A Vision

I have been haunted by an awful dream,—
A vision of my childhood,—one that grew
From an o'erheated fancy, nursed to fear
In a dark, visionary creed. A star,
Of a malign aspect, had been to me,
For a few weeks of dread uncertainty,
The prophet of evil; and I saw in it
The minister of judgments, such as oft
Had been denounced before me, and had grown
To an undoubting faith.
Methought that star,
As in a vision of the night I lay,
Stood with its train directed to the earth;
And every moment it did spread itself,
And grew a deeper crimson. Where I was,
I could not tell; but I stood gazing on it
With unaverted eye, and I could watch it
Taking ten thousand fiery shapes, and changing
To every terrible hue and form, and still
Widening and widening out its burning orb,
Till a whole quarter of the heavens was red
And glowing like a furnace. Then, methought,
A form stood visible within it, vast
And indistinct, as a far mountain seen
Through a dense vapor, when the morning strikes it,
And makes it such a thing as the mind frames,
When it goes wandering through the infinite,
And builds on dreams. I gazed upon it, charmed
And fascinated by its terrible glory,
And with it such a sense of fear, the drops
Stood thick upon my forehead, and my heart
Was near to bursting. 'Twas an agony
Of wonder and of death; for I beheld
Already come the day of doom, and earth
Seemed parched and burnt by the intensity
Of that approaching flame. The sky above
Was like a vaulted furnace, and it quivered
And sparkled in the heat, and at the centre,
Transparent in the fierceness of its fire,
Still that illimitable form did frown
Blacker than tenfold night. His quick approach
Left me no time to scan him, but he seemed
To gather in himself all I had heard
Or dreamed of horrible. A muttering sound,
Like that of far-off winds, or smothered flame
Roaring in caves,—a sound that fell like fate
On my stunned ear,—came as a warning voice,
That earth was now within the wasting sphere
Of that consuming plague. At once the wind
Seemed to blow over me, with hot, thick breath,
Wafting such clouds of smoke and sheets of fire,
That all around me seemed one conflagration;
And even the firm foundations of the hills
Cracked and fell inward, and one long, long peal
Gave warning, that this ponderous globe was rent
And shivered. Suddenly a burst of flame,
So clear and strong no thought can image it,
Filled the whole visible space; and still it flashed,
And flashed, till in an instant utter darkness
Closed heavily around me, and I woke:
I woke, and yet the horrors of that dream
Would visit me at times, even when I grew
To know its causes, and could reason of it;
And though the mind moved in its own pure light,
And stood aloof from fear, yet there were moments,
When the dark memory of this dream would quell me
Well-nigh to trembling.
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