Anthem, p.1
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           Ayn Rand
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Anthem


  Produced by An anonymous group of volunteers

  ANTHEM

  by Ayn Rand

  PART ONE

  It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others thinkand to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It is base andevil. It is as if we were speaking alone to no ears but our own. Andwe know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or thinkalone. We have broken the laws. The laws say that men may not writeunless the Council of Vocations bid them so. May we be forgiven!

  But this is not the only sin upon us. We have committed a greater crime,and for this crime there is no name. What punishment awaits us if it bediscovered we know not, for no such crime has come in the memory of menand there are no laws to provide for it.

  It is dark here. The flame of the candle stands still in the air.Nothing moves in this tunnel save our hand on the paper. We are alonehere under the earth. It is a fearful word, alone. The laws say thatnone among men may be alone, ever and at any time, for this is the greattransgression and the root of all evil. But we have broken many laws.And now there is nothing here save our one body, and it is strange tosee only two legs stretched on the ground, and on the wall before us theshadow of our one head.

  The walls are cracked and water runs upon them in thin threads withoutsound, black and glistening as blood. We stole the candle from thelarder of the Home of the Street Sweepers. We shall be sentenced to tenyears in the Palace of Corrective Detention if it be discovered. Butthis matters not. It matters only that the light is precious and weshould not waste it to write when we need it for that work which is ourcrime. Nothing matters save the work, our secret, our evil, our preciouswork. Still, we must also write, for--may the Council have mercy uponus!--we wish to speak for once to no ears but our own.

  Our name is Equality 7-2521, as it is written on the iron braceletwhich all men wear on their left wrists with their names upon it. We aretwenty-one years old. We are six feet tall, and this is a burden, forthere are not many men who are six feet tall. Ever have the Teachers andthe Leaders pointed to us and frowned and said:

  "There is evil in your bones, Equality 7-2521, for your body has grownbeyond the bodies of your brothers." But we cannot change our bones norour body.

  We were born with a curse. It has always driven us to thoughts which areforbidden. It has always given us wishes which men may not wish. We knowthat we are evil, but there is no will in us and no power to resist it.This is our wonder and our secret fear, that we know and do not resist.

  We strive to be like all our brother men, for all men must be alike.Over the portals of the Palace of the World Council, there are words cutin the marble, which we repeat to ourselves whenever we are tempted:

  "WE ARE ONE IN ALL AND ALL IN ONE. THERE ARE NO MEN BUT ONLY THE GREAT _WE_, ONE, INDIVISIBLE AND FOREVER."

  We repeat this to ourselves, but it helps us not.

  These words were cut long ago. There is green mould in the grooves ofthe letters and yellow streaks on the marble, which come from moreyears than men could count. And these words are the truth, for they arewritten on the Palace of the World Council, and the World Council is thebody of all truth. Thus has it been ever since the Great Rebirth, andfarther back than that no memory can reach.

  But we must never speak of the times before the Great Rebirth, else weare sentenced to three years in the Palace of Corrective Detention. Itis only the Old Ones who whisper about it in the evenings, in the Homeof the Useless. They whisper many strange things, of the towers whichrose to the sky, in those Unmentionable Times, and of the wagons whichmoved without horses, and of the lights which burned without flame. Butthose times were evil. And those times passed away, when men saw theGreat Truth which is this: that all men are one and that there is nowill save the will of all men together.

  All men are good and wise. It is only we, Equality 7-2521, we alone whowere born with a curse. For we are not like our brothers. And as we lookback upon our life, we see that it has ever been thus and that it hasbrought us step by step to our last, supreme transgression, our crime ofcrimes hidden here under the ground.

  We remember the Home of the Infants where we lived till we were fiveyears old, together with all the children of the City who had been bornin the same year. The sleeping halls there were white and clean and bareof all things save one hundred beds. We were just like all our brothersthen, save for the one transgression: we fought with our brothers. Thereare few offenses blacker than to fight with our brothers, at any age andfor any cause whatsoever. The Council of the Home told us so, and of allthe children of that year, we were locked in the cellar most often.

