The Song by Ingram Crockett


THE SONG
The day had been sultry, with thunder-heads on the horizon, and while I slept the rain came, and after the rain the sun, vivifying the earth with rainbow beauty—calling me on to the joy of the open. The very shadows trembled with rapture. The rock colors were fresh from the retouching of a master hand. The earth had swung into a sparkling atmosphere of hope. There was dancing of wing, of leaf, of flower, of sunlight, of raindrop, of rivulet, of sky, of troops of silvery clouds, freest of wanderers.
But out of all the sparkle, the color, the dancing, the laughter, there came a song, flowing in upon my spirit from the myriad waves that break forever on the shores of space. Whence was it? What was it? Not of the thrush, nor of the vireo, nor of the whitecrowned sparrow, who seemed born anew, fullthroated out of the soul of music. Not a voice at all of the outer ear, not a tone whose color the outer ear may distinguish—but, nevertheless, a song that gathered up all that was audible and so blended it in inexpressible loveliness, that ere long I heard but one melody, and prayed to hear but one. I was conscious, moreover, that the sound of the human voice, even my own, would hush the song; that human silence was imperative, but that strangely enough, all other voices were the harmonious overtones of its marvelously delicate quality. It suggested nothing human. Nothing of man's passions, ambitions, glory. Rather it led me, as some far call of the meadowlark, away from man, from his habitations, his mansions, his sties, even from his spires, which are too often embedded in narrow creeds. And yet, as I walked, I was haunted with the fear that any moment some mean thought of mine might dull those exquisite vibrations. Some sudden fall to the lower level of my being, some instant hardening of the medium through which this song of songs came into my soul.
The road, I remember, led to a valley walled in with great cliffs, seamed, broken, weather-stained, along whose sides rose tall white oaks, and on whose tops grew dogwoods and stunted cedars. A valley made by the splitting asunder of great hills—a mute witness of terrific force, of formative fire. I did not choose my way, but bye and bye my feet found a path that ascended, broadening the horizon, presenting great reaches of field and wood clothed, on their farthest rim, with violet haze. More perfectly the laws of all being yielded themselves to the song. Spirit flowed from deep to deep. The strange sweet silences of the soul were revealed mistily, serene, golden.
Was it indeed a rhapsody, as my meanness suggested, the music of a mood, or a profound truth (not often realized in us because we are ashamed of the heritage and speak lightly or apologetically of the inner light) which spoke to me there through the beauty of that Summer day, through that song seeking an answering chord in my soul? Undoubtedly harmonies awaken within us at the touch of unseen fingers; undoubtedly we respond to a music not of ourselves. Undoubtedly there arise within us mysterious movements, currents setting toward some unknown sea, whose waves murmur to us continually. But is it not true that, lest our grosser selves should be offended, we say of the song, it is but the wind, the quickened imagination, a natural law of the flesh doubly refined? Or if we speak not, do we not sit and smile at one who has heard and is true to his soul, who thrills, as a master musician to the deeper harmonies?
Ah, the ineffable glory of that Summer morning on the hilltop! There were the trees, pliant strength in bole and limb; every cell alive, every leaf quivering with its own beauty. There were the immeasurable distances of earth, of greater sky. My feet were on the rock, my hands were moist with the melting raindrops. Color blended with color. Form harmonized with form. The glow, the splendor of all outward beauty was there, but when I ceased to hear the song I was no longer one with all, the mystery of the spirit passed, the inner light failed.
The song does not come by seeking, nor through preconceived arrangements of ours, nor by oracle, nor priest. As of old it comes into the heart that is as the heart of a little child, open to receive it, glad to be led by it, asking not to understand. To such it transforms all outward things. They shine with an informing grace. They reveal as through a thin veil, the beauty of the ever-blessed mystery.