photo of An Rand by Phyllis Cerf
Anthem [second half: chapters 7-12]
by Ayn Rand
[first published by 1938 by Cassell]
It is dark here in the forest. The leaves rustle over our head,
black against the last gold of the sky. The moss is soft and warm. We
shall sleep on this moss for many nights, till the beasts of the forest
come to tear our body. We have no bed now, save the moss, and no
future, save the beasts.
We are old now, yet we were young this morning, when we carried our
glass box through the streets of the City to the Home of the Scholars.
No men stopped us, for there were none about from the Palace of
Corrective Detention, and the others knew nothing. No men stopped us at
the gate. We walked through empty passages and into the great hall
where the World Council of Scholars sat in solemn meeting.
We saw nothing as we entered, save the sky in the great windows,
blue and glowing. Then we saw the Scholars who sat around a long table;
they were as shapeless clouds huddled at the rise of the great sky.
There were men whose famous names we knew, and others from distant
lands whose names we had not heard. We saw a great painting on the wall
over their heads, of the twenty illustrious men who had invented the
All the heads of the Council turned to us as we entered. These great
and wise of the earth did not know what to think of us, and they looked
upon us with wonder and curiosity, as if we were a miracle. It is true
that our tunic was torn and stained with brown stains which had been
blood. We raised our right arm and we said:
“Our greeting to you, our honored brothers of the World Council of Scholars!”
Then Collective 0-0009, the oldest and wisest of the Council, spoke and asked:
“Who are you, our brother? For you do not look like a Scholar.”
“Our name is Equality 7-2521,” we answered, “and we are a Street Sweeper of this City.”
Then it was as if a great wind had stricken the hall, for all the Scholars spoke at once, and they were angry and frightened.
“A Street Sweeper! A Street Sweeper walking in upon the World
Council of Scholars! It is not to be believed! It is against all the
rules and all the laws!”
But we knew how to stop them.
“Our brothers!” we said. “We matter not, nor our transgression. It
is only our brother men who matter. Give no thought to us, for we are
nothing, but listen to our words, for we bring you a gift such as had
never been brought to men. Listen to us, for we hold the future of
mankind in our hands.”
Then they listened.
We placed our glass box upon the table before them. We spoke of it,
and of our long quest, and of our tunnel, and of our escape from the
Palace of Corrective Detention. Not a hand moved in that hall, as we
spoke, nor an eye. Then we put the wires to the box, and they all bent
forward and sat still, watching. And we stood still, our eyes upon the
wire. And slowly, slowly as a flush of blood, a red flame trembled in
the wire. Then the wire glowed.
But terror struck the men of the Council. They leapt to their feet,
they ran from the table, and they stood pressed against the wall,
huddled together, seeking the warmth of one another’s bodies to give
We looked upon them and we laughed and said:
“Fear nothing, our brothers. There is a great power in these wires, but this power is tamed. It is yours. We give it to you.”
Still they would not move.
“We give you the power of the sky!” we cried. “We give you the key
to the earth! Take it, and let us be one of you, the humblest among
you. Let us all work together, and harness this power, and make it ease
the toil of men. Let us throw away our candles and our torches. Let us
flood our cities with light. Let us bring a new light to men!”
But they looked upon us, and suddenly we were afraid. For their eyes were still, and small, and evil.
“Our brothers!” we cried. “Have you nothing to say to us?”
Then Collective 0-0009 moved forward. They moved to the table and the others followed.
“Yes,” spoke Collective 0-0009, “we have much to say to you.”
The sound of their voices brought silence to the hall and to beat of our heart.
“Yes,” said Collective 0-0009, “we have much to say to a wretch who have broken all the laws and who boast of their infamy!
How dared you think that your mind held greater wisdom than the
minds of your brothers? And if the Councils had decreed that you should
be a Street Sweeper, how dared you think that you could be of greater
use to men than in sweeping the streets?”
“How dared you, gutter cleaner,” spoke Fraternity 9-3452, “to hold
yourself as one alone and with the thoughts of the one and not of the
“You shall be burned at the stake,” said Democracy 4-6998.