  When we were five years old, we were sent to the Home of the Students,where there are ten wards, for our ten years of learning. Men must learntill they reach their fifteenth year. Then they go to work. In the Homeof the Students we arose when the big bell rang in the tower and we wentto our beds when it rang again. Before we removed our garments, we stoodin the great sleeping hall, and we raised our right arms, and we saidall together with the three Teachers at the head:

  "We are nothing. Mankind is all. By the grace of our brothers are weallowed our lives. We exist through, by and for our brothers who are theState. Amen."

  Then we slept. The sleeping halls were white and clean and bare of allthings save one hundred beds.

  We, Equality 7-2521, were not happy in those years in the Home of theStudents. It was not that the learning was too hard for us. It was thatthe learning was too easy. This is a great sin, to be born with a headwhich is too quick. It is not good to be different from our brothers,but it is evil to be superior to them. The Teachers told us so, and theyfrowned when they looked upon us.

  So we fought against this curse. We tried to forget our lessons, but wealways remembered. We tried not to understand what the Teachers taught,but we always understood it before the Teachers had spoken. We lookedupon Union 5-3992, who were a pale boy with only half a brain, and wetried to say and do as they did, that we might be like them, like Union5-3992, but somehow the Teachers knew that we were not. And we werelashed more often than all the other children.

  The Teachers were just, for they had been appointed by the Councils, andthe Councils are the voice of all justice, for they are the voice of allmen. And if sometimes, in the secret darkness of our heart, we regretthat which befell us on our fifteenth birthday, we know that it wasthrough our own guilt. We had broken a law, for we had not paid heed tothe words of our Teachers. The Teachers had said to us all:

  "Dare not choose in your minds the work you would like to do when youleave the Home of the Students. You shall do that which the Council ofVocations shall prescribe for you. For the Council of Vocations knows inits great wisdom where you are needed by your brother men, better thanyou can know it in your unworthy little minds. And if you are not neededby your brother man, there is no reason for you to burden the earth withyour bodies."

  We knew this well, in the years of our childhood, but our curse brokeour will. We were guilty and we confess it here: we were guilty ofthe great Transgression of Preference. We preferred some work and somelessons to the others. We did not listen well to the history of all theCouncils elected since the Great Rebirth. But we loved the Science ofThings. We wished to know. We wished to know about all the things whichmake the earth around us. We asked so many questions that the Teachersforbade it.

  We think that there are mysteries in the sky and under the water and inthe plants which grow. But the Council of Scholars has said that thereare no mysteries, and the Council of Scholars knows all things. And welearned much from our Teachers. We learned that the earth is flat andthat the sun revolves around it, which causes the day and the night. Welearned the names of all the winds which blow over the seas and push thesails of our great ships. We learned how to blee
d men to cure them ofall ailments.

  We loved the Science of Things. And in the darkness, in the secret hour,when we awoke in the night and there were no brothers around us, butonly their shapes in the beds and their snores, we closed our eyes, andwe held our lips shut, and we stopped our breath, that no shudder mightlet our brothers see or hear or guess, and we thought that we wished tobe sent to the Home of the Scholars when our time would come.

  All the great modern inventions come from the Home of the Scholars, suchas the newest one, which was found only a hundred years ago, of how tomake candles from wax and string; also, how to make glass, which is putin our windows to protect us from the rain. To find these things, theScholars must study the earth and learn from the rivers, from thesands, from the winds and the rocks. And if we went to the Home of theScholars, we could learn from these also. We could ask questions ofthese, for they do not forbid questions.

  And questions give us no rest. We know not why our curse makes us seekwe know not what, ever and ever. But we cannot resist it. It whispersto us that there are great things on this earth of ours, and that wecan know them if we try, and that we must know them. We ask, why must weknow, but it has no answer to give us. We must know that we may know.

  So we wished to be sent to the Home of the Scholars. We wished it somuch that our hands trembled under the blankets in the night, and we bitour arm to stop that other pain which we could not endure. It was eviland we dared not face our brothers in the morning. For men may wishnothing for themselves. And we were punished when the Council ofVocations came to give us our life Mandates which tell those who reachtheir fifteenth year what their work is to be for the rest of theirdays.

