κατα το χρεων· διδοναι γαρ αυτα αλλήλοις τίσιν καί δίκην τἣς άδικίας.


Please Listen Whilst you Read:



∇ ‘Immortal and indestructible,’

https://i1.wp.com/www.textcreationpartnership.org/docs/pix/other/day1.gif ‘surrounds all and directs all.’

https://i2.wp.com/www.textcreationpartnership.org/docs/pix/other/night1.gif ‘(To that they return when they are destroyed) of necessity; for he says that they suffer punishment and give satisfaction to one another for injustice’


“The Earth is cylindrical, three times as wide as it is deep, and only the upper part is inhabited. But this Earth is isolated in space, and the sky is a complete sphere in the center of which is located, unsupported, our cylinder, the Earth, situated at an equal distance from all the points of the sky.”

There is no beginning of the infinite, for in that case it would have an end. But it is without beginning and indestructible, as being a sort of first principle; for it is necessary that whatever comes into existence should have an end, and there is a conclusion of all destruction. Wherefore as we say, there is no first principle of this [i.e. the infinite], but it itself seems to be the first principle of all other things and to surround all and to direct all, as they say who think that there are no other causes besides the infinite (such as mind, or friendship), but that it itself is divine; for it is immortal and indestructible, as Anaximandros and most of the physicists say.



But it is not possible that infinite matter is one and simple; either, as some say, that it is something different from the elements, from which they are generated, or that it is absolutely one. For there are some who make the infinite of this character, but they do not consider it to be air or water, in order that other things may not be blotted out by the infinite; for these are mutually antagonistic to one another, inasmuch as air is cold, water is moist, and fire hot; if one of these were infinite, the rest would be at once blotted out; but now they say that the infinite is something different from these things, namely, that from which they come.

In order that generation may actually occur, it is not necessary to prove that the infinite should actually be matter that sense can perceive; for it is possible that destruction of one thing is generation of another, provided the all is limited.


Please listen again:


For some say that there is only one underlying substance; and of these some say that it is water, some that it is air, some that it is fire, and some that it is more rarefied than water and denser than air; and these last say that being infinite it surrounds all the heavens.



It is natural that this very thing should be unintelligible to those who say that at first when the earth was moist and the universe including the earth was warmed by the sun, then air was formed and the whole heavens were dried, and this produced the winds and made the heavens revolve.

So not only is it very properly admitted that all things are generated from not-being, but also that they all come from being:—potentially from being, actually from not-being; and this is the unity of Anaxagoras (for this is better than to say that all things exist together [ομοὓ πάντα]), and it is the mixture [μιγμα] of Empedokles and Anaximandros.


Anaximandros was a pupil of Thales. He was a Milesian, son of Praxiades. He said that the first principle of things is of the nature of the infinite, and from this the heavens and the worlds in them arise. And this (first principle) is eternal and does not grow old, and it surrounds all the worlds. He says of time that in it generation and being and destruction are determined. He said that the first principle and the element of beings is the infinite, a word which he was the earliest to apply to the first principle. Besides this, motion is eternal, and as a result of it the heavens arise. The earth is a heavenly body, controlled by no other power, and keeping its position because it is the same distance from all things; the form of it is curved, cylindrical like a stone column; it has two faces, one of these is the ground beneath our feet, and the other is opposite to it. The stars are a circle of fire, separated from the fire about the world, and surrounded by air. There are certain breathing-holes like the holes of a flute through which we see the stars; so that when the holes are stopped up, there are eclipses. The moon is sometimes full and sometimes in other phases as these holes are stopped up or open. The circle of the sun is twenty-seven times that of the moon, and the sun is higher than the moon, but the circles of the fixed stars are lower. Animals come into being through vapours raised by the sun. Man, however, came into being from another animal, namely the fish, for at first he was like a fish. Winds are due to a separation of the lightest vapours and the motion of the masses of these vapours; and moisture comes from the vapour raised by the sun from them; and lightning occurs when a wind falls upon clouds and separates them. Anaximandros was born in the third year of the forty-second Olympiad.


