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Harriett Jay

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{The City of Dream 1888}








O TELLER of the Fairy Tale Divine,
     How bright a dream was thine,—
Wherein God’s City shining as a star
     Gleam’d silently from far
O’er haunted wastes, where Pilgrims pale as death
     Toil’d slow, with bated breath!

Like children at thy knees we gather’d all,
     Man, maiden, great and small;
Tho’ death was nigh and snow was on our hair,
     Yet still we gather’d there,
Feeling upon our cheeks blow sweet and bland
     A breath from Fairyland!

The sunless Book, held ever on thy knee,
     Grew magical thro’ thee;
Touch’d by thy wand the fountain of our fear
     Sprang bright and crystal clear;
Thy right hand held a lily flower most fair,
     And holly deck’d thy hair.

Of Giants and of Monsters thou didst tell,                                           x
     Fiends, and the Pit of Hell                                                             [l.ii]
Of Angels that like swallows manifold
     Fly round God’s eaves of gold;
Of God Himself, the Spirit those adore,
     Throned in the City’s core!

O fairy Tale Divine! O gentle quest
     Of Christian and the rest!
What wonder if we love it to the last,
     Tho’ childish faith be past,
What marvel if it changes not, but seems
     The pleasantest of dreams?

Far other paths we follow—colder creeds
     Answer our spirits’ needs—
The gentle dream is done;—’neath life’s sad shades,
     The fabled City fades:—
The God within it, shooting from his throne,
     Falls, like a meteor stone!

So much is lost, yet still we mortals sad
     Despair not or grow mad,
But still search on, in hope to find full blest
     The City of our quest;—
New guides to lead; below, new lights of love,
     And grander Gods, above.

And while of this strange latter quest I sing,
     First to thy skirts I cling
Like to a child, and in thy face I look
     As in a gentle book,
And all thy happy lore and fancies wise
     I gather from thine eyes.

Tho' that first faith in Fairyland hath fled,                                              xi
     Its glory is not dead;
And tho’ the lesser truth exists no more,
     Yet in thy sweet Tale’s core
The higher truth of poesy divine
     For evermore shall shine.

There dwells within all creeds of mortal birth,
     That die and fall to earth,
A higher element, a spark most bright
     Of primal truth and light;—
No creed is wholly false, old creed or new,
     Since none is wholly true.

Wherefore we Pilgrims bless thee as we go
     With feeble feet and slow;
Light of forgotten Fairyland still lies
     Upon our cheeks and eyes;
And somewhere in the starry waste doth gleam
     The City of our Dream!




ONE Ishmael, born in an earthly City beside the sea, having heard strange tidings of a Heavenly City, sets forth to seek the same; and as he fares forth he is blindfolded by Evangelist, and given a Holy Book; reading which Book, he wanders on terrified and blindfold, until, coming by chance to the house of one Iconoclast, he is relieved of the bandage covering his eyes, and led to an eminence, whence he beholds all the Pilgrims of the World. Quitting Evangelist, he encounters Pitiful, and is directed towards the City of Christopolis, but in the crowded highway leading thitherward he meets Eglantine, who warns him that Christopolis is not the City of his quest. Yet nevertheless he proceeds thither in his new friend’s company. He wanders through Christopolis and sees strange sights therein; but being denounced for unbelief and heresy, he takes refuge beyond a great Gate dividing the City into two parts. Wise men accost him and warn him that peace and assurance are to be found only in the Book given him by Evangelist; but this in his perversity he denies, and casting away the Book is again denounced as unbelieving, xiv and driven out of the City into the dreary region beyond it. His talk with one Merciful, who beseeches him in vain to pause and pray. Flying on he knows not whither, he encounters rain and tempest, and takes shelter in a woeful Wayside Inn, where he meets the outcasts of all the creeds. His journey thence through the night, and his meeting with the wild horseman Esau, who carries him to the Groves of Faun, watched over by the shepherd Thyrsis and his child, a maid of surpassing beauty. Led by Thyrsis, he sees the Vales of Vain Delight, and after drinking of the Waters of Oblivion, beholds the living apparition of the Greek god Eros. He sails with Eros over strange waters, and comes betimes to an Amphitheatre among mountains, where he witnesses the sacrificial tragedy of Cheiron, and the transubstantiation of Eros. He passes through the Valley of Dead Gods, and finds there his townsman Faith lying dead and cold. Yet he dies not, but finds himself on a wan wayside, close to a rain-worn Cross, and holds speech with Sylvan, leaving whom he climbs again upward among mountains and shelters with the Hermit of the Mere. Thereon one Nightshade leads him up the highest peaks and shows him the Spectre of the Inconceivable; after which sight of wonder he finds himself worn and old, but emerges presently in full daylight on the Open Way, whence, after parleying with Lateral and with Microcos, he is guided by a gentle stranger to the gates of the City builded without God. His weary wanderings and experiences in that same xv City, latest and fairest of any built by Man, till the hour when, sickened and afraid, he forsakes it and flies on into the region of Monsters and strange births of Time. At last, in the winter of his pilgrimage, he beholds the old man Masterful, who becomes his guide to the brink of the Celestial Ocean; and now, standing on those mysterious shores, the highest peak of earth, he sees a Ship of Souls; but as it vanishes in the cćrulean haze, he awakens, and knows that all he hath seen—yea, all his spirit’s life-long quest—hath been only a Dream within a Dream.









