Copyright © the Estate of Ross F. Lockridge, Jr., 1948 , 1998, 2001, 2003, All rights reserved Dream Section--Vol. V--Dream IX The Riddle of Raintree County [title, 1946] by Ross F. Lockridge, Jr. (facsimile, p 306 of The Dream)
for a way
to get back home . . . .
In one of the great eastern rooms where people are sifted and slotted to the trains, he walked, carrying a suitcase.
VOICE OF THE DISPATCHER
--All aboard. All aboard.
He was afraid that he might miss this train. After so many close calls, after so many delicate intersections, he had this last chance to catch a train for home. It was time to go back, before all things had changed. Wearing his old uniform, he passed through a huge iron gate into the clanging yards.
There was a burst of firecrackers and handmusic from a platform hung with bunting.
--When johnny comes marching home again,
walking to front of platform,
--Yes, it's been a long day, folks. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm pooped. However, if you'll just bear with us a little longer, we'll try to round things up to the satisfaction of each and everyone of you. Now, I'm sure everyone and each of this intelligent assembly joins me in wishing the young man on my right a happy voyage on this great undertaking. One hundred years ago, in the year 1892, to be exact, they wouldn't have believed it possible. But in this great age of cosmic rays and contraceptives, we have achieved the impossible. The mythical ages had their prometheus; the pre-literary ages had their cadmus, antiquity had its plato, the middle ages had their troubles, the renaissance had its columbus, the age of electricity had its franklin, and now, folks, the atomic age has achieved its shawnessy. President, will you say a few words?
PRESIDENT GARWOOD JONES
cosmic jacket, diver's helmet, winged shoes, golden pitchfork, cigar,
--Fellow americans, it gives me great pleasure to say a word for the young man who is about to attempt this incredible and awe-inspiring feat. It seems only yesterday that john and I were students together in the old pedee academy. (Laughter and applause from crowd) But the exigencies of public life, to which I have been no stranger in recent years, and my profound concern for the welfare of this great republic in positions of public responsibility which I have reluctantly accepted in the hope always that some abler man then myself might be found to--
cynically touching a button and blowing the president up,
--Thank you, mr. president, that was really beautiful. And now I wonder if mr. cassius carney, that distinguished financier, affectionately known among his friends as the old stinker, will say a few words on this occasion.
CASSIUS P. CARNEY
in rubber airsuit, inflated with natural gas, chewing on dead cigar,
--Folks, I'm a man of few words. All I want to say is that john shawnessy here is the best friend I ever had--and practically the only one. I don't know whether you folks properly understand the condition of this country. Now I'm a man of plain speech, and all I want to say is that, by god, if we don't good and quick get a business administration, we'll--
cynically setting off gas pump, inflating cash's suit, and shooting him straight up, out of sight,
--Thank you very very much, mr. carney. That was really swell of you. General, would you favor us with a few wellchosen words?
GENERAL JACOB J. JACKSON
in asbestos bulletproof battlesuit, crashproof helmet, and shockabsorbing battleboots,
--Friends and fellow citizens and comrades of the old army, of whom I believe I see a few familiar faces out there in the crowd--how about it, boys? (Thunderous applause, shouts of halloo there, jake! hurrah, boys, hurrah! and a few rebel yells) I'm damn glad to put the stamp of my approval on corporal o'shaughnessy, a true citizen-soldier--
--Shawnessy, general. Shawnessy.
--Thank you, friend, for the correction. Yes, sir, it's always good to see any comrades from the old army. I well remember one day when I happened to be leading a modest action involving the right wing of the union army before chickamauge, we were expecting an attack from the damn traitors, when all of a sudden--
setting off concealed mine, blowing general up,
--Very exciting, general. Thank you so much. And now, my boy, anything you care to say at this supreme moment will be appreciated by us all.
standing under flank of a huge red, white, and blue fourth of july rocket, as big as a locomotive, with wooden stick in ground, nose pointed up at a forty-five degree angle,
--No one, not in my position, can possibly imagine the emotion I feel at this parting. (Climbing up stick and sitting down on saddle halfway up rocket's back) Frankly, I consider myself unworthy of the honor of being the first human being to attempt a true interplanetary flight. No doubt, the method envisaged is a bit clumsy and archaic--in fact, I must say it seems so to me--but I am a firm believer in human progress and--
touching match to fuse,
--Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art.
beginning to strain at the stick,
--Fut-fut-fut-fut-fuh-fuh-fuh-fuh, foooooooooooooooooooooo OOOOOOOOOSH!
In an instant, the rocket had shot to an enormous depth. The earth lay spread out below, a scarlet plain in a purple sea of air, the ground unbelievably chewed up as if reduced to volcanic ash, pulverized and repulverized by senselessly repeated explosions. Some remains of cities were visible, here and there a human hand, and now and again a wheel or a bottle, but, as far as eye could see, no living thing.
climbing up rocket's back, coat blown off, eyebrows singed, head bald and smoking,
--Goddammit, I hung onto that fuse too long.
--Things look pretty bad down there.
--The last war left things pretty crumbly. Well, it was fun while it lasted--being human beings. Who would have supposed that matter was such touchy stuff!
--The power seems to be going out of this thing. Not much fun falling through space on a dead stick.
lighting a cigar, taking drink from whiskey bottle,
--No thanks. Somebody has to run this thing.
--Why? That's the great human mistake, isn't it? Here's our chance at last to just drift and let the universe take over. (Peering over the edge) Frankly, I think we got off the old ball just in time. Looks like the joint is really blowing up down there.
Mr. shawnessy looked down just in time to see the earth expand into a sphere of flaming gas several hundred times its original size, burning with an intense white light.
--Boyle's law--or something. What ho! A hitchhiker.
crawling up side of rocket, cigar clenched in teeth, clothes blown off,
--Move over, boys. Here, john, let me take a spin at the controls. Remember--I'm still president.
crawling down from nose of rocket, wearing derby and holding a package of gilt-edge securities,
--I cleared out with a cold million. What the hell happened anyway? Stock market crash?
GENERAL JAKE JACKSON
crawling over side, wearing smoking army boots, holding drawn sword, yelling frantically,
--Hold the center, boys. Forward all along the line!
