Somnium Mystici:
A Microcosm in Terza Rima

George MacDonald


Quiet I lay at last, and knew no more
     Whether I breathed or not, so worn I lay
     With the death-struggle. What was yet before
Neither I met, nor turned from it away;
     My only conscious being was the rest.
     Of pain gone dead - dead with the bygone day,
And long I could have lingered all but blest
     In that half-slumber. But there came a sound
     As of a door that opened - in the west
Somewhere I thought it. As the hare the hound,
     The noise did start my eyelids and they rose.
     I turned my eyes and looked. Then straight I found
It was my chamber-door that did unclose,
     For a tall form up to my bedside drew.
     Grand was it, silent, its very walk repose;
And when I saw the countenance, I knew
     That I was lying in my chamber dead ;
     For this my brother - brothers such are few -
That now to greet me bowed his kingly head,
     Had, many years agone, like holy dove
     Returning, from his friends and kindred sped,
And, leaving memories of mournful love,
     Passed vanishing behind the unseen veil;
     And though I loved him, all high words above.
Not for his loss then did I weep or wail,
     Knowing that here we live but in a tent,
     And, seeking home, shall find it without fail.
Feeble but eager, toward him my hands went -
     I too was dead, so might the dead embrace!
     Taking me by the shoulders down he bent,
And lifted me. I was in sickly case,
     But, growing stronger, stood up on the floor,
     There turned, and once regarded my dead face
With curious eyes: its brow contentment wore,
     But I had done with it, and turned away.
     I saw my brother by the open door,
And followed him out into the night blue-gray.
     The houses stood up hard in limpid air,
     The moon hung in the heavens in half decay,
     And all the world to my bare feet lay bare.



Now I had suffered in my life, as they
     Must suffer, and by slow years younger grow,
     From whom the false fool-self must drop away,
Compact of greed and fear, which, gathered slow,
     Darkens the angel-self that, evermore,
     Where no vain phantom in or out shall go,
Moveless beholds the Father - stands before
     The throne of revelation, waiting there,
     With wings low-drooping on the sapphire-floor,
Until it find the Father's ideal fair,
     And be itself at last: not one small thorn
     Shall needless any pilgrim's garments tear;
And but to say I had suffered I would scorn
     Save for the marvellous thing that next befell:
     Sudden I grew aware I was new-born;
All pain had vanished in the absorbent swell
     Of some exalting peace that was my own;
     As the moon dwelt in heaven did calmness dwell
At home in me, essential. The earth's moan
     Lay all behind. Had I then lost my part
     In human griefs, dear part with them that groan ?
"'Tis weariness ! " I said; but with a start
     That set it trembling and yet brake it not,
     I found the peace was love. Oh, my rich heart!
For, every time I spied a glimmering spot
     Of window pane, "There, in that silent room,"
     Thought I, " mayhap sleeps human heart whose lot
Is therefore dear to mine ! " I cared for whom
     I saw not, had not seen, and might not see!
     After the love crept prone its shadow-gloom,
But instant a mightier love arose in me,
     As in an ocean a single wave will swell,
     And heaved the shadow to the centre: we
Had called it prayer, before on sleep I fell.
     It sank, and left my sea in holy calm:
     I gave each man to God, and all was well.
And in my heart stirred soft a sleeping psalm.



