photo of An Rand by Phyllis Cerf
Anthem [first half: chapters 1-6]
by Ayn Rand
[first published by 1938 by Cassell]
It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others
think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It is
base and evil. It is as if we were speaking alone to no ears but our
own. And we know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do
or think alone. We have broken the laws. The laws say that men may not
write unless the Council of Vocations bid them so. May we be forgiven!
But this is not the only sin upon us. We have committed a greater
crime, and for this crime there is no name. What punishment awaits us
if it be discovered we know not, for no such crime has come in the
memory of men and there are no laws to provide for it.
It is dark here. The flame of the candle stands still in the air.
Nothing moves in this tunnel save our hand on the paper. We are alone
here under the earth. It is a fearful word, alone. The laws say that
none among men may be alone, ever and at any time, for this is the
great transgression and the root of all evil. But we have broken many
laws. And now there is nothing here save our one body, and it is
strange to see only two legs stretched on the ground, and on the wall
before us the shadow of our one head.
The walls are cracked and water runs upon them in thin threads
without sound, black and glistening as blood. We stole the candle from
the larder of the Home of the Street Sweepers. We shall be sentenced to
ten years in the Palace of Corrective Detention if it be discovered.
But this matters not. It matters only that the light is precious and we
should not waste it to write when we need it for that work which is our
crime. Nothing matters save the work, our secret, our evil, our
precious work. Still, we must also write, for—may the Council have
mercy on us!—we wish to speak for once to no ears but our own.
Our name is Equality 7-2521, as it is written on the iron bracelet
which all men wear on their left wrists with their names upon it. We
are twenty-one years old. We are six feet tall, and this is a burden,
for there are not many men who are six feet tall. Ever have the
Teachers and the Leaders pointed to us and frowned and said: “There is
evil in your bones, Equality 7-2521, for your body has grown beyond the
bodies of your brothers.” But we cannot change our bones nor our body.
We were born with a curse. It has always driven us to thoughts which
are forbidden. It has always given us wishes which men may not wish. We
know that we are evil, but there is no will in us and no power to
resist it. This is our wonder and our secret fear, that we know and do
We strive to be like all our brother men, for all men must be alike.
Over the portals of the Palace of the World Council, there are words
cut in the marble, which we repeat to ourselves whenever we are tempted:
- “We are one in all and all in one.
- There are no men but only the great WE,
- One, indivisible and forever.“
We repeat this to ourselves, but it helps us not.
These words were cut long ago. There is green mold in the grooves of
the letters and yellow streaks on the marble, which come from more
years than men could count. And these words are the truth for they are
written on the Palace of the World Council, and the World Council is
the body of all truth. Thus has it been ever since the Great Rebirth,
and farther back than that no memory can reach.
But we must never speak of the times before the Great Rebirth, else
we are sentenced to three years in the Palace of Corrective Detention.
It is only the Old Ones who whisper about it in the evenings, in the
Home of the Useless. They whisper many strange things, of the towers
which rose to the sky, in those Unmentionable Times, and of the wagons
which moved without horses, and of the lights which burned without
flame. But those times were evil. And those times passed away, when men
saw the Great Truth which is this: that all men are one and that there
is no will save the will of all men together.
All men are good and wise. It is only we, Equality 7-2521, we alone
who were born with a curse. For we are not like our brothers. And as we
look back upon our life, we see that it has ever been thus and that it
has brought us step by step to our last, supreme transgression, our
crime of crimes hidden here under the ground.
We remember the Home of Infants where we lived till we were five
years old, together with all the children of the City who had been born
in the same year. The sleeping halls there were white and clean and
bare of all things save one hundred beds. We were just like all our
brothers then, save for the one transgression: we fought with our
brothers. There are few offenses blacker than to fight with our
brothers, at any age and for any cause whatsoever. The Council of the
Home told us so, and of all the children of that year, we were locked
in the cellar most often.
When we were five years old, we were sent to the Home of the
Students, where there are ten wards, for our ten years of learning. Men
must learn till they reach their fifteenth year. Then they go to work.
In the Home of the Students we arose when the big bell rang in the
tower and we went to our beds when it rang again. Before we removed our
garments, we stood in the great sleeping hall, and we raised our right
arms, and we said all together with the three Teachers at the head:
“We are nothing. Mankind is all. By the grace of our brothers are we
allowed our lives. We exist through, by and for our brothers who are
the State. Amen.”
Then we slept. The sleeping halls were white and clean and bare of all things save one hundred beds.
We, Equality 7-2521, were not happy in those years in the Home of
the Students. It was not that the learning was too hard for us. It was
that the learning was too easy. This is a great sin, to be born with a
head which is too quick. It is not good to be different from our
brothers, but it is evil to be superior to them. The Teachers told us
so, and they frowned when they looked upon us.
So we fought against this curse. We tried to forget our lessons, but
we always remembered. We tried not to understand what the Teachers
taught, but we always understood it before the Teachers had spoken. We
looked upon Union 5-3992, who were a pale boy with only half a brain,
and we tried to say and do as they did, that we might be like them,
like Union 5-3992, but somehow the Teachers knew that we were not. And
we were lashed more often than all the other children.
The Teachers were just, for they had been appointed by the Councils,
and the Councils are the voice of all justice, for they are the voice
of all men. And if sometimes, in the secret darkness of our heart, we
regret that which befell us on our fifteenth birthday, we know that it
was through our own guilt. We had broken a law, for we had not paid
heed to the words of our Teachers. The Teachers had said to us all:
“Dare not choose in your minds the work you would like to do when
you leave the Home of the Students. You shall do that which the Council
of Vocations shall prescribe for you. For the Council of Vocations
knows in its great wisdom where you are needed by your brother men,
better than you can know it in your unworthy little minds. And if you
are not needed by your brother men, there is no reason for you to
burden the earth with your bodies.”