“No, they shall be lashed,” said Unanimity 7-3304, “till there is nothing left under the lashes.”
“No,” said Collective 0-0009, “we cannot decide upon this, our
brothers. No such crime has ever been committed, and it is not for us
to judge. Nor for any small Council. We shall deliver this creature to
the World Council itself and let their will be done.”
We looked upon them and we pleaded:
“Our brothers! You are right. Let the will of the Council be done
upon our body. We do not care. But the light? What will you do with the
Collective 0-0009 looked upon us, and they smiled.
“So you think that you have found a new power,” said Collective 0-0009. “Do all your brothers think that?”
“No,” we answered.
“What is not thought by all men cannot be true,” said Collective 0-0009.
“You have worked on this alone?” asked International 1-5537.
“Many men in the Homes of the Scholars have had strange new ideas in
the past,” said Solidarity 8-1164, “but when the majority of their
brother Scholars voted against them, they abandoned their ideas, as all
“This box is useless,” said Alliance 6-7349.
“Should it be what they claim of it,” said Harmony 9-2642, “then it
would bring ruin to the Department of Candles. The Candle is a great
boon to mankind, as approved by all men. Therefore it cannot be
destroyed by the whim of one.”
“This would wreck the Plans of the World Council,” said Unanimity
2-9913, “and without the Plans of the World Council the sun cannot
rise. It took fifty years to secure the approval of all the Councils
for the Candle, and to decide upon the number needed, and to re-fit the
Plans so as to make candles instead of torches. This touched upon
thousands and thousands of men working in scores of States. We cannot
alter the Plans again so soon.”
“And if this should lighten the toil of men,” said Similarity
5-0306, “then it is a great evil, for men have no cause to exist save
in toiling for other men.”
Then Collective 0-0009 rose and pointed at our box.
“This thing,” they said, “must be destroyed.”
And all the others cried as one:
“It must be destroyed!”
Then we leapt to the table.
We seized our box, we shoved them aside, and we ran to the window.
We turned and we looked at them for the last time, and a rage, such as
it is not fit for humans to know, choked our voice in our throat.
“You fools!” we cried. “You fools! You thrice-damned fools!”
We swung our fist through the windowpane, and we leapt out in a ringing rain of glass.
We fell, but we never let the box fall from our hands. Then we ran.
We ran blindly, and men and houses streaked past us in a torrent
without shape. And the road seemed not to be flat before us, but as if
it were leaping up to meet us, and we waited for the earth to rise and
strike us in the face. But we ran. We knew not where we were going. We
knew only that we must run, run to the end of the world, to the end of
Then we knew suddenly that we were lying on a soft earth and that we
had stopped. Trees taller than we had ever seen before stood over us in
great silence. Then we knew. We were in the Uncharted Forest. We had
not thought of coming here, but our legs had carried our wisdom, and
our legs had brought us to the Uncharted Forest against our will.
Our glass box lay beside us. We crawled to it, we fell upon it, our face in our arms, and we lay still.
We lay thus for a long time. Then we rose, we took our box and walked on into the forest.
It mattered not where we went. We knew that men would not follow us,
for they never enter the Uncharted Forest. We had nothing to fear from
them. The forest disposes of its own victims. This gave us no fear
either. Only we wished to be away, away from the City and from the air
that touches upon the air of the City. So we walked on, our box in our
arms, our heart empty.
We are doomed. Whatever days are left to us, we shall spend them
alone. And we have heard of the corruption to be found in solitude. We
have torn ourselves from the truth which is our brother men, and there
is no road back for us, and no redemption.
We know these things, but we do not care. We care for nothing on earth. We are tired.
Only the glass box in our arms is like a living heart that gives us
strength. We have lied to ourselves. We have not built this box for the
good of our brothers. We built it for its own sake. It is above all our
brothers to us, and its truth above their truth. Why wonder about this?
