Looking into the various critics of Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance (1852), one peculiar item stands out as related to the earlier post. The proto-generative concept of starlight seems to be a major sticking point: this particular observation by Craig White in his ‘A Utopia of “Spheres and Sympathies”: Science and Society in The Blithedale Romance and at Brook Farm’:
“Despite Coverdale’s regressive habits of speech, the new cosmos and its urban microcosm continue to impinge on consciousness: “an astral lamp was penetrating mistily through the white curtain of Zenobia’s drawing room” (161). Identified with the stars even while displacing them, the “astral lamp” indicates the new correspondance between “nature and human existence” (94)
What White seems to ‘zero in’ on is a peculiar talismanic quality of starlight at that particular time in American letters, when new stars were being discovered at a rapid rate. We are still at least a hundred years from Einstein’s theory of relativity, and yet the natural phenomena of starlight and its fixed position tends to reveal the sidereal concept of time that I averred helps displace the “whips and scorns of time” as Shakespeare would put it in Hamlet Ac III Sc i (see here). The focus and study of the stars gives us a sense of eternity in a way that removes us from the randomness inherent in daily life.
The quote, from a ‘not-easily-obtainable-or-out-of-print’ edition of The BlithedaleRomance by Nathaniel Hawthorne happens in Ch. 19: Zenobia’s Drawing Room. (See the available online version here. ) This quiet moment shows us the same sense of peace and purpose that exists in examining the stars. Of course, this ‘astral lamp’ was based on the ideal of divinity revealed in nature before she had been stripped of these virtues in the 19th century. For my part, I feel like I am searching for the starlight of a star that has long since burned out, but whose light may yet still be visible by candlelight!
I have been trying to sift through a number of documents related to the French-American connection during the embryonic stage of American Lit. This has taken the form of the writings of Albert Brisbane, who popularized Charles Fourier (Much as the works of Michel Foucault popularized Jeremy Bentham in ‘Discipline and Punish’) in his ASTRAL howl: ‘The Social Destiny of Man.’
I’ve spent hours in the stacks of the GSU library trying to sort through microfiche (which if you haven’t done is a wild ride in throwback research) in order to get a digital still of Brisbane. I did manage to get this still, (which for the purposes of copyright I am posting a dummy image below). The main word that I got from this particular document was ‘sidereal.’
The rest of this blog is dedicated to understanding this term. Sidereal. Dictionary.com defines this adequately. But the idea is not in the definition. It is this antiquated idea (which many people tie to astrology, but I argue has nothing to do with this sort of superstition) that there is a sacred canopy over us, that dictates the course of human events in a way contrary to random chance.
I won’t get into chaos theory here, because of course it is not possible to totally defeat chaos. Chaos is just part of life, as that Jeff Goldblum clip of Jurrasic Park may testify as to the “tiny variations” (01:31). But is there some other reality tied to the course of the planets and the positions of the stars, which might dictate the relationship between a very random (internet/streaming media) sense of how events happen in the 21st century and the implacable wisdom of the ancients?
I do think that Brisbane was on to something here, or perhaps that we have lost the sense that some things are predetermined in a way that defeats a ‘time plus matter plus chance’ version of reality. The stars symbolize a kind of alternative destiny, that if the starlight could reach the earth before the star burns out, would connect us with an awesome and quite supernal version of reality.
I want to give a major shoutout to my friend Aleron Kong. If you enjoyed my blog, you may also enjoy his voluminous collection of LitRPG (soon to be) classics. This is a new genre that I just became aware of and you might really benefit from reading his saga ‘The Land.’ I particularly like the first volume because it is not only LitRPG, but truly Atlanta, Georgia lit.
If you get into LitRPG, it is literally a video game that doesn’t end! This is interesting to me because of the gravitational pull of young people to ‘screens.’ It may be a great way to get your young person who is ‘obsessed with video games’ as my son is to begin to learn to read. *Disclaimer: NOT for young children, because there is a lot of graphic violence.* But for 16-20 y. o. readers, they would be able to handle it.