We knew this well, in the years of our childhood, but our curse
broke our will. We were guilty and we confess it here: we were guilty
of the great Transgression of Preference. We preferred some work and
some lessons to the others. We did not listen well to the history of
all the Councils elected since the Great Rebirth. But we loved the
Science of Things. We wished to know. We wished to know about all the
things which make the earth around us. We asked so many questions that
the Teachers forbade it.
We think that there are mysteries in the sky and under the water and
in the plants which grow. But the Council of Scholars has said that
there are no mysteries, and the Council of Scholars knows all things.
And we learned much from our Teachers. We learned that the earth is
flat and that the sun revolves around it, which causes the day and the
night. We learned the names of all the winds which blow over the seas
and push the sails of our great ships. We learned how to bleed men to
cure them of all ailments.
We loved the Science of Things. And in the darkness, in the secret
hour, when we awoke in the night and there were no brothers around us,
but only their shapes in the beds and their snores, we closed our eyes,
and we held our lips shut, and we stopped our breath, that no shudder
might let our brothers see or hear or guess, and we thought that we
wished to be sent to the Home of the Scholars when our time would come.
All the great modern inventions come from the Home of the Scholars,
such as the newest one, which we found only a hundred years ago, of how
to make candles from wax and string; also, how to make glass, which is
put in our windows to protect us from the rain. To find these things,
the Scholars must study the earth and learn from the rivers, from the
sands, from the winds and the rocks. And if we went to the Home of
Scholars, we could learn from these also. We could ask questions of
these, for they do not forbid questions.
And questions give us no rest. We know not why our curse makes us
seek we know not what, ever and ever. But we cannot resist it. It
whispers to us that there are great things on this earth of ours, and
that we can know them if we try, and that we must know them. We ask,
why must we know, but it has no answer to give us. We must know that we
So we wished to be sent to the Home of the Scholars. We wished it so
much that our hands trembled under the blankets in the night, and we
bit our arm to stop that other pain which we could not endure. It was
evil and we dared not face our brothers in the morning. For men may
wish nothing for themselves. And we were punished when the Council of
Vocations came to give us our Life Mandates which tell those who reach
their fifteenth year what their work is to be for the rest of their
The Council of Vocations came on the first day of spring, and they
sat in the great hall. And we who were fifteen and all the Teachers
came into the great hall. And the Council of Vocations sat on a high
dais, and they had but two words to speak to each of the Students. They
called the Students’ names, and when the Students stepped before them,
one after another, the Council said: “Carpenter” or “Doctor” or “Cook”
or “Leader.” Then each Student raised their right arm and said: “The
will of our brothers be done.”
Now if the Council has said “Carpenter” or “Cook,” the Students so
assigned go to work and they do not study any further. But if the
Council has said “Leader,” then those Students go into the Home of the
Leaders, which is the greatest house in the City, for it has three
stories. And there they study for many years, so that they may become
candidates and be elected to the City Council and the State Council and
World Council—by a free and general vote of all men. But we wished not
to be a Leader, even though it is a great honor. We wished to be a
So we waited our turn in the great hall and then we heard the
Council of Vocations call our name: “Equality 7-2521.” We walked to the
dais, and our legs did not tremble, and we looked up at the Council.
There were five members of the Council, three of the male gender and
two of the female. Their hair was white and their faces were cracked as
the clay of a dry river bed. They were old. They seemed older than the
marble of the Temple of the World Council. They sat before us and they
did not move. And we saw no breath to stir the folds of their white
togas. But we knew that they were alive, for a finger of the hand of
the oldest rose, pointed to us, and fell down again. This was the only
thing which moved, for the lips of the oldest did not move as they
said: “Street Sweeper.”
We felt the cords of our neck grow tight as our head rose higher to
look upon the faces of Council, and we were happy. We knew we had been
guilty, but now we had a way to atone for it. We would accept our Life
Mandate, and we would work for our brothers, gladly and willingly, and
we would erase our sin against them, which they did not know, but we
knew. So we were happy, and proud of ourselves and of our victory over
ourselves. We raised our right arm and we spoke, and our voice was the
clearest, the steadiest voice in the hall that day, and we said:
“The will of our brothers be done.”
And we looked straight into the eyes of the Council, but their eyes were as cold blue glass buttons.
So we went into the Home of the Street Sweepers. It is a grey house
on a narrow street. There is a sundial in its courtyard, by which the
Council of the Home can tell the hours of the day and when to ring the
bell. When the bell rings, we all arise from our beds. The sky is green
and cold in our windows to the east. The shadow on the sundial marks
off a half-hour while we dress and eat our breakfast in the dining
hall, where there are five long tables with twenty clay plates and
twenty clay cups on each table. Then we go to work in the streets of
the City, with our brooms and our rakes. In five hours, when the sun is
high we return to the Home and we eat our midday meal, for which
one-half hour is allowed. Then we go to work again. In five hours, the
shadows are blue on the pavements, and the sky is blue with a deep
brightness which is not bright. We come back to have our dinner, which
lasts one hour. Then the bell rings and we walk in a straight column to
one of the City Halls, for the Social Meeting. Other columns of men
arrive from the Homes of the different Trades. The candles are lit, and
the Councils of the different Homes stand in a pulpit, and they speak
to us of our duties and of our brother men. Then visiting Leaders mount
the pulpit and they read to us the speeches which were made in the City
Council that day, for the City Council represents all men and all men
must know. Then we sing hymns, the Hymn of Brotherhood, and the Hymn of
Equality, and the Hymn of the Collective Spirit. The sky is a soggy
purple when we return to the Home. Then the bell rings and we walk in a
straight column to the City Theatre for three hours of Social
Recreation. There a play is shown upon the stage, with two great
choruses from the Home of the Actors, which speak and answer all
together, in two great voices. The plays are about toil and how good it
is. Then we walk back to the Home in a straight column. The sky is like
a black sieve pierced by silver drops beat against the street lanterns.