We have not many days to live. We are walking to the fangs awaiting us
somewhere among the great, silent trees. There is not a thing behind us
Then a blow of pain struck us, our first and our only. We thought of
the Golden One. We thought of the Golden One whom we shall never see
again. Then the pain passed. It is best. We are one of the Damned. It
is best if the Golden One forget our name and the body which bore that
It has been a day of wonder, this, our first day in the forest.
We awoke when a ray of sunlight fell across our face. We wanted to
leap to our feet, as we have had to leap every morning of our life, but
we remembered suddenly that no bell had rung and that there was no bell
to ring anywhere. We lay on our back, we threw our arms out, and we
looked up at the sky. The leaves had edges of silver that trembled and
rippled like a river of green and fire flowing high above us.
We did not wish to move. We thought suddenly that we could lie thus
as long as we wished, and we laughed aloud at the thought. We could
also rise, or run, or leap, or fall down again. We were thinking that
these were thoughts without sense, but before we knew it our body had
risen in one leap. Our arms stretched out of their own will, and our
body whirled and whirled, till it raised a wind to rustle through the
leaves of the bushes. Then our hands seized a branch and swung us high
into a tree, with no aim save the wonder of learning the strength of
our body. The branch snapped under us and we fell upon the moss that
was soft as a cushion. Then our body, losing all sense, rolled over and
over on the moss, dry leaves in our tunic, in our hair, in our face.
And we heard suddenly that we were laughing, laughing aloud, laughing
as if there were no power left in us save laughter.
Then we took our glass box, and we went on into the forest. We went
on, cutting through the branches, and it was as if we were swimming
through a sea of leaves, with the bushes as waves rising and falling
and rising around us, and flinging their green sprays high to the
treetops. The trees parted before us, calling us forward. The forest
seemed to welcome us. We went on, without thought, without care, with
nothing to feel save the song of our body.
We stopped when we felt hunger. We saw birds in the tree branches,
and flying from under our footsteps. We picked a stone and we sent it
as an arrow at a bird. It fell before us. We made a fire, we cooked the
bird, and we ate it, and no meal had ever tasted better to us. And we
thought suddenly that there was a great satisfaction to be found in the
food which we need and obtain by our own hand. And we wished to be
hungry again and soon, that we might know again this strange new pride
Then we walked on. And we came to a stream which lay as a streak of
glass among the trees. It lay so still that we saw no water but only a
cut in the earth, in which the trees grew down, upturned, and the sky
lay at the bottom. We knelt by the stream and we bent down to drink.
And then we stopped. For, upon the blue of the sky below us, we saw our
own face for the first time.
We sat still and we held our breath. For our face and our body were
beautiful. Our face was not like the faces of our brothers, for we felt
not pity when looking upon it. Our body was not like the bodies of our
brothers, for our limbs were straight and thin and hard and strong. And
we thought that we could trust this being who looked upon us from the
stream, and that we had nothing to fear with this being.
We walked on till the sun had set. When the shadows gathered among
the trees, we stopped in a hollow between the roots, where we shall
sleep tonight. And suddenly, for the first time this day, we remembered
that we are the Damned. We remembered it, and we laughed.
We are writing this on the paper we had hidden in our tunic together
with the written pages we had brought for the World Council of
Scholars, but never given to them. We have much to speak of to
ourselves, and we hope we shall find the words for it in the days to
come. Now, we cannot speak, for we cannot understand.
We have not written for many days. We did not wish to speak. For we needed no words to remember that which has happened to us.
It was on our second day in the forest that we heard steps behind
us. We hid in the bushes, and we waited. The steps came closer. And
then we saw the fold of a white tunic among the trees, and a gleam of
We leapt forward, we ran to them, and we stood looking upon the Golden One.
They saw us, and their hands closed into fists, and the fists pulled
their arms down, as if they wished their arms to hold them, while their
body swayed. And they could not speak.
We dared not come too close to them. We asked, and our voice trembled:
“How did you come to be here, Golden One?”
But they whispered only:
“We have found you. . . .”
“How did you come to be in the forest?” we asked.
