The Lilies of the Field

A patch of darkness overhead

Hemmed in by the fleece

Of high-flown clouds

Shows a dim star or two.


The product of our progress

Is that we have shut ourselves

Away from the Universe.

Denied an experience


That all those who lived before us

Built their gods upon,

Prognosticators of the seasons’ round.

Navigators straying from the shore.


I shut away the murk of a Deep South

August night–compounded of growing things,

The million fervid courtship songs of frogs and crickets

Laced by the barely audible descant

Of bats hunting lunch on the wing.


I shut away the cling of heavy air

And a green electricity of life,

Exchanged for the cold flatness

Of an air conditioned house.


For a moment, I am haunted

By Montag’s awakening psyche,

I almost turn to look–seeking

A dead-souled wife, a cybernetic hound.

A cache of forbidden print, concealed.


And while Bradbury’s printed imaginings

Are safely contained upon the shelf,

Within me, they are not safe.

And I am, for a moment, infected


With the danger of the idea.

In a world that shuts out the stars

Because it fears the darkness,

There are still those brave or foolish


Who go hunting for night-blooming lilies.

The books are to remind us what asses and fool we are. They’re Caeser’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, ‘Remember, Caeser, thou art mortal.’ Most of us can’t rush around, talking to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.

~Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451


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