IN the noontide of my days I had a dream,
And in my dream, which seem’d no dream at all,
I saw these things which here are written down.

And first methought, with terror on my heart,
I fled, like many a pilgrim theretofore,
From a dark City built beside the sea,
Crying, ‘I cannot any longer bear
The tumult and the terror and the tears,
The sadness, of the City where I dwell;
Sad is the wailing of the waters, sad
The coming and the going of the sun,
And sad the homeless echoes of the streets,
Since I have heard that up among the hills
There stands the City christen’d Beautiful,                                          2
Green sited, golden, and with heaven above it
Soft as the shining of an angel’s hair;
And thither comes not rain, or wind, or snow,
Nor the bleak blowing of Euroclydon,
Nor moans of many miserable men.’

Now in my dream meseem’d that I had known
A melancholy neighbour, old and blind,
Named Faith, led by a beauteous snow-white hound,
Named Peace; and this same Faith, grown worn and weak
With wandering up and down the weary ways,
Had one day learn’d, high up among the hills,
Strange tidings of the City Beautiful,
And heard in sooth a far-off melody
Of harps and lutes, blown from the heavenly gate.
Now, when he spake of this, upon his face
There grew a gleam like moonlight upon water,
Sweet with exceeding sadness; and at last,
Though blind, he had left his lonely home again,
And stolen across the valleys silently
At midnight; and he had return’d no more.

Him, after many melancholy days,
And many wrestlings with a darkening doubt,
I, Ishmael (lone descendant of a race                                                  3
Who chased the mirage among desert sands),
Follow’d in fear; and lo! I fled with speed
Like one who flees before some dreadful beast;
But just beyond our town I met with one
Clad in white robes and named Evangelist,
Who, at the threshold of his summer dwelling,
Girt round by plenteous harvest, sat and smiled;
To whom I cried:

                               ‘O thou who sittest here
In thy fair garden girt by golden glebe,
Instruct me (for thy beard is white and wise)
Which is the pathway to the heavenly City
Call’d Beautiful, first of the Land of Light?’

Then said Evangelist, with courteous smile:
‘O Pilgrim, close thine eyes, and wander on;
One Faith precedes thee, blind, led by a hound,
Else trusting God; and when thou stumblest, rise;
And when thou comest among thorns and flints,
Praise God and pray; and when in some deep slough
Thou flounderest, bless God and struggle through.
But chief, be warn’d, to walk with close-shut eyes
Is safest, seeing our twin eyes of flesh
Mislead us, and a thousand evil things                                                 4
Are made for our temptation. Grant me grace;
And I will give thee this brave Book to read,
And for the further safety of thy soul
Will bind this blessčd bandage o’er thine eyes,
To keep thy sight from evil. Though thine eyes
Be blind from seeing forward, ne’ertheless
Look down thou canst while wandering, and glean
The wisdom of the Book.’