… and  again:



that lightning is due to wind; for when it is surrounded and pressed together by a thick cloud and so driven out by reason of its lightness and rarefaction, then the breaking makes a noise, while the separation makes a rift of brightness in the darkness of the cloud.

The soul is like air in its nature.

that the first animals were generated in the moisture, and were covered with a prickly skin; and as they grew older, they became drier, and after the skin broke off from them, they lived for a little while.

that gods have a beginning, at long intervals rising and setting, and that they are the innumerable worlds. But who of us can think of god except as immortal?






A Nighttime Companion of Solitude


Excess within control.

“We’ve forgotten much. How to struggle, how to rise to dizzy heights and sink to unparalleled depths. We no longer aspire to anything. Even the finer shades of despair are lost to us. We’ve ceased to be runners. We plod from structure to conveyance to employment and back again. We live within the boundaries that science has determined for us. The measuring stick is short and sweet. The full gamut of life is a brief, shadowy continuum that runs from gray to more gray. The rainbow is bleached. We hardly know how to doubt anymore.”

Moments of Vision

That mirror
Which makes of men a transparency,
Who holds that mirror
And bids us such a breast-bare spectacle see
Of you and me?

That mirror
Whose magic penetrates like a dart,
Who lifts that mirror
And throws our mind back on us, and our heart,
until we start?

That mirror
Works well in these night hours of ache;
Why in that mirror
Are tincts we never see ourselves once take
When the world is awake?

That mirror
Can test each mortal when unaware;
Yea, that strange mirror
May catch his last thoughts, whole life foul or fair,
Glassing it — where?

A posse, ad esse, ad eundem

Art:The 17th-century French astronomer Jean Picard made the first accurate measurement of the distance between two French cities by means of triangulation. In a book on Earth measurement, published in 1671, Picard gave the figure for 1 degree of longitude, from which he computed the size of the Earth.

from being able, to being, to the same


“My days I devote to reading and experiments in chemistry, and I spend many of the clear nights in the study of astronomy. There is, though I do not know how there is or why there is, a sense of infinite peace and protection in the glittering hosts of heaven. There it must be, I think, in the vast and eternal laws of matter, and not in the daily cares and sins and troubles of men, that whatever is more than animal within us must find its solace and its hope.”

H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau


Please…listen whilst you ponder:





The Short End Of It:

Jean Picard

French astronomer who first accurately measured the length of a degree of a meridian (longitude line) and from that computed the size of the Earth.

Picard became professor of astronomy at the Collège de France, Paris, in 1655. His measurement of the Earth was used by Sir Isaac Newton to verify his theory of gravitation. In 1671 Picard went to the observatory of the noted 16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe at Hven Island, Sweden, to determine its exact location so that Brahe’s observations could be more precisely compared with those made elsewhere. He brought back copies of the originals of Brahe’s principal work.

Picard is also credited with the introduction of telescopic sights and the use of pendulum clocks as contributions to greater precision in astronomical observations. In 1675 he made the first recorded observation of barometric light, the light that appears in the vacuum above the mercury in a barometer when the barometer is moved about. In 1679 he founded and became editor of La Connaissance des temps ou des mouvements célestes (“Knowledge of Time or the Celestial Motions”), the first national astronomical ephemeris, or collection of tables giving the positions of celestial bodies at regular intervals.


Mesure de la terre [par l'abbé Picard]


The Longer (and better) End Of It:


As per the Galileo Project:

Picard, Jean

1. Dates
Born: La Fl�che, 21 July 1620
Died: Paris, 12 October 1682
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 62
2. Father
Occupation: Pub
Picard’s father was almost certainly Jean Picard, a bookseller in La Fl�che; possibly I should consider him a small merchant in a provincial town, but I am listing everyone connected with the book trade under “Pub.” Nothing is known of Picard’s youth.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Paris, M.A.
Picard probably did his early studies at the Jesuit college at La Fl�che. Considerably later he earned an M.A. from Paris is 1650. As usual, I assume a B.A. There is no indication of what he did between La Fl�che and his studies in Paris, a period of about twelve years.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
Picard was ordained a priest in 1650. He held at least four benefices.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Astronomy, Cartography, Instrumentation
Subordinate: Physics, Optics, Hydraulics
The usual story of Picard is that he was the gardener of the Duke of Crequi. Jacques de Valois, having met Picard, inspired him to make astronomical observations. The Picolet volume demonstrates that this story is not true.
Picard became very involved in astronomy and made observations with Gassendi in Paris in the period 1645 to 1652. With Auzout he perfected the movable-wire micrometer and utilized it to measure the diameter of the sun, moon, and planets. In 1667 Picard applied the astronomical telescope to the quadrant and the sector expanding their usefulness in observations. He made other innovations in instrumentation as well.
Picard became an important member of the group of academiciens carrying out cartographic measurements. He was placed in charge first of making a map of the region of Paris and then of the operation to remeasure an arc of the meridian. He utilized Snell’s method of triangulation. His method and measurements were the topic of his Mesure de la terre (1671). He was also an important member of the team that began to compile a map of France based on scientific principles. He was a major figure in the development of scientific cartography.
In 1673 he was at the Paris observatory collaborating with Cassini, Roemer, and La Hire on the institute’s regular project of observations.
Picard directed his attention to other projects of the Acad�mie such as the surveying operations at Marly and Versailles, the whole problem of supplying Versailles with water (a project in which he was central) and barometric experiments and other topics of physics. He left behind papers on hydraulics.
Picard was also skilled in optics. He made suggestions to improve the telescope and left behind manuscripts on dioptrics.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Government, Church Life
Secondary: Academia
There is some evidence to suggest that Picard taught in the University of Paris during the 1650’s, but his life during this period is very obscure.
Picard was apparently not one of the founding members of the Acad�mie in 1666. However, he was appointed in 1667 with a pension of 1200 livres, raised to 1500 in 1669. From that time he spent his entire career devoted to Acad�mie projects.
When He died, Picard held two priories and two other minor benefices, all four of them in his native Anjou. Although the exact dates have not been established, he received one of the priories (worth about 400 livres per annum) about 1661, and the other (worth about 300 livres per annum) between 1661 and 1675. The two minor benefices were worth about 100 livres together. Picolet concludes that Picard had an income of between 700 and 1000 livres in addition to his pension from the Acadmie.
8. Patronage
Types: Eccesiastic Official, Scientist
In 1664 Picard was the confidant of Abb� de Richelieu (a great-nephew of the Cardinal), and there is good cause to believe that he received at least one of his benefices from the Abb�.
Olmstead offers convincing evidence that Auzout, who was a well established astronomer at the time, was directly responsible for Picard’s appointment to the Acad�mie.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Instruments, Cartography, Hydraulics
With Auzout, he perfected the movable-wire micrometer. He was the one who incorporated the astronomical telescope into surveying instruments such as the quadrant and sector. He also developed a new leveling instrument (also with telescope attached) that remained the standard one used in leveling for a long time.
He was the central figure in planning and implementing the water supply for the fountains at Versailles.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Académie Royal des Sciences, 1666-82
Picard was not a founding member of the Acad�mie but was added soon after its establishment.
He corresponded directly or indirectly with Erasmus Bartholin, Johan Blaeu, Martin Fogel, Michel Antoine Hacki, Johann Hevelius, Jan Hudde, Lodewijk Huygens, Stanislaus Lubieniecki de Roles, Andreas Spole, and Jules Reichelt. His correspondence with Hevelius (on telescopic sights) has been published.



 to continue reading (a dismal fraction) , Mesure de la terre 1671 (albeit en francais):



A petite side note  very worth mentioning:


From Darkness at Night:

The French astronomer, Jean Picard , after an expedition to determine the longitude of Tycho Brahe’s old observatory on the Island of Hveen, returned to Paris in 1672 accompanied by the young Danish astronomer Ole Roemer.  Roemer was appointed tutor to the Dauphin and assigned the task of assisting in updating the occultation records of Jupiter’s moons.  Like Cassini, Roemer  noticed the irregularities in Io’s eclipses.  The satellite’s immersions(disappearances) behind Jupiter and emersions(reappearances) rarely occurred precisely on time.  With improved data, he became convinced that finiteness of the speed of light explained these variations.  In September, 1676, he announced at a meeting of the Paris Academy of Sciences that the eclipse of Io on November 9 would occur  10 min later.  He went around repeating this prediction, explaining that the earth was moving away from Jupiter, and the delay would be caused by the extra distance light had to travel to catch up with the Earth.  His successful prediction, followed by his paper read before the Academy, established him as the discoverer of the finite speed of light.  He pointed out that the change that had occurred in Io’s orbital period, though “not sensible in two revolutions, became very considerable in many taken together.”

Five years later, o returning to Copenhagen, Roemer was appointed a professor at the university; he became mayor of Copenhagen, and then astronomer royal of Denmark.  Among his many inventions must be included the mercury thermometer in the from used nowadays.  Gabriel Fahrenheit, a German-Dutch instrument maker, only copied Roemer’s method of construction and calibration (ice at 32 degrees and boiling water at sea level at 212 degrees); the misnamed Fahrenheit thermometer should be called the Roemer thermometer.


 Please take some time to do your own research on this fascinating man.






Dead Man Walking

They hail me as one living,
      But don’t they know
That I have died of late years,
      Untombed although?
I am but a shape that stands here,
      A pulseless mould,
A pale past picture, screening
      Ashes gone cold.
Not at a minute’s warning,
      Not in a loud hour,
For me ceased Time’s enchantments
      In hall and bower.
There was no tragic transit,
      No catch of breath,
When silent seasons inched me
      On to this death ….
— A Troubadour-youth I rambled
      With Life for lyre,
The beats of being raging
      In me like fire.
But when I practised eyeing
      The goal of men,
It iced me, and I perished
      A little then.
When passed my friend, my kinsfolk,
      Through the Last Door,
And left me standing bleakly,
      I died yet more;
And when my Love’s heart kindled
      In hate of me,
Wherefore I knew not, died I
      One more degree.
And if when I died fully
      I cannot say,
And changed into the corpse-thing
      I am to-day,
Yet is it that, though whiling
      The time somehow
In walking, talking, smiling,
      I live not now.

To Life Itself


For strange effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself, which is always far more daring than any effort of the imagination.


By far one of the most brilliant insights to Debussy…through Michelangeli’s otherworldly touch to the keys of definite, black and white. 

Please lend a precious moment.



One charges oneself of the self, to the self:

His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge.



All Rights Reserved © mmartel∞

Neutral Tones: Something Wicked This Way Comes

E stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod,
–They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.
Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles solved years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
–On which lost the more by our love.
The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing….
Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.
– Thomas Hardy

Dews and Rain for Your Benefit

“When I look up at the starry heavens at night and reflect upon what it is that I really see there, I am constrained to say, ‘There is no God.’ The mind staggers in its attempt to grasp the idea of a being that could do that. It is futile to attempt it. It is not the works of some God that I see there. I am face to face with a power that baffles speech. I see no lineaments of personality, no human traits, but an energy upon whose currents solar systems are but bubbles. In the presence of it man and the race of man are less than motes in the air. I doubt if any mind can expand its conception of God sufficiently to meet the astounding disclosures of modern science. It is easier to say there is no God. The universe is so unhuman, that is, it goes its way with so little thought of man. He is but an incident, not an end. We must adjust our notions to the discovery that things are not shaped to him, but that he is shaped to them. The air was not made for his lungs, but he has lungs because there is air; the light was not created for his eye, but he has eyes because there is light. All the forces of nature are going their own way; man avails himself of them, or catches a ride as best he can. If he keeps his seat he prospers; if he misses his hold and falls he is crushed. Mankind used to think that the dews and rains were sent for their benefit, and the church still encourages this idea by praying for rain in times of drought, but the notion is nearly dissipated.”