--Put up the sword, general. You're among friends.
--Just the same--
in robinson cruso outfit, laying out his belongings--mcguffey reader, a test tube, a cake of pear's soap, a colt revolver, a railroad timetable, a contraceptive, a bible, a banknote, and a deck of cards,
--I seem to have the prime ingredients. I think we can reconstruct the whole works if we only had--
MRS. DESMORE J. BROWN
with handbag, sitting down beside mr. shawnessy,
--Goodness, what a trying day!
--Evelina, will you read the minutes of the last meeting, please?
THE REVEREND LLOYD G. JARVEY
in mosaic loincloth and eyeglasses, struggling up with stone tablets,
--And the lord said, Be ye ready at my second coming, for then will I--
--This one we can get along without.
He spun the reverend around and kicked him in the cloth. The reverend pitched over the side of the rocket and fell flaming head over heels.
--Milton, thou shouldst be living at this hour. Well, that seems to have lightened us some.
The rocket was speeding as if to a climax.
--By the way, these things explode at the top of their arc, don't they?
--It's possible. But perhaps zeno was right and we'll never get there. (Looking over side of ship.) You know, there's one good thing about this: It's possible at last to be definitive about the human race. (Hawking and spitting over side of rocket) In a word, we stank.
JOHN BELLAMY SHAWNESSY
--Still in a sense, looking backward, that is to say forward with that old nineteeth century novelist of utopia, the history of mankind acquires a certain--
The rocket had been getting smaller and smaller, and more and more people had been crawling aboard, until now it appeared that...
He had perhaps resumed his trip back to the county after an interruption. He was on a road somewhere surrounded by curious onlookers, as he climbed into a peculiar carriage. Under the hooded front was his old horse king, head sticking out like the figurehead of a ship.
in voice of fourth of july orator,
--They said it couldn't be done! They laughed and called it shawnessy's folly. But the history of the human race is littered with the bones of those who didn't believe in progress! John, give the crank a spin, and show the folks how it goes.
--Wouldn't it be better if we got the horse clear out of there?
The contraption sputtered, honked, rapped out a series of hard barks, shot off plunging in convulsions. There was a loud explosion.
hanging in a tree by one hand, rubber tire around neck, eating a sandwich,
--Dead horse--à la cart--a tasty dish, ladies. The horsy age is past. Old dobbin's down at last. It brings us the dream of a once happy day. His heart was stout and brave, but dobbin's in this grave--with old black joe and old dog tray.
--After all, friends, what is progress? Spiritually speaking, does it make any difference whether we ride from the cradle to the grave on wheels or shank's pony? No, friends, real progress is the quest of man for self-realization. By the way, what time is it? I've got to get back to--
--Wheelmen have get-together. The enterprising bicyclists of middletown got together today for their annual banquet and symposium. The addicts of the rotary pastime, jauntily attired in--
cycling knickers, sport coat with accentuated seams, bowtie, bigbilled plaid cap, chiny knobtoed oxfords, sitting aloft a bicycle with sixfoot front wheel and onefoot back wheel,
--I feel like a girl rolled by a hoop.
The men and women in middletown court house square laughed good-naturedly and applauded. They were all people of middle stature, the ladies solidly built with broad breasts and behinds, garish middleclass gowns, and hats made out of birds' nests, velvet, carrots, and lacquered horsedung. The men were solid citizens in identical suits, with round faces, double chins, exceptionally solid chests with shoulders thrust back, slightly staring eyes, big powerful hands, ties slopped with gravy, incipient paunches, high blood pressure, and teeth on their watchchains.
CITIZENS OF MIDDLETOWN
--By gosh, if he can do it, I'm fer him. These here newfangled idees are pretty good sometimes.
--Think I'll git me one a them things, george. Understand jones has one.
perched on bicycle, wearing indian headdress, kissing baby, being photographed by his personal photographer,
--Well, sir, it's always good to get back to the old convention hall gang. If you want to find the real grit and guts, getup and go of this here nation, I say look for it right in these little burgs that are just bustin' their pants with vim, vigor, and venality--uh--I mean to say--
perched on bicycle, reading minutes,
--Sports of the rotary pastime left the g.a.r. hall at 2:11 p.m. for an all-day tour of the county conducted by the local schoolmaster....
Mr. shawnessy was teetering along on his bicycle, in the middle of a huge pack of bicycle, all men in their middle thirties, dressed like traveling salesmen, with numbers on their backs, racing down a broad white strip of road to nowhere in particular. They were all bending over their handlebars. Their teeth showed in set grins, and their eyes were crosshypnotized by the spinning front wheels. Half a mile ahead rolled a riderless front wheel, wrapped in tin foil. The afternoon sun burnished a brilliant rush of wheels, the faces of the contestants glistened, their chests heaved in hard quick rhythmical bursts, their progress was accompanied by a vicious humming sound of wheels on pavement.
bending over, pumping hard, looking crosseyed at the front wheel,
--In the evening, a banquet diversified with original skits and songs pertaining to the modern sport of--
trying to stay aloft on a single great wheel, looking backward, seeing along the road, people in all sorts of contraptions on wheels, down a stretch of the roman campagna adorned with ruins, aqueducts, and the tall tenuous trees of a turner landscape,
--Who invented this great circle on which mankind has ridden from the mists of antiquity into the sunlight of the twentieth century? Back to raintree county we come in a primitive conveyance consisting of a stone cart, rolling on two stately hemispheres. For if atlas bears the earth, so also does the earth bear atlas....
He had left the old stone cart tied to a ring on the rim of an antique fountain and had crossed the road, intending to visit a little temple of vulcan equipped with an assortment of inventions new and old and many interesting exhibits illustrating the history of mankind. But as he mounted the steps he found that he was ascending the bricked side of a great hill of rock standing above a city on the plain. He remembered now that hundreds of excavators, explorers, archeologists, conquistadors, poets, pioneers, and statesmen had been hunting through the ruins for a statue which had, according to tradition, been erected on this fortlike elevation. It was a vast work of gold and ivory made to represent the goddess who had been chosen to give her name to his republic because of her gift of a gracious tree.
