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Nature by Ivan Turgenev

 

I dreamed I had come into an immense underground temple with lofty arched roof. It was filled with a sort of underground uniform light.

In the very middle of the temple sat a majestic woman in a flowing robe of green colour. Her head propped on her hand, she seemed buried in deep thought.

At once I was aware that this woman was Nature herself; and a thrill of reverent awe sent an instantaneous shiver through my inmost soul.

I approached the sitting figure, and making a respectful bow, 'O common Mother of us all!' I cried, 'of what is thy meditation? Is it of the future destinies of man thou ponderest? or how he may attain the highest possible perfection and happiness?'

The woman slowly turned upon me her dark menacing eyes. Her lips moved, and I heard a ringing voice like the clang of iron.

'I am thinking how to give greater power to the leg-muscles of the flea, that he may more easily escape from his enemies. The balance of attack and defence is broken.... It must be restored.'

'What,' I faltered in reply, 'what is it thou art thinking upon? But are not we, men, thy favourite children?'

The woman frowned slightly. 'All creatures are my children,' she pronounced, 'and I care for them alike, and all alike I destroy.'

'But right ... reason ... justice ...' I faltered again.

'Those are men's words,' I heard the iron voice saying. 'I know not right nor wrong.... Reason is no law for me—and what is justice?—I have given thee life, I shall take it away and give to others, worms or men ... I care not.... Do thou meanwhile look out for thyself, and hinder me not!'

I would have retorted ... but the earth uttered a hollow groan and shuddered, and I awoke.

August 1879.