John Burroughs, The Light of Day

La Fleur: Convallaria majalis



The Lily of the valley, breathing in the humble grass
Answer’d the lovely maid and said: “I am a watry weed,
And I am very small, and love to dwell in lowly vales;
So weak, the gilded butterfly scarce perches on my head;
Yet I am visited from heaven, and he that smiles on all
Walks in the valley and each morn over me spreads his hand,
Saying: ‘Rejoice, thou humble grass, thou new-born lily flower,
Thou gentle maid of silent valleys and of modest brooks;
For thou shalt be clothed in light, and fed with morning manna,
Till summer’s heat melts thee beside the fountains and the springs
To flourish in eternal vales.’ Then why should Thel complain?


 Listen if you will:


One legend tells that the first Lily of the Valley loved the Nightingale, but because she was so shy, she hid in the long grass to listen to his song. The Nightingale became lonely, and said he would no longer sing unless the lily of the valley bloomed every May for all too see.

The Latin name Convallaria means “valley” and Majalis means “blooming in May” (from Greek). This woodland plant is native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere in Asia and Europe. In different countries it’s associated with love, tenderness, innocence, faith… This flower inspires people for poetry, legends, festivals and traditions…

In France there is a Lily of the Valley Festival. In Balkans it’s a pagan and Orthodox holiday. In Old Germany there used to be a huge fair with dancing, bonfires, singing and praising the Goddess of Spring. (By the way, in Germany the flower is called the “Little Bell of May” or Maiglöckchen.) In Russia there is a legend about princess of the Sea Volkhova  who fell in love with Sadko. But he gave his heart to Ljubava, the Princess of Forests and Valleys. Volkhova came from the sea to the land and started crying. Her dropped tears appeared with Lilies of the Valley—a symbol of sorrow, love, purity and innocence.


After Lily of the Valley finishes blooming, the red berries appear on the stem. Old legends say that those are not berries but the tears from separation with Young Spring. She is very independent, travels from south to north and gives love to everyone. She might have loved him, but not forever. Spring left him with the Summer. Lily of the Valley got so upset that his leaves turned yellow, and on the stems little scarlet berry-tears appeared.


 Lily of the Valley is given meaning as a symbol of purity, simplicity, charm, humility, and also believed to bring good luck in the world of romance and therefore not be surprised if this flower is often found in the arrangement for weddings.

Lily of the valley has been used for medicinal purposes. It was believed to strengthen memory, to restore speech and as a liquor smeared on the forehead and the back of the neck, to make one have good common sense. All parts of the plant are considered poisonous, despite it’s alleged powers.The leaves yield a green dye, with lime water.

Toxicity is the plant’s defense against animals eating its seeds. All parts of the plant—the stems, the leaves, the flowers and the berries—are extremely poisonous and close to 40 different cardiac glycosides have been found in the plant so far.

Glycosides are chemical compounds where a sugar is bound to a non-carbohydrate molecule. By increasing calcium stores in and around cells, cardiac glycosides increase the force with which the heart contracts and the volume of blood it can pump. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and these compounds have been used in medicine since the ancient Roman Empire to treat arrhythmia and congestive heart failure (today, the drugs Lanoxin, Digitek, and Lanoxicaps are made from a purified cardiac glycoside extracted from the foxglove plant). In quantities over the recommended safe dosage, though, cardiac glycosides can wreak havoc on your gastrointestinal, circulatory and nervous systems


Interesting to note:

This flower was the favorite of great Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky




The Sea King’s Daughter (a Russian legend)

Long ago in the river port city called Novgorod the Great, there lived a young musician named Sadko.

Every day, a rich merchant or noble would send a messenger to Sadko’s door, calling him to play at a feast. Sadko would grab his twelve-string gusli and rush to the banquet hall. There he would pluck the strings of his instrument till all the guests were dancing.