Yes, this lit is ‘lit.’ Please don’t be embarrased, because I ain’t millennial gen.
At this point, I have finished the first draft of the YA novel and plan to undergo massive revisions in order to get it into a polished YA novel. I have begun the process of beginning my dissertation. Until it is completed in 2023, I will no longer be drafting or editing my novel. If you wish to receive a copy of the completed draft, please email me and give me a good reason. I will share it with anyone as long as they sign a legal document that proves that they will not sell or distribute it.
Tefl and Poxig woke that morning with some trepidation that the winter wraiths of the Ladimore mountains would descend. As the first rays of daylight ceded to the afternoon glare, the cold began to make them more cantankerous by the minute. The icy cliffs seemed quite impassable and Truliso for the moment had disappeared from view. As they awoke from their slumber in the icy cliff, they plotted their course back through Nitla Pass to the confines of Marginalia. With the ORB lit, they would have a chance at reaching the king and presenting themselves as the warriors who were to fulfill the prophecy. But the episode with Marty the gatekeeper had made them realize their material lack, and in fact they could not depend on civilized methods to reach their goal. Poxig awoke, as if from a stupor, only wishing that he could return to his days as a bard of old tales. There was no place for music in this regions, and winter wraiths were always tracking them.
“We must advance through Nitla Pass, and back across the Vistula river, said Tefl.
“I beg to differ,” said Poxig after a moment’s pause. “Those roads only lead to peril, and we will surely be overtaken by highwaymen, or worse, winter wraiths.”
“Well, by what authority do you make this decision?” asked Tefl.
“I pray to my god Releven, and he renders decisions that I must follow,” said Poxig.
“Releven is a legend of the elvenfolk, but he is not to be trusted in the time of peril,” said Tefl.
“Think of it this way: suppose we were to make it through Nitla Pass, like we were able to last time. Don’t you think that Darxon will be anticipating for us to use that route? He already knows that we have been to the Naughright guild. Only Releven had a great enough strength to oppose Mithrax at the pass. Our way is fraught with peril and we lack adequate resources to oppose such a force. We must go up Mt. Redoubt through the Renfro Woods. Do you have a better idea?”
“We must needs make our way through with the force that Master Control provides. No visible god can help us. How can you depend on the advice of an Elven legend to lead you in the time of war? Did not you learn of the religion that divided man and elf during the war? We must depend on a force stronger than an Elven myth.”
This severely irked Poxig because he knew of Releven’s protection and favor, but could not make his friend see the danger of returning through Nitla Pass on the King’s road. They had lost nearly all their silver in their expedition to the Silver City, and they would not have recourse to journey in the open where they were subject to taxes and tolls. Also, it was likely that Darxon knew of their path and had posted sentries.
The argument continued between the two companions.
“We must plow through Nitla Pass and face Darxon’s threat head on,” said Tefl.
“I admire your courage. But where did you get that argument?”
“What are you talking about?”
“No man stands alone. He must stand on the shoulders of a giant that has come before,” replied Poxig.
“Master Control bids it.”
“But we cannot stand on the shoulders of an invisible God.”
“Do you have a better idea?”
“Releven was the god that stood against Mithrax at Nitla Pass,” Poxig said.
“And you think that Releven is actually a god?”
“He is the elven diamond, the son of the promise,” replied Poxig.
“And you claim to know this god?” asked Tefl.
“My family has paid obeisance since my youth,” he replied.
“Then, your visible god has told you that we will not be able to defeat the Dark Lord at Nitla Pass?” Tefl asked.
“I am sure of it,” said Poxig.
The argument continued for some time like that, back and forth. No hero could convince the other fully. But in the end, they had to compromise. The party would ascend Mt. Redoubt and press on through the Renfro woods. There were more chances to run into wolves. The trail might be unclear, and the chance of getting lost was likely, but they had to stand on the shoulders of a god that had come before. No invisible God with a half-known prophecy could be trusted to lead them with superior force and courage.
