Archive »

The Princess who overlooked one Seed in a Pomegranate

There is a story told in the ‘Arabian Nights’ of a princess who, by overlooking one seed of a pomegranate, precipitated the event which she had laboured to make impossible. She lies in wait for the event which she foresees. The pomegranate swells, opens, splits; the seeds, which she knows to be roots of evil, rapidly she swallows; but one—only one—before it could be arrested, rolls away into a river. It is lost! it is irrecoverable! She has triumphed, but she must perish. Already she feels the flames mounting up which are to consume her, and she calls for water hastily—not to deliver herself (for that is impossible), but, nobly forgetting her own misery, that she may prevent that destruction of her brother mortal which had been the original object for hazarding her own. Yet why go to Arabian fictions? Even in our daily life is exhibited, in proportions far more gigantic, that tendency to swell and amplify itself into mountains of darkness, which exists oftentimes in germs that are imperceptible. An error in human choice, an infirmity in the human will, though it were at first less than a mote, though it should swerve from the right line by an interval less than any thread

‘That ever spider twisted from her womb,’

sometimes begins to swell, to grow, to widen its distance rapidly, travels off into boundless spaces remote from the true centre, spaces incalculable and irretraceable, until hope seems extinguished and return impossible. Such was the course of my own opium career. Such is the history of human errors every day. Such was the original sin of the Greek theories on Deity, which could not have been healed but by putting off their own nature, and kindling into a new principle—absolutely undiscoverable, as I contend, for the Grecian intellect.

Oftentimes an echo goes as it were to sleep : the series of reverberations has died away. Suddenly a second series awakens: this subsides, then a third wakens up. So of actions done in youth. After great tumults all is quieted. You dream that they are over. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, on some fatal morning in middle-life the far-off consequences come back upon you. And you say to yourself, ‘Oh, Heaven, if I had fifty lives this crime would reappear, as Pelion upon Ossa!’ So was it with my affliction. Left to natural peace, I might have conquered it: Verschmerzeon. To charm it down by the mere suffering of grief, to hush it by endurance, that was the natural policy—that was the natural process. But behold! A new form of sorrow arises, and the two multiply together. And the worm which was beginning to fall asleep is roused again to pestilential fierceness.