They raised their head, and there was a great pride in their voice; they answered:
“We have followed you.”
Then we could not speak, and they said:
“We heard that you had gone to the Uncharted Forest, for the whole
City is speaking of it. So on the night of the day when we heard it, we
ran away from the Home of the Peasants. We found the marks of your feet
across the plain where no men walk. So we followed them, and we went
into the forest, and we followed the path where the branches were
broken by your body.”
Their white tunic was torn, and the branches had cut the skin of
their arms, but they spoke as if they had never taken notice of it, nor
of weariness, nor of fear.
“We have followed you,” they said, “and we shall follow you wherever
you go. If danger threatens you, we shall face it also. If it be death,
we shall die with you. You are damned, and we wish to share your
They looked upon us, and their voice was low, but there was bitterness and triumph in their voice.
“Your eyes are as a flame, but our brothers have neither hope nor
fire. Your mouth is cut of granite, but our brothers are soft and
humble. Your head is high, but our brothers cringe. You walk, but our
brothers crawl. We wish to be damned with you, rather than blessed with
all our brothers. Do as you please with us, but do not send us away
Then they knelt, and bowed their golden head before us.
We had never thought of that which we did. We bent to raise the
Golden One to their feet, but when we touched them, it was as if
madness had stricken us. We seized their body and we pressed our lips
to theirs. The Golden One breathed once, and their breath was a moan,
and then their arms closed around us.
We stood together for a long time. And we were frightened that we
had lived for twenty-one years and had never known what joy is possible
Then we said:
“Our dearest one. Fear nothing of the forest. There is no danger in
solitude. We have no need of our brothers. Let us forget their good and
our evil, let us forget all things save that we are together and that
there is joy as a bond between us. Give us your hand. Look ahead. It is
our own world, Golden One, a strange, unknown world, but our own.”
Then we walked on into the forest, their hand in ours.
And that night we knew that to hold the body of women in our arms is
neither ugly nor shameful, but the one ecstasy granted to the race of
We have walked for many days. The forest has no end, and we seek no
end. But each day added to the chain of days between us and the City is
like an added blessing.
We have made a bow and many arrows. We can kill more birds than we
need for our food; we find water and fruit in the forest. At night, we
choose a clearing, and we build a ring of fires around it. We sleep in
the midst of that ring, and the beasts dare not attack us. We can see
their eyes, green and yellow as coals, watching us from the tree
branches beyond. The fires smoulder as a crown of jewels around us, and
smoke stands still in the air, in columns made blue by the moonlight.
We sleep together in the midst of the ring, the arms of the Golden One
around us, their head upon our breast.
Some day, we shall stop and build a house, when we shall have gone
far enough. But we do not have to hasten. The days before us are
without end, like the forest.
We cannot understand this new life which we have found, yet it seems
so clear and so simple. When questions come to puzzle us, we walk
faster, then turn and forget all things as we watch the Golden One
following. The shadows of leaves fall upon their arms, as they spread
the branches apart, but their shoulders are in the sun. The skin of
their arms is like a blue mist, but their shoulders are white and
glowing, as if the light fell not from above, but rose from under their
skin. We watch the leaf which has fallen upon their shoulder, and it
lies at the curve of their neck, and a drop of dew glistens upon it
like a jewel. They approach us, and they stop, laughing, knowing what
we think, and they wait obediently, without questions, till it pleases
us to turn and go on.
We go on and we bless the earth under our feet. But questions come
to us again, as we walk in silence. If that which we have found is the
corruption of solitude, then what can men wish for save corruption? If
this is the great evil of being alone, then what is good and what is
Everything which comes from the many is good. Everything which comes
from one is evil. This have we been taught with our first breath. We
have broken the law, but we have never doubted it. Yet now, as we walk
through the forest, we are learning to doubt.
There is no life for men, save in useful toil for the good of all
their brothers. But we lived not, when we toiled for our brothers, we
were only weary. There is no joy for men, save the joy shared with all
their brothers. But the only things which taught us joy were the power
we created in our wires, and the Golden One. And both these joys belong
to us alone, they come from us alone, they bear no relation to all our
brothers, and they do not concern our brothers in any way. Thus do we
There is some error, one frightful error, in the thinking of men.