We go to our beds and we sleep, till the bell rings again. The sleeping
halls are white and clean and bare of all things save one hundred beds.
Thus we lived each day of four years, until two springs ago when our
crime happened. Thus must all men live until they are forty. At forty,
they are worn out. At forty, they are sent to the Home of the Useless,
where the Old Ones live. The Old Ones do not work, for the State takes
care of them. They sit in the sun in summer and they sit by the fire in
winter. They do not speak often, for they are weary. The Old Ones know
that they are soon to die. When a miracle happens and some live to be
forty-five, they are the Ancient Ones, and children stare at them when
passing by the Home of the Useless. Such is to be our life, as that of
all our brothers and of the brothers who came before us.
Such would have been our life, had we not committed our crime which
changed all things for us. And it was our curse which drove us to our
crime. We had been a good Street Sweeper and like all our brother
Street Sweepers, save for our cursed wish to know. We looked too long
at the stars at night, and at the trees and the earth. And when we
cleaned the yard of the Home of the Scholars, we gathered the glass
vials, the pieces of metal, the dried bones which they had discarded.
We wished to keep these things to study them, but we had no place to
hide them. So we carried them to the City Cesspool. And then we made
It was on a day of the spring before last. We Street Sweepers work
in brigades of three, and we were with Union 5-3992, they of the
half-brain, and with International 4-8818. Now Union 5-3992 are a
sickly lad and sometimes they are stricken with convulsions, when their
mouth froths and their eyes turn white. But International 4-8818 are
different. They are a tall, strong youth and their eyes are like
fireflies, for there is laughter in their eyes. We cannot look upon
International 4-8818 and not smile in answer. For this they were not
liked in the Home of the Students, as it is not proper to smile without
reason. And also they were not liked because they took pieces of coal
and the drew pictures upon the walls, and they were pictures which made
men laugh. But it is only our brothers in the Home of the Artists who
are permitted to draw pictures, so International 4-8818 were sent to
the Home of the Street Sweepers, like ourselves.
International 4-8818 and we are friends. This is an evil thing to
say, for it is a transgression, the great Transgression of Preference,
to love any among men better than the others, since we must love all
men and all men are our friends. So International 4-8818 and we have
never spoken of it. But we know. We know, when we look into each
other’s eyes. And when we look thus without words, we both know other
things also, strange things for which there are no words, and these
things frighten us.
So on that day of the spring before last, Union 5-3992 were stricken
with convulsions on the edge of the City, near the City Theatre. We
left them to lie in the shade of the Theatre tent and we went with
International 4-8818 to finish our work. We came together to the great
ravine behind the Theatre. It is empty save for trees and weeds. Beyond
the ravine there is a plain, and beyond the plain there lies the
Uncharted Forest, about which men must not think.
We were gathering the papers and the rags which the wind had blown
from the Theatre, when we saw an iron bar among the weeds. It was old
and rusted by many rains. We pulled with all our strength, but we could
not move it. So we called International 4-8818, and together we scraped
the earth around the bar. Of a sudden the earth fell in before us, and
we saw an old iron grill over a black hole.
International 4-8818 stepped back. But we pulled at the grill and it
gave way. And then we saw iron rings as steps leading down a shaft into
a darkness without bottom.
“We shall go down,” we said to International 4-8818.
“It is forbidden,” they answered.
We said: “The Council does not know of this hole, so it cannot be forbidden.”
And they answered: “Since the Council does not know of this hole,
there can be no law permitting to enter. And everything which is not
permitted by law is forbidden.”
But we said: “We shall go, none the less.”
They were frightened, but they stood by and watched us go.
We hung on the iron rings with our hands and our feet. We could see
nothing below us. And above us the hole open upon the sky grew smaller
and smaller, till it came to be the size of a button. But still we went
down. Then our foot touched the ground. We rubbed our eyes, for we
could not see. Then our eyes became used to the darkness, but we could
not believe what we saw.
No men known to us could have built this place, nor the men known to
our brothers who lived before us, and yet it was built by men. It was a
great tunnel. Its walls were hard and smooth to the touch; it felt like
stone, but it was not stone. On the ground there were long thin tracks
of iron, but it was not iron; it felt smooth and cold as glass. We
knelt, and we crawled forward, our hand groping along the iron line to
see where it would lead. But there was an unbroken night ahead. Only
the iron tracks glowed through it, straight and white, calling us to
follow. But we could not follow, for we were losing the puddle of light
behind us. So we turned and we crawled back, our hand on the iron line.
And our heart beat in our fingertips, without reason. And then we knew.
We knew suddenly that this place was left from the Unmentionable
Times. So it was true, and those Times had been, and all the wonders of
those Times. Hundreds upon hundreds of years ago men knew secrets which
we have lost. And we thought: “This is a foul place. They are damned
who touch the things of the Unmentionable Times.” But our hand which
followed the track, as we crawled, clung to the iron as if it would not
leave it, as if the skin of our hand were thirsty and begging of the
metal some secret fluid beating it its coldness.
We returned to the earth. International 4-8818 looked upon us and stepped back.
“Equality 7-2521,” they said, “your face is white.”
But we could not speak and we stood looking upon them.
They backed away, as if they dared not touch us. Then they smiled,
but it was not a gay smile; it was lost and pleading. But still we
could not speak. Then they said:
“We shall report our find to the City Council and both of us will be rewarded.”
And then we spoke. Our voice was hard and there was no mercy in our voice. We said:
“We shall not report our find to the City Council. We shall not report it to any men.”
They raised their hands to their ears, for never had they heard such words as these.
“International 4-8818,” we asked, “will you report us to the Council and see us lashed to death before your eyes?”
They stood straight of a sudden and they answered:
“Rather would we die.”