  The Council of Vocations came on the first day of spring, and they satin the great hall. And we who were fifteen and all the Teachers cameinto the great hall. And the Council of Vocations sat on a high dais,and they had but two words to speak to each of the Students. They calledthe Students' names, and when the Students stepped before them, oneafter another, the Council said: "Carpenter" or "Doctor" or "Cook" or"Leader." Then each Student raised their right arm and said: "The willof our brothers be done."

  Now if the Council has said "Carpenter" or "Cook," the Students soassigned go to work and they do not study any further. But if theCouncil has said "Leader," then those Students go into the Home ofthe Leaders, which is the greatest house in the City, for it has threestories. And there they study for many years, so that they may becomecandidates and be elected to the City Council and the State Council andthe World Council--by a free and general vote of all men. But we wishednot to be a Leader, even though it is a great honor. We wished to be aScholar.

  So we awaited our turn in the great hall and then we heard the Councilof Vocations call our name: "Equality 7-2521." We walked to the dais,and our legs did not tremble, and we looked up at the Council. Therewere five members of the Council, three of the male gender and two ofthe female. Their hair was white and their faces were cracked as theclay of a dry river bed. They were old. They seemed older than themarble of the Temple of the World Council. They sat before us and theydid not move. And we saw no breath to stir the folds of their whitetogas. But we knew that they were alive, for a finger of the hand of theoldest rose, pointed to us, and fell down again. This was the onlything which moved, for the lips of the oldest did not move as they said:"Street Sweeper."

  We felt the cords of our neck grow tight as our head rose higher to lookupon the faces of the Council, and we were happy. We knew we had beenguilty, but now we had a way to atone for it. We would accept our LifeMandate, and we would work for our brothers, gladly and willingly, andwe would erase our sin against them, which they did not know, but weknew. So we were happy, and proud of ourselves and of our victory overourselves. We raised our right arm and we spoke, and our voice was theclearest, the steadiest voice in the hall that day, and we said:

  "The will of our brothers be done."

  And we looked straight into the eyes of the Council, but their eyes wereas cold blue glass buttons.

  So we went into the Home of the Street Sweepers. It is a grey house on anarrow street. There is a sundial in its courtyard, by which the Councilof the Home can tell the hours of the day and when to ring the bell.When the bell rings, we all arise from our beds. The sky is green andcold in our windows to the east. The shadow on the sundial marks off ahalf-hour while we dress and eat our breakfast in the dining hall, wherethere are five long tables with twenty clay plates and twenty clay cupson each table. Then we go to work in the streets of the City, with ourbrooms and our rakes. In five hours, when the sun is high, we return tothe Home and we eat our midday meal, for which one-half hour is allowed.Then we go to work again. In five hours, the shadows are blue on thepavements, and the sky is blue with a deep brightness which is notbright. We come back to have our dinner, which lasts one hour. Then thebell rings and we walk in a straight column to one of the City Halls,for the Social Meeting. Other columns of men arrive from the Homesof the different Trades. The candles are lit, and the Councils of thedifferent Homes stand in a pulpit, and they speak to us of our dutiesand of our brother men. Then visiting Leaders mount the pulpit and theyread to us the speeches which were made in the City Council that day,for the City Council represents all men and all men must know. Then wesing hymns, the Hymn of Brotherhood, and the Hymn of Equality, and theHymn of the Collective Spirit. The sky is a soggy purple when we returnto the Home. Then the bell rings and we walk in a straight column to theCity Theatre for three hours of Social Recreation. There a play is shownupon the stage, with two great choruses from the Home of the Actors,which speak and answer all together, in two great voices. The playsare about toil and how good it is. Then we walk back to the Home in astraight column. The sky is like a black sieve pierced by silver dropsthat tremble, ready to burst through. The moths beat against the streetlanterns. We go to our beds and we sleep, till the bell rings again.The sleeping halls are white and clean and bare of all things save onehundred beds.

  Thus have we lived each day of four years, until two springs ago whenour crime happened. Thus must all men live until they are forty. Atforty, they are worn out. At forty, they are sent to the Home of theUseless, where the Old Ones live. The Old Ones do not work, for theState takes care of them. They sit in the sun in summer and they sit bythe fire in winter. They do not speak often, for they are weary. TheOld Ones know that they are soon to die. When a miracle happens and somelive to be forty-five, they are the Ancient Ones, and the children stareat them when passing by the Home of the Useless. Such is to be our life,as that of all our brothers and of the brothers who came before us.

