The Palace Made by Music
ANY hundreds of years ago there was a kingdom in a distant
country, ruled by a good king who was known everywhere to be
rich and powerful and great. But although the capital was
a large and beautiful city, and the king was surrounded by
nobles and princes almost as rich and powerful as he, there
was one very strange thing noticed by every one who came
 into the kingdom: the king had no palace. He lived in
a plain house near the edge of the city, not half as large
or fine-looking as many of those belonging to his subjects.
And he had lived there for a good many years.
Of course there was a reason why the kingdom had no palace.
It had not always been so. Years before, in the reign of the
present king's father, there had stood in the midst of the
capital city perhaps the most beautiful palace in the
world. It was a very old building,—so old that no one knew
when it had been built; and it was so large that, although
people often tried to count the number of rooms it
contained, they always grew tired before they had finished.
The walls were of white marble, with splendid columns on all
four sides, and behind the columns, in spaces cut into the
marble walls, were pictures in bright colors that people
came from distant countries to see. No one knew who had
built the palace, or painted the pictures on its walls; for
it had been the treasure of the kings and people of the
kingdom for a longer time than their history told anything
Then, when the present king was but a little child, the
palace had been destroyed. On a festival day, when the royal
family and the greater part of the citizens
 were marching in a procession outside the city, there had
come a great earthquake. All over the kingdom the people
heard the rumbling and felt the ground shaking around them,
but they had no idea what a terrible thing had happened,
until they came to the city. Then they found that the earth
had opened and swallowed up the palace in one great crash.
Not so much as a single block of the marble remained. The
crumbled earth fell into the opening, covering the ruins
out of sight, and leaving a great rough piece of ground
like that in a desert, instead of the beautiful spot that
had always been there in the center of the city.
Marching in a procession
Every one felt thankful, first of all, that the king and all
his family had been outside the building when the earthquake
came, but in spite of this they could not help mourning
deeply over the loss of the palace. The king himself was so
saddened by it that he grew old much sooner than he would
otherwise have done, and died not many years later. It
seemed useless to try to build another palace that would
satisfy those who had seen the splendor of the old one, and
no one tried. When the young prince became king, although
he could not remember how the palace looked in which he had
been born, yet he had heard so much of its
 beauty that he mourned over its loss as deeply as his
father, and would not allow any of his nobles or counselors
to propose such a thing as the building of a new one. So he
continued to live in the plain house near the outskirts of
the city, never going near the great empty space in the
center of the capital. And this was how he came to be the
only king in the world without a palace.
But although every one agreed that it was useless to try to
build a new palace in the way in which other buildings were
made, there were always some who hoped for a new one which
should be no less splendid than the old. The reason for this
was a strange legend that was written in the oldest books of
the kingdom. This legend related that the beautiful old
palace had been made in a single day, not having been built
at all, but having been raised up by the sound of music. In
those early days, it was said, there was music far more
wonderful than any now known. Men had forgotten about
it, little by little, as they grew more interested in other
things. Indeed, every one believed that there had been a
time when, by the sound of music, men could tame wild beasts
and make flowers bloom in desert places, and move heavy
stones and trees. But whether it was really true that
 palace had been made in this way—this was not so certain.
There were some, however, who believed the legend with all
their hearts, and they had hopes that a new palace might be
made as beautiful as the one destroyed by the earthquake.
For, they said, what has been done can be done again. If it
is really true that a great musician made the old palace, it
may be that some day we shall find a musician who can make
The musicians, of course, were especially interested in the
old legend, and many a one of them made up his mind to try
to equal the music of the earlier time. Often you might pass
by the edge of the waste place where the old palace had
stood, and see some musician playing there. He had,
perhaps, been working for years on a tune which he hoped
would be beautiful enough to raise a new palace from the
ruins of the old. In those days men played on lyres or
harps, or on flutes and pipes made of reeds that grew by the
water-side; there were no organs, no orchestras, and no
choirs. So the musicians came alone, one by one, and played
their loveliest music, not minding that those who passed by
often laughed at them for believing that anything would come
of it; for they did not mind being laughed at when they had
hope of such great
 glory as the maker of a palace would surely win. This went
on year by year, until the young king grew to be almost as
old as his father had been when he died, but no musician as
great as those of the earlier time was found.
Now there lived in the city a boy named Agathon, who wished
to be a musician. He had played on the lyre ever since he
was old enough to carry it, and there was no boy in the
kingdom who could make sweeter music. Agathon had also a
friend named Philo, who was as fond as he of playing on the
lyre. They used often to talk together of the days when they
should learn to play so well that they would dare to go,
like the other musicians, and try to raise a new palace.
"I am sure it will be you who will finally do it," Philo
would say to Agathon.
"No," the other would answer, "I shall try, but by that
time I am sure you will play a great deal better than I.
And if it is one of us, we are such good friends that it
will not matter which."
One day the two boys made a discovery. It happened that
Agathon was playing on his lyre, when Philo, coming in to
see him, heard the tune, and was so delighted with it that
he cried, "I must try to
 play it, too." So he ran for his own lyre, and presently
began to play before Agathon had finished. He did not strike
the same notes that Agathon did, but other notes a little
lower in the scale; and instead of making discord, the
different notes sounded so sweetly together that both the
boys looked up in surprise.
"This is a new kind of music," said Agathon, "and I think it
is better than when either you or I play alone." So they
tried to play in this way a number of different tunes.
When they had done this for a time they had another thought.
"If two different notes played together are more beautiful
than one," said Philo, "why may not three be more beautiful
"Sure enough!" said Agathon. "And what is more,
it may be that in this way people could make music as fine
as that by which the palace was made."