What is that error? We do not know, but the knowledge struggles within
us, struggles to be born. Today, the Golden One stopped suddenly and
“We love you.”
But they frowned and shook their head and looked at us helplessly.
“No,” they whispered, “that is not what we wished to say.”
They were silent, then they spoke slowly, and their words were
halting, like the words of a child learning to speak for the first time:
“We are one . . . alone . . . and only . . . and we love you who are one . . . alone . . . and only.”
We looked into each other’s eyes and we knew that the breath of a miracle had touched us, and fled, and left us groping vainly.
And we felt torn, torn for some word we could not find.
We are sitting at a table and we are writing this upon paper made
thousands of years ago. The light is dim, and we cannot see the Golden
One, only one lock of gold on the pillow of an ancient bed. This is our
We came upon it today, at sunrise. For many days we had been
crossing a chain of mountains. The forest rose among cliffs, and
whenever we walked out upon a barren stretch of rock we saw great peaks
before us in the west, and to the north of us, and to the south, as far
as our eyes could see. The peaks were red and brown, with the green
streaks of forests as veins upon them, with blue mists as veils over
their heads. We had never heard of these mountains, nor seen them
marked on any map. The Uncharted Forest has protected them from the
Cities and from the men of the Cities.
We climbed paths where the wild goat dared not follow. Stones rolled
from under our feet, and we heard them striking the rocks below,
farther and farther down, and the mountains rang with each stroke, and
long after the strokes had died. But we went on, for we knew that no
men would ever follow our track nor reach us here.
Then today, at sunrise, we saw a white flame among the trees, high
on a sheer peak before us. We thought that it was a fire and stopped.
But the flame was unmoving, yet blinding as liquid metal. So we climbed
toward it through the rocks. And there, before us, on a broad summit,
with the mountains rising behind it, stood a house such as we had never
seen, and the white fire came from the sun on the glass of its windows.
The house had two stories and a strange roof flat as a floor. There
was more window than wall upon its walls, and the windows went on
straight around the corners, though how this kept the house standing we
could not guess. The walls were hard and smooth, of that stone unlike
stone which we had seen in our tunnel.
We both knew it without words: this house was left from the
Unmentionable Times. The trees had protected it from time and weather,
and from men who have less pity than time and weather. We turned to the
Golden One and we asked:
“Are you afraid?”
But they shook their head. So we walked to the door, and we threw it
open, and we stepped together into the house of the Unmentionable Times.
We shall need the days and the years ahead, to look, to learn, and
to understand the things of this house. Today, we could only look and
try to believe the sight of our eyes. We pulled the heavy curtains from
the windows and we saw that the rooms were small, and we thought that
not more than twelve men could have lived here. We thought it strange
that men had been permitted to build a house for only twelve.
Never had we seen rooms so full of light. The sunrays danced upon
colors, colors, more colors than we thought possible, we who had seen
no houses save the white ones, the brown ones and the grey. There were
great pieces of glass on the walls, but it was not glass, for when we
looked upon it we saw our own bodies and all the things behind us, as
on the face of a lake. There were strange things which we had never
seen and the use of which we do not know. And there were globes of
glass everywhere, in each room, the globes with the metal cobwebs
inside, such as we had seen in our tunnel.
We found the sleeping hall and we stood in awe upon its threshold.
For it was a small room and there were only two beds in it. We found no
other beds in the house, and then we knew that only two had lived here,
and this passes understanding. What kind of world did they have, the
men of the Unmentionable Times?
We found garments, and the Golden One gasped at the sight of them.
For they were not white tunics, nor white togas; they were of all
colors, no two of them alike. Some crumbled to dust as we touched them.
