A Dream

Idle I sat—my book upon my knee,
The Tyro's Outline of Biology.
Drowsy the hour: and wits began to roam
Far, far from gene, as far from chromosome.
Sweet sleep stole over me. . . .
A valley in Spring!—
Wherein a river of water crystal clear
In rarer beauty imaged all things near—
Green grass, and leaf; lithe leopard, swift gazelle—
Gihon? Euphrates? No, I could not tell,
But knew it was Eden by the asphodel,
The painted birds, the songs I heard them sing.

There, where heaven's sunbeams with earth's shade inwove,
This side a slumber-solemn cedar grove,
A clear green twilight underneath a tree—
Of Life? Of Knowledge? it was strange to me—
Two mortals sat: a sage, dome-headed, grey,
Who looked a child, albeit in age astray—
Talking, it seemed, his very heart away;
And one even lovelier than woods in May.

She, as if poesy haunted all he said—
Eyes blue as chicory flower, and braided head—
Showed silent as snow against the tender grass,
For naked she as Aphrodite was.
And, at her shoulder, mid its coils near by,
A subtle Serpent couched, with lidless eye,
Which, its tongue flickering, else motionlessly,
Raised its rune-blazoned head, and gazed at me.

Whereat, although it harmless seemed, I woke;
My dream-cleansed eyes now fixed upon my book;
Nor could by any stealth I entry win
Into that paradisal scene again—
Fruit so much sweeter to a childish love
Than any knowledge I had vestige of.
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