No gentlest murmur through the city crept;
     Not one lone word my brother to me had spoken;
     But when beyond the city-gate we stept
I knew the hovering silence would be broken.
     A low night wind came whispering: through and through
     It did baptize me with the pledge and token
Of that soft spirit-wind which blows and blew
     And fans the human world since evermore.
     The very grass, cool to my feet, I knew
To be love also, and with the love I bore
     To hold far sympathy, silent and sweet,
     As having known the secret from of yore
In the eternal heart where all things meet,
     Feelings and thinkings, and where still they are bred.
     Sudden he stood, and with arrested feet
I also. Like a half-sunned orb, his head
     Slow turned the bright side: lo, the brother-smile
     That ancient human glory on me shed
Clothed in which Jesus came forth to wile
     Unto his bosom every labouring soul,
     And all dividing passions to beguile
To winsome death, and then on them to roll
     The blessed stone of the holy sepulchre !
     "Thank God," he said, "thou also now art whole
And sound and well! For the keen pain, and stir
     Uneasy, and sore grief that came to us all,
     In that we knew not how the wine and myrrh
Could ever from the vinegar and gall
     Be parted, are deep sunk, yea drowned in God;
     And yet the past not folded in a pall,
But breathed upon, like Aaron's withered rod,
     By a sweet light that brings the blossoms through,
     Showing in dreariest paths that men have trod
Another's foot-prints, spotted of crimson hue,
     Still on before wherever theirs did wend;
     Yea, through the desert leading, of thyme and rue,
The desert souls in which young lions rend
     And roar - the passionate who, to be blest,
     Ravin as bears, and do not gain their end,
Because that, save in God, there is no rest."



Something my brother said to me like this,
     But how unlike it also, think, I pray.
     His eyes were music, and his smile a kiss;
Himself the word, his speech was but a ray
     In the clear nimbus that with verity
     Of absolute utterance made a home-born day
Of truth about him, lamping solemnly;
     And when he paused, there came a swift repose,
     Too high, too still to be called ecstasy
A purple silence, lanced through in the close
     By such keen thought that, with a sudden smiling,
     It grew sheen silver, hearted with burning rose.
He was a glory full of reconciling,
     Of faithfulness, of love with no self-stain,
     Of tenderness, and care, and brother-wiling
Back to the bosom of a speechless gain.



I cannot tell how long we joyous talked,
     For from my sense old time had vanished quite,
     Space dim-remaining - for onward still we walked.
No sun arose to blot the pale, still night
     Still as the night of some great spongy stone
     That turns but once an age betwixt the light
And the huge shadow from its own bulk thrown,
     And long as that to me before whose face
     Visions so many slid, and veils were blown
Aside from the vague vast of Isis' grace.
     Innumerous thoughts yet throng that infinite hour,
     And hopes which greater hopes unceasing chase,
For I was all responsive to his power.
     I saw my friends weep, wept, and let them weep;
     I saw the growth of each grief-nurtured flower;
I saw the gardener watching - in their sleep
     Wiping their tears with the napkin he had laid
Wrapped by itself when he climbed Hades' steep;
     What wonder then I saw nor was dismayed !
I saw the dull, degraded monsters nursed
     In money-marshes, greedy men that preyed
Upon the helpless, ground the feeblest worst;
     Yea all the human chaos, wild and waste,
     Where he who will not leave what God hath cursed
Now fruitless wallows, now is stung and chased
     By visions lovely and by longings dire.
     " But who believeth, he shall not make haste,
Even passing through the water and the fire,
     Or sad with memories of a better lot!
     He, saved by hope, for all men will desire,
Knowing that God into a mustard-jot
     May shut an aeon; give a world that lay
     Wombed in its sun, a molten unorbed clot,
One moment from the red rim to spin away
     Librating - ages to roll on weary wheel
     Ere it turn homeward, almost spent its day!
Who knows love all, time nothing, he shall feel
     No anxious heart, shall lift no trembling hand;
     Tender as air, but clothed in triple steel,
He for his kind, in every age and land,
     Hoping will live; and, to his labour bent,
     The Father's will shall, doing, understand."
So spake my brother as we onward went:
     His words my heart received, as corn the lea,
     And answered with a harvest of content.
We came at last upon a lonesome sea.