He passed through the colonnaded entrance and emerged into a geometrical enclosure. Everywhere desolately lovely fragments of temple and statue stood in a waste of green vines. Every fragment, though weathered and defaced, was tonguelessly eloquent of an ancient people who had sought to conquer the chaos of old time with the tranquil beauty of proportioned lines.
Approaching a temple, he recalled that he had been here in the morning of his life and had been invited to return by a gracious young woman. Now as he ascended the steps (strewn with shocks of the bearded grain, threshed of seed), he carried in his hand a golden key, the tracery of whose carven stem was almost thumbworn smooth. Putting it into the lock, he easily thrust back the great bronze door and entered.
In the vast nave of the temple, architects, painters, sculptors were yet in process of setting up statues and finishing friezes.
standing in the dim entryway on pedestal in costume and attitude of the venus found in melos, radiantly fleshed, arms graciously extended,
--Hello, dear. Hygiene, as we greeks say. But where are the children?
carrying a briefcase of beautifully shaded drawings--sculptural and architectural details of periclean buildings, pediments, friezes, capitals, columns, urns, pedestals, statues,
--I suppose they're into some mischief or other wherever they are. Are you ready for your sitting, my dear?
--O, yes indeed. How do you like my costume, johnny?
--The classic revival looks very fetching off you.
stepping down from her pedestal and walking away from him, slowly allowing her robe to travel down and off her graceful back,
--Won't you come with me, and we'll have a look.
Eagerly he followed, carrying his pencil and the great sheets of sketches, as the lady custodian walked into the nave of the building. Although sun did not directly touch the interior of this immense workshop, a white stony light bathed equally columns, roof, and floor, every line and plane distinct from end to end of the vast rectangular space. The urge to create, define, impose form possessed him like fire and hunger. Weakness of love-desire flowed through him as he watched the lady custodian moving undraped between great blocks of parian marble newly quarried, inviting genitive conflict between chisel and stone. In these vast lumps slept the pale limbs of gods and goddesses, a world of linear perfections. The unsandaled feet of the lady custodian made no sound, but he heard the cold pure clang of chisels and hammers striking on stone.
He remembered then that he had been commissioned to generate from this enduring substance the eternal verities of the republic so that what it was could never be lost to the encroaching jungle. In these immense temples enclosed in ordered space, in these beginnings of statues and friezes (which he now saw halfstarting from the stone around him--heads without bodies, arms without trunks) he saw a lifetime of phidian endeavor, which now he must climax, before it was too late, with a statuary group that would stand in the central angle of the vast pediment of the parthenon and be a goddess foamborn and beautiful of sempiternal stone, an everlasting sign to travellers on the seaward approaches of the republic.
The walls of the workshop had dissolved. He was walking again under a pale blue sky of whose distant horizons white clouds were piled in melodiously convolved shapes, as if painted on stone. He was approaching the front of a parthenon which stood in its first splendor with all the groups complete except for an empty space in the middle of the vast frontal pediment. People were swarming on the steps.
--Pardon me, I wish to arrive at the central place. We are erecting a statue there--
old greek walking on stone stilts like a human compass,
--Given, two lines intersecting at right angles, extended indefinitely to the far horizons, east, west, north, and south, and we arrive by a simple process of recirculation back to--
reporter's notebook and pencil,
--Your achievement in creation space, mr. euclid, is certainly one of the great human landmarks. Our readers would be delighted to know--
describing great arcs with his stilts, moving with an endless ease distantly among the stone shapes of an acropolis,
--That a straight point is the longest line between two curves is demonstrated over and over by nature. Nature, which is only ourselves extended outward indefinitely, has unconsciously evolved these relative absolutes over a space of several hundred years, if I may mix my modes a little. It is axiomatic that--
heavyset, beautifully ugly little man, satyr face, skyblue eyes, marble-ringleted hair,
--What is it that you seek, dear boy?
in the attitude of eternal disciple and learner, with stone tablet and stylus,
--Justice, the good, the beautiful, the true, the--
--Seek no farther. All these things you have already in your grasp, dear friend. For behold, justice is enshrined above the marketplace. God has erected his everlasting temple in the unchanging lights of the republic. None other but you shall find them, courageous and timedestroying boy. I, an old man, will yet exert my small strength to follow him whose godlike strength is given to that everlasting game.
--Is it true, mr. socrates, as I have suspected, that you are only the fiction of that daring dreamer plato, a kind of straw man as it were, in whose fictitious person the most beautiful republic of all time was builded out of--
slowly being resumed into the cold substance of a block of marble,
--Thyself created me--none other, out of increate and stubborn stone, an old man with a tenacious and terrible honesty, sitting on a stone in the marketplace on a summer's day, an ancient crysalis of yourself, the father of a--
--Wait! Wait! A few more questions. What time is? For look you, you neglected to explain how this republic of ideal shapes ever came to be invested with breathing flesh and beauty in a world of time and--
sharp and satirical, from distant rostrum,
--Homer that blind and blithe old bard
Sunned himself in the court house yard.
old man, stone pits of sightless eyes, touching a stone harp,
--So did we beach our stout ships on the sands of time--
reporter's notebook and pencil, hastily,
--Mr. homer, a word for our readers. Only to tell me what sort you were, whether one or many, your beautiful poems revealing the curious vocabulary and impress of the gifted individual rather than the simplicities of a collective--
with rhythmical stresses,
--That city of fabled stones that we in the pride of our--
with rhythmical stresses,
--For a new republic, master, what meter, what musical--
wandering companionless down distant ways through shapes of ancient cities, singing with rhythmical stresses
--And on the winedark sea, homeward our vessels were--
gazing at the face of a great stone clock hewn into a block of marble, the hands set at nine o'clock in the morning,
--Time, time, time! Who then discovered time? For look you, friends, time was when time was not. Man does not live in time but time in man, eternal conjugator of the verb to be....