Having once formed
this idea, the two boys were eager that it should be tried.
So they went at once to one of the chief musicians of the
city, with whom they were acquainted, and told him what they
had discovered by playing their two instruments together.
Then they suggested that he should take a friend with
him—or perhaps even two friends—to
the place where the
palace had stood, and try what could be done by the new
 The musician was interested in what they said, but he shook
"It would be of no use," he said. "There is no
musician who has not tried already, and it is foolish to
think that two or three of us could play together better than
we can separately. Besides, each of us wants the glory of
making the new palace for himself, and if we did it together
no one would be satisfied."
"Would it not be enough," asked Agathon, "to have the
pleasure of making it for the king, even if no one knew who
had done it at all?"
"No," said the musician, "if I do it I want to do it by
myself, and have the glory of it." And when the boys spoke
to other musicians, they said very much the same thing.
But Agathon and Philo were not discouraged. First of all
they looked for still another player; and when they heard of
a crippled boy who lived not far away, and who was said to
be very fond of music, they asked him to join them. He was
very much surprised when they told him that they wanted him
to learn to play his lyre at the same time that they played
theirs, and yet not to play the same notes. But presently he
learned to do it, striking notes a little lower in the scale
than either Agathon or Philo;
 and when all three made music together, they were sure it was
the most beautiful sound they had ever heard.
"Let us go and play at the place of the palace!" said Philo.
"It will do no harm to try."
As the next day was a holiday, and they had planned nothing
else to do, it was agreed. They rose very early in the
morning, before any of the crowds of the city would be on
the streets, took their lyres under their arms, and made
their way toward the place of the old palace, helping the
crippled boy as they walked.
When they were near the place, they met a sad-looking man
coming away. He, too, was evidently a musician, for he had
a lyre under his arm. But he seemed to be a stranger in the
city, and the boys stopped to ask him why he was so sad.
"I have come a long way," he said, "because I wanted to try
the skill of my lyre with the musicians of your city, and
see whether I could not prove myself as great a master as
the one who made your lost palace. But I have tried, and
have done no better than any of the rest."
"Do not be sad about it, then," said Agathon, "but turn
about and try once more with us. For you have a larger lyre,
with heavy strings, and I have
 thought that if we could add to our three kinds of notes
another still farther down the scale, the music would sound
more beautiful than ever. Come with us, and listen when we
play; then perhaps you will see how to join in and help us."
So the stranger turned about and went with the three boys to
the place of the palace. Now the boys had supposed that, as
it was so early in the morning, they would be the only ones
there. But it happened that a great many musicians had felt,
like them, that the morning of the holiday would be a very
good time to make another trial of their instruments, and
had also thought, like them, that by coming early they would
not be interrupted by the crowds. So when the three boys and
the stranger came to the street that looked into the place
of the palace, they found it almost filled with musicians,
some carrying lyres, like themselves, and some with harps or
flutes or other instruments. It was all very quiet, however,
since no one cared to try his skill at playing before all
the rest; for every musician was jealous of the others.
After they had looked about for a few minutes, and had seen
why it was that so many were there and yet that there was
no music, Philo said:
"Let us begin to play, Agathon. It can do no
 harm, and perhaps we can really show these musicians how
much better music can be made by playing together, than by
each one playing for himself."
"Very well," said Agathon. "Let us begin."
So they took up their lyres and began to play them together
as they had learned to do; and presently the stranger, whom
they had brought with them, touched the strings of his lyre
very softly, to see if he could find deep notes that would
sound sweetly with those of the boys. It was not long before
he did so, and when he began really to play with them, and
the four lyres sounded in concert, it seemed to Agathon that
he heard for the first time the music of which he had been
dreaming all his life.
Now the other musicians who were standing by in silence were
listening with the greatest surprise, for they had never
heard any music like this in all their lives. After a little
time, one and another of them, seeing that it was possible
to play at the same time with others, took up his instrument
and began to join the tune that the four were playing, for
the tune itself was known to all of them, being the chief
national song of the kingdom. So there spread from one
musician to another the desire to take a part in this
strange new music, until hardly any were left
 who could keep from taking up their instruments and joining
in one part or another of what the others were playing. And
there went up a great mingled sound that swept over the
whole part of the city where they stood, and seemed to fill
all the air with music. Playing in this way, all the
musicians together, it happened at last that, as they grew
more and more joyful with the sound, they struck a great
chord, so much more beautiful than anything they had ever
heard before, that they held it for a long time, not wishing
to change this sound for any other, and looking at one
another with eyes full of wonder and happiness.
And as they did so, there came into the volume of music the
sound of great shouting, for men who had gathered in the
streets to listen to the players were calling—"Look, look!
The palace! the palace!" And when all the people turned
their eyes to the great empty space which had lain waste for
so long, they saw a wonderful sight. The earth was breaking
away, almost as though another earthquake were pushing it,
and out of the midst of it were rising great walls of white
marble, that lifted themselves higher and higher, until
there stood in the morning sunshine a new palace of as
perfect beauty as men had ever dreamed of in the
 old one. All these years it had waited for that great
chord of music to lift it out of the earth, and at last it
This, as I have heard the story, is the way in which men
learned to make music together, instead of playing and
singing each for himself. And this is the way in which
the new palace was made for the king who had been so long
without one. But no one quite knew who had done it, so the
musicians forgot their jealousies of one another, and all
the people rejoiced together. And if there has not been
another earthquake, I suppose the new palace must be