“Eat your fill!” the host would tell him later, pointing him to the table, and passing him a few small coins besides. And on such as he was given did Sadko live.

Often his friends would ask him, “How can you survive on so little?”

“It’s not so bad,” Sadko would reply. “And anyway, how many men can go to a different feast each day, play the music they love, and watch it set a whole room dancing?”

Sadko was proud of his city, the richest and most free in all Russia. He would walk through busy Market Square, lined with merchants in their stalls and teeming with traders from many lands. He never crossed the square without hearing tongues of far-off places, from Italy to Norway to Persia.

Down at the piers, he would see the sailing ships with their cargos of lumber, grain, hides, pottery, spices, and precious metals. And crossing the Great Bridge over the River Volkhov, Sadko would catch the glint from the gilded roofs of a dozen white stone churches.

“Is there another such city as Novgorod in all the world?” he would say. “Is there any better place to be?”

Yet sometimes Sadko was lonely. The maidens who danced gaily to his music at the feasts would often smile at him, and more than one had set his heart on fire. But they were rich and he was poor, and not one of them would think of being his.

One lonely evening, Sadko walked sadly beyond the city walls and down along the broad River Volkhov. He came to his favorite spot on the bank and set his gusli on his lap. Gentle waves brushed the shore, and moonlight shimmered on the water.

“My lovely River Volkhov,” he said with a sigh. “Rich man, poor man—it’s all the same to you. If only you were a woman! I’d marry you and live with you here in the city I love.”

Sadko plucked a sad tune, then a peaceful one, then a merry one. The tinkling notes of his gusli floated over the Volkhov.

All at once the river grew rough, and strong waves began to slap the bank. “Heaven help me!” cried Sadko as a large shape rose from the water. Before him stood a huge man, with a pearl-encrusted crown atop a flowing mane of seaweed.

“Musician,” said the man, “behold the King of the Sea. To this river I have come to visit one of my daughters, the Princess Volkhova. Your sweet music reached us on the river bottom, where it pleased us greatly.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” stammered Sadko.

“Soon I will return to my own palace,” said the King. “I wish you to play there at a feast.”

“Gladly,” said Sadko. “But where is it? And how do I get there?”

“Why, under the sea, of course! I’m sure you’ll find your way. But meanwhile, you need not wait for your reward.”

Something large jumped from the river and flopped at Sadko’s feet. A fish with golden scales! As Sadko watched in amazement, it stiffened and turned to solid gold.

“Your Majesty, you are too generous!”

“Say no more about it!” said the King. “Music is worth far more than gold. If the world were fair, you’d have your fill of riches!” And with a splash, he sank in the river and was gone.

The next morning, Sadko arrived at the market square just as the stalls were opening. He quickly sold the golden fish to an astonished merchant. Then hurrying to the piers, he booked his passage on a ship leaving Novgorod that very day.

Down the Volkhov the ship sailed, across Lake Ladoga and the Gulf of Finland, and into the Baltic Sea. As it sped above the deep water, Sadko peered over the rail.

“In all the wide sea,” he murmured, “how can I ever find the palace?”

Just then, the ship shuddered to a halt. The wind filled the sails, yet the ship stood still, as if a giant hand had grasped it.

Some of the sailors cursed in fear, while others prayed for their lives. “It must be the King of the Sea!” the captain cried. “Perhaps he seeks tribute—or someone among us.”

“Do not be troubled,” called Sadko. “I know the one he seeks.” And clutching his gusli, he climbed the railing.

“Stop him!” shouted the captain.

But before any could lay hold of him, Sadko jumped from the ship and plunged below the waves.

Down sank Sadko, down all the way to the sea floor. The red sun shone dimly through the water above, while before him stood a white stone palace.

Sadko passed through a coral gate. As he reached the huge palace doors, they swung open to reveal a giant hall. The elegant room was filled with guests and royal attendants—herring and sprats, cod and flounder, gobies and sticklebacks, sand eels and sea scorpions, crabs and lobsters, starfish and squid, sea turtles and giant sturgeon.