He had, it appeared, been walking arm in arm for some time with the perfessor, who now disengaged himself, and in a white academic robe, took his place on a stone platform erected in the shadow of the temple.
with gestures of the trained sophist and rhetorician,
--What is the one thing, the primal indivisible being, from which all plural forms are evolved? (Abruptly reassuming his old air of genial and hollow eloquence) The academy is pleased this year to grant diplomas to the finest graduating class in its history. Leading all others, summa cum laude, is that wellknown local boy, john wesley shawnessy, whose doctoral dialogue will no doubt work a revolution in dialectics. This boy has thoroughly explored the conjugation of that most active and attractive of all verbs in a work entitled, The provenience of face-to-face amatorial combat among the primitive primates of raintree county or lord darwin vindicated. The older, or parmenidean, approach to the subject was backward by comparison. This boy is really ready to graduate. John, will you conjugate a little for us, young agonist and beautiful contender!
naked youth, yellow uncut hair hanging long on shoulders, riding a white horse of godlike appetite up the wide stone steps of the parthenon to receive a diploma from the hands of the lady custodian,
--A sign above the marketplace....
Perilously along the ledge of the great pediment, he was trying to make his way to the maternal deity who sat on the spine of a marble book on which he saw faintly chiseled the words PARADISE REGAINED. Looking down, he saw stone flanks of tapering columns to wide marble stairs black with swarming faces. Like a white wine, he drank the pure cold air. The marble frieze through which he made his way was painted in rich colors. Priapic fauna poured purple wine into etruscan cups. Nymphs fled with fluttering scarlet scarves young gods along the banks of a river choked with green great rushes.
with grecian face but warm green eyes, her body losing the look of painted stone for the exciting imperfection of a living woman,
--Did it ever occur to you, johnny, that a little vulgarian posed for the goddess found on melos? And that no doubt the sculptor who strove with the marble made love to his model, evenings in the atelier? How else did he learn so perfectly the lesson of those deepfleshed loins?
He put one hand around her waist, bending his face toward hers. For a marmoreal instant, assuming the attitude of a lost engraving in an old book of raintree county, he felt the ecstasy of form, an unendurable and apollonian bliss. And in the same instant the faces of the people, the blue vault of the sky, the rectangular horizons, the distant temples, the vinewreathed hills, the clustering roofs of the city grouped at the base of the rock achieved a perfect clarity of being, intolerably beautiful and pure....
Somehow he had got into the niche above the main entrance to the raintree county courthouse. Holding his diploma, he moved around the granite flanks of justice, a lady with bronze scales, perceiving that the birdspattered recess in which confusedly he hunted was ribbed and hollow like a boat.
The diploma was a piece of parchment, yellow, immensely old, smelling of goatsmusk. From upperright to lowerlefthand corner, a coiled line lay, the shape of a river on the land. Archaic symbols cluttered the margins, letters chipped in stone, dawnwords.
He heard dawnsounds, the pipe of earliest birds. Great waterbirds plunged squawking into flight from the rivermarge. Frogs shouted in the shallows. The papyrus rushes made a murmurous sound. He heard the sound of oars breaking the green skin of the river....
He was rowing down a river older than the human race whose fetid stream had overrimmed its banks with ooze each spring since the beginning of time.
winging by on condor wings,
--Awk. Awk. Shawkamawk!
shouting from the shallows,
--Shak-a-mak-a-mak. A-wash. A-wash.
--Shawnessee-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e. Kumbak. Kumbak.
He had a memory of the antiquity of rivers. All rivers had been pressed together into one symbol on the earth, and all rivers together had (if he could only remember it) a name of life and beauty and forever, musical, rising from the depths of time and flowing into distant and unfathomable time. All now was peaceful by the river, though furious thousands had died here in some old battle long ago. All things were fixed as in a legend graven on a stone. All things were words woven into a tranquil and mysterious substance.
So he was taking the long way, the river way to the homeland.
Back through the antiquity of human time which was also the time of raintree county, he was rowing toward a source that he had sought in summers long ago. Back there, somewhere, was the girl of indian descent, with whom he had lived for years in a pageant of raintree county. If he found her, perhaps he would also find the first garden of humanity, where the wild corn was sown along the banks of rivers in pre-columbian dawn. Yes, he would find her in thickranked corn, her voice would come up to him--indeed he heard it now, a low sweet wail from the tangled autumnal fields beside the river.
--Shak-a-mak! A-wash! A-wash Shak-a-lee-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e.
Perhaps then he would understand the source of the names upon the land, names that were wisps of smoke, dead leaves that danced in the wind of october, color of bright brown cones of animalskin, odor of leaffires, chunk of the paddles of long canoes, blurred lost syllables rising from the oldest summers of human life.
For this was the winding way, the river way to the homeland....
He had left the boat mudded in a swamp that nearly choked the river's flow. Now he was lost in a dark continent covered to the ocean rims with the remorselessly alive and beautiful jungle. Deformed trees swayed and trembled in the heat of tropical summer. Birds of brilliant plumage chattered and shrieked. He had glimpses now and them of the sluggish river filled with crocodiles and green fish. It was his problem to find someone who was lost here, a wandering symbol of those graceful amenities that were the adornment of society. In a clearing of the jungle, another human being appeared to be waiting for him.
tall, darkhaired, slender gentleman, pleasant face, explorer's outfit, african sunhelmet, shortsleeved shirt, white duck trousers, holding out his hand,
--Mr. livingston, I presume.
tall, darkhaired, slender gentleman, pleasant face, explorer's outfit, african sunhelmet, shortsleeved shirt, white duck trousers, holding out his hand,
--It's a pleasure, sir, to see you again after all these years. Have you been well?
--Yes, sir, thank you. quite well. Beastly hot, isn't it?
hands behind back, teetering heels to toes, toes to heels,
hands behind back, teetering toes to heels, heels to toes,
strolling with malacca cane,
--Our readers will be delighted to know that you are still alive and well. Did you find what you were looking for?
strolling with malacca cane,
--No, dash it all. But it's been jolly good sport. And I still hope to find it in the heart of darkness. Climate used to be better around here, you know. Some traces of the ancient culture reported a few miles up the river here. A man can jolly well get lost here, you know. Jungle takes all. Revert to savagery, you know, in no time at all if you jolly well don't keep your pride. By the way, you'll find some interesting specimens here in....
