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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 12 (March 1, 1938.)

Variety In Brief

page 64

Variety In Brief

Dreams Out of Arcady.

Before it was the commonplace to hear the sounds of living pageantry transmitted in an instant from the pale sunshine of a London day to firesides in the shadow of the earth, I read a pleasing fantasy farseeing a greater wonder. It was woven into an Arcadian story in which a shepherd found among his solitudes a hermit listening to the past.

The hermit's instrument was as delicate as light. His aerials were as fine as a spider's webs. But it would strain ray memory too much to reproduce the conversation of the antique pair. All that remains is the dim fragrance of their thought, their dippings into history and quaint discoveries overlaid with a fanciful philosophy.

The shepherd was described, but more particularly the hermit with his thin, blue-veined hands hovering over the dial of his set. His fingers moved only a little as he searched the ether, and all the cosmic layers beyond space even into time itself, drawing back to the present voices that vibrated with a life long since dead.

These simple men were not entranced as spiritualists are. They had strayed upon the other mystery of a sensitive mechanical invention of which they only had the key. And while the trees stirred in the little breeze within their sylvan glade they heard a lady's taffeta rustle “through the corridors of time.”

If we suppose that sound not consciously transmitted goes on endlessly, as some say the power of thought does, we may imagine it travelling for ever on waves according to the conventional idea of wireless, or we may think of it coming at last, and pausing indefinitely perhaps, not within an air pocket but in a pocket of time, confined within a corridor.

And now I am conscious that my own thought, prompted by the poet's, has overlaid the story of this ancient pair and built around them another fantasy of a place where disembodied voices live.

These two upon their grassy bank heard the shouts of wars and chivalry, and the chanting of nuns in their medieval refuge. They heard all the tones of tragedy or the foils that ugliness makes for beauty. The voices of love, rage, jealousy and gentleness surrounded them, lifting them up as on a magic carpet and transporting them beyond the bounds of their own Arcady. They travelled on them beam that they selected and touched a place where not the sounds only but the sights of history were preserved, though still not clearly seen, because the tuning, the focus was imperfect.

Once when I was in Switzerland I met a Canadian girl holidaying there, who told me, not in fantasy but in fact, that before the wireless was available and without the aid of instruments she heard in a lonely place outside her own city of Quebec, music floating in the air. She was a musician. Yet even to her sensitive ears the music was very thin and delicate.

So it may be with the pictures of places and events in space, had we the faculty to televise them though but dimly.

My two Arcadians when they tapped the place where voices dwell, saw the country as it were dissolved in air and drowned with light. This city was translucent though endless echoes walked through its pure halls. And the echoes had but a vague nebulous outline while giving an almost visible personality to the happy voices that had indeed once lived and expressed the spirit of persons of solid shape.

The towers of the transcendent city were domed like whispering galleries. Its streets were arched with bridges of recurring pattern like the rhythm of a poet's line. A river ran through it, but the sun upon its waters did not flash more brightly than its walls, for they were panelled with mirrors within and without, so that if a wraith of words moving there was lovely it had a dozen lives, if it was murky it smudged all around.

The vision of the dream place is pure fantasy. But I wonder if the shepherd and the hermit could have felt the pulse of human being and all its feeble strivings through the centuries, if they could also have found any city or perhaps a little town, where dwell the voices that have never been spoken in sound but only within the mind itself.

These voices whispered in creative imaginings. They won their cadences from the scratchings of authors’ pens, calling in valleys that never were, to some ideal of beauty.

Ah! If these could be preserved in some remote place, or if they could be caught upon a crest of time, they, too, would be bright nebulae, and they would dwell in a town something like that other city, but built of dry tears and sweat, surely, and mostly sweat.

—Bernice Shackleton.

Bound Copies Of The Magazine.

The publication of this issue of the Magazine (March) completes the twelfth volume. Readers are reminded that they may send forward their accumulated copies (April, 1937 to March, 1938) for binding purposes. The volumes will be bound in cloth, with gilt lettering, at a cost of £5/6 per volume. Those desirous of having their copies bound may hand them to the nearest Station-master (with the sender's name endorsed on the parcel) who will transmit them free to the Editor, “New Zealand Railways Magazine,” Wellington. When bound the volumes will be returned to the forwarding Stationmaster, who will collect the binding charge. In order to ensure expedition in the process of binding, copies should reach the Editor not later than 1st June, 1938.