“Then,” we said, “keep silent. This place is ours. This place
belongs to us, Equality 7-2521, and to no other men on earth. And if
ever we surrender it, we shall surrender our life with it also.”
Then we saw that the eyes of International 4-8818 were full to the
lids with tears they dared not drop. They whispered, and their voice
trembled, so that their words lost all shape:
“The will of the Council is above all things, for it is the will of
our brothers, which is holy. But if you wish it so, we shall obey you.
Rather shall we be evil with you than good with all our brothers. May
the Council have mercy upon both our hearts!”
Then we walked away together and back to the Home of the Street Sweepers. And we walked in silence.
Thus did it come to pass that each night, when the stars are high
and the Street Sweepers sit in the City Theatre, we, Equality 7-2521,
steal out and run through the darkness to our place. It is easy to
leave the Theatre; when the candles are blown and the Actors come onto
the stage, no eyes can see us as we crawl under our seat and under the
cloth of the tent. Later, it is easy to steal through the shadows and
fall in line next to International 4-8818, as the column leaves the
Theatre. It is dark in the streets and there are no men about, for no
men may walk through the City when they have no mission to walk there.
Each night, we run to the ravine, and we remove the stones which we
have piled upon the iron grill to hide it from men. Each night, for
three hours, we are under the earth, alone.
We have stolen candles from the Home of the Street Sweepers, we have
stolen flints and knives and paper, and we have brought them to this
place. We have stolen glass vials and powders and acids from the Home
of the Scholars. Now we sit in the tunnel for three hours each night
and we study. We melt strange metals, and we mix acids, and we cut open
the bodies of the animals which we find in the City Cesspool. We have
built an oven of bricks we gathered in the streets. We burn the wood we
find in the ravine. The fire flickers in the oven and blue shadows
dance upon the walls, and there is no sound of men to disturb us.
We have stolen manuscripts. This is a great offense. Manuscripts are
precious, for our brothers in the Home of the Clerks spend one year to
copy one single script in their clear handwriting. Manuscripts are rare
and they are kept in the Home of the Scholars. So we sit under the
earth and we read the stolen scripts. Two years have passed since we
found this place. And in these two years we have learned more than we
had learned in the ten years of the Home of the Students.
We have learned things which are not in the scripts. We have solved
secrets of which the Scholars have no knowledge. We have come to see
how great is the unexplored, and many lifetimes will not bring us to
the end of our quest. But we wish no end to our quest. We wish nothing,
save to be alone and to learn, and to feel as if with each day our
sight were growing sharper than the hawk’s and clearer than rock
Strange are the ways of evil. We are false in the faces of our
brothers. We are defying the will of our Councils. We alone, of the
thousands who walk this earth, we alone in this hour are doing a work
which has no purpose save that we wish to do it. The evil of our crime
is not for the human mind to probe. The nature of our punishment, if it
be discovered, is not for the human heart to ponder. Never, not in the
memory of the Ancient Ones’ Ancients, never have men done that which we
And yet there is no shame in us and no regret. We say to ourselves
that we are a wretch and a traitor. But we feel no burden upon our
spirit and no fear in our heart. And it seems to us that our spirit is
clear as a lake troubled by no eyes save those of the sun. And in our
heart—strange are the ways of evil!—in our heart there is the first
peace we have known in twenty years.
Liberty 5-3000 . . . Liberty five-three thousand . . . Liberty 5-3000 . . . .
We wish to write this name. We wish to speak it, but we dare not
speak it above a whisper. For men are forbidden to take notice of
women, and women are forbidden to take notice of men. But we think of
one among women, they whose name is Liberty 5-3000, and we think of no
others. The women who have been assigned to work the soil live in the
Homes of the Peasants beyond the City. Where the City ends there is a
great road winding off to the north, and we Street Sweepers must keep
this road clean to the first milepost. There is a hedge along the road,
and beyond the hedge lie the fields. The fields are black and ploughed,
and they lie like a great fan before us, with their furrows gathered in
some hand beyond the sky, spreading forth from that hand, opening wide
apart as they come toward us, like black pleats that sparkle with thin,
green spangles. Women work in the fields, and their white tunics in the
wind are like the wings of sea-gulls beating over the black soil.
And there it was that we saw Liberty 5-3000 walking along the
furrows. Their body was straight and thin as a blade of iron. Their
eyes were dark and hard and glowing, with no fear in them, no kindness
and no guilt. Their hair was golden as the sun; their hair flew in the
wind, shining and wild, as if it defied men to restrain it. They threw
seeds from their hand as if they deigned to fling a scornful gift, and
the earth was a beggar under their feet.
We stood still; for the first time did we know fear, and then pain.
And we stood still that we might not spill this pain more precious than
Then we heard a voice from the others call their name: “Liberty
5-3000,” and they turned and walked back. Thus we learned their name,
and we stood watching them go, till their white tunic was lost in the
And the following day, as we came to the northern road, we kept our
eyes upon Liberty 5-3000 in the field. And each day thereafter we knew
the illness of waiting for our hour on the northern road. And there we
looked at Liberty 5-3000 each day. We know not whether they looked at
us also, but we think they did. Then one day they came close to the
hedge, and suddenly they turned to us. They turned in a whirl and the
movement of their body stopped, as if slashed off, as suddenly as it
had started. They stood still as a stone, and they looked straight upon
us, straight into our eyes. There was no smile on their face, and no
welcome. But their face was taut, and their eyes were dark. Then they
turned as swiftly, and they walked away from us.
But the following day, when we came to the road, they smiled. They
smiled to us and for us. And we smiled in answer. Their head fell back,
and their arms fell, as if their arms and their thin white neck were
stricken suddenly with a great lassitude. They were not looking upon
us, but upon the sky. Then they glanced at us over their shoulder, as
we felt as if a hand had touched our body, slipping softly from our
lips to our feet.