The swamp in the vicinity of the lake was filled with blinding light. Specimen box under arm, butterfly net in hand, pushing his way alone between huge softbodied ferns, mr. shawnessy saw prehistoric animals wallowing in the stream and stench of carboniferous bogs. A yellow primitive pollen lay inches deep on the heaving muck of the swamp. Enormous dragonflies shot by or stood in air on prismatic wings. Reptilian birds beat their naked bodies upward on vast batwings from banks of rushes big as telephone poles. Their horrid cries clanged on the stridulous murmur of the great swamp.
He floundered on in sucking bogs, halfdrowned in light and life. He remembered then that this was the swamp in which the ancestor of man, the darwinian hypothesis, was fighting obscurely for survival, looking toward better days. But which of the many small mammals was in the main line of descent, he couldn't tell.
A forest of flowering trees dipped their plumed tops at him. Flowers from the branches dangling were vaguely human faces.
waving tremulous petals, sifting down seed, murmuring,
He saw vaguely familiar faces--lush, halfsized human heads, dangling on fleshy stalks.
blushing crimson, shutting eyes,
--Darling, I hope these few words--
fulsome and fragrant, gravely nodding to a cluster of woman faces,
--Home of beautiful flowers, and, madame, with your permission--
Faces, innumerable faces, swam on the thick air. Some were the withering faces of children on blasted stalks. The flowerfaces filled the swamp with a strange and terrible cry, millions and millions of lush little faces trying to find space and sunlight, heliophiles.
--Help! Help! Light! Kumbak! Shawnessee-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e.
In the bottom of a great digging strewn with fossil bones, he saw
PROFESSOR JERUSALEM WEBSTER STILES
biologist's white apron, scalpel, glue, wire, reconstructing something,
--Today, class, we are taking up a quaint little fellow, our eternal skeleton in the closet, our cousin from spokane, oshkosh, and buffalo, charles dawnman.
fourfoot lusty dwarf, long brown hair all over face and body, inquisitive brown eyes, stooping posture, agile hands, small vestigial tail, perfect human genitalia,
lifting director's baton,
on a sustained tone, beating breast slowly and rhythmically,
tossing him a putrefied fish,
--Very good, charles. Now, eat.
--Capital, charles. Now, charles, I trust you perceive the object which I hold in my hand. (Showing bottle of whiskey)
--And you shall have it, charles. Now don't forget to vote for garwood b. jones, the people's choice, in november. (Carrying suitcases through the descending night of the great swamp, voice becoming hoarse, body shrivelling into loathsome senility) So you thought you could come back to raintree county, john?
in soldier's uniform, buttoned to the neck, choking from the heat,
--Yes, yes. What time is it? It's almost time for the train to leave. Come on, let's hurry.
stumbling into deep bogs,
--The whole thing is a fantastic dream. Why don't you wake up and give us all a rest? (Face blotched with plaguespots, shaking with hideous laughter) It's all a dream, boy. You'll never find your goddam little county again.
trying to keep the perfessor on the path, pulling him out of deep holes,
--Hurry! No time to lose! Be quiet. Stop! Stop!
shrieking with hoarse passion,
--Because the great modern jungle will close over it! It will be sucked down into the swamp of life and death! And it will drag you with it, hero boy! It will--
tugging at the perfessor's drunken form, both men struggling up to the waist in black mud,
coughing, squealing, mouth weakly bubbling slime, sinking deeper and deeper,
--Help! Help! Because--gug--gug--gug--
plucking the perfessor out by the coatcollar and beginning to shake him angrily,
--Perfessor, what you need is a good, oldfashioned--
Trying vainly to escape, the perfessor writhed in his hands, shrivelling, squealing, changing form. In swift succession, he changed into a grinning skull, a hooded snake, a wood nymph, a member of the methodist church, a member of the baptist church, the pope of rome, a bony goat, a republican fourth of july orator, a democratic congressman from the deep south, all the presidents of the united states from grant to harrison, a small gray rat, a mortuary effigy, a bottle of rotgut whiskey, a book with BLBIB gilded on the cover, a hissing serpent, a copy of the morning paper, a classroom pointer, a glistening black insect, and at last into a small darkhaired boy, sobbing and trying to pull an old oaken bucket out of a well.
tears running down cheeks,
--How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood--
relenting, releasing the boy,
--Go on, dredge, lad. Perhaps you'll find truth down there at the....
VOICE OF THE TRAINMAN
--Last stop! Last stop!
Bell ringing, the train was shrugging to a stop. Suitcase in hand, mr. shawnessy walked down the empty coach toward the door. He was coming home at last after years of absence, wondering if the county had indeed changed as much as rumor said. Would there be any of the old faces there to greet life's somewhat tattered victor, raintree county's unsung hero returning from the dead. What had he been doing all that time? Was it all a dream--dreamed during a sleep of twenty years? And could anyone go back to raintree county on trains, could any train bring passengers from the great city to their home again, could any young man rise on the watery grave of years and go back to love and life again in raintree county?
VOICE OF THE TRAINMAN
calling in the distance,
--All aboard! All aboard for--
rip van wrinkle outfit, buckled shoes burst, beard long and frowsy, motheaten huntingcap, trailing a rusty flintlock, looking around,
--Where is everybody anyway?
more and more distant,
--Farewell! Farewell to raintree county! (Fading into the receding wail of a train) Ah-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e.
The place where he stood was a clearing in a virgin forest, slightly above the surrounding country. The sun of summer morning gilded the green earth with a new and yet familiar beauty. He seemed to know the place; yet there were no tokens here at all of human habitation.
Then he became aware that he was standing in the primeval forest of raintree county, on the site where some time in the future the town of freehaven would be built. Indeed he had walked to the very ground where a century later the raintree county court house would rear its majestic tower above the square and put up a flag with eight and forty stars into the sunlight of a new century. He was enamored of this strange new earth. Its freshness, unfouled by man, had yet a human quality, being alive with anticipations that were also memories.