And onward still he went, I following
     Out on the water. But the water, lo,
     Like a thin sheet of glass, lay vanishing!
The starry host in glorious twofold show
     Looked up, looked down. The moment I saw this,
     A quivering fear thorough my heart did go:
Unstayed I walked across a twin abyss,
     A hollow sphere of blue; nor floor was found
     Of questing eye, only the foot met the kiss
Of the cool water lightly crisping round
     The edges of the footsteps! Terror froze
     My fallen eyelids. But again the sound
Of my guide's voice on the still air arose:
     " Hast thou forgotten that we walk by faith?
     For keenest sight but multiplies the shows.
Lift up thine eyelids; take a valiant breath;
     Terrified, dare the terror in God's name;
     Step wider; trust the invisible. Can Death
Avail no more to hearten up thy flame?"
     I trembled, but I opened wide mine eyes,
     And strode on the invisible sea. The same
High moment vanished all my cowardice,
     And God was with me. The well-pleased stars
     Threw quivering smiles across the gulfy skies,
The white aurora flashed great scimitars
     From north to zenith; and again my guide
     Full turned on me his face. No prison-bars
Latticed across a soul I there descried,
     No weather-stains of grief; quiet age-long
     Brooded upon his forehead clear and wide;
Yet from that face a pang shot, vivid and strong,
     Into my heart. For, though I saw him stand
     Close to me in the void as one in a throng,
Yet on the border of some nameless land
     He stood afar; a still-eyed mystery
     Caught him whole worlds away. Though in my hand
His hand I held, and, gazing earnestly,
     Searched in his countenance, as in a mine,
     For jewels of contentment, satisfy
My heart I could not. Seeming to divine
     My hidden trouble, gently he stooped and kissed
     My forehead, and his arms did round me twine,
And held me to his bosom. Still I missed
     That ancient earthly nearness, when we shared
     One bed, like birds that of no morrow wist;
Roamed our one father's farm; or, later, fared
     Along the dusty highways of the old clime.
     Backward he drew, and, as if he had bared
My soul, stood reading there a little time,
     While in his eyes tears gathered slow, like dew
     That dims the grass at evening or at prime,
But makes the stars clear-goldener in the blue;
     And on his lips a faint ethereal smile
     Hovered, as hangs the mist of its own hue
Trembling about a purple flower, the while
     Evening grows brown. "Brother! brother!" I cried,
     But straight outbursting tears my words beguile,
And in my bosom all the utterance died.



A moment more he stood, then softly sighed.
     "I know thy pain; but this sorrow is far
     Beyond my help," his voice at length replied
To my beseeching tears. Look at yon star
     Up from the low east half-way, all ablaze:
     Think'st thou, because no cloud between doth mar
The liquid glory that from its visage rays,
     Thou therefore knowest that same world on high,
     Its people and its orders and its ways? "
"What meanest thou?" I said. "Thou know'st that I
     Would hold, not thy dear form, but the self-thee!
     Thou art not near me! For thyself I cry!"
"Not the less near that nearer I shall be.
     I have a world within thou dost not know
     Would I could make thee know it! but all of me
Is thine, though thou not yet canst enter so
     Into possession that betwixt us twain
     The frolic homeliness of love should flow
As oe'r the brim of childhood's cup again:
     Away the deeper childhood first must wipe
     That clouded consciousness which was our pain.
When in thy breast the godlike hath grown ripe,
     And thou, Christ's little one, art ten times more
     A child than when we played with drum and pipe
About our earthly father's happy door,
     Then - ." He ceased not; his holy utterance still
     Flowing went on, like spring from hidden store
Of wasteless waters; but I wept my fill,
     Nor heeded much the comfort of his speech.
     At length he said: "When first I clomb the hill -
With earthly words I heavenly things would reach -
     Where dwelleth now the man we used to call
     Father, whose voice, oh memory dear ! did teach
Us in our beds, when straight, as once a stall
     Became a temple, holy grew the room,
     Prone on the ground before him I did fall,
So grand he towered above me like a doom;
     But now I look into the well-known face
     Fearless, yea, basking blessed in the bloom
Of his eternal youthfulness and grace."
     "But something separates us," yet I cried;
     " Let light at least begin the dark to chase,
The dark begin to waver and divide,
     And clear the path of vision. In the old time,
     When clouds one heart did from the other hide,
A wind would blow between! If I would climb,
     This foot must rise ere that can go up higher:
     Some big A teach me of the eternal prime."
He answered me: "Hearts that to love aspire
     Must learn its mighty harmony ere they can
     Give out one perfect note in its great quire;
And thereto am I sent - oh, sent of one
     Who makes the dumb for joy break out and sing:
     He opens every door 'twixt man and man;
     He to all inner chambers all will bring."



