speak.

We dared not come too close to them.

We asked, and our voice trembled:

“How did you come to be here, Golden One?”

But they whispered only:

“We have found you. . . .”

“How did you come to be in the forest?”

we asked.

They raised their head, and there was a

great pride in their voice; they answered:

“We have followed you.”

Then we could not speak, and they said:

“We heard that you had gone to the

Uncharted Forest, for the whole City is

speaking of it. So on the night of the day

when we heard it, we ran away from the Home

of the Peasants. We found the marks of

your feet across the plain where no men walk.

So we followed them, and we went into the forest,

and we followed the path where the branches

were broken by your body.”

Their white tunic was torn, and the

branches had cut the skin of their arms,

but they spoke as if they had never taken

notice of it, nor of weariness, nor of fear.

“We have followed you,” they said,

“and we shall follow you wherever you go.

If danger threatens you, we shall face it also.

If it be death, we shall die with you. You are damned,

and we wish to share your damnation.”

They looked upon us, and their voice was low,

but there was bitterness and triumph in their voice.

“Your eyes are as a flame, but our brothers

have neither hope nor fire. Your mouth

is cut of granite, but our brothers are soft

and humble. Your head is high, but our

brothers cringe. You walk, but our

brothers crawl. We wish to be damned with you,

rather than blessed with all our brothers.

Do as you please with us, but do not send

us away from you.”

Then they knelt, and bowed their golden

head before us.

We had never thought of that which we did.

We bent to raise the Golden One to their feet,

but when we touched them, it was as if madness

had stricken us. We seized their body

and we pressed our lips to theirs.

The Golden One breathed once,

and their breath was a moan,

and then their arms closed around us.

We stood together for a long time.

And we were frightened that we had lived

for twenty-one years and had never known

what joy is possible to men.

Then we said:

“Our dearest one. Fear nothing of the forest.

There is no danger in solitude. We have

no need of our brothers. Let us forget

their good and our evil, let us forget

all things save that we are together

and that there is joy as a bond between us.

Give us your hand. Look ahead. It is our

own world, Golden One, a strange,

unknown world, but our own.”

Then we walked on into the forest, their

hand in ours.

And that night we knew that to hold the

body of women in our arms is neither ugly

nor shameful, but the one ecstasy granted

to the race of men.

We have walked for many days. The forest

has no end, and we seek no end. But each day

added to the chain of days between us

and the City is like an added blessing.

We have made a bow and many arrows.

We can kill more birds than we need for

our food; we find water and fruit in the

forest. At night, we choose a clearing, and

we build a ring of fires around it. We sleep

in the midst of that ring, and the beasts

dare not attack us. We can see their eyes,

green and yellow as coals, watching us from

the tree branches beyond. The fires smoulder

as a crown of jewels around us, and smoke

stands still in the air, in columns made blue

by the moonlight. We sleep together in the

midst of the ring, the arms of the Golden

One around us, their head upon our breast.

Some day, we shall stop and build a house,

when we shall have gone far enough.

But we do not have to hasten. The days

before us are without end, like the forest.

We cannot understand this new life

which we have found, yet it seems so clear

and so simple. When questions come to

puzzle us, we walk faster, then turn and

forget all things as we watch the Golden

One following. The shadows of leaves fall

upon their arms, as they spread the branches

apart, but their shoulders are in the sun.

The skin of their arms is like a blue mist,

but their shoulders are white and glowing,

as if the light fell not from above, but rose

from under their skin. We watch the leaf

which has fallen upon their shoulder, and

it lies at the curve of their neck, and a

drop of dew glistens upon it like a jewel.

They approach us, and they stop, laughing,

knowing what we think, and they wait

obediently, without questions, till it

pleases us to turn and go on.

We go on and we bless the earth under

our feet. But questions come to us again,

as we walk in silence. If that which we

have found is the corruption of solitude,

then what can men wish for save corruption?

If this is the great evil of being alone,

then what is good and what is evil?

Everything which comes from the many is good.

Everything which comes from one is evil.

This have we been taught with our first breath.

We have broken the law, but we have never doubted it.

Yet now, as we walk through the forest,

we are learning to doubt.

There is no life for men, save in useful

toil for the good of all their brothers.

But we lived not, when we toiled for our

brothers, we were only weary. There is no

joy for men, save the joy shared with all

their brothers. But the only things which

taught us joy were the power we created

in our wires, and the Golden One. And both

these joys belong to us alone, they come

from us alone, they bear no relation

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Categories: Rand, Ayn