Indeed, what had become of the wonderful dream? What had become of all those swarming faces that had been on the green earth of raintree county? Father, mother, brothers, friends, sweethearts, wives, children--where had they all been? How beautiful after all with human love and laughter and hot tears had been that valorous dream of faces springing! Where were all the rushing, murmurous names and all the days of a life lived on the land? Where were the trains that had come and gone with gusty and tumultuous breath over this earth in lost summers? What of all those events called history that had passed on trampling hooves across the borders of raintree county--wars, crusades, elections, hurrying wheels--westward wheels of progress and destiny?
All this was gone as if it were a dream only, and once again he saw in imagined softness a vision of the earth of raintree county before there was any raintree county--swelling hills covered with the virgin oak and maple, fields of the prairie grass, and in the distance a green river coiling between old hills toward a delphic place.
Strange love and hunger to understand this earth and to erect upon it once again--perhaps better than before--the marvellous dream rushed through him as he stood in the summer morning. Had he not searched a long time for this primitive garden where man might sow the seed of all good things and rear a wondrous tree and give a delicious wisdom to the ages! Where else might god be born again into an eden of the western earth, where else conceive and carry to its consummation the dream of millions pressing from the old habitations of the earth!
ragged clothes, hair tangled, tattered bible in hand, pockets bulging with seed,
--The predestined place. It is here. Sacred to god. In the first centuries. A garden of all pleasance. Beautiful, holy, maternal--earth of our fathers. And I the namer-preserver.
A sacred excitement filled him at this vision of the earth purified of names, yet eager to be named, to be invaded, conquered, possessed, and build upon by the time-creating, time-enslaving americans.
beginning to walk toward a lake miles distant, strewing sharppointed seeds, smooth seeds, white seeds, seeds of apples, chanting,
--I plant you, earth, for names and for people yet unborn.
Where the seeds fell sprang people, a few at first, then more and more, walking like himself toward a secret place at the end of a valley.
vaguely muttering, faces indistinct,
--Where is the-- What did they say was the name of the--
schoolmaster's black suit, poet's tie, plucking leaves from an armload of mcguffey readers, poetry anthologies, goodrich histories of america, textbooks of latin and greek, encyclopedias, strewing them broadcast, chanting,
--I plant you with seeds of letters cadmean, touched on the reedwoven paper, a music of many tongues. I plant you with names divine, sprung with the earth at a single begetting. I plant you with inalienable rights, to be constantly renewed and reinterpreted--with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, with the just consent of the governed. I plant you with young messiahs down from the hills, the divinely arrogant heroes of humanity, makers of bread and beatitudes. I plant you with sermons on innumerable mounts. I plant you with gentle gods who died on innumerable crosses. I plant you for great crusades, for endless emancipations, for exiles, quests after zion, for chosen peoples crossing the desert--
costumes of pioneers, hebrew nomads, mormons, rappites, free harmonians, walking over windblasted sands, driving goats, riding in covered wagons, carrying the old and the infirm, bearing in their midst an arklike casket toward a pillar of fire,
--O lord, lift up thy countenance upon us. Be a light to our blindness. Lead us, o god, to--
sowing sheets of newspapers freshly printed and some sifting brittle with age,
--I plant you for free enquirers, reporters, explorers--
italian immigrant costume, walking through a swamp with wife and children, followed by immigrant thousands, toward the statue of a lady with a bible under one arm, the other upholding a torch,
--Passage to india! See, it is the oriental paradise, the flowering islands! (Setting foot on dry land) I christen thee--
--For myths and mythnomers, names and vague transformations of names. For the new adams of a new creation, prodigal spenders of words, the innocent madmen of space. I plant you for voyageurs, coureurs de bois, canoemen on wilderness rivers, for missions and forts and empires of fur. For the august solitudes of primitive america. For frontiers advancing, westward rivers, bones on the desolate prairies, the miner's shack at the foot of the mountain--
in great caravans of covered wagons, singing,
--Over the hills in legions, boys!
Fair freedom's star
Shines from the--
--I plant you for armies of names advancing, for the geometrical imagination, for the land laid out in squares called for wilderness statesmen, defiers of kings.
intense nervous man, hair tied in a queue, colonial garb, speaking from platform in a magnificent, crackling voice,
--The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone. It is to the vigilant, the active, the--
--I plant you for names of my youth, for simple hearts and the earth beloved. For a tree whose leaves were for the healing of nations, for all healers of souls and bodies, hardriding pulpiteers. For a certain beloved distiller of indian remedies made from the blood of the green earth. I plant you for greathearted, simple women, the mother of many men. Listen, do you hear me calling? Did you think that I failed you? I was off the main road, it is true, but I never forgot. I hear you. I accept the--
redheaded girl, brightblueeyed, riding with w. b. on the front seat of a covered wagon travelling on a plank road.
--Maybe this would be a good place right here.
W. B. SHAWNESSY
young man in late twenties, vividly scotch,
--Yessiree. I think we're entitled to take a very--
peering into the back of the wagon where faces of children are dim stains in the ribbed darkness,
--I plant you for faces emerging from covered wagons stored with seedcorn, dogeared books, bottles of botanical medicine. I plant you for one small boy, father of a man, who came from the nothingness that never was into the sunlight of pluviarboreal summer. I plant you for little towns on the breast of the land where we grew up in our innocent youth, lost towns, ghost cities, places of no renown, for dan webster and strawlands, intersections of republics and raintree counties. For houses in trim yards and the trains passing and passing. I plant you for the lost forms of a person by my name. Was he there in summer afternoons, one of a long procession of slowly altering masks in a pageant of raintree county?
Through the web of the everincreasing crowd and environing scenes, he saw the faces of himself, as if all his characteristic moments and eras had been preserved in a succession of masks. He saw himself especially as in the latter years of his life seated in the yard of strawland in the old rocker with a notebook in his lap, looking out across the backfield toward the railroad, a
SPIRIT OF ETERNAL SUMMER
mr. shawnessy in black poet's tie, shirtsleeves, feet propped on a straight chair, pencil in hand, reading from note book in a musical voice,
--My muse and I one summer morn
Built, dreaming we were cunning fays,
A castle on a cloudisle, borne
Adrift on blue ethereal bays.
