The Singing Bird Of Heaven





Ama Terassu, the Glorious, the Light of High Heaven, commanded, saying,

"His Augustness, my August Child, who is called the Conqueror, shall

descend to the land. For it is a Land of Luxuriant Reed Plains, a Land

of Fresh Rice Ears, a Land of a Thousand Autumns. So of this land he

shall be king."



Now his Augustness, the August Child, the Conqueror, stood upon the

Floating Bridge of Heaven and looked down, and he saw that there was a

great unquietness upon the Land of the Reed Plains. For earthly deities

made strife, and blood ran, and fearful sounds of war arose, even to

High Heaven. So the August Child, the heavenly born, turned back across

the Floating Bridge, and swore he would not descend to rule the land

until it should be cleansed.



And Ama Terassu, the Light of High Heaven, who had the sun set fast

between her eyes, bound her head with jewels, and gathered the deities

together in a divine assembly, to hold council in the Tranquil River

Bed. And she spoke and said, "Who shall subdue the land that I have

given to the August Child?"



And all the deities cried, "O Thine Augustness, send down the Lord of

Spears." Therefore the Lord of Spears went lightly down by the Floating

Bridge; and there were bound upon his back eight hundred spears.

Howbeit, he made a truce with the Lord of the Reed Plains and tarried

there; and for three years there was no report.



Therefore, once more the Queen of Heaven called him whom the gods name

Wonderful, and she called the Lord of Deep Thoughts, and likewise she

called every deity of Heaven, and they came to council in the Tranquil

River Bed, so that upon the sand there was left the print of their

august feet. And Ama Terassu said, "Behold now the Lord of Spears is

faithless. Whom shall we send to rule the land?" And the Young Prince

answered, "O Mother of Heaven, Thine Augustness, send me." And all the

deities assented with one accord and cried, "Send him, send him," till

there was a sound like thunder in the River Bed.



So the Young Prince bound on his sandals, and they brought to him the

great bow that stands in the Hall of High Heaven, and bestowed it upon

him, and they gave him many heavenly-feathered arrows. So they made him

ready, and they brought him to the Floating Bridge. And the Young Prince

descended lightly, while his garments shone with the glory of Heaven.

But when he touched the tops of the high hills, his heart beat fast and

his blood ran warm. Therefore he cut the fastening of his sandals and

cast them behind him, and he ran upon his bare feet, like an earthly

deity, and came to the palace upon the Reed Plains.



Now, at the door of the palace the Princess Undershining stood, like a

growing flower. So the Young Prince beheld her and loved her, and he

built him a dwelling upon the Reed Plains, and took the Princess for his

bride. And, because he loved her and her earthly children, he brought no

report to High Heaven, and he forgot the waiting deities. For Heaven was

vague to him as a dream.



But the gods were weary.



And Ama Terassu said, "Long, long tarries our messenger, and brings no

word again. My Lord, the August Child, waxes impatient; whom now shall

we send?" Thereupon, all the deities, and the Lord of Deep Thoughts,

replied, "Send down the Singing Bird, the beloved of High Heaven."



So Ama Terassu took the golden Singing Bird, and said, "Sweet music of

the divine gods, spread thou thy bright wings, and fly to the Land of

Reed Plains, and there search out the Young Prince, the messenger of

Heaven, and, when thou hast found him, sing in his ear this song: 'Ama

Terassu, the Goddess of the Sun, has sent me saying, How fares the quest

of High Heaven, and how fares the message? Where is the report of the

gods?'"



So the bird departed, singing. And she came to the Land of the Reed

Plains, and perched upon the branch of a fair cassia tree which grew

hard by the Young Prince's dwelling. Day and night, she sang, and the

gods in Heaven thought long for their sweet Singing Bird. Howbeit she

returned not again, but sat upon the branch of the cassia tree.



But the Young Prince gave no heed.



And She that Speaketh Evil heard the words that the bird sang. And she

whispered in the Young Prince's ear, "See now, my lord, this is an evil

bird, and evil is its cry; therefore take thou thine arrows and go forth

and slay it." So she urged continually, and, by glamour, she prevailed

upon him. Then the Young Prince arose, and took his bow and his

heavenly-feathered arrows, and he let fly an arrow into the branches of

the cassia tree. And suddenly the sweet sound of singing ceased, and the

golden bird fell dead, for the aim was true.



But the heavenly-feathered arrow took wing and pierced the floor of

Heaven, and reached the high place, where sat the Sun Goddess, together

with her August Counsellors, in the Tranquil River Bed of Heaven. And

the god called Wonderful took up the arrow, and beheld the blood upon

its feathers. And the Lord of Deep Thoughts said, "This is the arrow

that was given to the Young Prince," and he showed it to all the

deities. And he said, "If the Young Prince has shot this arrow at the

evil deities, according to our command, let it do him no hurt. But, if

his heart be not pure, then let the Young Prince perish by this arrow."

And he hurled the arrow back to earth.



Now the Young Prince lay upon a couch, sleeping. And the arrow fell,

and pierced his heart that he died.



Yet the sweet Singing Bird of Heaven returned no more; and the gods were

sorrowful.



Howbeit, the Young Prince lay dead upon his bed; and the wailing of his

spouse, the Princess Undershining, re-echoed in the wind, and was heard

in Heaven. So the Young Prince's father descended with cries and

lamentations, and there was built a mourning house upon the Land of Reed

Plains, and the Young Prince was laid there.



And there came to mourn for him the wild goose of the river, and the

pheasant, and the kingfisher. And they mourned for him eight days and

eight nights.





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