Dreams

Ev'n one who has little travelled in
This world of ample land and sea;
Whose Arctic, Orient, tropics have been —
Like Phaenix, siren, jinn, and Sidhe —
But of his thoughts' anatomy —
Each day makes measureless journeys twain:
From wake to dream; to wake again.

At night he climbs a quiet stair,
Secure within its pictured wall;
His clothes, his hands, the light, the air,
Familiar objects one and all —
Accustomed, plain, and natural
He lays him down: and, ages deep,
Flow over him the floods of sleep.

Lapped in this influence alien
To aught save sorcery could devise,
Heedless of Sesame or Amen ,
He is at once the denizen
Of realms till then beyond surmise;
Grotesque, irrational, and sans
All law and order known as Man's.

Though drowsy sentries at the gate
Of eye and ear dim watch maintain,
And, at his absence all elate,
His body's artisans sustain
Their toil in sinew, nerve, and brain:
Nothing recks he; he roves afar,
Past compass, chart, and calendar.

Nor is he the poor serf who shares
One self alone where'er he range,
Since in the seven-league Boots he wears
He may, in scores of guises, change
His daily ego — simple or strange;
Stand passive looker-on; or be
A paragon of energy.

Regions of beauty, wonder, peace
By waking eyes unscanned, unknown
Waters and hills whose loveliness,
Past mortal sense, are his alone
There flow'rs by the shallows of Lethe sown
Distil their nectar, drowsy and sweet,
And drench the air with news of it.

Or lost, betrayed, forlorn, alas!
Gaunt terror leads him by the hand
Through demon-infested rank morass;
O'er wind-bleached wilderness of sand;
Where cataracts rave; or bleak sea-strand
Shouts at the night with spouted spume;
Or locks him to rot in soundless tomb.

Here, too, the House of Folly is,
With gates ajar, and windows lit,
Wherein with foul buffooneries
A spectral host carousing sit.
" Hail, thou! " they yelp. " Come, taste and eat! "
And so, poor zany, sup must he
The nightmare dregs of idiocy.

All this in vain? Nay, thus abased,
Made vile in the dark's incontinence,
Though even the anguish of death he taste,
The murderer's woe — his penitence,
And pangs of the damned experience —
Will he God's mercy less esteem
When dayspring prove them only a dream?

What bliss to clutch, when thus beset,
The folded linen of his sheet;
Or hear, without, more welcome yet,
A footfall in the dawnlit street;
The whist of the wind; or, far and sweet,
Some small bird's daybreak rhapsody,
That bids him put all such figments by.

Oh, when, at morning up, his eyes
Open to earth again, then, lo!
An end to all dream's enterprise! —
It melts away like April snow.
What night made false now true doth show;
What day discloses night disdained;
And who shall winnow real from feigned?

But men of learning little heed
Problems that simple folk perplex;
And some there are who have decreed
Dreams the insidious wiles of sex;
That slumber's plain is wake's complex;
And, plumbing their own minds, profess
Them quagmires of unconsciousness.

Sad fate it is, like one who is dead,
To lie inert the dark night through,
And never by dream's sweet fantasy led
To lave tired eyes in heavenly dew!
But worse — the prey of a gross taboo
And sport of a Censor — to squat and make
Pies of a mud forbidd'n the awake!

Nay, is that Prince of the Dust — a man,
But a tissue of parts, dissectible?
Lancet, balances, callipers — can
The least of his actions by human skill
Be measured as so much Sex, Want, Will? —
Fables so dull would the sweeter be
With extract of humour for company!

Once was a god whose lovely face,
Wan as the poppy and arched in wings,
So haunted a votary with his grace
And the still wonder that worship brings,
That, having sipped of Helicon's springs,
He cast his beauty in bronze. And now
Eternal slumber bedims his brow —

Hypnos: and Dream was his dear son.
Not ours these follies. We haunt instead
Tropical jungles drear and dun,
And see in some fetish of fear and dread
Our symbol of dream — that brooding head!
And deem the wellspring of genius hid
In a dark morass that is dubbed the Id.

Sacred of old was the dyed baboon.
Though least, of the monkeys, like man is he,
Yet, rank the bones of his skeleton
With homo sapiens': will they be
Void of design, form, symmetry?
To each his calling Albeit we know
Apes father no Michelangelo!

In truth, a destiny undivined
Haunts every cell of bone and brain;
They share, to time and space resigned,
All passions that to earth pertain,
And twist man's thoughts to boon or bane;
Yet, be he master, need we ban
What the amoeba's made of man?