Our blessed isle was far away
From earth. It swam down eastern skies,
Whereon in bright pavilions lay
Glad choristers with joyous eyes,
And from their sweet throats woke the song
from distant woodlands,
--'Tis summer and the days are long.
SPIRIT OF ETERNAL SUMMER
a voice receding over meadows choked with cloverbloom,
--Far east o'er pure empyreal seas
Our happy souls that morning sailed:
Light-seated on our isle at ease,
Unheeding earth from whence we hailed....
walking in a peaceful landscape of fields flanking the national road,
--I plant you for farms, great farms on the breast of the land, where the angular reapers walk all day, for the granaries of a continent, for the golden light of the grain, whole prairies of grass and corn, inexhaustible harvests. I plant you for the tall blonde hair in your valleys, the tasseled corn rising in waves on the headlands, for clover in wide fields under the ocean brilliance of summer. I dig my bright share deeper and deeper--
following the plow, redhaired, bony, with fierce blue eyes,
--I plant you with seeds of words, scattered upon a map of western rivers. For academies, country schools, debating societies, farmboys walking for miles to find a book. I plant you for all young bards by country waters, bearers of sacred fire. For ranks of curious lovely words in a volume of many pages. Are you there, old bard and genial companion, gilder of lilies, soliloquizing to the ages! Are you there, implausible and peerless englishman! Soft you now, brave bard, standing upon the state of the wide world revolved and shrunken to a breathing o!
at the height of his powers standing upon an elizabethan stage, with flowing lyrical gesture indicative of an english landscape,
--O for a muse to ravish into rime
The unheard music of the dreaming earth,
And publish it to mortals in a book
That should declare the world unto itself,
New writ, new cast, new printed, and new bound!
Therein mankind might read themselves to heaven,
Which is no other than the world beseen
Through the clear glass of disembodied eyes.
Such utterance would the margèd page adorn
As angels to each other do discourse,
Breathing enchantment on the thin clear air
And with their music mouths create the thing
Described. So might a poet make a world
And people it with splendors, build aloft
Thee scaffold of a firmament, and set
A new earth spinning like a golden ball,
Grave it with valleys green and wooded hills,
Coil streams upon it and command an ocean
Vasty and deep to spread itself to view
Where little dancing ships curtsey their sails
Before the winds. So, gentles all, might we
Forge the dull substance of our earthy selves
Into the semblance of a shining--
watching the bard ascend into the brightest heaven of invention,
--I plant you for all the legends of my youth--
advancing down a valley toward a great face of stone enveloped in mists and glories of a setting sun,
--Behold! Behold! The very image of--
--I plant you for all the masks in a pageant of america, each one a part of the republic of myself, false gods, the giants of my gilded years, empedoclean days.
the young senator of 1876, lionhaired, broadchested, blue-eyed faintly amused, voice of an amorous bull, crying the crowd forward from a platform,
--Sunset... adventure... republican... star!
CASSIUS P. CARNEY
of the old freehaven days, trimly tailored, brown glossy hair exactly parted in the middle, eyes burning with soft fire of vision, watching a woodburner train chugging off down a singletrack into the vast plain,
--Yes sir, there lies the future. We'll just keep building all the--
--I plant you for genial skeptics, eternal rebels, defiers of outworn gods.
PROFESSOR JERUSALEM WEBSTER STILES
the young perfessor of pedee academy days, swinging along a country road, whipping off flowerheads with his cane, expounding with vivid gesture,
--My dear boy, what an incurable idealist you are! You have only to see a--
walking beside the river,
--I plant you for ovidian changes of earth and river. I plant you for prefall days and a face of the breathing earth that is lost and gone forever on the great river of the years.
with academicians, coupled in boats, floating down the wide river of summer, wide white bonnet like a great flower blooming, hand uplifted, green eyes wary and watching,
--O say, wild thou pensively hover--
approaching the wide yellow river running by plains of cotton and corn,
--I plant you for the ever-running river, father of waters, bearing on its dark tide sorrowful floaters. For a tragic legend, alas, of the darkstained earth. And for two children, in dark woods lost, a long time ago. I had a dream the other night--
appearing in the crowd, walking on the court house square, the young susanna, in a white summer dress, looking evasively from childlike eyes, bearing a red parasol, turning in at a photographer's shop, murmuring like a sound of waters,
--When ever'thing was still, I thought I saw--
lost in a tangle of dirt road in the middle of southern forests and mountains,
--I plant you for soldiers marching to battles, for armies lost on the land, hundreds of thousands. For young men bearing guns under shadowy banners, marching, marching unseen, through the time-exposures of a brady-photographed earth. For a republic that never was, a bonny blue flag, and a broken sword. Alas, for the walking sleep of the great war. For hundreds and thousands of bearded, profane christs, who died in agony alone and far from home.
flash perkins, corporal johnny shawnessy, general jacob j. jackson, and others of sherman's army marching between forests of pine, through a web of burntout rails and blackened cities,
--As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free
While god is marching on!
--Halleluiah! Comrades, wait for me! Comrades, remember! We fought together for--
disappearing in the wavering corridors of the dream, down old roads marching,
--The union forever!
Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
marching with shouting thousands past a domed capitol toward a platform filled with dignitaries,
--For veterans back from the war, victors and vanquished alike, for the wreck of blue and gray by the flow of the inland river, for lincoln and booth, martyrs and madmen, all who labored at the gigantic dream, building the countless republics that are one republic.
standing in a recess of a whitecolumned shrine, in a bronze attitude of tender solicitude,
--...do all that may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
--Hail and farewell! I plant you for progress, the shrill cry of a century, for arcs of highflung bridges, and rails, and the thundering trains. For the coaches passing by day and night, for the plunge of the piston rods, and the wail of anguish--old farewells at the crossings!
