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Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950). Spoon River Anthology. 1916.

243. Elijah Browning

I WAS among multitudes of children

Dancing at the foot of a mountain.

A breeze blew out of the east and swept them as leaves,

Driving some up the slopes.… All was changed.

Here were flying lights, and mystic moons, and dream-music.

A cloud fell upon us. When it lifted all was changed.

I was now amid multitudes who were wrangling.

Then a figure in shimmering gold, and one with a trumpet,

And one with a sceptre stood before me.

They mocked me and danced a rigadoon and vanished.…

All was changed again. Out of a bower of poppies

A woman bared her breasts and lifted her open mouth to mine.

I kissed her. The taste of her lips was like salt.

She left blood on my lips. I fell exhausted.

I arose and ascended higher, but a mist as from an iceberg

Clouded my steps. I was cold and in pain.

Then the sun streamed on me again,

And I saw the mists below me hiding all below them.

And I, bent over my staff, knew myself

Silhouetted against the snow. And above me

Was the soundless air, pierced by a cone of ice,

Over which hung a solitary star!

A shudder of ecstasy, a shudder of fear

Ran through me. But I could not return to the slopes—

Nay, I wished not to return.

For the spent waves of the symphony of freedom

Lapped the ethereal cliffs about me.

Therefore I climbed to the pinnacle.

I flung away my staff.

I touched that star

With my outstretched hand.

I vanished utterly.

For the mountain delivers to Infinite Truth

Whosoever touches the star!