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TitleOn the Marble Cliffs - Ernst Jünger
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Page 1

ON THE MARBLE CLIFFS

A NOVEL BY ERNST JUENGER

TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY STUART HOOD

A NEW DIRECTIONS BOOK

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ON THE MARBLE CLIFFS 61

and that its seeming power moves on the surface of life
like a swirling ghostly mist which cannot withstand the
sun.

And we felt: if only we could live in the indestructible
cells, we would pass freely through every phase of destruc-
tion as if through an open door leading from one hall of
state to others yet more magnificent.

Often, when we stood on the summit of the Marble Cliffs,
Brother Otho would say that this was the true meaning of
life-to recapitulate creation in what is ephemeral, like the
child imitating in play his father's work. This, he held,
gave meaning to seed and begetting, to building and ordered
life, to image and poetry-that in them the master work
reveals itself as if in a mirror of many-coloured glass which
soon must break.

XVI

So we think back with pleasure to our days of pride. But
we must not pass over in silence those others during which
dejection had the upper hand. In our hours of weakness
destruction appears to us in terrifying forms, like the images
one sees in the temples of the Furies.

Therefore there dawned for us many a grey morning on
which we wandered aimlessly through the Hermitage and
mournfully meditated in herbarium and library. Then we
would make to the shutters and read by lamplight yellowed
documents and manuscripts which once had been our com-
panions on our constant travels. We opened old letters
and turned over the pages of treasured books in search of
comfort-books which still diffu«ed the warmth of hearts

5

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62 0 N T H E M A R B L E C L I F F S

long turned to dust. In the same way the glow of earthly
summers lives on in dark veins of coal.

On days like these, when depression held sway, we shut
even the doors leading to the garden, for the fresh scent of
the flowers was too strong for our senses. In the evening
we would send little Erio to the rock kitchen so that
Lampusa might draw for him a jug of the wine that dates its
vintage from the year of the comet.

Then when the fire of vine-cuttings blazed on the hearth
we brought out the scent amphorre in accordance with a
custom we had adopted in Britain. It was our wont to
collect for them the flower petals in their seasons, and once
we had dried them to press them into wide-bellied jars. In
winter when we raised the coverings of the vessels the bright
flowers ha:d long since lost their colour and faded to the
shade of time-yellowed silk and pale purple stuffs. But
from this flowery aftermath there rose a wonderful perfume
like the memory of mignonette and rose gardens.

For these mournful feasts, too, we burned heavy tapers of
bees' wax. They were the remainder of the parting gift
from Deodat, the Proven<;:al knight, who had fallen long
since in the wild Taurus. By their shimmer we thought of
that noble friend and of the evening hours we had talked
away with him on the high walls of Rhodes while the sun
went down in the cloudless JEgean sky. As it sank, a
gentle breath of air was wafted up from the galley harbour
to the town. The sweet scent of the roses mixed with the
aroma of the fig-trees, and in the sea breeze there mingled
the essence of distant wood- and shrub-clad slopes. But
stronger than all, a rich, exquisite perfume mounted from
the earthworks in which camomile blossomed in soft yellow
masses.

With the scent rose the last honeyladen bees which flew

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ON THE MARBLE CLIFFS 119

and Alta Plana were already overladen, and each skiff
which the boatmen pushed off from the quay with their
poles was followed by a loud cry of despair. Amidst all
this misery Biedenhorn 's brigantine-as if under a tabu-
swayed at its mooring buoy, which was picked out in black,
red and black. She shone with dark-blue varnish and
copper fittings, and when I gave the order to push off the
crew drew the covers from the red-leather cushions of the
thwarts. While the soldiers kept the crowd at a distance
with their pikes we succeeded in shipping some women and
children, until our deck was only a handbreadth above
water. Then the crew rowed out of the inner basin behind
the harbour wall; beyond it a fresh wind caught us and drove
us forward towards the mountains of Alta Plana.

The cool of the morning still lay over the waters, and the
eddying winds drew cat's-paws on the surface of its glassy
green mirror. But the sun was already pushing up above
the jagged peaks of the snow-covered mountains, and the
Marble Cliffs rose gleaming out of the lowland mists. We
looked back to them and let our hands trail in the water,
which turned blue in the sunlight, as if the shadows had
taken refuge in its depths.

The amphora we treasured carefully. We did not yet
know the fate of this head which we bore with us, and which
we delivered to the Christians when they raised the great
cathedral on the Marina from its ruins. They buried it
beneath the foundation stone. But before that day Brother
Otho addressed to it an eburnum in the chapel of the
Sunmyras's ancestral home.

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120 0 N THE MARBLE CLIFFS

XXX

THE men of Alta Plana had moved up to the frontier when
the glow of fires lit the sky. Therefore even before landing
on the shore we saw young Ansgar, and he waved gaily to us.

We rested a little with his men while he sent a messenger
to his father; then we mounted slowly to the farm in the
valley. When we reached the passes we halted for a time
at the great Tomb of the Heroes and before many another
of the small monuments that stand there upon the battle-
field. In so doing we came to the narrow pass where we
had cut a way for Biedenhorn and his men. At this spot
Ansgar gave us his hand anew and said that from now on of
all his possessions half was ours.

At midday we caught sight of the farmstead in the shelter
of its oak grove. On seeing it we felt that we had come
home, for, as in the north of our land, we found united
under the shelter of its broad roof barns, stables and house.
The door was wide open and the sun danced on the thresh-
ing-floor. The cattle looked down upon it over their
feeding-racks, wearing to-day upon their horns trinkets of
gold. The great hall was decked for a holiday, and from
out of the circle of men and women awaiting us stepped old
Ansgar to bid us welcome.

Then we passed through the wide open door as if into the
haven of our father's house.

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