A Haunted Half-world…

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On a quest of this kind one never encounters certainty. On the other hand, one never quite encounters absolute disbelief either. The reality behind myth and legend is notoriously insecure—and yet, in the last analysis, myths and legends do not always come out of a complete vacuum. In his search for a proper background, Mr. Ashe goes far afield—even to the legends of the Lost Atlantis, to the odd tales which hang about the sea-wanderings of the early Phoenicians, to the mid-American tales of Quetzalcoatl and his emergence from (and final departure into) the eastern sea, to the queer legends in meso-America of bearded white men who came, stayed, and then vanished, and, first and last, into the deep body of Irish legend which says that people went west, saw something, and sent back stories about it.

Nothing at all can be proved. There is no certainty anywhere. And yet—as Mr. Ashe says, “there is something there.” The infinite mystery beyond the horizon of the western ocean had been touched, just a little, had been explored by men who—heaven only knows why, or how—went on a voyage fully as perilous and hair-raising as the ventures of our present-day astronauts, and came back to tell, as best they could, what they had seen.

We live in a good time for this sort of discussion. We too are poised on the edge of a stupendous jumpoff. Our own horizons are being expanded, and the final effect upon us will be just as epoch-making as was the final effect, on men six hundred years ago, of the discovery that off beyond the gulf there is a land that ought to be explored and known. Just at the moment when we have felt ready to give way to despair, an outer door is swinging open. We face what Columbus himself faced: not so much the task to see what lies beyond the outer limits of human thought as to see just what it is, to bring back evidences of it, and to enable mankind to take one more long leap into the perilous, dismaying, and infinitely rewarding unknown.