                                           A space I paused,
Gazing into his coldly happy eyes,
Then cried: ‘But thou?—O master, answer me!—
Art thou content here in the dales to dwell,
Nor climb thyself the heavenly heights whereon
The wondrous City stands?’
                                               Then with a smile
As soft, as still, as is the snake of fire
Coil’d up and flickering on some happy hearth,
Evangelist replied: ‘My post is here,
Not on the mountains, nor a rocky place;
He whom I serve hath given me this my task
To blindfold pilgrims and to point them on;
This house is His, this porch with roses hung,
These golden fields; nor can I quit my post
Until He sends His own dark Angel down.’
And on my head methought Evangelist                                                5
Placed his soft hands in blessing; and my soul,
With one long sigh, one glance at the blue heaven,
Assented; and methought Evangelist
Did blindfold me, and set me on my way,
And place the Book within my hands to read,
Then softly singing in the summer sheen,
Cried, ‘Courage!’ as I wander’d from his sight.

And as I wander’d on, not seeing whither,
But trusting in some heavenly hand to guide,
I, casting down my gaze upon the Book,
Read these things, and was little comforted:—

In six days God the Lord made heaven and earth,
And rested from His labours on the seventh;
Dividing firmament from firmament,
Fishes He made, and flesh, and flying birds,
And, lastly, Man; next, from a rib of Man,
Woman. These twain He in a garden set,
Naked, and glad, and innocent of heart;
But in the centre of the garden placed
A Tree for their temptation. Thither came
The ancient snake upon his belly crawling,
And bade the woman pluck the fruit and eat.
And first the woman ate, and then the man,
And knew their nakedness, and were ashamed;                                  6
And furthermore an Angel with a sword
Drave them from Eden into the sunless waste.

From these twain had the generations come,
The million generations of the earth,
Bearing the burthen of that primal sin;
And whatsoever man is born on earth
Is born unto the issues of that sin,
Albeit each step he takes is predestined.

Further, I read the legend of the Flood,
Of Noah and of the building of an Ark,
And how the Maker (as a craftsman oft
Rejects a piece of labour ill begun)
Destroy’d His first work and began again
With sorrow and the symbol of the Dove.

Much, furthermore, I read of the first race
Of shepherds, Abraham’s race and Jacob’s race;
And of the chosen people God deliver’d
Out of the land of bondage. Portents burnt,
Strange omens came, wild scenes and faces flash’d
Before me, and I ever seem’d to hear
The rustle of the serpent; till I heard
The voice of David cursing to his harp
His enemies, and smiting hip and thigh,                                                7
And holding up his blood-stain’d hands to God.

And ever across my soul a vision flash’d
Of a most direful Form with robes of fire,
A footfall loud as many chariots,
A voice like thunder on a mountain-top,
And nostrils drinking up with joy divine
The crimson sacrifice of flesh and blood;
And ever as I read I felt my soul
Shake with exceeding fear, and stumbled on
With fleeter footsteps; and I fled for hours
Ere, with a fascination deep as death,
I cast my gaze upon the Book again.

And now I read of pale and wild-eyed kings,
Of sounding trumpets and of clarions,
The clash of hosts in carnage, and the shriek
Of haggard prophets standing on the heights,
And urging on the host as men urge hounds;
As in a mirror, darkly, I beheld
The generations drift like vapour past,
Driven westward by a whirlwind, while on high
The Breath Divine like fire came and went;
And, suddenly, the storm-cloud of the world
Uplifted,—there was light—stillness and death;
All nature lay as one vast battle-field,                                                   8
And cities numberless lay desolate,
And crowns were strewn about and broken swords,
And everywhere the vulture and the raven
Pick’d at the eyeballs of slain kings and churls;
And through the world a crimson river of blood
Ran streaming, till it wash’d the feet of God.

These things I gather’d, trembling like a leaf,
And moaning, ‘God of Thunder! save my soul!
Destroy me not, Destroyer! Pity me,
O Pitiless, but let Thine anger pass!’

And now, methought that I had left my home
Behind me, and was far beyond the town,
When, suddenly, I heard upon my path
A crowd of people hearkening to one
Who raised his voice aloud and prophesied.
‘Who speaks?’ I ask’d; and one, with low, deep laugh,
Said, ‘Only our old prophet, Hurricane:
He began early, and the people applauded;
But now the matter hath outgrown his wits,
And newer lights are risen.’ Whereon I said:
‘Methinks I know the man; he hath a house
Within a suburb of our town, and ever
He mocketh all his neighbours and the poor,                                        9
And praises only God, and priests, and kings.’

