For a Breath I Tarry

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"For a Breath I Tarry" is a 1966 post-apocalyptic novelette by American writer Roger Zelazny. Taking place long after the self-extinction of Man, it recounts the tale of Frost, a sentient machine. Though Man has disappeared, his robotic creations (and their creations in turn) continue to function. It was nominated to the Hugo Award for Best Novelette nominee for 1967.

The novelette has appeared in collections of Zelazny's works[1] and in anthologies.[2]

Along the way, the story explores the differences between Man and Machine, the former experiencing the world qualitatively, while the latter do so quantitatively. This is illustrated by a conversation Frost has with another machine named Mordel.

Driving the plot and setting its tone are allusions to other literature, most specifically the first chapter of the Book of Job, both in situation and language, as verses are both quoted directly and paraphrased. Additionally, echoes of the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis appear. Finally, Frost and Mordel enter into a Faustian bargain, with, however, better results than in the original.

The title is from a phrase in A. E. Housman's collection A Shropshire Lad.[3]


  1. ^ The Last Defender of Camelot (1980, 1983, 1988, 2002, 2005)
  2. ^ Nuclear Holocausts Bibliography (3rd Item)
  3. ^ "From far, from eve and morning"

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