Stories hold a special ability to deeply impact their readers. Those who enjoy reading imaginative fiction like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings by the Wade Center’s authors already know the truth of that statement. From the page to the screen, from the parables Jesus used for the spiritual benefit of his audiences to the trials of two small hobbits struggling up the slopes of Mount Doom, stories engage the heart in ways that other forms of expression cannot accomplish. We yearn for that kind of engagement and feel nourished once we find it, like taking a breath of fresh spring air or a drink of water after a long thirst.
J.R.R. Tolkien calls this nourishment “recovery” in his essay “On Fairy-Stories,” explaining that stories can help us see life afresh and reawaken or illuminate spiritual truths:
After they had crossed over the blue field gate, Poxig and Nesta appeared at the shoreline of the Crescent Lake. They had experience little discomfort. They had not achieved their aim, but at least had gained the trust of an invaluable ally in sage Luckan. Now with his blessing, they would have to return to the borders of Marginalia, and find enough support to gain access to the king’s chamber. The journey across the Ladimore mountains would not be an easy one. The snowfall on the top of mount Redoubt was so thick as to make it almost impassable.
“What did you find in the interior of the city?” asked Tefl.
“We were introduced to the Naughright guild, but evil forces had infiltrated it. Darxon’s mages voted us down,” replied Poxig.
“I must needs return to Naughright to learn light magic,” said Nesta.
“You will get that opportunity,” said Poxig. “But now it is too dangerous. Darxon’s mages could lead you to calamity.”
“We did make the acquaintance of one sage Luckan,” said Poxig. “He was able to light the ORB for us.”
Poxig showed the four the lit ORB, which was brilliant in all its array.
“Now with the lit ORB, it is possible to gain the attention of the king,” said Poxig.
The party now had to decide what to do with Truliso, and how to preserve the Dragon king’s message. Jane Lampion was able to take care of Truliso, but it was doubtful that she could return to the Cardia Islands. She would have to go as far as Excelsior, and then remain there for the party to return with news of the king’s decision. With the influence of king Charles, and access to the remaining ORBs, it would be possible to thwart the earthlink or at least delay it.
They moved beyond the gradations of the acclivity as they continued through the gloaming. Beyond the reaches of the magic gate’s protection, there was no telling what dangers might confront the party of four. Poxig and Tefl sent Truliso to scout ahead for goblin rangers, which were said to occupy this mountain path. Once they reached the borders of Marginalia, they would have to confront the hordes of imps that were swarming the country. It had now come to their attention through the letter of Christopher White that the imps were loyal only to Garlang and that they were trying to destory the confines of Marginalia city.
“What hope would we have to overcome these goblin rangers without a properly equipped army?” asked Tefl.
“We must rely on Truliso to scout for us. We now have the ORB, which guarantees our entrance into the king’s court.”
The glow of the ORB comforted Poxig. Its reds and blues glint with hints of gold scintilla. He could feel that its aura was protecting them from grave danger. As long as the ORB was lit, they at least had the magical protection of Luckan, which would surround them with a circle of protection of light magic. Darxon’s power could not harm them with the ORB in their possession.
Shiela Nesta’s force with the light magic had begun to accrete from her experience inside the Naughright guild. Her healing powers were now substantially beyond her ability when she had lived at the outpost with her uncle. She would have had a more difficulty turning leaves into healing powder, but some of the remedies that she had learned from the likes of Luckan had made her ability beyond what it had been at the outpost with her uncle sage Barry.
The crew of four continued up their path to the acclivity on this rocky trackless waste. The trees had been snapped in two because of the force of the gusts in the Ladimore range. They would have to make their way through snow and ice that made the way almost impassable. They huddled together in hopes of keeping warm. Their destination of the Vistula riverbed which formed the barrier of Marginalia seemed quite a ways off.
They would have to stop for the night and rest under the outcropping. No fire would warm their hearts: only the glow of the ORB could give them comfort in the inky dark night. Poxig bade them good night and tucked himself under his blanket to sleep away his fears of goblin hordes. With Truliso leading the way across the mountain range, they took a pause to regather their strength for the morning trudge across the path of blinding white.
