_(In the Chapel)_ The appointed lot has come upon me, mother, The mournful ending of my years of strife, This changing world I leave, and to another In blood and terror goes my spirit's life. But thou, grief-smitten, cease thy mortal... Read more of Farewell To My Mother at Martin Luther King.caInformational Site Network Informational
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The Fire Quest

from Japanese Fairy Tales





The Wise Poet sat reading by the light of his taper. It was a night of
the seventh month. The cicala sang in the flower of the pomegranate, the
frog sang by the pond. The moon was out and all the stars, the air was
heavy and sweet-scented. But the Poet was not happy, for moths came by
the score to the light of his taper; not moths only, but cockchafers and
dragon-flies with their wings rainbow-tinted. One and all they came upon
the Fire Quest; one and all they burned their bright wings in the flame
and so died. And the Poet was grieved.

"Little harmless children of the night," he said, "why will you still
fly upon the Fire Quest? Never, never can you attain, yet you strive and
die. Foolish ones, have you never heard the story of the Firefly Queen?"

The moths and the cockchafers and the dragon-flies fluttered about the
taper and paid him no heed.

"They have never heard it," said the Poet; "yet it is old enough.
Listen:

"The Firefly Queen was the brightest and most beautiful of small things
that fly. She dwelt in the heart of a rosy lotus. The lotus grew on a
still lake, and it swayed to and fro upon the lake's bosom while the
Firefly Queen slept within. It was like the reflection of a star in the
water.

"You must know, oh, little children of the night, that the Firefly Queen
had many suitors. Moths and cockchafers and dragon-flies innumerable
flew to the lotus on the lake. And their hearts were filled with
passionate love. 'Have pity, have pity,' they cried, 'Queen of the
Fireflies, Bright Light of the Lake.' But the Firefly Queen sat and
smiled and shone. It seemed that she was not sensible of the incense of
love that arose about her.

"At last she said, 'Oh, you lovers, one and all, what make you here
idly, cumbering my lotus house? Prove your love, if you love me indeed.
Go, you lovers, and bring me fire, and then I will answer.'

"Then, oh, little children of the night, there was a swift whirr of
wings, for the moths and the cockchafers and the dragon-flies
innumerable swiftly departed upon the Fire Quest. But the Firefly Queen
laughed. Afterwards I will tell you the reason of her laughter.

"So the lovers flew here and there in the still night, taking with them
their desire. They found lighted lattices ajar and entered forthwith. In
one chamber there was a girl who took a love-letter from her pillow and
read it in tears, by the light of a taper. In another a woman sat
holding the light close to a mirror, where she looked and painted her
face. A great white moth put out the trembling candle-flame with his
wings.

"'Alack! I am afraid,' shrieked the woman; 'the horrible dark!'

"In another place there lay a man dying. He said, 'For pity's sake light
me the lamp, for the black night falls.'

"'We have lighted it,' they said, 'long since. It is close beside you,
and a legion of moths and dragon-flies flutter about it.'

"'I cannot see anything at all,' murmured the man.

"But those that flew on the Fire Quest burnt their frail wings in the
fire. In the morning they lay dead by the hundred and were swept away
and forgotten.

"The Firefly Queen was safe in her lotus bower with her beloved, who was
as bright as she, for he was a great lord of the Fireflies. No need had
he to go upon the Fire Quest. He carried the living flame beneath his
wings.

"Thus the Firefly Queen deceived her lovers, and therefore she laughed
when she sent them from her on a vain adventure."

* * * * *

"Be not deceived," cried the Wise Poet, "oh, little children of the
night. The Firefly Queen is always the same. Give over the Fire Quest."

But the moths and the cockchafers and the dragon-flies paid no heed to
the words of the Wise Poet. Still they fluttered about his taper, and
they burnt their bright wings in the flame and so died.

Presently the Poet blew out the light. "I must needs sit in the dark,"
he said; "it is the only way."





Next: A Legend Of Kwannon

Previous: The Cold Lady



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