Every morning thereafter, we greeted each other with our eyes. We
dared not speak. It is a transgression to speak to men of other Trades,
save in groups at the Social Meetings. But once, standing at the hedge,
we raised our hand to our forehead and then moved it slowly, palm down,
toward Liberty 5-3000. Had the others seen it, they could have guessed
nothing, for it looked only as if we were shading our eyes from the
sun. But Liberty 5-3000 saw it and understood. They raised their hand
to their forehead and moved it as we had. Thus, each day, we greet
Liberty 5-3000, and they answer, and no men can suspect.
We do not wonder at this new sin of ours. It is our second
Transgression of Preference, for we do not think of all our brothers,
as we must, but only of one, and their name is Liberty 5-3000. We do
not know why we think of them. We do not know why, when we think of
them, we feel all of a sudden that the earth is good and that it is not
a burden to live. We do not think of them as Liberty 5-3000 any longer.
We have given them a name in our thoughts. We call them the Golden One.
But it is a sin to give men names which distinguish them from other
men. Yet we call them the Golden One, for they are not like the others.
The Golden One are not like the others.
And we take no heed of the law which says that men may not think of
women, save at the Time of Mating. This is the time each spring when
all the men older than twenty and all the women older than eighteen are
sent for one night to the City Palace of Mating. And each of the men
have one of the women assigned to them by the Council of Eugenics.
Children are born each winter, but women never see their children and
children never know their parents. Twice have we been sent to the
Palace of Mating, but it is an ugly and shameful matter, of which we do
not like to think.
We had broken so many laws, and today we have broken one more. Today, we spoke to the Golden One.
The other women were far off in the field, when we stopped at the
hedge by the side of the road. The Golden One were kneeling alone at
the moat which runs through the field. And the drops of water falling
from their hands, as they raised the water to their lips, were like
sparks of fire in the sun. Then the Golden One saw us, and they did not
move, kneeling there, looking at us, and circles of light played upon
their white tunic, from the sun on the water of the moat, and one
sparkling drop fell from a finger of their hand held as frozen in the
Then the Golden One rose and walked to the hedge, as if they had
heard a command in our eyes. The two other Street Sweepers of our
brigade were a hundred paces away down the road. And we thought that
International 4-8818 would not betray us, and Union 5-3992 would not
understand. So we looked straight upon the Golden One, and we saw the
shadows of their lashes on their white cheeks and the sparks of sun on
their lips. And we said:
“You are beautiful, Liberty 5-3000.”
Their face did not move and they did not avert their eyes. Only
their eyes grew wider, and there was triumph in their eyes, and it was
not triumph over us, but over things we could not guess.
Then they asked:
“What is your name?”
“Equality 7-2521,” we answered.
“You are not one of our brothers, Equality 7-2521, for we do not wish you to be.”
We cannot say what they meant, for there are no words for their meaning, but we know it without words and we knew it then.
“No,” we answered, “nor are you one of our sisters.”
“If you see us among scores of women, will you look upon us?”
“We shall look upon you, Liberty 5-3000, if we see you among all the women of the earth.”
Then they asked:
“Are Street Sweepers sent to different parts of the City or do they always work in the same places?”
“They always work in the same places,” we answered, “and no one will take this road away from us.”
“Your eyes,” they said, “are not like the eyes of any among men.”
And suddenly, without cause for the thought which came to us, we felt cold, cold to our stomach.
“How old are you?” we asked.
They understood our thought, for they lowered their eyes for the first time.
“Seventeen,” they whispered.
And we sighed, as if a burden had been taken from us, for we had
been thinking without reason of the Palace of Mating. And we thought
that we would not let the Golden One be sent to the Palace. How to
prevent it, how to bar the will of the Councils, we knew not, but we
knew suddenly that we would. Only we do not know why such thought came
to us, for these ugly matters bear no relation to us and the Golden
One. What relation can they bear?
Still, without reason, as we stood there by the hedge, we felt our
lips drawn tight with hatred, a sudden hatred for all our brother men.
And the Golden One saw it and smiled slowly, and there was in their
smile the first sadness we had seen in them. We think that in the
wisdom of women the Golden One had understood more than we can
Then three of the sisters in the field appeared, coming toward the
road, so the Golden One walked away from us. They took the bag of
seeds, and they threw the seeds into the furrows of earth as they
walked away. But the seeds flew wildly, for the hand of the Golden One
Yet as we walked back to the Home of the Street Sweepers, we felt
that we wanted to sing, without reason. So we were reprimanded tonight,
in the dining hall, for without knowing it we had begun to sing aloud
some tune we had never heard. But it is not proper to sing without
reason, save at the Social Meetings.
“We are singing because we are happy,” we answered the one of the Home Council who reprimanded us.
“Indeed you are happy,” they answered. “How else can men be when they live for their brothers?”
And now, sitting here in our tunnel, we wonder about these words. It
is forbidden, not to be happy. For, as it has been explained to us, men
are free and the earth belongs to them; and all things on earth belong
to all men; and the will of all men together is good for all; and so
all men must be happy.
Yet as we stand at night in the great hall, removing our garments
for sleep, we look upon our brothers and we wonder. The heads of our
brothers are bowed. The eyes of our brothers are dull, and never do
they look one another in the eyes. The shoulders of our brothers are
hunched, and their muscles are drawn, as if their bodies were shrinking
and wished to shrink out of sight. And a word steals into our mind, as
we look upon our brothers, and that word is fear.
There is fear hanging in the air of the sleeping halls, and in the
air of the streets. Fear walks through the City, fear without name,
without shape. All men feel it and none dare to speak.
We feel it also, when we are in the Home of the Street Sweepers. But
here, in our tunnel, we feel it no longer. The air is pure under the
ground. There is no odor of men. And these three hours give us strength
for our hours above the ground.
