I am that which began;
Out of me the years roll;
Out of me God and man;

I am equal and whole;
God changes, and man, and the form of them bodily; I am the soul.

-'Hertha', Algernon Charles Swinburn

Knight of the Unicorn


Dusk. Two children scramble up a grassy slope, with their hair flaming gold as they rise above the shadow of the rocky outcrop. A low sun hangs in the sky, shedding honey-colored light on the scene.

"Look!" The little boy cries to his sister, "I can see the sun! I can look at it!"

The girl nods and follows his gaze to the star-like object above them. Slowly it is sinking beneath the horizon, burrowing into the earth below the crisp green grass.

A dog barks behind them. He is driving a cluster of wooly sheep up the slop behind the children, into the rich meadows where they can sleep this night and then graze in the morning. They bustle past the children, who giggle and try to grasp tufts off wool off the backs of the uncomplaining animals. The dog licks the boys face before bounding into the deep grass of the meadow, his head sticking above the leaves like a swimmer in a deep green sea. The sheep dive in behind him.

When they are gone, the bow plucks a thin reed and chews on it. His sister plucks another weed and folds it just so, then blows delicately into her makeshift whistle. She must try several times before she produces a single, clear note. Below, the dog barks. She tries again and is answered by the twitter of birdsong.

The boy sits up and listens raptly until the last chuckling note dies away.

"We didn't have birds- before." he whispers.

"There weren't," his sister says, "But onceā€¦"

First life on my sources
First drifted and swam;
Out of me are the forces
That save it or damn;
Out of me man and woman, and wild-beast and bird; before God was, I am.