Poxig and Nesta were disheartened by the decision of the council, but they were compelled to leave the Naughright guild in hopes that some sage might be found outside of this gated community who could help them translate the message from the dragonite from their pidgin to the plainness of the Ulterian tongue. As they passed through Silvera, they met numerous shadowy glances, as they were misperceived as vagrants. It seemed for a culture that had virtually eliminated poverty, they had the unattractive quality of being judgmental of those who did not adhere to their standards of dress and comportment.
As they reached the portal of the magic gate, they stopped and looked at one another.
“Clearly, this is out last chance to go through. We’ve spent all our silver. There’s no way back,” said Nesta. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“We couldn’t get the guild’s permission,” said Poxig.
Both heroes knew that snobbishness had undone their mission to light the ORB and get the elite guild’s attention. Nowhere was this more plain than in the council’s decision. Not one of them were willing to be ‘demoted’ by going outside of the boundaries of Silvera. Such was the dark side of the council, who claimed to be guardians of light magic. Still, it was also possible that Darxon’s mages had infiltrated the group. Elite bodies of government had unusual power, but they were not invulnerable to evil.
“We have no other choice,” said Poxig. “We must return to the Crescent Lake, and meet our colleagues there, and devise another plan of action.”
Nesta nodded in agreement. “We have no time to lose,” she added.
But just as they were about to go through the great blue portal, they heard a noise behind them.
“Wait. Don’t go just yet,” said a shadowy figure.
They didn’t recognize him at first, because he had left his conical cap behind, but it was indeed Luckan. He had followed them through Silvera and back to the magic gate.
“You made your case before the Naughrights. That took some extraordinary courage. Now, I can’t leave my post here, because we know that Darxon has a hidden agent in our circle. But take this missive to Christopher White. He will be able to advise you how to reach the attention of the king. I believe that the prophecy is about to be fulfilled and you are the warriors of light. We have no time to lose, and this message must be translated for the king. But in order to reach the king, receive this.”
Luckan waived his wand and the ORB began to glow gold, turquoise, and vermillion. Poxig’s ORB was now resplendent with colored lights. In fact, this would be evidence that could be used to get the king’s attention in Marginalia. They would have to use Luckan’s letter to reach Christopher White, and then, perhaps gain access to the other ORBs in the king’s possession. By communicating the dragon’s message to the royal retinue, they would be able to possibly stop the earthlink that was threatening the whole of cosmon.
The tandem of heroes bade farewell to the brave defector from the Naughright guild. Although they could not gain the assent of the sacred guild, it was clear that their mission in Silvera had not been an outright failure. To be able to reconnect with Christopher White in the forests over the Ladimore mountains would be their new point of departure. From there, they might be able to gain his influence over the famously reclusive king. What they did not know was what awaited them in Marginalia. Garlang and his army of imps were still waging war, and there was no measurable idea of how much damage they had caused.
What seemed difficult to fathom was how they would gain an audience with the king of Marginalia, Charles I. After transporting themselves out of Silvera, they would have to propose their worthiness to the king’s retinue, in hopes of gaining the attention of the famously reclusive king. As to why he locked himself in the tower of the castle, perhaps Christopher White would be able to shed some light. For now, it was enough to know that some good was left in the elite Naughright guild, and they certainly had earned an ally in the person of Luckan that may serve them in their quest.
“We must traverse the Ladimore mountains once again, and press on to the Shinarian plain,” said Poxig.
The Naughright guild could see the power of the ORB radiating from the interior. Each of them began to whisper amongst themselves as Poxig and Nesta watched expectantly. The fireflies continued to glow around them and the strange music quieted. Poxig began to get nervous that one of Darxon’s representatives in the circle of sages might try to steal the ORB. He clutched it tightly, and then put it in his knapsack.
“We need one sage to come with us to the magic gate to Silvera,” said Nesta. “Our friends are waiting outside with a dragon whelp with an important message.”
“We never venture outside the walls of this city,” said one sage, who doffed his cap. “To do so would be to be unprotected from the evil forces beyond. Impurities could get into the city of Silvera. We would lose our elite status as guardians of the light magic.”