rising, like the wail of a train at the crossing,
--Hail and farewell! I plant you for cities, lights on the plain, for great jewels glowing on your dark flesh in the night. For streamers of smoke and crusts of steel, for the black blood in your veins, for sweaty arms gleaming under the glare of the great fires, for pittsburgh, scranton, gary, new york, philadelphia, indianapolis, san francisco, washington, washington, washington, and parts between! For cities and dwellers in cities, a dragon seed, a harvest of fury. For pale faces huddled under the dead shells of the factories, stone and brick and the festering slums. Shall there be one man hungry, and I go fed! I plant you for gilded years and for gilded dreams, for young men walking in metropolitan jungles, for lost faces and voices and songs and dreams. I plant you for opulent women with painted faces, for--
seen walking with john shawnessy in a centennial crowd down the avenue of the republic toward machinery hall,
--For centennial thousands. For the anniversaries of mankind, celebrations of great beginnings. For festivals-- holidays, saturdays, barbecues, fourths of july.
growing more numerous all the time, walking through a park landscaped in the middle of a great american city, toward distant towers,
--Where is the-- What did they say was the name of the--
butterfly net, field explorer's outfit, specimen box, becoming involved in deep grass and lush flowers close to the shores of a lake,
--I plant you for science, explorers, discoverers of new species. For the august, mysterious and beautiful descent of man from form to form. For honest doubts and dark misgivings. (Are you there, old truepenny, reverse of the coin, are you there, down there?) I plant you for the underside of raintree county, for the beautiful and remorseless swamp, which is perhaps only a necessary hypothesis for the builders of cities. I plant you for jungles, and for human souls hunting through dark continents and meeting at last in a--
He was driving the surrey toward a monument miles away in the middle of a great square of the city, rising with an invincible thrust to an immense height. Thousands of people swarmed antlike at the base.
--For strawland days on the breast of the land. For national roads that split the flat horizons passing to new days and westward adventures. For the sound of the carriages passing by day and night. For all the days in the schoolrooms of raintree county and all the faces of children, pressing onward from doors into sunlight at recess and the sound of the bell at evening telling them home.
with schoolbooks, pouring out into the yard, talking excitedly,
--Mr. shawnessy, show us the way to the--
--For one who embodied the conscience of raintree county, a little believer in the old religion, a being brought from afar, risen from the source of a secret river, vessel and voyager on the dark strong bloods of the earth.
EMMA GROTON SHAWNESSY
young girl-teacher, in virginal dress of white, walking in brilliant sunshine along a path in the spring woods toward a stile, carrying a box for botanical specimens, calling out in a young voice, running forward to disappear in the woods, calling and calling,
--Mr. shawnessy! Mr. shawnessy!
--for the summer years and dreams of a little girl walking on the high meadows of summer in the land of the sentimental novels. Are you there, little heroine of stories grave and gay, for the instruction and edification of all the wellbroughtup little girls of the universe? Are you there, listening to the music of interior voices?
ELSIE LILIAN SHAWNESSY
blue-eyed girl, light brown hair, noble serious face, walking on a high meadow, absorbed in reading a book, her voice murmuring,
--Then she thought, (in a dream within the dream, as it were,) how this same little alice would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman: and how she would keep, through her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather around her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a wonderful tale, perhaps even with these very adventures of the little alice of long-ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.
of an elder spirit, receding over fields breaking into white and yellow flowers,
--forgotten was all touch of care;
An age was lived in one sweet dream,
As in our castle built in air
We swam the blue celestial stream
Safe into daybreak with the song--
walking across the summer earth,
--'Tis summer and the days are long. Summer and the days are long. Summer and the days--
He was walking now entirely alone in summer through a forest of druid oaks toward a shrine of white pillars seen at the end of a curious and curving path. He was dressed in his dark everyday suit. He bore a branch of golden seed.
--I plant you for hundreds and thousands yet unborn. Listen, I passed through the dusk of your forests. I felt the flow of your undulant fields beneath me. I passed on your glistening rivers. Listen, I bring you a seed, more precious than any. I carry a podded seed for a deep and delicious burial. Hold it and hush it warm. Cradle it, darkfleshed mother of many men, in the warm wombsocket.
in shrine, appealing, appealing,
--I am the lover aggressive. I will plant ranks of children within you. O, I will scoop and fling and rain goldenly from inexhaustible granaries.
The air was filled with a hot brilliance of noon in the summer. He saw the tranquil trunk and the limbs of the tree a short way ahead, and the rocks beneath and the letters upon them. The branch quivered like a thing alive in his hands. If he could only force himself through the last ecstasy of pursuit, he would perhaps arrive in time to seize the goddess and take from her own lips the secret name that had been his from the beginning. And then all at once, he would give meaning to the vast, incoherent dream.
standing at the open door of the shrine,
--I plant you for raintree county, which you will rediscover from time to time among old manuscripts in a forgotten drawer of the cosmos. For the place where roads cross on the breast of the land. I plant you for the republic of mankind, for that serener air and brighter day that each of us is building from darkness and a dream of darkness. I plant you for the ramparts of the city of tomorrow. For sempiternal summer in the world of time and space that is peopled with the beautiful illusions. And for eternal life! Did you think that I had lost the way! But I am here. Did you think that I was lost in darkness and the swamp? I was here always, bearing a stem of the summer grass. Dear wife, my mother-daughter-friend and sweet companion, 'tis summer and the days are long. And if our life seems passing like a dream, and if we die, remember, comrades, workers, children of my loins, going forward under everchanging banners into the sunlight of another age, remember one who built a human dream and conquered space and time--perhaps death too by being--being--being-- Born again into leaf and life and bud and branch, growing, having, giving, yourself and myself, I and you, we and together, for nobler republics, for greater tomorrows....
The bough in his hand had unrolled its bark and had become a parchment covered with lines and letters, a poem of mute but lovely meanings, a page torn from the first book printed by man, the legend of a life upon the earth and of a river running through the land, a signature of father and preserver, of some young hero and endlessly courageous dreamer
To SELECTIONS from: THE DREAM SECTION OUTLINE of "THE DREAM" On THE DREAM SECTION, from: SHADE OF THE RAINTREE, by Larry Lockridge, THE NOVEL: SELECTED WRITINGS FROM RAINTREE COUNTY To Home Contents ~ Site managed by RIII Page last updated: January 2003 http://www.raintreecounty.com/DreSeCh9.html