Our body is betraying us, for the Council of the Home looks with
suspicion upon us. It is not good to feel too much joy nor to be glad
that our body lives. For we matter not and it must not matter to us
whether we live or die, which is to be as our brothers will it. But we,
Equality 7-2521, are glad to be living. If this is a vice, then we wish
Yet our brothers are not like us. All is not well with our brothers.
There are Fraternity 2-5503, a quiet boy with wise, kind eyes, who cry
suddenly, without reason, in the midst of day or night, and their body
shakes with sobs they cannot explain. There are Solidarity 9-6347, who
are a bright youth, without fear in the day; but they scream in their
sleep, and they scream: “Help us! Help us! Help us!” into the night, in
a voice which chills our bones, but the Doctors cannot cure Solidarity
And as we all undress at night, in the dim light of the candles, our
brothers are silent, for they dare not speak the thoughts of their
minds. For all must agree with all, and they cannot know if their
thoughts are the thoughts of all, and so they fear to speak. And they
are glad when the candles are blown for the night. But we, Equality
7-2521, look through the window upon the sky, and there is peace in the
sky, and cleanliness, and dignity. And beyond the City there lies the
plain, and beyond the plain, black upon the black sky, there lies the
We do not wish to look upon the Uncharted Forest. We do not wish to
think of it. But ever do our eyes return to that black patch upon the
sky. Men never enter the Uncharted Forest, for there is no power to
explore it and no path to lead among its ancient trees which stand as
guards of fearful secrets. It is whispered that once or twice in a
hundred years, one among the men of the City escape alone and run to
the Uncharted Forest, without call or reason. These men do not return.
They perish from hunger and from the claws of the wild beasts which
roam the Forest. But our Councils say that this is only a legend. We
have heard that there are many Uncharted Forests over the land, among
the Cities. And it is whispered that they have grown over the ruins of
many cities of the Unmentionable Times. The trees have swallowed the
ruins, and the bones under the ruins, and all the things which
perished. And as we look upon the Uncharted Forest far in the night, we
think of the secrets of the Unmentionable Times. And we wonder how it
came to pass that these secrets were lost to the world. We have heard
the legends of the great fighting, in which many men fought on one side
and only a few on the other. These few were the Evil Ones and they were
conquered. Then great fires raged over the land. And in these fires the
Evil Ones and all the things made by the Evil Ones were burned. And the
fire which is called the Dawn of the Great Rebirth, was the Script Fire
where all the scripts of the Evil Ones were burned, and with them all
the words of the Evil Ones. Great mountains of flame stood in the
squares of the Cities for three months. Then came the Great Rebirth.
The words of the Evil Ones . . . The words of the Unmentionable Times . . . What are the words which we have lost?
May the Council have mercy upon us! We had no wish to write such a
question, and we knew not what we were doing till we had written it. We
shall not ask this question and we shall not think it. We shall not
call death upon our head.
And yet . . . And yet . . . There is some word, one single word
which is not in the language of men, but which had been. And this is
the Unspeakable Word, which no men may speak nor hear. But sometimes,
and it is rare, sometimes, somewhere, one among men find that word.
They find it upon scraps of old manuscripts or cut into the fragments
of ancient stones. But when they speak it they are put to death. There
is no crime punished by death in this world, save this one crime of
speaking the Unspeakable Word.
We have seen one of such men burned alive in the square of the City.
And it was a sight which has stayed with us through the years, and it
haunts us, and follows us, and it gives us no rest. We were a child
then, ten years old. And we stood in the great square with all the
children and all the men of the City, sent to behold the burning. They
brought the Transgressor out into the square and they led them to the
pyre. They had torn out the tongue of the Transgressor, so that they
could speak no longer. The Transgressor were young and tall. They had
hair of gold and eyes blue as morning. They walked to the pyre, and
their step did not falter. And of all the faces on that square, of all
the faces which shrieked and screamed and spat curses upon them, theirs
was the calmest and the happiest face.
As the chains were wound over their body at the stake, and a flame
set to the pyre, the Transgressor looked upon the City. There was a
thin thread of blood running from the corner of their mouth, but their
lips were smiling. And a monstrous thought came to us then, which has
never left us. We had heard of Saints. There are the Saints of Labor,
and the Saints of the Councils, and the Saints of the Great Rebirth.
But we had never seen a Saint nor what the likeness of a Saint should
be. And we thought then, standing in the square, that the likeness of a
Saint was the face we saw before us in the flames, the face of the
Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word.
As the flames rose, a thing happened which no eyes saw but ours,
else we would not be living today. Perhaps it had only seemed to us.
But it seemed to us that the eyes of the Transgressor had chosen us
from the crowd and were looking straight upon us. There was no pain in
their eyes and no knowledge of the agony of their body. There was only
joy in them, and pride, a pride holier than is fit for human pride to
be. And it seemed as if these eyes were trying to tell us something
through the flames, to send into our eyes some word without sound. And
it seemed as if these eyes were begging us to gather that word and not
to let it go from us and from the earth. But the flames rose and we
could not guess the word. . . .
What—even if we have to burn for it like the Saint of the Pyre—what is the Unspeakable Word?
We, Equality 7-2521, have discovered a new power of nature. And we have discovered it alone, and we alone are to know it.
It is said. Now let us be lashed for it, if we must. The Council of
Scholars has said that we all know the things which exist and therefore
the things which are not known by all do not exist. But we think that
the Council of Scholars is blind. The secrets of this earth are not for
all men to see, but only for those who will seek them. We know, for we
have found a secret unknown to all our brothers.
We know not what this power is nor whence it comes. But we know its
nature, we have watched it and worked with it. We saw it first two
years ago. One night, we were cutting open the body of a dead frog when
we saw its leg jerking. It was dead, yet it moved. Some power unknown
to men was making it move. We could not understand it. Then, after many
tests, we found the answer. The frog had been hanging on a wire of
copper; and it had been the metal of our knife which had sent the
strange power to the copper through the brine of the frog’s body. We
put a piece of copper and a piece of zinc into a jar of brine, we
touched a wire to them, and there, under our fingers, was a miracle
which had never occurred before, a new miracle and a new power.