Poxig hemmed and hawed. “This is an urgent message about the dragon king, Bamut. We cannot translate the message, but we have hired a dragon whisperer.”
“The dragonites are a dangerous clan,” said the capless sage. “Some of them are dangerous, and that is why they had been banished to the floating continent.”
Poxig didn’t realize that they already had known about the floating continent. It seemed like they had all knowledge in the ranks of this elite clan of wizards.
“We have the authority of Christopher White,” said Poxig. “He sent this letter to the guild.”
Poxig handed over the letter.
“We knew of Christopher White,” said Luckan. “He was amongst our ranks but left and forfeit his elite status to work amongst the mortals and the halflings. But let us have the letter.”
Luckan read the whole letter aloud.
Dear eminent ones of the Naughright,
The bearer of this letter is Poxig the elf from Excelsior. You may not know him well, but I can attest to this elf’s character. He has single handedly saved the Crumpet library from conflagration. We are surrounded on all sides by Garlang and his swarms of imps. We need the help of the Naughright in order to combat this existential threat. Poxig has proven his valiant character, as I can confirm. I urge the Naughright guild to listen to his plea and confirm his authority based on my recommendation.
Should anyone doubt the veracity of this elf, witness for yourselves that he is indeed the ORB bearer. He alone has the chance to unseat Garlang from his throne and stop the imp swarm from overcoming our land. If you ever trusted my counsel, do so now, or at least for the sake of Master Control.
Luckan was a reasonable mage, but not many would venture to surrender their elite status in the guild to help a crew of wayfarers. He removed his large conical cap and scratched his head, then he stroked his beard. He remembered his younger years as a journeyman mage, and how hardscrabbled those years were. He could see the same spark of determination in Shiela Nesta’s face, as she longed to know the way of light magic. Some glimmer of passion began to return to his breast, and he realized that in a debt of gratitude to the ancient ones that had taught him magic, he should work within his power to aid the young elf and his companion.
The Naughright guild was a democratic institution: no sage had ultimate power, but the strength of consensus in the council was how decisions were ultimately made. Still these decisions usually came from the top down to resolve some diplomatic dispute in Cosmon, very rarely did someone from outside Silvera petition their council nor did anyone try to persuade them to leave the ivory tower of perfection within the magic gate of the Silver city. If Luckan were to help them, he would have to act quickly.
“Put it to a vote! Who amongst us think it wise to venture outside of the magic barrier to hear this message?” asked Luckan.
The conical capped guild gathered around the flaming center of the Naughright guild. Only a majority vote would seal Poxig’s fate. Each of the sages seemed intent on making the will of the elite guild of wizards known. But as the sky darkened and the music subsided, it was clear that there would be no positive affirmation of Christopher White’s plea.
Once Sheila Nesta and Poxig Excelsior were within the confines of Silvera, they noticed that the aura around them had begun to change. All the sidewalks were completely clean, every tree meticulously placed. Brilliant rainbow-like garden flowers colored every small space in between ornate arabesque architecture. The fragrances of perfumes were everywhere. No trash or refuse on the streets, not a single thing out of place. It was by far the richest city that they had ever seen. The citizens of Silvera were dressed in expensive clothes of the finest purple.
“Aren’t there any poor in Silvera?” asked Nesta.
“It looks like they have eliminated that problem,” Poxig replied.
They went to exchange their gold pieces for silver at the bank. The silver would have to last them for their stay here. There was one thing for sure: the only thing that mattered in this city was silver. If you had it, you were welcome. But poor and indigent could not gain refuge in a city like this, protected by a magic gate. All that remained of societal ills was a city protected from harm, nestled near the Crescent Lake.
They moved warily through the streets of Silvera, conscious that every eye was fixed on them. Poxig shuffled his feet quietly so as not to make noise. If they were perceived as vagrants, they might be forcibly removed from the city. The clocktower ticked loudly as they moved towards the city square. Their first goal would be to exchange their gold for silver, and then they would need to gain an audience at the Naughright guild. But where exactly this place was, no one could say.
