Dreams - Part 2

Darkness was thick around me, as of old,
In Egypt, it was felt. No glimmering lamp,
Nor solitary starlight, found its way
Through the dim shadows that encompassed me,
But all was waste and void,—a desolation
Without a form or voice,—a deathlike silence,
Where even the waters had forgot to flow,
And winds to whisper,—such a total silence,
My breathing startled me, although I held it
In fear and awe. The heavens had vanished then,
And earth was gone, only the foothold where
I stood and dared not move,—in like suspense
As when, upon a mountain crag, a mist
Sweeps suddenly around the hunter's path,
And hides the precipice and dread descent,
Where all is death,—he pauses, and awaits
The passing of the vapor, till it rolls
Its heavy wreaths around the glacier heights,
And all at once reveals the dark abyss
Below him, where he hung close on the verge,
And knew not of his danger; such a fear
And wild suspense held me, and then I stood
Waiting for morning, while the laggard hours
Seemed lengthened out to ages. Who has felt
The sickening doubt, the cold uncertainty,
The dying of all hope, when we have seen
Day after day pass on, and yet no sight,
No tidings of the expected happiness,
On which our being rested, we had fixed it
So deeply in our hearts,—he only knows
How much I suffered in those long, dull hours,
That heavily dragged on, and brought no dawn,
No token of it; still the same blank void
Closed me, and narrowed to a sepulchre's
Scant compass all the universe to me,
And left me nothing but to count my pulses,
And tell my hours by throbs. The air seemed thick
And deathly, and a sense of suffocation
Pressed on me, like a mountain's weight, and bore me
Seemingly down a gulf, from which I struggled
To lift me; but the ever-backward plunge
Hurried me, like the rushing of a torrent,
Farther and farther from all hope of light
Or the sweet face of heaven. O, had a star,
A single lonely star, one of the smallest,
That scarcely twinkles when the winter's night
Is clearest, and there is no moon to shade
The lesser lights, and the bright evening planet
Has set, and Jove not mounted yet his throne,
And made his vassals dim,—had such a star
Broke out a moment, from the thick obscure,
To tell me where to look upon the sky,
And, in that utter void, forget not where
To wait the dawning, I had then had hope,
And not been wholly desolate; and yet
None greeted me, but all was like a chaos,
After its waves have settled to a calm,
And even the swell, that follows on the storm,
Subsided into stillness.
Then, methought,
I heard a sound, like the far roar of winds
Amid the forest oaks, when the whole sea
Of branches tosses, as the coming tempest
Stoops from its car of clouds, and scourges them,
Till the wide wilderness bows to the dust
Before its anger. Such a hollow sound
Rolled onward, and, yet louder every moment,
Seemed like the rush of myriad wings, or sweep
Of mailed horsemen, when the beaten plain
Trembles, and, in the mid-encounter, wide
Their armor shocks and rings. A breathless fear,
A terror that had winged my flying feet,
Had not the deeper dread of what I knew not
Beyond the point I stood on held me fixed
And rooted to the ground, and with it, too,
A mingled feeling of desire and hope,
Wakened me from my trance, and turned me whence
The rushing came. Methought the darkness seemed
To fade, and from its womb a glimmering rose,
Pale and uncertain, as the flitting glance
Of moonlight through a storm. Anon it took
More fixedness, and then it reared itself
Into a dreamy shape, a wavering form,
Hovering in mist far on the sleeping waves,
When night is deep, and all the light in heaven
Just gives a visible outline, so that earth
Seems like a land of shadows. Then it stood
Before me, and a chill and spectral glare
Invested it, and as it onward drew,
With ominous bearing, I could dimly catch
Traces of human likeness, yet it seemed
More like a moon-struck ghost than living thing;
For there was not a motion in its limbs,
Gesture, or step, but it seemed borne along
On the swift tide of air,—its glaring eyeballs
Rolled not, and had no meaning, but they stared,
Like a blind statue's, with everted lids,
Glassy and cold,—and from its bloodless lips
There seemed to come no voice, for they were still,
And yet stood open, like the last fixed gasp
Of dissolution. Soon the vision neared me,
And then I heard a low and muttering sound,
Like the faint utterance of forbidden charms,
When, even herself in fear, the sorceress
Evokes the shades of hell, or calls the spirits
Whose dwelling is in air. Then, as I heard it,
I started and looked round me; for no breath
Quivered upon those ashy lips, and yet
I knew the voice came from them, and it sounded
Hollow, as from the tomb: “Creature of earth,
Child of despair and fear, of doubt and madness,
I bid thee follow me; the spell is on thee,
And where I go, thou must perforce attend me;
And I will show thee such unearthly things
As will not leave thee to thy dying day,
But haunt thee like the secret consciousness
Of undiscovered crime.” He said; and then
Turned from me, and went moving through the darkness,
Lofty and proud. At once I felt myself
Lifted, as by the sweeping of a tempest,
And borne along so rapidly, my breath
And sense were lost. Awhile I knew of nothing,
But that my flight was onward; then my brain
Grew wonted to the change, and fined itself,
So that all objects took a startling clearness,
Though seen in deepest shade. A magic world
Seemed bursting into being, wondrous, wild,
Majestic, beautiful, obscure, and dark,
Then bright to dazzling. Countless images
Crowded before me, till the eye was weary
In looking onward through the living sea,
That rolled upon me, like the toppling waves
Heaved from the womb of ocean, surge on surge,
To burst upon the shore. I hurried by them,
And back they rushed behind me, like the hills
And groves and towns and spires, when borne along
The bosom of some mighty stream by winds
That send the vessel through the frothy waves,
Like a shaft winged with fate. It were a tale
Too high for mortal utterance, to tell
The shapes that met me, and they ravished me
With such unearthly joy, the vision melted
In its own fervor, and I found myself
Alone in darkness.
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