Who of his thoughts can reach the source?
Who in his life-blood's secret share?
By knowledge, artifice, or force
Compel the self within declare
What fiat bade it earthward fare?
Or proof expound this journey is
Else than a tissue of fantasies?

See, now, this butterfly, its wing
A dazzling play of patterned hues;
Far from the radiance of Spring,
From every faltering flower it choose
'Twill dip to sip autumnal dews:
So flit man's happiest moments by,
Daydreams of selfless transiency.

Was it by cunning the curious fly
That preys in a sunbeam schooled her wings
To ride her in air all motionlessly,
Poised on their myriad winnowings?
Where conned the blackbird the song he sings?
Was Job the instructor of the ant?
Go bees for nectar to Hume and Kant?

Who bade the scallop devise her shell?
Who tutored the daisy at cool of eve
To tent her pollen in floreted cell?
What dominie taught the dove to grieve;
The mole to delve; the worm to weave?
Does not the rather their life-craft seem
A tranced obedience to a dream?

Thus tranced, too, body and mind, will sit
A winter's dawn to dark, alone,
Heedless of how the cold moments flit,
The worker in words, or wood, or stone:
So far his waking desires have flown
Into a realm where his sole delight
Is to bring the dreamed-of to mortal sight.

Dumb in its wax may the music sleep —
In a breath conceived — that, with ardent care,
Note by note, in a reverie deep,
Mozart penned, for the world to share.
Waken it, needle! And then declare
How, invoked by thy tiny tang,
Sound such strains as the Sirens sang!

Voyager dauntless on Newton's sea,
Year after year still brooding on
His algebraical formulae,
The genius of William Hamilton
Sought the square root of minus one;
In vain; till — all thought of it leagues away —
The problem flowered from a dream one day.

Our restless senses leap and say,
" How marvellous this! — How ugly that! "
And, at a breath, will slip away
The very thing they marvel at.
Time is the tyrant of their fate;
And frail the instant which must be
Our all of actuality.

If then to Solomon the Wise
Some curious priest stooped low and said,
" Thou! with thy lidded, sleep-sealed eyes,
This riddle solve from out thy bed:
Art thou — am I — by phantoms led?
Where is the real? In dream? Or wake? "
I know the answer the King might make!

And teeming Shakespeare: would he avow
The creatures of his heart and brain,
Whom, Prospero-like, he could endow
With all that mortal souls contain,
Mere copies that a fool can feign
Out of the tangible and seen? —
This the sole range of his demesne?

Ask not the Dreamer! See him run,
Listening a shrill and gentle neigh,
Foot into stirrup, he is up, he has won
Enchanted foothills far away.
Somewhere? Nowhere? Who need say?
So be it in secrecy of his mind
He some rare delectation find.

Ay, once I dreamed of an age-wide sea
Whereo'er three moons stood leper-bright;
And once — from agony set free —
I scanned within the womb of night,
A hollow inwoven orb of light,
Thrilling with beauty no tongue could tell,
And knew it for Life's citadel.

And — parable as strange — once, I
Was lured to a city whose every stone,
And harpy human hastening by
Were spawn and sport of fear alone —
By soulless horror enthralled, driven on:
Even the waters that, ebon-clear,
Coursed through its dark, raved only of Fear!

Enigmas these; but not the face,
Fashioned of sleep, which, still at gaze
Of daybreak eyes, I yet could trace,
Made lovelier in the sun's first rays;
Nor that wild voice which in amaze,
Wide-wok'n, I listened singing on —
All memory of the singer gone.

O Poesy, of wellspring clear,
Let no sad Science thee suborn,
Who art thyself its planisphere!
All knowledge is foredoomed, forlorn —
Of inmost truth and wisdom shorn —
Unless imagination brings
It skies wherein to use its wings.

Two worlds have we: without; within;
But all that sense can mete and span,
Until it confirmation win
From heart and soul, is death to man.
Of grace divine his life began;
And — Eden empty proved — in deep
Communion with his spirit in sleep

The Lord Jehovah of a dream
Bade him, past all desire, conceive
What should his solitude redeem;
And, to his sunlit eyes, brought Eve.
Would that my day-wide mind could weave
Faint concept of the scene from whence
She awoke to Eden's innocence!

Starven with cares, like tares in wheat,
Wildered with knowledge, chilled with doubt,
The timeless self in vain must beat
Against its walls to hasten out
Whither the living waters fount;
And — evil and good no more at strife —
Seek love beneath the tree of life.

When then in memory I look back
To childhood's visioned hours I see
What now my anxious soul doth lack
Is energy in peace to be
At one with nature's mystery:
And Conscience less my mind indicts
For idle days than dreamless nights.
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