Anthem by Ayn Rand

Councils elected since the Great Rebirth.

But we loved the Science of Things. We wished

to know. We wished to know about all the

things which make the earth around us.

We asked so many questions that

the Teachers forbade it.

We think that there are mysteries in the

sky and under the water and in the plants

which grow. But the Council of Scholars

has said that there are no mysteries,

and the Council of Scholars knows all things.

And we learned much from our Teachers.

We learned that the earth is flat and that

the sun revolves around it, which causes the

day and the night. We learned the names

of all the winds which blow over the seas

and push the sails of our great ships.

We learned how to bleed men to cure them

of all ailments.

We loved the Science of Things. And in

the darkness, in the secret hour, when we

awoke in the night and there were no

brothers around us, but only their shapes

in the beds and their snores, we closed our

eyes, and we held our lips shut, and we

stopped our breath, that no shudder might

let our brothers see or hear or guess,

and we thought that we wished to be sent

to the Home of the Scholars when our time

would come.

All the great modern inventions come

from the Home of the Scholars, such as

the newest one, which was found only a

hundred years ago, of how to make candles

from wax and string; also, how to make glass,

which is put in our windows to protect

us from the rain. To find these things,

the Scholars must study the earth and learn

from the rivers, from the sands, from the

winds and the rocks. And if we went to the

Home of the Scholars, we could learn from

these also. We could ask questions of these,

for they do not forbid questions.

And questions give us no rest. We know not

why our curse makes us seek we know not what,

ever and ever. But we cannot resist it.

It whispers to us that there are great things

on this earth of ours, and that we can know them

if we try, and that we must know them. We ask,

why must we know, but it has no answer to give us.

We must know that we may know.

So we wished to be sent to the Home of

the Scholars. We wished it so much that

our hands trembled under the blankets in

the night, and we bit our arm to stop that

other pain which we could not endure.

It was evil and we dared not face our brothers

in the morning. For men may wish nothing

for themselves. And we were punished

when the Council of Vocations came to

give us our life Mandates which tell those

who reach their fifteenth year what their

work is to be for the rest of their days.

The Council of Vocations came on the first day

of spring, and they sat in the great hall.

And we who were fifteen and all the

Teachers came into the great hall.

And the Council of Vocations sat on a high dais,

and they had but two words to speak to each

of the Students. They called the Students’ names,

and when the Students stepped before them,

one after another, the Council said:

“Carpenter” or “Doctor” or “Cook” or “Leader.”

Then each Student raised their right arm and said:

“The will of our brothers be done.”

Now if the Council has said “Carpenter” or “Cook,”

the Students so assigned go to work and they do not

study any further. But if the Council has said “Leader,”

then those Students go into the Home of the Leaders,

which is the greatest house in the City, for it has

three stories. And there they study for many years,

so that they may become candidates and be elected

to the City Council and the State Council and

the World Council–by a free and general vote

of all men. But we wished not to be a Leader,

even though it is a great honor. We wished to be a Scholar.

So we awaited our turn in the great hall

and then we heard the Council of Vocations

call our name: “Equality 7-2521.” We walked

to the dais, and our legs did not tremble,

and we looked up at the Council. There were

five members of the Council, three of

the male gender and two of the female.

Their hair was white and their faces were

cracked as the clay of a dry river bed.

They were old. They seemed older than

the marble of the Temple of the World Council.

They sat before us and they did not move.

And we saw no breath to stir the folds

of their white togas. But we knew that

they were alive, for a finger of the hand

of the oldest rose, pointed to us, and fell down again.

This was the only thing which moved, for the lips of

the oldest did not move as they said: “Street Sweeper.”

We felt the cords of our neck grow tight

as our head rose higher to look upon the

faces of the Council, and we were happy.

We knew we had been guilty, but now we

had a way to atone for it. We would accept

our Life Mandate, and we would work for

our brothers, gladly and willingly,

and we would erase our sin against them,

which they did not know, but we knew.

So we were happy, and proud of ourselves

and of our victory over ourselves.

We raised our right arm and we spoke,

and our voice was the clearest, the steadiest

voice in the hall that day, and we said:

“The will of our brothers be done.”

And we looked straight into the eyes of the Council,

but their eyes were as cold blue glass buttons.

So we went into the Home of the Street Sweepers.

It is a grey house on a narrow street.

There is a sundial in its courtyard,

by which the Council of the Home can

tell the hours of the day and when to ring

the bell. When the bell rings, we all arise

from our beds. The sky is green and cold

in our windows to the east. The shadow on

the sundial marks off a half-hour while we

dress and eat our breakfast in the dining hall,

where there are five long tables with

twenty clay plates and twenty clay cups

on each table. Then we go to work in the

streets of the City, with our brooms and our

rakes. In five hours, when the sun is high,

we return to the Home and we eat our midday meal,

for which one-half hour is allowed. Then we go

to work again. In five hours, the shadows

are blue on the pavements, and the sky is blue

with a deep brightness which is not bright.

We come back to have our dinner, which lasts

one hour. Then the bell rings and we walk in

a straight column to one of the City Halls,

for the Social Meeting. Other columns of

men arrive from the Homes of the different

Trades. The candles are lit, and the Councils

of the different Homes stand in a pulpit,

and they speak to us of our duties and

of our brother men. Then visiting Leaders

mount the pulpit and they read to us the

speeches which were made in the City

Council that day, for the City Council

represents all men and all men must know.

Then we sing hymns, the Hymn of Brotherhood,

and the Hymn of Equality, and the Hymn

of the Collective Spirit. The sky is

a soggy purple when we return to the Home.

Then the bell rings and we walk in a

straight column to the City Theatre

for three hours of Social Recreation.

There a play is shown upon the stage,

with two great choruses from the Home of

the Actors, which speak and answer all together,

in two great voices. The plays are about

toil and how good it is. Then we walk

back to the Home in a straight column.

The sky is like a black sieve pierced

by silver drops that tremble, ready to

burst through. The moths beat against

the street lanterns. We go to our beds

and we sleep, till the bell rings again.

The sleeping halls are white and clean and

bare of all things save one hundred beds.

Thus have we lived each day of four

years, until two springs ago when our

crime happened. Thus must all men live

until they are forty. At forty, they are

worn out. At forty, they are sent to the

Home of the Useless, where the Old Ones

live. The Old Ones do not work, for the

State takes care of them. They sit in the

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Categories: Rand, Ayn