It was enough; Hope waked from dreary swound,
     And Hope had ever been enough for me,
     To kennel driving grim Tomorrow's hound;
From chains of school and mode she set me free,
     And urged my life to living. - On we went
     Across the stars that underlay the sea,
And came to a blown shore of sand and bent.
     Beyond the sand a marshy moor we crossed
     Silent - I, for I pondered what he meant,
And he, that sacred speech might not be lost -
     And came at length upon an evil place:
     Trees lay about like a half-buried host,
Each in its desolate pool; some fearful race
     Of creatures was not far, for howls and cries
     And gurgling hisses rose. With even pace
Walking, " Fear not," he said, "for this way lies
     Our journey." On we went; and soon the ground
     Slow from the waste began a gentle rise;
And tender grass in patches, then all round,
     Came clouding up, with its fresh homely tinge
     Of softest green cold-flushing every mound;
At length, of lowly shrubs a scattered fringe;
     And last, a gloomy forest, almost blind,
     For on its roof no sun-ray did impinge,
So that its very leaves did share the mind
     Of a brown shadowless day. Not, all the year,
     Once part its branches to let through a wind,
But all day long the unmoving trees appear
     To ponder on the past, as men may do
     That for the future wait without a fear,
And in the past the coming present view.



I know not if for days many or few
     Pathless we thrid the wood; for never sun,
     Its sylvan-traceried windows peeping through,
Mottled with brighter green the mosses dun,
     Or meted with moving shadows Time the shade.
     No life was there - not even a spider spun.
At length we came into a sky-roofed glade,
     An open level, in a circle shut
     By solemn trees that stood aside and made
Large room and lonely for a little hut
     By grassy sweeps wide-margined from the wood.
     'Twas built of saplings old, that had been cut
When those great trees no larger by them stood;
     Thick with an ancient moss, it seemed to have grown
     Thus from the old brown earth, a covert rude,
Half-house, half-grave; half-lifted up, half-prone.
     To its low door my brother led me. " There
     Is thy first school," he said; "there be thou shown
Thy pictured alphabet. Wake a, mind of prayer,
     And praying enter." " But wilt thou not come,
     Brother?" I said. "No' " said he. And I, "Where
Then shall I find thee ? Thou wilt not leave me dumb,
     And a whole world of thoughts unuttered ?"
     With half-sad smile and dewy eyes, and some
Conflicting motions of his kingly head,
     He pointed to the open-standing door.
     I entered: inward, lo, my shadow led !
I turned: his countenance shone like lightning hoar!
     Then slow he turned from me, and parted slow,
     Like one unwilling, whom I should see no more;
With Voice nor hand said, Farewell, I must go!
     But drew the clinging door hard to the post.
     No dry leaves rustled 'neath his going; no
     Footfalls came back from the departing ghost.
He was no more. I laid me down and wept;
     I dared not follow him, restrained the most
     By fear I should not see him if I leapt
Out after him with cries of pleading love.
     Close to the wall, in hopeless loss, I crept;
     There cool sleep came, God's shadow, from above.



