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Lord Byron (1788–1824). Poetry of Byron. 1881.

I. Personal, Lyric, and Elegiac

The Dream

I SAW two beings in the hues of youth

Standing upon a hill, a gentle hill,

Green and of mild declivity, the last

As ’twere the cape of a long ridge of such,

Save that there was no sea to lave its base,

But a most living landscape, and the wave

Of woods and cornfields, and the abodes of men

Scatter’d at intervals, and wreathing smoke

Arising from such rustic roofs; the hill

Was crown’d with a peculiar diadem

Of trees, i circular array, so fix’d,

Not by the sport of nature, but of man:

These two, a maiden and a youth, were there

Gazing—the one on all that was beneath

Fair as herself—but the boy gazed on her;

And both were young, and one was beautiful:

And both were young—yet not alike in youth.

As the sweet moon on the horizon’s verge,

The maid was on the eve of womanhood;

The boy had fewer summers, but his heart

Had far outgrown his years, and to his eye

There was but one beloved face on earth,

And that was shining on him; he had look’d

Upon it till it could not pass away;

He had no breath, no being, but in hers;

She was his voice; he did not speak to her,

But trembled on her words; she was his sight,

For his eye follow’d hers, and saw with hers,

Which colour’d all his objects:—he had ceased

To live within himself; she was his life,

The ocean to the river of his thoughts,

Which terminated all: upon a tone,

A touch of hers, his blood would ebb and flow,

And his cheek change tempestuously—his heart

Unknowing of its cause of agony.

But she in these fond feelings had no share:

Her sighs were not for him; to her he was

Even as a brother—but no more; ’twas much,

For brotherless she was, save in the name

Her infant friendship had bestow’d on him;

Herself the solitary scion left

Of a time-honour’d race.—It was a name

Which pleased him, and yet pleased him not—and why?

Time taught him a deep answer—when she loved

Another; even now she loved another,

And on the summit of that hill she stood

Looking afar if yet her lover’s steed

Kept pace with her expectancy and flew.

A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.

There was an ancient mansion, and before

Its walls there was a steed caparison’d:

Within an antique Oratory stood

The Boy of whom I spake;—he was alone,

And pale, and pacing to and fro: anon

He sate him down, and seized a pen, and traced

Words which I could not guess of; then he lean’d

His bow’d head on his hands, and shook as ’twere

With a convulsion—then arose again,

And with his teeth and quivering hands did tear

What he had written, but he shed no tears.

And he did calm himself, and fix his brow

Into a kind of quiet: as he paused,

The Lady of his love re-enter’d there;

She was serene and smiling then, and yet

She knew she was by him beloved,—she knew,

For quickly comes such knowledge, that his heart

Was darken’d with her shadow, and she saw

That he was wretched, but she saw not all.

He rose, and with a cold and gentle grasp

He took her hand; a moment o’er his face

A tablet of unutterable thoughts

Was traced, and then it faded, as it came;

He dropp’d the hand he held, and with slow steps

Retired, but not as bidding her adieu,

For they did part with mutual smiles; he pass’d

From out the massy gate of that old Hall,

And mounting on his steed he went his way;

And ne’er repass’d that hoary threshold more.

A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.

The Boy was sprung to manhood: in the wilds

Of fiery climes he made himself a home,

And his Soul drank their sunbeams: he was girt

With strange and dusky aspects; he was not

Himself like what he had been; on the sea

And on the shore he was a wanderer;

There was a mass of many images

Crowded like waves upon me, but he was

A part of all; and in the last he lay

Reposing from the noontide sultriness,

Couch’d among fallen columns, in the shade

Of ruin’d walls that had survived the names

Of those who rear’d them; by his sleeping side

Stood camels grazing, and some goodly steeds

Were fasten’d near a fountain; and a man

Clad in a flowing garb did watch the while,

While many of his tribe slumber’d around:

And they were canopied by the blue sky,

So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful,

That God alone was to be seen in Heaven.

A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.

The Lady of his love was wed with One

Who did not love her better:—in her home,

A thousand leagues from his,—her native home,

She dwelt, begirt with growing Infancy,

Daughters and sons of Beauty,—but behold!

Upon her face there was the tint of grief,

The settled shadow of an inward strife,

And an unquiet drooping of the eye

As if its lid were charged with unshed tears.

What could her grief be?—she had all she loved,

And he who had so loved her was not there

To trouble with bad hopes, or evil wish,

Or ill-repress’d affliction, her pure thoughts.

What could her grief be?—she had loved him not,

Nor given him cause to deem himself beloved,

Nor could he be a part of that which prey’d

Upon her mind—a spectre of the past.

A change came o’er the spirit of my dream,

The Wanderer was return’d.—I saw him stand

Before an Altar—with a gentle bride;

Her face was fair, but was not that which made

The Starlight of his Boyhood;—as he stood

Even at the altar, o’er his brow there came

The self-same aspect, and the quivering shock

That in the antique Oratory shook

His bosom in its solitude; and then—

As in that hour—a moment o’er his face

The tablet of unutterable thoughts

Was traced,—and then it faded as it came,

And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke

The fitting vows, but heard not his own words,

And all things reel’d around him; he could see

Not that which was, nor that which should have been—

But the old mansion, and the accustom’d hall,

And the remember’d chambers, and the place,

The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade,

All things pertaining to that place and hour,

And her who was his destiny, came back

And thrust themselves between him and the light:

What business had they there at such a time?

A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.

The Lady of his love;—Oh! she was changed

As by the sickness of the soul; her mind

Had wander’d from its dwelling, and her eyes

They had not their own lustre, but the look

Which is not of the earth; she was become

The queen of a fantastic realm; her thoughts

Were combinations of disjointed things;

And forms impalpable and unperceived

Of others’ sight, familiar were to hers.

And this the world calls frenzy; but the wise

Have a far deeper madness, and the glance

Of melancholy is a fearful gift;

What is it but the telescope of truth?

Which strips the distance of its fantasies,

And brings life near in utter nakedness,

Making the cold reality too real!

A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.

The Wanderer was alone as heretofore,

The beings which surrounded him were gone,

Or were at war with him; he was a mark

For blight and desolation, compass’d round

With Hatred and Contention; Pain was mix’d

In all which was served up to him, until,

Like to the Pontic monarch of old days,

He fed on poisons, and they had no power,

But were a kind of nutriment; he lived

Through that which had been death to many men,

And made him friends of mountains: with the stars

And the quick Spirit of the Universe

He held his dialogues; and they did teach

To him the magic of their mysteries;

To him the book of Night was open’d wide,

And voices from the deep abyss reveal’d

A marvel and a secret—Be it so.

My dream was past; it had no further change.

It was of a strange order, that the doom

Of these two creatures should be thus traced out

Almost like a reality—the one

To end in madness—both in misery.