Standing among the guests were dozens of maidens—river nymphs, the Sea King’s daughters. On a shell throne at the end of the hall sat the Sea King and his Queen.

“You’re just in time!” called the King. “Musician, come sit by me—and let the dance begin!”

Sadko set his gusli on his lap and plucked a merry tune. Soon all the fish swam in graceful figures. The seafloor crawlers cavorted. The river maidens leaped and spun.

“I like that tune!” declared the King. He jumped to the center of the hall and joined the dance. His arms waved, his robe swirled, his hair streamed, his feet stamped.

“Faster!” cried the King. “Play faster!”

Sadko played faster and the King’s dance grew wilder. All the others stopped and watched in awe. Ever more madly did he move, whirling faster, leaping higher, stamping harder.

The Sea Queen whispered urgently, “Musician, end your tune! It seems to you the King merely dances in his hall. But above us, the sea is tossing ships like toys, and giant waves are breaking on the shore!”

Alarmed, Sadko pulled a string until it snapped. “Your Majesty, my gusli is broken.”

“A shame,” said the Sea King, winding to a stop. “I could have danced for days. But a fine fellow you are, Sadko. I think I’ll marry you to one of my daughters and keep you here forever.”

“Your Majesty,” said Sadko carefully, “beneath the sea, your word is law. But this is not my home. I love my city of Novgorod.”

“Say no more about it!” roared the King. “Prepare to choose your bride. Daughters, come forth!”

The river maidens passed in parade before Sadko. Each was more lovely than the one before. But Sadko’s heart was heavy, and he barely looked at them.

“What’s wrong, musician?” the King said merrily. “Too hard to choose? Then I’ll wed you to the one who fancies you. Behold the Princess Volkhova!”

The princess stepped forward. Her green eyes were sparkling, and a soft smile graced her lips. “Dearest Sadko, at last we can be together. For years I have thrilled to the music you’ve played on the shore.”

“Volkhova!” said Sadko in wonder. “You’re as lovely as your river!”

But the Sea Queen leaned over and said softly, “You are a good man, Sadko, so I will tell you the truth. If you but once kiss or embrace her, you can never return to your city again.”

That night, Sadko lay beside his bride on a bed of seaweed. She’s so lovely, thought Sadko, so charming—all I ever hoped for. How can I not hold her?

But time after time, the Queen’s words came back to him—never return to your city again— and his arms lay frozen at his sides.

“Dearest,” said the princess, “why do you not embrace me?”

“It is the custom of my city,” Sadko stammered. “We never kiss or embrace on the first night.”

“Then I fear you never will,” she said sadly, and turned away.

When Sadko awoke the next morning, he felt sunlight on his face. He opened his eyes and saw beside him not the Princess Volkhova but the River Volkhov. And behind him rose the walls of Novgorod!

“My home,” said Sadko, and he wept—perhaps for joy at his return, perhaps for sadness at his loss, perhaps for both.

* * *

The years were good to Sadko. With the money that remained to him, he bought a ship and goods enough to fill it. And so Sadko became a merchant, and in time, the richest man in Novgorod. What’s more, he married a fine young woman and raised a family. Many a feast he would hold so he could play his gusli and watch his children dance.

Yet sometimes still on a quiet evening he would walk out of the city alone, sit on the bank, and send his tinkling music over the water. And sometimes too a lovely head would rise from the river to listen—or perhaps it was only moonlight on the Volkhov.

And leaves of that shy plant,
(Her flowers were shed) the lily of the vale,
That loves the ground, and from the sun withholds
Her pensive beauty; from the breeze her sweets.
WordsworthThe Excursion. Bk. IX. L. 540.





A Nighttime Companion of Solitude


For in those moments of ultimate doubt,

is released a power that goes beyond all reasoning.

It is a choice to accept, in this limitless capacity.

For from it reason will become no more evident ,

than the doubt which once stood so stable.

And life breath, can transform all meaning…

from simply a moment,

of this noble power.


Dedicated to H. with true purpose.



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