I woke, with calmness cleansed and sanctified
     The peace that filled my heart of old, when I
     Woke in my mother's lap; for since I died
The past lay bare, even to the dreaming shy
     That shadowed my yet gathering unborn brain.
     And, marvelling, on the floor I saw, close by
My elbow-pillowed head, as if it had lain
     'Beside me all the time I dreamless lay,
     A little pool of sunlight, which did stain
The earthen brown with gold; marvelling, I say,
     Because, across the sea and through the wood,
     No sun had shone upon me all the way.
I rose, and through a chink the glade I viewed,
     But all was dull as it had always been,
     And sunless every tree-top round it stood,
With hardly light enough to show it green;
     Yet through the broken roof, serenely glad,
     By a rough hole, entered that heavenly sheen.
Then I remembered in old years I had
     Seen such a light - where, with dropt eyelids gloomed,
     Sitting on such a floor, dark women sad
In a low barn-like house where lay entombed
     Their sires and children; only there the door
     Was open to the sun, which entering plumed
With shadowy palms the stones that on the floor
     Stood up like lidless chests - again to find
     That the soul needs no brain, but keeps her store
In hidden chambers of the eternal mind.
     Thence backward ran my roused Memory
     Down the ever-opening vista - back to blind
Anticipations while my soul did lie
     Closed in my mother's; forward thence through bright
     Spring morns of childhood, gay with hopes that fly
Bird-like across their doming blue and white,
     To passionate summer noons, to saddened eves
     Of autumn rain, so on to wintred night;
Thence up once more to the dewy dawn that weaves
     Saffron and gold - weaves hope with still content,
     And wakes the worship that even wrong bereaves
Of half its pain. And round her as she went
     Hovered a sense as of an odour dear
     Whose flower was far - as of a letter sent
Not yet arrived - a footstep coming near,
     But, oh, how long delayed the lifting latch! -
     As of a waiting sun, ready to peer
Yet peering not - as of a breathless watch
     Over a sleeping beauty - babbling rime
     About her lips, but no winged word to catch!
And here I lay, the child of changeful Time
     Shut in the weary, changeless Evermore,
     A dull, eternal, fadeless, fruitless clime!
Was this the dungeon of my sinning sore
     A gentle hell of loneliness, foredoomed
     For such as I, whose love was yet the core
Of all my being? The brown shadow gloomed
     Persistent, faded, warm. No ripple ran
     Across the air, no roaming insect boomed.
"Alas," I cried, " I am no living man !
     Better were darkness and the leave to grope
     Than light that builds its own drear prison ! Can
This be the folding of the wings of Hope?"



That instant - through the branches overhead
     No sound of going went - a shadow fell
     Isled in the unrippled pool of sunlight fed
From some far fountain hid in heavenly dell.
     I looked, and in the low roof's broken place
     A single snowdrop, stood - a radiant bell
Of silvery shine, softly subdued by grace
     Of delicate green that made the white appear
     Yet whiter. Blind it bowed its head a space,
Half-timid - then, as in despite of fear,
     Unfolded its three rays. If it had swung
     Its pendent bell, and music golden clear -
Division just entrancing sounds among -
     Had flickered down as tender as flakes of snow,
     It had not shed more influence as it rung
Than from its look alone did rain and flow.
     I knew the flower; perceived its human ways;
     Dim saw the secret that had made it grow:
My heart supplied the music's golden phrase.
     Light from the dark and snowdrops from the earth,
     Life's resurrection out of gross decays,
The endless round of beauty's yearly birth,
     And nations' rise and fall - were in the flower,
     And read themselves in silence. Heavenly mirth
Awoke in my sad heart. For one whole hour
     I praised the God of snowdrops. But at height
     The bliss gave way. Next, faith began to cower;
And then the snowdrop vanished from my sight.



Last, I began in unbelief to say:
     "No angel this! a snowdrop-nothing more!
     A trifle which God's hands drew forth in play
From the tangled pond of chaos, dank and frore,
     Threw on the bank, and left blindly to breed!
     A wilful fancy would have gathered store
Of evanescence from the pretty weed,
     White, shapely - then divine ! Conclusion lame
     O'erdriven into the shelter of a creed !
Not out of God, but nothingness it came:
     Colourless, feeble, flying from life's heat,
     It has no honour, hardly shunning shame ! "
When, see, another shadow at my feet!
     Hopeless I lifted now my weary head.
     Why mock me with another heavenly cheat? -
A primrose fair, from its rough-blanketed bed
     Laughed, lo, my unbelief to heavenly scorn!
     A sun-child, just awake, no prayer yet said,
Half rising from the couch where it was born,
     And smiling to the world! I breathed again;
     Out of the midnight once more dawned the morn,
And fled the phantom Doubt with all his train.