This discovery haunted us. We followed it in preference to all our
studies. We worked with it, we tested it in more ways than we can
describe, and each step was as another miracle unveiling before us. We
came to know that we had found the greatest power on earth. For it
defies all the laws known to men. It makes the needle move and turn on
the compass which we stole from the Home of the Scholars; but we had
been taught, when still a child, that the loadstone points to the north
and that this is a law which nothing can change; yet our new power
defies all laws. We found that it causes lightning, and never have men
known what causes lightning. In thunderstorms, we raised a tall rod of
iron by the side of our hole, and we watched it from below. We have
seen the lightning strike it again and again. And now we know that
metal draws the power of the sky, and that metal can be made to give it
We have built strange things with this discovery of ours. We used
for it the copper wires which we found here under the ground. We have
walked the length of our tunnel, with a candle lighting the way. We
could go no farther than half a mile, for earth and rock had fallen at
both ends. But we gathered all the things we found and we brought them
to our work place. We found strange boxes with bars of metal inside,
with many cords and strands and coils of metal. We found wires that led
to strange little globes of glass on the walls; they contained threads
of metal thinner than a spider’s web.
These things help us in our work. We do not understand them, but we
think that the men of the Unmentionable Times had known our power of
the sky, and these things had some relation to it. We do not know, but
we shall learn. We cannot stop now, even though it frightens us that we
are alone in our knowledge.
No single one can possess greater wisdom than the many Scholars who
are elected by all men for their wisdom. Yet we can. We do. We have
fought against saying it, but now it is said. We do not care. We forget
all men, all laws and all things save our metals and our wires. So much
is still to be learned! So long a road lies before us, and what care we
if we must travel it alone!
Many days passed before we could speak to the Golden One again. But
then came the day when the sky turned white, as if the sun had burst
and spread its flame in the air, and the fields lay still without
breath, and the dust of the road was white in the glow. So the women of
the field were weary, and they tarried over their work, and they were
far from the road when we came. But the Golden One stood alone at the
hedge, waiting. We stopped and we saw that their eyes, so hard and
scornful to the world, were looking at us as if they would obey any
word we might speak.
And we said:
“We have given you a name in our thoughts, Liberty 5-3000.”
“What is our name?” they asked.
“The Golden One.”
“Nor do we call you Equality 7-2521 when we think of you.”
“What name have you given us?” They looked straight into our eyes and they held their head high and they answered:
For a long time we could not speak. Then we said:
“Such thoughts as these are forbidden, Golden One.”
“But you think such thoughts as these and you wish us to think them.”
We looked into their eyes and we could not lie.
“Yes,” we whispered, and they smiled, and then we said: “Our dearest one, do not obey us.”
They stepped back, and their eyes were wide and still.
“Speak these words again,” they whispered.
“Which words?” we asked. But they did not answer, and we knew it.
“Our dearest one,” we whispered.
Never have men said this to women.
The head of the Golden One bowed slowly, and they stood still before
us, their arms at their sides, the palms of their hands turned to us,
as if their body were delivered in submission to our eyes. And we could
Then they raised their head, and they spoke simply and gently, as if they wished us to forget some anxiety of their own.
“The day is hot,” they said, “and you have worked for many hours and you must be weary.”
“No,” we answered.
“It is cooler in the fields,” they said, “and there is water to drink. Are you thirsty?”
“Yes,” we answered, “but we cannot cross the hedge.”
“We shall bring the water to you,” they said.
Then they knelt by the moat, they gathered water in their two hands, they rose and they held the water out to our lips.
We do not know if we drank that water. We only knew suddenly that
their hands were empty, but we were still holding our lips to their
hands, and that they knew it, but did not move.
We raised our head and stepped back. For we did not understand what had made us do this, and we were afraid to understand it.
And the Golden One stepped back, and stood looking upon their hands
in wonder. Then the Golden One moved away, even though no others were
coming, and they moved, stepping back, as if they could not turn from
us, their arms bent before them, as if they could not lower their hands.
We made it. We created it. We brought it forth from the night of the ages. We alone. Our hands. Our mind. Ours alone and only.
We know not what we are saying. Our head is reeling. We look upon
the light which we have made. We shall be forgiven for anything we say
tonight. . . .
Tonight, after more days and trials than we can count, we finished
building a strange thing, from the remains of the Unmentionable Times,
a box of glass, devised to give forth the power of the sky of greater
strength than we had ever achieved before. And when we put our wires to
this box, when we closed the current—the wire glowed! It came to life,
it turned red, and a circle of light lay on the stone before us.
We stood, and we held our head in our hands. We could not conceive
of that which we had created. We had touched no flint, made no fire.
Yet here was light, light that came from nowhere, light from the heart
We blew out the candle. Darkness swallowed us. There was nothing
left around us, nothing save night and a thin thread of flame in it, as
a crack in the wall of a prison. We stretched our hands to the wire,
and we saw our fingers in the red glow. We could not see our body nor
feel it, and in that moment nothing existed save our two hands over a
wire glowing in a black abyss.
Then we thought of the meaning of that which lay before us. We can
light our tunnel, and the City, and all the Cities of the world with
nothing save metal and wires. We can give our brothers a new light,
cleaner and brighter than any they have ever known. The power of the
sky can be made to do men’s bidding. There are no limits to its secrets
and its might, and it can be made to grant us anything if we but choose
Then we knew what we must do. Our discovery is too great for us to
waste our time in sweeping the streets. We must not keep our secret to
ourselves, nor buried under the ground. We must bring it into the sight
of all men. We need all our time, we need the work rooms of the Home of
the Scholars, we want the help of our brother Scholars and their wisdom
joined to ours. There is so much work ahead for all of us, for all the
Scholars of the world.