But others were of heavier cloth, and they felt soft and new in our
We found a room with walls made of shelves, which held rows of
manuscripts, from the floor to the ceiling. Never had we seen such a
number of them, nor of such strange shape. They were not soft and
rolled, they had hard shells of cloth and leather; and the letters on
their pages were so small and so even that we wondered at the men who
had such handwriting. We glanced through the pages, and we saw that
they were written in our language, but we found many words which we
could not understand. Tomorrow, we shall begin to read these scripts.
When we had seen all the rooms of the house, we looked at the Golden One and we both knew the thought in our minds.
“We shall never leave this house,” we said, “nor let it be taken
from us. This is our home and the end of our journey. This is your
house, Golden One, and ours, and it belongs to no other men whatever as
far as the earth may stretch. We shall not share it with others, as we
share not our joy with them, nor our love, nor our hunger. So be it to
the end of our days.”
“Your will be done,” they said.
Then we went out to gather wood for the great hearth of our home. We
brought water from the stream which runs among the trees under our
windows. We killed a mountain goat, and we brought its flesh to be
cooked in a strange copper pot we found in a place of wonders, which
must have been the cooking room of the house.
We did this work alone, for no words of ours could take the Golden
One away from the big glass which is not glass. They stood before it
and they looked and looked upon their own body.
When the sun sank beyond the mountains, the Golden One fell asleep
on the floor, amidst jewels, and bottles of crystal, and flowers of
silk. We lifted the Golden One in our arms and we carried them to a
bed, their head falling softly upon our shoulder. Then we lit a candle,
and we brought paper from the room of the manuscripts, and we sat by
the window, for we knew that we could not sleep tonight.
And now we look upon the earth and sky. This spread of naked rock
and peaks and moonlight is like a world ready to be born, a world that
waits. It seems to us it asks a sign from us, a spark, a first
commandment. We cannot know what word we are to give, nor what great
deed this earth expects to witness. We know it waits. It seems to say
it has great gifts to lay before us, but it wishes a greater gift for
us. We are to speak. We are to give its goal, its highest meaning to
all this glowing space of rock and sky.
We look ahead, we beg our heart for guidance in answering this call
no voice has spoken, yet we have heard. We look upon our hands. We see
the dust of centuries, the dust which hid the great secrets and perhaps
great evils. And yet it stirs no fear within our heart, but only silent
reverence and pity.
May knowledge come to us! What is the secret our heart has
understood and yet will not reveal to us, although it seems to beat as
if it were endeavoring to tell it?
I am. I think. I will.
My hands…My spirit… My sky… My forest…This earth of mine….
What must I say besides? These are the words. This is the answer.
I stand here on the summit of the mountain. I lift my head and I
spread my arms. This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest.
I wished to know the meaning of things. I am the meaning. I wished to
find a warrant for being. I need no warrant for being, and no word of
sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction.
It is my eyes which see, and the sight of my eyes grants beauty to
the earth. It is my ears which hear, and the hearing of my ears gives
its song to the world. It is my mind which thinks, and the judgement of
my mind is the only searchlight that can find the truth. It is my will
which chooses, and the choice of my will is the only edict I must
Many words have been granted me, and some are wise, and some are false, but only three are holy: “I will it!”
Whatever road I take, the guiding star is within me; the guiding
star and the loadstone which point the way. They point in but one
direction. They point to me.
I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the
universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not
and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth.
And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is
not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its
Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish. I
am not a tool for their use. I am not a servant of their needs. I am
not a bandage for their wounds. I am not a sacrifice on their altars.
I am a man. This miracle of me is mine to own and keep, and mine to guard, and mine to use, and mine to kneel before!
I do not surrender my treasures, nor do I share them. The fortune of
my spirit is not to be blown into coins of brass and flung to the winds
as alms for the poor of the spirit. I guard my treasures: my thought,
my will, my freedom. And the greatest of these is freedom.
I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them. I ask
none to live for me, nor do I live for any others. I covet no man’s
soul, nor is my soul theirs to covet.
I am neither foe nor friend to my brothers, but such as each of them
shall deserve of me. And to earn my love, my brothers must do more than
to have been born. I do not grant my love without reason, nor to any
chance passer-by who may wish to claim it. I honor men with my love.