  Such would have been our life, had we not committed our crime whichchanged all things for us. And it was our curse which drove us to ourcrime. We had been a good Street Sweeper and like all our brother StreetSweepers, save for our cursed wish to know. We looked too long at thestars at night, and at the trees and the earth. And when we cleanedthe yard of the Home of the Scholars, we gathered the glass vials, thepieces of metal, the dried bones which they had discarded. We wished tokeep these things and to study them, but we had no place to hide them.So we carried them to the City Cesspool. And then we made the discovery.

  It was on a day of the spring before last. We Street Sweepers workin brigades of three, and we were with Union 5-3992, they of thehalf-brain, and with International 4-8818. Now Union 5-3992 are a sicklylad and sometimes they are stricken with convulsions, when theirmouth froths and their eyes turn white. But International 4-8818are different. They are a tall, strong youth and their eyes are likefireflies, for there is laughter in their eyes. We cannot look uponInternational 4-8818 and not smile in answer. For this they were notliked in the Home of the Students, as it is not proper to smile withoutreason. And also they were not liked because they took pieces of coaland they drew pictures upon the walls, and they were pictures which mademen laugh. But it is only our brothers in the Home of the Artists whoare permitted to draw pictures, so International 4-8818 were sent to theHome of
the Street Sweepers, like ourselves.

  International 4-8818 and we are friends. This is an evil thing to say,for it is a transgression, the great Transgression of Preference, tolove any among men better than the others, since we must love all menand all men are our friends. So International 4-8818 and we have neverspoken of it. But we know. We know, when we look into each other's eyes.And when we look thus without words, we both know other things also,strange things for which there are no words, and these things frightenus.

  So on that day of the spring before last, Union 5-3992 were strickenwith convulsions on the edge of the City, near the City Theatre. Weleft them to lie in the shade of the Theatre tent and we went withInternational 4-8818 to finish our work. We came together to the greatravine behind the Theatre. It is empty save for trees and weeds.Beyond the ravine there is a plain, and beyond the plain there lies theUncharted Forest, about which men must not think.

  We were gathering the papers and the rags which the wind had blown fromthe Theatre, when we saw an iron bar among the weeds. It was old andrusted by many rains. We pulled with all our strength, but we could notmove it. So we called International 4-8818, and together we scraped theearth around the bar. Of a sudden the earth fell in before us, and wesaw an old iron grill over a black hole.

  International 4-8818 stepped back. But we pulled at the grill and itgave way. And then we saw iron rings as steps leading down a shaft intoa darkness without bottom.

  "We shall go down," we said to International 4-8818.

  "It is forbidden," they answered.

  We said: "The Council does not know of this hole, so it cannot beforbidden."

  And they answered: "Since the Council does not know of this hole,there can be no law permitting to enter it. And everything which is notpermitted by law is forbidden."

  But we said: "We shall go, none the less."

  They were frightened, but they stood by and watched us go.

  We hung on the iron rings with our hands and our feet. We could seenothing below us. And above us the hole open upon the sky grew smallerand smaller, till it came to be the size of a button. But still we wentdown. Then our foot touched the ground. We rubbed our eyes, for we couldnot see. Then our eyes became used to the darkness, but we could notbelieve what we saw.

  No men known to us could have built this place, nor the men known toour brothers who lived before us, and yet it was built by men. It was agreat tunnel. Its walls were hard and smooth to the touch; it felt likestone, but it was not stone. On the ground there were long thin tracksof iron, but it was not iron; it felt smooth and cold as glass. Weknelt, and we crawled forward, our hand groping along the iron line tosee where it would lead. But there was an unbroken night ahead. Only theiron tracks glowed through it, straight and white, calling us to follow.But we could not follow, for we were losing the puddle of light behindus. So we turned and we crawled back, our hand on the iron line. And ourheart beat in our fingertips, without reason. And then we knew.

  We knew suddenly that this place was left from the Unmentionable Times.So it was true, and those Times had been, and all the wonders of thoseTimes. Hundreds upon hundreds of years ago men knew secrets which wehave lost. And we thought: "This is a foul place. They are damnedwho touch the things of the Unmentionable Times." But our hand whichfollowed the track, as we crawled, clung to the iron as if it would notleave it, as if the skin of our hand were thirsty and begging of themetal some secret fluid beating in its coldness.