I was a child once more, nor pondered life,
     Thought not of what or how much. All my soul
     With sudden births of lovely things grew rife.
In peeps a daisy: on the instant roll
     Rich lawny fields, with red tips crowding the green,
     Across the hollows, over ridge and knoll,
To where the rosy sun goes down serene.
     From out of heaven in looks a pimpernel:
     I walk in morning scents of thyme and bean;
Dewdrops on every stalk and bud and bell
     Flash, like a jewel-orchard, many roods;
     Glow ruby suns, which emerald suns would quell;
Topaz saint-glories, sapphire beatitudes
     Blaze in the slanting sunshine all around;
     Above, the high-priest-lark, o'er fields and woods -
Rich-hearted with his five eggs on the ground -
     The sacrifice bore through the veil of light,
     Odour and colour offering up in sound. -
Filled heart - full thus with forms of lowly might
     And shapeful silences of lovely lore,
     I sat a child, happy with only sight,
     And for a time I needed nothing more.



Supine to the revelation I did lie,
     Passive as prophet to his dreaming deep,
     Or harp Aeolian to the breathing sky,
And blest as any child whom twilight sleep
      Holds half, and half lets go. But the new day
     Of higher need up-dawned with sudden leap:
"Ah, flowers," I said, "ye are divinely gay,
     But your fair music is too far and fine !
     Ye are full cups, yet reach not to allay
The drought of those for human love who pine
     As the hart for water-brooks! " At once a face
     Was looking in my face; its eyes through mine
Were feeding me with tenderness and grace,
     And by their love I knew my mother's eyes.
     Gazing in them, there grew in me apace
A longing grief, and love did swell, and rise
     Till weeping I brake out and did bemoan
     My blameful share in bygone tears and cries:
O mother, wilt thou plead for me?" I groan;
     I say not, plead with Christ, but plead with those
     Who, gathered now in peace about his throne,
Were near me when my heart was full of throes,
     And longings vain after a flying bliss,
     Which oft the fountain by the threshold froze:
They must forgive me, mother! Tell them this:
     No more shall swell the love-dividing sigh;
     Down at their feet I lay my selfishness."
The face grew passionate at this my cry;
     The gathering tears up to its eyebrims rose;
     It grew a trembling mist, that did not fly
But slow dissolved. I wept as one of those
     Who wake outside the garden of their dream,
     And, lo, the droop-winged hours laborious close
Its opal gates with stone and stake and beam.



But glory went that glory more might come.
     Behold a countless multitude - no less!
     A host of faces, me besieging, dumb
In the lone castle of my mournfulness!
     Had then my mother given the word I sent,
     Gathering my dear ones from the shining press?
And had these others their love-aidance lent
     For full assurance of the pardon prayed?
     Would they concentre love, with sweet intent,
On my self-love, to blast the evil shade?
     Ah, perfect vision! pledge of endless hope !
     Oh army of the holy spirit, arrayed
In comfort's panoply ! For words I grope -
     For clouds to catch your radiant dawn, my own,
     And tell your coming ! From the highest cope
Of blue, down to my roof-breach came a cone
     Of faces and their eyes on love's will borne,
     Bright heads down-bending like the forward blown,
Heavy with ripeness, golden ears of corn,
     By gentle wind on crowded harvest-field,
     All gazing toward my prison-hut forlorn
As if with power of eyes they would have healed
     My troubled heart, making it like their own
     In which the bitter fountain had been sealed,
And the life-giving water flowed alone!