In a month, the World Council of Scholars is to meet in our City. It
is a great Council, to which the wisest of all lands are elected, and
it meets once a year in the different Cities of the earth. We shall go
to this Council and we shall lay before them, as our gift, this glass
box with the power of the sky. We shall confess everything to them.
They will see, understand and forgive. For our gift is greater than our
transgression. They will explain it to the Council of Vocations, and we
shall be assigned to the Home of the Scholars. This has never been done
before, but neither has a gift such as ours ever been offered to men.
We must wait. We must guard our tunnel as we had never guarded it
before. For should any men save the Scholars learn of our secret, they
would not understand it, nor would they believe us. They would see
nothing, save our crime of working alone, and they would destroy us and
our light. We care not about our body, but our light is . . .
Yes, we do care. For the first time do we care about our body. For
this wire is as a part of our body, as a vein torn from us, glowing
with our blood. Are we proud of this thread of metal, or of our hands
which made it, or is there a line to divide these two?
We stretch out our arms. For the first time do we know how strong
our arms are. And a strange thought comes to us: we wonder, for the
first time in our life, what we look like. Men never see their own
faces and never ask their brothers about it, for it is evil to have
concern for their own faces or bodies. But tonight, for a reason we
cannot fathom, we wish it were possible to us to know the likeness of
our own person.
We have not written for thirty days. For thirty days we have not
been here, in our tunnel. We had been caught. It happened on that night
when we wrote last. We forgot, that night, to watch the sand in the
glass which tells us when three hours have passed and it is time to
return to the City Theatre. When we remembered it, the sand had run out.
We hastened to the Theatre. But the big tent stood grey and silent
against the sky. The streets of the City lay before us, dark and empty.
If we went back to hide in our tunnel, we would be found and our light
found with us. So we walked to the Home of the Street Sweepers.
When the Council of the Home questioned us, we looked upon the faces
of the Council, but there was no curiosity in those faces, and no
anger, and no mercy. So when the oldest of them asked us: “Where have
you been?” we thought of our glass box and of our light, and we forgot
all else. And we answered:
“We will not tell you.”
The oldest did not question us further. They turned to the two youngest, and said, and their voice was bored:
“Take our brother Equality 7-2521 to the Palace of Corrective Detention. Lash them until they tell.”
So we were taken to the Stone Room under the Palace of Corrective
Detention. This room has no windows and it is empty save for an iron
post. Two men stood by the post, naked but for leather aprons and
leather hoods over their faces. Those who had brought us departed,
leaving us to the two Judges who stood in a corner of the room. The
Judges were small, thin men, grey and bent. They gave the signal to the
two strong hooded ones.
They tore the clothes from our body, they threw us down upon our
knees and they tied our hands to the iron post. The first blow of the
lash felt as if our spine had been cut in two. The second blow stopped
the first, and for a second we felt nothing, then the pain struck us in
our throat and fire ran in our lungs without air. But we did not cry
The lash whistled like a singing wind. We tried to count the blows,
but we lost count. We knew that the blows were falling upon our back.
Only we felt nothing upon our back any longer. A flaming grill kept
dancing before our eyes, and we thought of nothing save that grill, a
grill, a grill of red squares, and then we knew that we were looking at
the squares of the iron grill in the door, and there were also the
squares of stone on the walls, and the squares which the lash was
cutting upon our back, crossing and re-crossing itself in our flesh.
Then we saw a fist before us. It knocked our chin up, and we saw the
red froth of our mouth on the withered fingers, and the Judge asked:
“Where have you been?”
But we jerked our head away, hid our face upon our tied hands, and bit our lips.
The lash whistled again. We wondered who was sprinkling burning coal
dust upon the floor, for we saw drops of red twinkling on the stones
Then we knew nothing, save two voices snarling steadily, one after
the other, even though we knew they were speaking many minutes apart:
“Where have you been where have you been where have you been where have you been? . . .”
And our lips moved, but the sound trickled back into our throat, and the sound was only:
“The light . . . The light . . . The light. . . .”
Then we knew nothing.
We opened our eyes, lying on our stomach on the brick floor of a
cell. We looked upon two hands lying far before us on the bricks, and
we moved them, and we knew that they were our hands. But we could not
move our body. Then we smiled, for we thought of the light and that we
had not betrayed it.
We lay in our cell for many days. The door opened twice each day,
once for the men who brought us bread and water, and once for the
Judges. Many Judges came to our cell, first the humblest and then the
most honored Judges of the City. They stood before us in their white
togas, and they asked:
“Are you ready to speak?”
But we shook our head, lying before them on the floor. And they departed.
We counted each day and each night as it passed. Then, tonight, we
knew that we must escape. For tomorrow the World Council of Scholars is
to meet in our City.
It was easy to escape from the Palace of Corrective Detention. The
locks are old on the doors and there are no guards about. There is no
reason to have guards, for men have never defied the Councils so far as
to escape from whatever place they were ordered to be. Our body is
healthy and strength returns to it speedily. We lunged against the door
and it gave way. We stole through the dark passages, and through the
dark streets, and down into our tunnel.
We lit the candle and we saw that our place had not been found and
nothing had been touched. And our glass box stood before us on the cold
oven, as we had left it. What matter they now, the scars upon our back!
Tomorrow, in the full light of day, we shall take our box, and leave
our tunnel open, and walk through the streets to the Home of the
Scholars. We shall put before them the greatest gift ever offered to
men. We shall tell them the truth. We shall hand to them, as our
confession, these pages we have written. We shall join our hands to
theirs, and we shall work together, with the power of the sky, for the
glory of mankind. Our blessing upon you, our brothers! Tomorrow, you
will take us back into your fold and we shall be an outcast no longer.
Tomorrow we shall be one of you again.
[Click here to read chapters 7 through 12, the conclusion of Ayn Rand’s Anthem]