Gouverneur Morris [1876-1953]
The Pagan's Progress
1904

PREFACE

THOSE to whom he had been charitable brought the body of the great hunter to his cave, and laid it within. But first they carried out the clubs and the nets and the fish spears and the war spears and all that was of use, to be divided among them, for the great hunter would not need such things any more.

Dissolution — decay — dust — nothing. It was thus that they conceived the end of man.

No brutish face in that hairy circle looked upward; no eagle eye saw aught but the cadavre, the cave, the weapons and the surrounding forest. The great hunter was dead ; the keen eyes closed, the sensitive ears deaf, the nostrils still.

Bring down the roof of the cave and cover him, close up the mouth of the cave and forget him. He is dead and done for. Give his weapons to those that can use them. The great hands are inert ; the mighty thighs have lost their springs. He will run no more on any trail. His hunting is over. He has made his last journey to a dark place and a long sleep.

For you, tribesman, a short span wherein to shout the war cry and swing the club, a little sunlight to see by, a few springs of desire, a few rains, a few snows. The longer the better, for after, — all will be at an end. Like the great hunter, insensate and unaware, you will lie in the dark for the ages of ages.

Wail, tribeswomen and beat your breasts! You shall bring life into the world, but you shall not take life away.

The sleep of life is a good sleep, for man awakens there-from happy and refreshed. But from the sleep of death there is no awakening. Man born to light, dies into darkness.

Thus it was in the forest ten million years ago.

II

There lies to-day, in the midst of a great house, the body of a man awaiting the last honors which can be rendered to it.

A week ago the doings of that man stirred two countries ; two countries, to-day, are shaken by the news of his death. The hundreds to whom he was good and generous, mourn it; those who bore him ill-will are shocked by it; the world regrets it. For all join in remembering that the man, human and frail as other men, was still broad, brilliant and fabulous, a choice and master spirit of his age.

There he lies, the great man, in the midst of his earthly treasures. Presently he will be laid in the narrow house, and they will remain behind. Nothing of the man shall go with him out of the world but that which he brought into the world with him. And tho it may be that there is none so presumptuous as to proclaim where and how the man shall arise, yet there are few indeed so obstinate as to believe that he has perished utterly.

For we know that all things move onward and upward. The cell became the ape, the ape became the man, and the man shall become — what? That we must not know clearly. But we must know that it will be something above man, — and beyond.

Who is so beholden to life as not to look upon the idea of death with comfort? Not to-morrow, but in the course of years, services and honors? By all means, when the trum-pet calls, let us pass comfort-ably upward into death. For this death is no descent into darkness, but rather a progress, of time and soul; and the body of the barren woman shall be fertile in death, and the soul of the wicked man shall be cleansed. And we that were born to darkness shall die into the light.

Thus it is to-day after the schooling of the ages.

III

Read then, how Sunrise, the pagan, was born in the dark, and having suffered at the hands of death, carne to see the light glimmering beyond, and the life.

G. M.