The Wayside Well

by Arthur Machen

‘….And as I have said, this principle of aliquid latet – of there being something hidden beneath the surface of the world – applies equally to things small and to things great. Tennyson saw the hidden mystery of the universe in the tiny flower growing in a cranny of the wall; it may appear again if the gipsies light a fire of broken sticks on a dark hill in a wild land; it is seen in the splendour of the starry heavens; it is seen also in a well by the wayside, where the cold water bubbles up from the rock in burning weather, and the basin of the rock that contains it is decked with magic, delicate greenery, glittering from the drippings of the rock. And note the word “magic.” It is not a vague flourish. It is used deliberately to signify that in such a wayside well there is much more than meets the eye, and a satisfaction of the spirit that is above the satisfaction of the body when its thirst is quenched by the cold bubblings of the well. We know that there is another road where the sun burns wearily and the dust is thick and bitter on our lips in this way of our pilgrimage: and on this road also are wells of wonderful refreshment, and there is cool greenness to rejoice tired and sorrowful eyes. We pass through, we perceive sensibly, temporal things in order that we may gain eternal things, the everlasting essences that are at once hidden in the visible and tangible and audible universe and communicated by it. All things are because they are wonderful: I wrote that sentence many long years ago, and every year teaches me how true a saying it is….’

Arthur Machen, from his Introduction to The Dragon of the Alchemists, by Frederick Carter, London, 1926.

Text  © Arthur Machen (1926)

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