But honor is a thing to be earned.
I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters.
And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and
respect, but neither command nor obey. And we shall join our hands when
we wish, or walk alone when we so desire. For in the temple of his
spirit, each man is alone. Let each man keep his temple untouched and
undefiled. Then let him join hands with others if he wishes, but only
beyond his holy threshold.
For the word “We” must never be spoken, save by one’s choice and as
a second thought. This word must never be placed first within man’s
soul, else it becomes a monster, the root of all the evils on earth,
the root of man’s torture by men, and of an unspeakable lie.
The word “We” is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to
stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that
which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by
which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak
steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of
What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it?
What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my
freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and the impotent, are my
masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey?
But I am done with this creed of corruption.
I am done with the monster of “We,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame.
And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth,
this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who
will grant them joy and peace and pride.
This god, this one word:
It was when I read the first of the books I found in my house that I
saw the word “I.” And when I understood this word, the book fell from
my hands, and I wept, I who had never known tears. I wept in
deliverance and in pity for all mankind.
I understood the blessed thing which I had called my curse. I
understood why the best in me had been my sins and my transgressions;
and why I had never felt guilt in my sins. I understood that centuries
of chains and lashes will not kill the spirit of man nor the sense of
truth within him.
I read many books for many days. Then I called the Golden One, and I
told her what I had read and what I had learned. She looked at me and
the first words she spoke were:
“I love you.”
Then I said:
“My dearest one, it is not proper for men to be without names. There
was a time when each man had a name of his own to distinguish him from
all other men. So let us choose our names. I have read of a man who
lived many thousands of years ago, and of all the names in these books,
his is the one I wish to bear. He took the light of the gods and he
brought it to men, and he taught men to be gods. And he suffered for
his deed as all bearers of light must suffer. His name was Prometheus.”
“It shall be your name,” said the Golden One.
“And I have read of a goddess,” I said, “who was the mother of the
earth and of all the gods. Her name was Gaea. Let this be your name, my
Golden One, for you are to be the mother of a new kind of gods.”
“It shall be my name,” said the Golden One.
Now I look ahead. My future is clear before me. The Saint of the
pyre had seen the future when he chose me as his heir, as the heir of
all the saints and all the martyrs who came before him and who died for
the same cause, for the same word, no matter what name they gave to
their cause and their truth.
I shall live here, in my own house. I shall take my food from the
earth by the toil of my own hands. I shall learn many secrets from my
books. Through the years ahead, I shall rebuild the achievements of the
past, and open the way to carry them further, the achievements which
are open to me, but closed forever to my brothers, for their minds are
shackled to the weakest and dullest ones among them.
I have learned that my power of the sky was known to men long ago;
they called it Electricity. It was the power that moved their greatest
inventions. It lit this house with light which came from those globes
of glass on the walls. I have found the engine which produced this
light. I shall learn how to repair it and how to make it work again. I
shall learn how to use the wires which carry this power. Then I shall
build a barrier of wires around my home, and across the paths which
lead to my home; a barrier light as a cobweb, more impassable than a
wall of granite; a barrier my brothers will never be able to cross. For
they have nothing to fight me with, save the brute force of their
numbers. I have my mind.
Then here, on this mountaintop, with the world below me and nothing
above me but the sun, I shall live my own truth. Gaea is pregnant with
my child. Our son will be raised as a man. He will be taught to say “I”
and to bear the pride of it. He will be taught to walk straight and on
his own feet. He will be taught reverence for his own spirit.
When I shall have read all the books and learned my new way, when my
home will be ready and my earth tilled, I shall steal one day, for the
last time, into the cursed City of my birth. I shall call to me my
friend who has no name save International 4-8818, and all those like
him, Fraternity 2-5503, who cries without reason, and Solidarity 9-6347
who calls for help in the night, and a few others. I shall call to me
all the men and the women whose spirit has not been killed within them
and who suffer under the yoke of their brothers. They will follow me
and I shall lead them to my fortress. And here, in this uncharted
wilderness, I and they, my chosen friends, my fellow-builders, shall
write the first chapter in the new history of man.
