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2. Neptune

The Mind of the Father said ‘Unto Three!’ and immediately all things were so divided.

This oracle, attributed to Zoroaster, refers secondarily to the division of Nature into the three active elements of fire, air and water. (The fourth element) Earth is but a mixture of these three in divers proportions. In [his division, according to Greek theology, the kingdom of Fire fell to Hades or Pluto, that of air to Zeus or Jupiter, and that of water to Poseidon or Neptune.

Neptune is, therefore, the Lord of Ocean, and especially of that Oceanus the great river that girdles the whole earth.

It is not wise to laugh, as the shallow laugh, at the supposed absurdities of old geography. The earth is not a flat plate, but the solar system is; and on the rim of this plate is that lonely sphere, Neptune, the outpost of the fortress of the Sun. So that it was a most happy accident that this planet was called by the name of the Lord of Oceanus.

Such is the far-off base, in the wise and true dreamland of the philosophers, of the palace of our knowledge. Let us see how their strange symbols have been hints of truth, how from the root of poetry has grown the tree of prose.

First, consider Neptune as a lonely sentinel patrolling the confines of our camp. Think of the solitude and darkness of that mysterious and eternal journey, what thoughts must bloom. Mystic, austere, romantic, will they not be? What messenger comet may approach from utmost space? The spirit of adventure thrills the blood, frosted as it is by that contact with a space of icy-nothingness, save (it may be) meteors and dark stars. Neptune is always starlit; at its distance from the Sun, Our Father, is hardly bigger than any other star. So Neptune gallops through sempiternal night with his source of heat and motion too remote to cheer him, but with hope, faith and love.

How spiritual, how star-pure, must then be the secret thoughts of such an one, the hermit of the solar system? How indomitable, how lonely, how refined must be his moods.

Yet there is something in solitude which set men dreaming. Not always is that dream the starry aspiration of the Knight vowed to some inaccessible lady, often there steals through the faery window a glint of some fantastic mirth. In lighter moments, there is something of the troubadour, and even of the Pierrot, in his melancholy craving for the inaccessible. For it is not in the Neptunian nature to reach harbour. He longs for love and friendship; did he gain them he would retire. For nothing can satisfy that thirst of things infinite; there is no goal attainable. Neptune is man’s boundless spirit; heaven itself is too narrow for his desires. So into his nature: comes the gay coquettishness; he becomes conscious of his own anguish; and this is externalised as a love of masquerade. He knows that love is unattainable; and so he plays at love. He knows that happiness is beyond his reach; and so he seeks it by a violation of the limits of existence. His true nature, thrilled through by the wisdom of the stars with whom he holds such raptured communing in the centuries of that timeless vigil, leads him to mystic trances, to visions of deity, to mysterious marriages with elements beyond our system. For he, the Ishmael of the planets., never turns his face towards the Sun.

But if he be not steeled to endure exile, to attain the snowy summits of omniscience and bliss by means of the wise eremite, then the false nature mocks the true. In revels, fantastic and fond, in comedies bitter at the core, in the use of strange drugs or of perverse delights, in soulless and neurotic waking dreams, he seeks to satisfy his soul.

Ah, Neptune is the soul!

And does not this fit the sea? Is not the sea at once infinitely calm, and infinitely angered? Does not the sea take strange shapes, break up the light into a myriad fantastically coloured flaws? Illusion and art, chameleon and dragon, that is the sea! Is not the sea now tender, now adorable, sunkissed, now terrible in its torment, a whirl of insatiable desires? Did not Sappho fling herself into the sea, and did not Undine draw thence the bitter joy of her veins.

Are not the sea’s moods unstirred, unplumbed, and do they not harbor monsters more terrible than the fancy of antiquity ever invented? Ay! Take the ocean of Odysseus and of Jason, of Mandeville and of Swinburne; let the romance and the terror, the mystery and the unearthly joy of all the artists of the world direct your glance; look upon the sea through their eyes, and draw into your soul the wonder and the wantonness of it. Then understand how proper is the Ocean as an image of the soul, how proper is Neptune to be the ruler of the Ocean. The soul!

Yes, there is the word! Neptune is the soul, with all its naked nerves played upon by rays of alien systems, malicious, capricious, fairy, or else like harp-strings swept by some player from beyond, too subtle and divine for His melodies to reach the ears of mortals.

Only that sympathy, that yearning, that other-worldiness in ourselves, that influence of Neptune in our own horoscopes, enables us to catch a far-away echo of that lyre, faint, silvery music of the Psyche of our inmost being.

It was of Neptune at his noblest that the poet wrote:

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