And in my dream I heard him, Hurricane,
Railing aloud to those who flock’d around:

‘Scum of the Maker’s scorn, what seek ye here?
Go, thou whose sin is black, and kiss the lash;
Haste, thou whose skin is white, and strike for kings.
O miserable generation, foam
That flashes from the Maker’s chariot-wheels,
What do you crave for, shrieking for a sign?
See yonder o’er your heads the sun and stars
Hang like bright apples on the Eternal Tree,
And day comes, and the night is wonderful,
And ćon after ćon, ’spite your groans,
The eternal Order stands. What seek ye, worms?
To shake away the slime of that first curse,
Spoken when ye were fashion’d out of dust?
It is the mission of the worm to crawl;
No snake is he, and cannot even sting
The heel that bruises him. Crawl on for ever;
Obey your masters here and yonder in heaven—
Ye cannot slough your sin or quit your curse.’

Then a voice deep and rough, as from the throat
Of some strong wight, responded:
                                                       ‘Softly, master!                          10
What profit comes of railing? We who hear,
An we were worms indeed, might creep and die;
But being men, we deem thy counsel blind,
And all thy words as impotent as sparks
Blown by the bellows from my smithy fire.
Nay, those thou bidst us honour are (I swear
By Tubal Cain, the founder of my craft!)
The plagues of this green earth. I know them well,
I rate them, I! the monsters of this earth,
Blind priests and prophets blind, and blindest kings,
And conquerors slaying in the name of God.’

Then Hurricane made answer, while a groan
Went through the inmost ranks of those who heard:
‘I tell you, ye are dust of evil, things
For mighty powers to work with. God is strength,
His blessing makes strong men, and they are strong
Who blister you and bind you to your doom,
Black slaves and white. Worms, do ye rave of rights?
I tell you, He who fashion’d you for pain,
And set you in a sad and sunless world,
Scatters your rights as the eternal sea
Loosens the fading foam-bells from its hair.
What man cried out, “There is no God at all?”
I swear to you, by sun, and stars, and moon,                                       11
By hunger, by starvation and disease,
By death, that there is God omnipotent,
Awful, a King, a strong God! yea, indeed,
The Maker of the whirlwind and the worm,
The judgment waiting in the heavens o’erhead,
The vengeance burning in the earth beneath,
The end of sin, the doom no man eludes,
Not even at the very gates of death!’

Now in my dream I shudder’d, for methought
I heard the living echo of the Book;
So, sick and sad at heart, I turn’d away,
And hasten’d, desolate, I knew not whither.

Methought I wander’d on and on, for long,
Shadow’d with sorrow, smitten through with sin,
Not heeding whither, blindfold, caring not
If the next step of my sad pilgrimage
Should be into some nameless, open grave.
But as I crept across the darken’d earth,
O’er which the sad sky shed a sobbing rain,
One cried to me, ‘Poor soul, take shelter here!
And following the summons of the voice
I felt the cold touch of an outstretch’d hand,
Which led me darkly through an open door,                                        12
Up steps of stone, into some unknown dwelling.

Then said I, pale, blindfolded, Book in hand:
‘Who spake? whose hand was that which led me hither?
And what strange dwelling have I enter’d in?’
And sharper, shriller than an eunuch’s voice
One answer’d, ‘But for that same blinding band
Across thine eyes thou for thyself couldst see—
Perchance, good man, my name is known to thee,
Iconoclast,—called sometimes “Gibe-at-God,”
Whose name hath travell’d over the wide earth.’

Then all my spirit darken’d for a moment,
For I had heard the name said under breath
With Satan’s and with Moloch’s and with Baal’s,
And my young soul had loathed the man who mock’d
All that the world deems holy. But as I stood,
Troubled and timorous, he did laugh aloud,
               ‘My name hath reach’d thee, I perceive,
And, though thou deem’st it evil, I have hope
To gain thy good opinion presently . . . .
Whence dost thou come? and whither dost thou go?’



I come from yonder City beside the sea,
And seek the Beautiful City of the Lord.