With what I thus beheld, glorified then,
     " God, let me love my fill and pass! " I sighed,
     And dead, for love had almost died again.
O fathers, brothers, I am yours ! " I cried;
     " 0 mothers, sisters, I am nothing now
     Save as I am yours, and in you sanctified!
O men, O women, of the peaceful brow,
     And infinite abysses in the eyes
     Whence God's ineffable gazes on me, how
Care ye for me, impassioned and unwise?
     Oh ever draw my heart out after you !
     Ever, 0 grandeur, thus before me rise
And I need nothing, not even for love will sue!
     I am no more, and love is all in all !
     Henceforth there is, there can be nothing new
All things are always new! " Then, like the fall
     Of a steep avalanche, my joy fell steep:
     Up in my spirit rose as it were the call
Of an old sorrow from an ancient deep;
     For, with my eyes fixed on the eyes of him
     Whom I had loved before I learned to creep -
God's vicar in his twilight nursery dim
     To gather us to the higher father's knee -
     I saw a something fill their azure rim
That caught him worlds and years away from me;
     And like a javelin once more through me passed
     The pang that pierced me walking on the sea:
     O saints," I cried, " must loss be still the last ?"



When I said this, the cloud of witnesses
     Turned their heads sideways, and the cloud grew dim;
     I saw their faces half, but now their bliss
Gleamed low, like the old moon in the new moon's rim.
     Then as I gazed, a better kind of light
     On every outline 'gan to glimmer and swim,
Faint as the young moon threadlike on the night,
     Just born of sunbeams trembling on her edge:
     'Twas a great cluster of profiles in sharp white.
Had some far dawn begun to drive a wedge
     Into the night, and cleave the clinging dark ?
     I saw no moon or star, token or pledge
Of light, save that manifold silvery mark,
     The shining title of each spirit-book.
     Whence came that light? Sudden, as if a spark
Of vital touch had found some hidden nook
     Where germs of potent harmonies lay prest,
     And their outbursting life old Aether shook,
Rose, as in prayer to lingering promised guest,
     From that great cone of faces such a song,
     Instinct with hope's harmonical unrest,
That with sore weeping, and the cry" How long?"
     I bore my part because I could not sing.
And as they sang, the light more clear and strong
Bordered their faces, till the glory-sting
     I could almost no more encounter and bear;
     Light from their eyes, like water from a spring,
Flowed; on their foreheads reigned their flashing hair;
     I saw the light from eyes I could not see.
     "He comes ! he comes! " they sang, comes to our prayer!"
"Oh my poor heart, if only it were He !"
     I cried. Thereat the faces moved ! those eyes
     Were turning on me! In rushed ecstasy,
And woke me to the light of lower skies.



What matter," said I, " whether clank of chain
     Or over-bliss wakes up to bitterness! "
     Stung with its loss, I called the vision vain.
Yet feeling life grown larger, suffering less,
     Sleep's ashes from my eyelids I did brush.
     The room was veiled, that morning should not press
Upon the slumber which had stayed the rush
     Of ebbing life; I looked into the gloom:
     Upon her brow the dawn's first grayest flush,
And on her cheek pale hope's reviving bloom,
     Sat, patient watcher, darkling and alone,
     She who had lifted me from many a tomb!
     One then was left me of Love's radiant cone !
Its light on her dear face, though faint and wan,
     Was shining yet - a dawn upon it thrown
From the far coming of the Son of Man !



In every forehead now I see a sky
     Catching the dawn ; I hear the wintriest breeze
     About me blow the news the Lord is nigh.
Long is the night, dark are the polar seas,
     Yet slanting suns ascend the northern hill.
     Round Spring's own steps the oozy waters freeze
But hold them not. Dreamers are sleeping still,
     But labourers, light-stung, from their slumber start:
     Faith sees the ripening ears with harvest fill
When but green blades the clinging earth-clods part.



Lord, I have spoken a poor parable,
     In which I would have said thy name alone
     Is the one secret lying in Truth's well,
Thy voice the hidden charm in every tone,
     Thy face the heart of every flower on earth,
     Its vision the one hope; for every moan
Thy love the cure ! O sharer of the birth
     Of little children seated on thy knee !
     O human God! I laugh with sacred mirth
To think how all the laden shall go free;
     For, though the vision tarry, in healing ruth
     One morn the eyes that shone in Galilee
Will dawn upon them, full of grace and truth,
     And thy own love - the vivifying core
     Of every love in heart of age or youth,
Of every hope that sank 'neath burden sore!

Original scan by Marilylle Soveran.

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