  We returned to the earth. International 4-8818 looked upon us andstepped back.

  "Equality 7-2521," they said, "your face is white."

  But we could not speak and we stood looking upon them.

  They backed away, as if they dared not touch us. Then they smiled, butit was not a gay smile; it was lost and pleading. But still we could notspeak. Then they said:

  "We shall report our find to the City Council and both of us will berewarded."

  And then we spoke. Our voice was hard and there was no mercy in ourvoice. We said:

  "We shall not report our find to the City Council. We shall not reportit to any men."

  They raised their hands to their ears, for never had they heard suchwords as these.

  "International 4-8818," we asked, "will you report us to the Council andsee us lashed to death before your eyes?"

  They stood straight all of a sudden and they answered: "Rather would wedie."

  "Then," we said, "keep silent. This place is ours. This place belongsto us, Equality 7-2521, and to no other men on earth. And if ever wesurrender it, we shall surrender our life with it also."

  Then we saw that the eyes of International 4-8818 were full to thelids with tears they dared not drop. They whispered, and their voicetrembled, so that their words lost all shape:

  "The will of the Council is above all things, for it is the will ofour brothers, which is holy. But if you wish it so, we shall obey you.Rather shall we be evil with you than good with all our brothers. Maythe Council have mercy upon both our hearts!"

  Then we walked away together and back to the Home of the StreetSweepers. And we walked in silence.

  Thus did it come to pass that each night, when the stars are high andthe Street Sweepers sit in the City Theatre, we, Equality 7-2521, stealout and run through the darkness to our place. It is easy to leave theTheatre; when the candles are blown out and the Actors come onto thestage, no eyes can see us as we crawl under our seat and under the clothof the tent. Later, it is easy to steal through the shadows and fall inline next to International 4-8818, as the column leaves the Theatre. Itis dark in the streets and there are no men about, for no men may walkthrough the City when they have no mission to walk there. Each night, werun to the ravine, and we remove the stones which we have piled upon theiron grill to hide it from the men. Each night, for three hours, we areunder the earth, alone.

  We have stolen candles from the Home of the Street Sweepers, we havestolen flints and knives and paper, and we have brought them to thisplace. We have stolen glass vials and powders and acids from the Home ofthe Scholars. Now we sit in the tunnel for three hours each night andwe study. We melt strange metals, and we mix acids, and we cut open thebodies of the animals which we find in the City Cesspool. We have builtan oven of the bricks we gathered in the streets. We burn the wood wefind in the ravine. The fire flickers in the oven and blue shadows danceupon the walls, and there is no sound of men to disturb us.

  We have stolen manuscripts. This is a great offense. Manuscripts areprecious, for our brothers in the Home of the Clerks spend one year tocopy one single script in their clear handwriting. Manuscripts are rareand they are kept in the Home of the Scholars. So we sit under the earthand we read the stolen scripts. Two years have passed since we foundthis place. And in these two years we have learned more than we hadlearned in the ten years of the Home of the Students.

  We have learned things which are not in the scripts. We have solvedsecrets of which the Scholars have no knowledge. We have come to see howgreat is the unexplored, and many lifetimes will not bring us to the endof our quest. But we wish no end to our quest. We wish nothing, save tobe alone and to learn, and to feel as if with each day our sight weregrowing sharper than the hawk's and clearer than rock crystal.

  Strange are the ways of evil. We are false in the faces of our brothers.We are defying the will of our Councils. We alone, of the thousands whowalk this earth, we alone in this hour are doing a work which has nopurpose save that we wish to do it. The evil of our crime is not for thehuman mind to probe. The nature of our punishment, if it be discovered,is not for the human heart to ponder. Never, not in the memory of theAncient Ones' Ancients, never have men done that which we are doing.

  And yet there is no shame in us and no regret. We say to ourselves thatwe are a wretch and a traitor. But we feel no burden upon our spirit andno fear in our heart. And it seems to us that our spirit is clear asa lake troubled by no eyes save those of the sun. And in ourheart--strange are the ways of evil!--in our heart there is the fi
rstpeace we have known in twenty years.

 
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