And dost thou think to gain that City’s gate
(If such a city there be, which travellers doubt)
Blindfolded, with that bandage on thine eyes?



Yea, verily; for a good man set it there,
Evangelist.—But wherefore dost thou laugh?



O foolish Pilgrim, wherefore did thy Lord,
Whoever made thee, or receives from thee
Credit for having made thee, give thee sight,
If thou consentest not to look, or see?



I know not. These are mysteries. Yet I know,
Evangelist did bid me journey thus.



I know the fellow, a fat trencher slave,
He wears no bandage, he, nor goeth forth
On pilgrimage, but sitteth in the sun,
Right prosperous, and eyes his golden glebe.
O fool, to be persuaded by this priest
Out of thy birthright; to be blind and dark;
The sun to see not, or the stars and moon,
Or any light that shines; to turn thy face
Into the tomb of dead intelligence;
To quit mortality and be a mole!



My townsman, Faith, precedes me: he is blind,
And yet he journeys safely through the land.



Leave faith to Faith; since the good, simple soul
Is eyeless, let his other senses thrive!
But thou hast eyes, and eyes were given thee
To see with; that to doubt, were blasphemy!



Why should I see? This Book held in my hand
Assures me ’tis a miserable world,
Base, burthen’d, and most bleak to look upon.



See for thyself! Wherefore consult a Book
Upon a point of eyesight? Look, and see!



I dare not. I am stricken dumb and sad,
After the testimony written here.



If there be misery in the ways thou treadest,
If this thine earth be wretched and unclean,
It is because so many walk in blindness,
And read the dreary gospel written there.



How may that be? God fashion’d all things well;
And only by man’s sin did all grow sad.



Assuredly; God fashion’d all things well.



And all had still been well had man not eaten
The bitter Tree of Knowledge, and been shamed.



Softly, good friend; that is the one good tree
Adam ne’er tasted, not to speak of Eve
Or any wiser woman. Cast that Book
Over thy shoulder! Leave the dreary dream;
Forswear the apple and the fig-leaf; cease
To credit fables old of fire and flood;
Quit gloomy visions and crude eastern nights
Of legendary horror: in a word,
Cast off thy bandage and thine ignorance,
And look abroad upon thy destiny!

So saying, with one quick movement of his hand,
Iconoclast did snatch from off my brows
The bandage placed there by Evangelist;
And lo! I scream’d, and with my trembling fingers
Cover’d mine eyes, then, trembling like a leaf,
Perused the stranger’s face, and saw it full
Of many wrinkles, and a snake-like sneer
Playing about the edges of the lips.
And it was noon, noon of a cold grey day,
A silvern, melancholy light in heaven,
All calm, the prospects and the distances
Sharp and distinct to vision, but no sun.

‘Where am I?’ next I murmur’d; and, ‘Behold,’                                  17
Answer’d that other, ‘on an eminence
Thou standest, named Mount Clear; for all the air
Is crystal pure, and hither rise no mists.
Follow me higher; far above my dwelling
I have built a solitary garden-seat,
Commanding a great prospect o’er the earth.’
Methought I follow’d, and we gain’d the height,
And, full of wonder now, I look’d abroad.

I saw great valleys and green watery wastes,
Deep-shelter’d woods and marshes full of mist,
And rivers winding seaward; then, mine eyes
Following the winding rivers, I beheld,
Far away, silent, solemn, grey, and still,
The waters of the Ocean; and thereon
Sat, like a sea-bird on the ribbčd sand,
A City that I knew to be mine own;
But following the windings of the coast
I beheld other Cities like mine own,
All hungrily set beside the wash of waves,
Looking expectant, seaward; and from each
Came solitary figures as of men,
Mere specks upon the highways and the fields,
All toiling, as it seem’d, with constant feet                                            18
To those green slopes whereon I stood at gaze.

Then as I look’d, and wonder’d, in mine ear
The old man murmur’d: ‘Lo, thou lookest on
The Cities of the Nations of the Earth,
Each crouching by the sad shores of the Sea
Infinite, dreadful, mighty, without bound;
And in each City thou dost look upon
A different legend and a different God
Lengthen man’s misery and make him mad;
Further, from City unto City have gone
Tidings of that same City Beautiful
Thou seekest; at the gate of each there sits
An arch-priest, like thine own Evangelist,
Blindfolding those who wearily set forth;
And these, the Pilgrims thou beholdest now
As specks afar, go stumbling sadly on;
And if they perish not upon the way,
As ninety-nine in every hundred perish,
Hither among the hills of ironstone
They, slowly ascending, by such hands as mine
Are of their blinded ignorance relieved.’

