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Phantastes: Lady of the Marble

“Just where the path seemed to end, rose a great rock, quite overgrown with shrubs and creeping plants, some of them in full and splendid blossom: these almost concealed an opening in the rock, into which the path appeared to lead. I entered, thirsting for the shade which it promised. What was my delight to find a rocky cell, all the angles rounded away with rich moss, and every ledge and projection crowded with lovely ferns, the variety of whose forms, and groupings, and shades wrought in me like a poem; for such a harmony could not exist, except they all consented to some one end! A little well of the clearest water filled a mossy hollow in one corner. I drank, and felt as if I knew what the elixir of life must be; then threw myself on a mossy mound that lay like a couch along the inner end. Here I lay in a delicious reverie for some time.

“I took my knife and removed the moss from a part of the block on which I had been lying; when, to my surprise, I found it more like alabaster than ordinary marble. The ray of sunlight had now reached the spot I had cleared, and under its lustre the alabaster revealed its usual slight transparency when polished; and I observed that the transparency seemed to have a definite limit, and to end upon an opaque body like the more solid, white marble. One revelation after another produced the entrancing conviction, that under the crust of alabaster lay a dimly visible form in marble. I saw before me with sufficient plainness—though at the same time with considerable indistinctness—a block of pure alabaster enclosing the form, apparently in marble, of a reposing woman. She lay on one side, with her hand under her cheek, and her face towards me.

“‘Who can tell but this cave may be the home of Marble, and this, essential Marble—that spirit of marble which, present throughout, makes it capable of being moulded into any form? Then if she should awake! But how to awake her?’”

Phantastes, by George MacDonald

Phantastes: Night in Fairy Land

“I particularly noticed some tall lilies, which grew on both sides of the way, with large dazzlingly white flowers, set off by the universal green. It was now dark enough for me to see that every flower was shining with a light of its own. Indeed it was by this light that I saw them, an internal, peculiar light, proceeding from each, and not reflected from a common source of light as in the daytime. This light sufficed only for the plant itself, and was not strong enough to cast any but the faintest shadows around it, or to illuminate any of the neighbouring objects with other than the faintest tinge of its own individual hue.

“A little forest of wild hyacinths was alive with exquisite creatures, who stood nearly motionless, with drooping necks, holding each by the stem of her flower, and swaying gently with it, whenever a low breath of wind swung the crowded floral belfry.

“In darker nooks, by the mossy roots of the trees, or in little tufts of grass, each dwelling in a globe of its own green light, glowed the glowworms. I saw great strong-armed beetles, hurrying about with most unwieldy haste, looking apparently for glowworms; for the moment a beetle espied one, it pounced upon it, and bore it away, in spite of its feeble resistance.… It then took the glowworm and held its luminous tail to the dark earthly pellet; when lo, it shot up into the air like a sky-rocket. Just like a rocket too, it burst in the air, and fell in a shower of the most gorgeously coloured sparks of every variety of hue; golden and red, and purple and green, and blue and rosy fires crossed and inter-crossed each other, beneath the shadowy heads, and between the columnar stems of the forest trees.

“In other parts, the whole of the immediately surrounding foliage was illuminated by the interwoven dances in the air of splendidly coloured fire-flies, which sped hither and thither, turned, twisted, crossed, and recrossed, entwining every complexity of intervolved motion. Here and there, whole mighty trees glowed with an emitted phosphorescent light. You could trace the very course of the great roots in the earth by the faint light that came through; and every twig, and every vein on every leaf was a streak of pale fire.

“The moon was high enough to send a great many of her rays down between the trees, and these rays were unusually bright, and sight-giving.”

Phantastes, by George MacDonald

Phantastes: The Forest Cottage

“I fancied I saw a thin blue smoke rising amongst the stems of larger trees in front of me; and soon I came to an open spot of ground in which stood a little cottage, so built that the stems of four great trees formed its corners, while their branches met and intertwined over its roof, heaping a great cloud of leaves over it, up towards the heavens. The cottage, I now saw, was built of the stems of small trees set closely together.…

“I had just time to see, on the edge of the denser forest, a single large ash-tree, whose foliage showed bluish, amidst the truer green of the other trees around it. A shadow as of a large distorted hand passed slowly over the little blind, and then as slowly returned in the opposite direction.

“‘He dares not come nearer than he is now, for any of those four oaks, at the corners of our cottage, would tear him to pieces; they are our friends. But he stands there and makes awful faces at us sometimes, and stretches out his long arms and fingers, and tries to kill us with fright; for, indeed, that is his favourite way of doing. Pray, keep out of his way to-night.’”

Phantastes, by George MacDonald

Phantastes: Into Fairy Land

“I lay and looked through the eastern window of my room. The curtains of pale blue silk fell like a cataract over the windows. A large green marble basin, which stood on a low pedestal in a corner of my room, was overflowing like a spring, and a stream of clear water was running over the carpet. And where this carpet, which I had myself designed to imitate a field of grass and daisies, bordered the course of the little stream, the grass-blades and daisies seemed to wave in a tiny breeze that followed the water's flow.

“My dressing-table was of black oak, with drawers all down the front. These were elaborately carved in foliage. I happened to fix my eye on a little cluster of ivy-leaves. The first of these was evidently the work of the carver; the next looked curious; the third was unmistakable ivy. I saw that the branches and leaves designed upon the curtains of my bed were slightly in motion. Springing from the bed, my bare feet alighted upon a cool green sward; and I found myself under the boughs of a great tree, whose top waved in the golden stream of the sunrise with many interchanging lights.

“Faint traces of a footpath, much overgrown with grass and moss, were discernible along the right bank. ‘This,’ thought I, ‘must surely be the path into Fairy Land”.’

Phantastes, by George MacDonald