“We are trying to find the Naughright guild,” Poxig exclaimed. “Can you help us?”
“I have never heard of such a place,” said one man. “But there is rumor that deep in the forest adjacent to the village is the meeting place of the circle of sages.”
“We must be closing in on it,” Nesta said. “The guild is very secretive about its business. We may need a divining rod to find its whereabouts.”
“We have a limited budget here. We cannot camp but must find lodging. Thirty silver pieces will not go so far here,” said Poxig.
On the tip they received, they journeyed into the forested area behind the city, looking for the circle of sages. Day turned into night, as they searched the dingy wood, which was covered in sticks and leaves. Through the mist, Nesta perceived that there was a magical presence that she had never felt before. The sweat condensed on the back of her neck. Suddenly, the path opened up to a glade. There was a fire burning there, but no one was there.
“This must be the place of the meeting!” said Nesta.
“Nesta, look!” Poxig said as he motioned to the ORB.
The ORB was glowing ever so slightly in shades of blue. As Poxig looked into the ORB, he saw a light that had never been there before. This might be a sacred space, such that the ORB could feel the magic power around him. As he looked around, aged men with long grey beards and red clothing approached from every side. They were wearing pointy red conical caps. They surrounded Poxig and Nesta, and at first it seemed like they were in trouble. But then, Poxig remembered that these were the stewards of light magic. No harm could come to them.
“We have known about your coming for some time,” said one sage.
“Who are you?” said another. “Identify yourself.”
“Please excuse me, sir. I am Poxig of Excelsior from beyond Marginalia. “My friends and I have come to your meeting place for help.”
“And I am Nesta, the white magician, and I seek the council’s favor.”
“I am Luckan,” said a bearded man in the red gown. “You are welcome here. But what is your business?”
“I come to learn the ways of magic,” said Nesta, “but my friend has come to enlist your help.”
“What she means to say, is that we need your skill to light the sacred ORB,” said Poxig. “My friends are waiting outside with an urgent message for the council. Without your help to light the ORB, we cannot gain the attention of the king of Marginalia, who holds the other ORBs in his chamber.”
“Well, then sir, this is a tall order!” said Luckan. “Our council is sworn to protect light forces from the dark influences. We are not mercenaries that can be bought!”
“We’re not asking you to perform a miracle,” said Poxig. “Please come with us to the end of Silvera, where my friend the dragon whisperer will translate the message from Bamut, the king of all dragonites,” Poxig said.
“We will do no such thing!” said a tawny skinned man around the edge of the circle. “This council confers in secret under the cover of the magic gate! It is the only way to protect ourselves from evil influences.” “The gatekeeper would not let us in the gate,” said Nesta. “We had to leave our dragon Truliso at the entryway. Please! You’re the only one who can help us!”
The aura of the Naughright guild was hard to ignore. The fireflies flew all around like will-o-the-wisp. Strange music could be heard coming from the forest, but they could not tell from where. The tandem of heroes had come upon the most elite wizards and sages of Cosmon. To gain their trust would not be easy. Each of the sages looked at them with supercilious grins, and many of them were trained in manipulation and chicanery. Poxig remembered that some of them were loyal to Darxon, and yet they could not be sure which ones.
“We have heard many pretenders come and make their case before us,” said Luckan. “How can we be sure that you are the heroes of the prophecy?”
The only extant text of the prophecy that Poxig knew about was in the king’s chambers in Marginalia. It had been given as a sacred boon from the Naughright guild after the wars of religion. But now, here they were in the sacred academy of wizards, and it was impossible to justify themselves.
“I am the bearer of the ORB!” said Poxig. “This sacred ORB was bequeathed to me from my father!”
Luckan and the sages gasped as the circle began to widen and then close around the ORB, which continued to emit a blue glimmer. The great assembly of wizards made the ORB a dazzling array of colors that cycled around in the interior of the glowing sphere. The music became louder and whistled arpeggios over and over. The magical power that was contained in this enchanted artifact could not be denied.
“This is indeed the ORB of which prophecy speaks!” shouted Luckan into the throng of admirers.