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Topic: The mirror that shows no viewer - Oscar Wilde

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And we tarried for a moon, and when the moon was waning, I wearied and wandered away through the streets of the city and came to the garden of its god.

The priests in their yellow robes moved silently through the green trees, and on a pavement of black marble stood the rose-red house in which the god had his dwelling. Its doors were of powdered lacquer, and bulls and peacocks were wrought on them in raised and polished gold. The tiled roof was of sea-green porcelain, and the jutting eaves were festooned with little bells. When the white doves flew past, they struck the bells with their wings and made them tinkle.

In front of the temple was a pool of clear water paved with veined onyx. I lay down beside it, and with my pale fingers I touched the broad leaves. One of the priests came towards me and stood behind me. He had sandals on his feet, one of soft serpent-skin and the other of birds' plumage. On his head was a mitre of black felt decorated with silver crescents. Seven yellows were woven into his robe, and his frizzed hair was stained with antimony.

After a little while he spake to me, and asked me my desire. 'I told him that my desire was to see the god.

"The god is hunting," said the priest, looking strangely at me with his small slanting eyes.

"Tell me in what forest, and I will ride with him," I answered.

He combed out the soft fringes of his tunic with his long pointed nails. "The god is asleep," he murmured.

"Tell me on what couch, and I will watch by him," I answered.

"The god is at the feast," he cried.

"If the wine be sweet I will drink it with him, and if it be bitter I will drink it with him also," was my answer.

He bowed his head in wonder, and, taking me by the hand, he raised me up, and led me into the temple.

And in the first chamber I saw an idol seated on a throne of jasper bordered with great orient pearls. It was carved out of ebony, and in stature was of the stature of a man. On its forehead was a ruby, and thick oil dripped from its hair on to its thighs. Its feet were red with the blood of a newly-slain kid, and its loins girt with a copper belt that was studded with seven beryls.

And I said to the priest, "Is this the god?" And he answered me, "This is the god."

"Show me the god," I cried, "or I will surely slay thee." And I touched his hand, and it became withered.

And the priest besought me, saying, "Let my lord heal his servant, and I will show him the god."

So I breathed with my breath upon his hand, and it became whole again, and he trembled and led me into the second chamber, and I saw an idol standing on a lotus of jade hung with great emeralds. It was carved out of ivory, and in stature was twice the stature of a man. On its forehead was a chrysolite, and its breasts were smeared with myrrh and cinnamon. In one hand it held a crooked sceptre of jade, and in the other a round crystal. It ware buskins of brass, and its thick neck was circled with a circle of selenites.

And I said to the priest, "Is this the god?" And he answered me. "This is the god."

"Show me the god," I cried, "or I will surely slay thee." And I touched his eyes, and they became blind.

And the priest besought me, saying, "Let my lord heal his servant, and I will show him the god."

So I breathed with my breath upon his eyes, and the sight came back to them, and he trembled again, and led me into the third chamber, and lo! there was no idol in it, nor image of any kind, but only a mirror of round metal set on an altar of stone.

And I said to the priest, "Where is the god?"

And he answered me: "There is no god but this mirror that thou seest, for this is the Mirror of Wisdom. And it reflecteth all things that are in heaven and on earth, save only the face of him who looketh into it. This it reflecteth not, so that he who looketh into it may be wise. Many other mirrors are there, but they are mirrors of Opinion. This only is the Mirror of Wisdom. And they who possess this mirror know everything, nor is there anything hidden from them. And they who possess it not have not Wisdom. Therefore is it the god, and we worship it."

And I looked into the mirror, and it was even as he had said to me.


From The Fisherman and his Soul (1891)