Cut Quill

The Blue Wall

The wall was blue, like a captive piece of sky, drafted for the purpose of imprisoning me. Not an honest piece of sky, by any means, but it couldn’t help it. The wall were better grey, though.

Grey stone, looking black in half-light, with some rusted old staples, broken through, that once held manacle-chains firm. Manacles are not needed for me, though, in this sky-and-cloud prison. What can I do against such captive vastness?

The wall were better grey, I think, for to all it may appear I am in happiness, when I am merely in a room. It is an enormous room, I grant — and even mountains are here with me — but size does not make a prison. I would be free, mayhap, in a cell of grey stone, and even chained hands and manacled feet.

I can almost see the rat show its nose from a stony crevice, frightened by the flickering of a torch. I am not supposed to be here, it may think. It may think I am one meant for the open and skies and clouds; but it is wrong. Perhaps my hands should not be chained, perhaps my feet should be loosed; but in the stone dungeon is where I am best kept.

Freedom and happiness do not suit me, and I don’t think they ought to suit anyone. Clouds are blown willy-nilly, and none can ever sit thereon. Breeze and gale may push and rend, but they have no substance; no one can benefit from their part-existence.

The sky is blue, but can one put it in a tube? Can one spread it on a canvas? No. Happiness in life is nothing. To paint a blue rejoicing sky, an artist turns to the eggs laid by sorrow, that wild roc. Pounding blue stone sorrows to powder, he makes his happiness; and a fool looks and says, “How beautiful is a joyful sky,” knowing not true beauty comes only from sorrow — firm, faithful, material sorrows.

And so a heart — a foolish heart — pines. It seeks beauty where there is only a burning, and satisfaction where there is only joy. He knows not that the beauty he longs for cannot be found in itself; beauty is the distillation of hard and unloving sorrows.

Joy cannot fill. Only beauty — pure, sad, austere loveliness — can fulfil the heart’s desires.

And so the fools erect a blue wall, and say, “Herein is joy. Here find thy fulfilment.” But it is an empty wall.

So I drift among cool clouds and hot rays of the sun, and in the distance, on a peak shrouded with mists, I see a rough granite edifice; and I drift nearer.