These are the things before me. And as I stand here at the door of
glory, I look behind me for the last time. I look upon the history of
men, which I have learned from the books, and I wonder. It was a long
story, and the spirit which moved it was the spirit of man’s freedom.
But what is freedom? Freedom from what? There is nothing to take a
man’s freedom away from him, save other men. To be free, a man must be
free of his brothers. That is freedom. That and nothing else.
At first, man was enslaved by the gods. But he broke their chains.
Then he was enslaved by the kings. But he broke their chains. He was
enslaved by his birth, by his kin, by his race. But he broke their
chains. He declared to all his brothers that a man has rights which
neither god nor king nor other men can take away from him, no matter
what their number, for his is the right of man, and there is no right
on earth above this right. And he stood on the threshold of the freedom
for which the blood of the centuries behind him had been spilled.
But then he gave up all he had won, and fell lower than his savage beginning.
What brought it to pass? What disaster took their reason away from
men? What whip lashed them to their knees in shame and submission? The
worship of the word “We.”
When men accepted that worship, the structure of centuries collaped
about them, the structure whose every beam had come from the thought of
some one man, each in his day down the ages, from the depth of some one
spirit, such spirit as existed but for its own sake. Those men who
survived those eager to obey, eager to live for one another, since they
had nothing else to vindicate them—those men could neither carry on,
nor preserve what they had received. Thus did all thought, all science,
all wisdom perish on earth. Thus did men— men with nothing to offer
save their great number— lost the steel towers, the flying ships, the
power wires, all the things they had not created and could never keep.
Perhaps, later, some men had been born with the mind and the courage to
recover these things which were lost; perhaps these men came before the
Councils of Scholars. They were answered as I have been answered— and
for the same reasons.
But I still wonder how it was possible, in those graceless years of
transition, long ago, that men did not see whither they were going, and
went on, in blindness and cowardice, to their fate. I wonder, for it is
hard for me to conceive how men who knew the word “I” could give it up
and not know what they lost. But such has been the story, for I have
lived in the City of the damned, and I know what horror men permitted
to be brought upon them.
Perhaps, in those days, there were a few among men, a few of clear
sight and clean soul, who refused to surrender that word. What agony
must have been theirs before that which they saw coming and could not
stop! Perhaps they cried out in protest and in warning. But men paid no
heed to their warning. And they, these few, fought a hopeless battle,
and they perished with their banners smeared by their own blood. And
they chose to perish, for they knew. To them, I send my salute across
the centuries, and my pity.
Theirs is the banner in my hand. And I wish I had the power to tell
them that the despair of their hearts was not to be final, and their
night was not without hope. For the battle they lost can never be lost.
For that which they died to save can never perish. Through all the
darkness, through all the shame of which men are capable, the spirit of
man will remain alive on this earth. It may sleep, but it will awaken.
It may wear chains, but it will break through. And man will go on. Man,
Here on this mountain, I and my sons and my chosen friends shall
build our new land and our fort. And it will become as the heart of the
earth, lost and hidden at first, but beating, beating louder each day.
And word of it will reach every corner of the earth. And the roads of
the world will become as veins which will carry the best of the world’s
blood to my threshold. And all my brothers, and the Councils of my
brothers, will hear of it, but they will be impotent against me. And
the day will come when I shall break all the chains of the earth, and
raze the cities of the enslaved, and my home will become the capital of
a world where each man will be free to exist for his own sake.
For the coming of that day shall I fight, I and my sons and my
chosen friends. For the freedom of Man. For his rights. For his life.
For his honor.
And here, over the portals of my fort, I shall cut in the stone the
word which is to be my beacon and my banner. The word which will not
die, should we all perish in battle. The word which can never die on
this earth, for it is the heart of it and the meaning and the glory.
The sacred word:
[Click here to read chapters 1 through 6, the first half of Ayn Rand’s Anthem]