Whereat I cried, in bitterness of heart:
‘I see, but seeing comfort find I none,
But all thou showest me is sick and sad,                                             19
For lo! the things I fled from, the sad Earth,
The melancholy City, the grey Heaven,
And the vast silence of the unfathomed Sea!’
And turning to Iconoclast, I cried:
‘Thy words are shallow, and thy counsel blind!
Lo! thou hast snatch’d the bandage from my eyes,
And I perceive the fables of the Book;
What shall I do, and whither shall I go?’

‘Haste homeward!’ smiling said Iconoclast;
‘Back to thine earthly City, work thy work,
And dream of Cities in the clouds no more.’

But with a moan, uplifting hands, I cried:
‘Whither, oh whither? To return is Death,
For mine own City is dreadful, and the Sea
Hath voices, and the homeless winds of woe
Wander with white feet wearily on the deep;
And every slope beside the sea is green
With the dead generations; and I seek
A City fairer and not perishable,
Peaceable and holy, in the Land of Light!’

Then did Iconoclast, with bitter scorn,
Cry: ‘’Tis an infant moaning for the moon,
For the moon’s phantom in the running brook.
O fool! there is no City Beautiful                                                         20
Beyond these Cities of the Earth thou seest!’

But turning now my back upon the Sea,
And on my native City, I beheld
A mighty land of hills. There, far away,
Beyond the pastoral regions at my feet,
Beyond the quiet lanes and wayside wells,
Rose mountains, darken’d by deep woods of pine,
With air-hung bridges spanning cataracts,
And rainbows o’er the waters hovering;
Mists moved, celestial shadows came and went,
While higher, dim against the blue, there rose
Peaks soft as sleep, white with eternal snow.

‘What land is that?’ I question’d; and the other
Answer’d: ‘I know not; nay, nor seek to know;
For those be perilous regions, with an air
Too thin for man to breathe; yet many, I wis,
Have travell’d thither (O the weary way!),
But never a one hath hither come again.
And how they fared I know not, yet I dream
That never one doth reach those frigid heights,
But on the crags and ’mid the pathless woods
They perish, and the skeleton hands of Frost
Cling to them, breaking up their bleaching bones!’

But now I cried: ‘O fool that I have been                                            21
To talk with such a shallow soul so long!
A scoffing voice like to the mocking-bird’s,
The dreary echo of a hollow sound
Bred in an empty heart. For, lo! I see
The land afar, and, though the ways be dire,
Thither I fare, since, far among the heights,
Beyond the scoffer’s voice, beyond these vales,
Beyond the weary wailings of the sea,
First in its place the Heavenly City stands!’

So stood I trembling in the act to go,
When grey Iconoclast, with cynic sneer,
Not angry, cried: ‘Stay yet!—I had forgot!
Not far beyond these valleys lies indeed
A City wondrous smiling to the sight
Like that which thou art seeking. In its streets
Full many a prosperous pilgrim findeth peace.’
And, smiling bitterly, as if in scorn,
He added: ‘O’er the mighty earth its fame
Hath travell’d on four winds! Who hath not heard
Of this same City of Christopolis?’

Then I upleapt i’ the air and waved my hands.
‘The name! the name!—He built it with His blood!—
I charge thee on thy life, point out the way!’
‘Thou canst not miss it,’ said Iconoclast;
‘For if the milestone or the finger-post                                                 22
Should fail thee, only seek the open road,
And there beshrew me if thou meetest not
With many of its priestly citizens,
Who will direct thee onward willingly.
Still, if thou lovest wisdom, be advised—
Turn back and hasten home. Christopolis,
Methinks, is not the City of thy quest.’

‘How knowest thou that?’ I cried, full eagerly.
‘Hast thou thyself fared thither?’
Answered the greybeard; ‘more, within its streets
I first drew breath!’



                                 I understand thee not.
Born there, and yet, alas! thou sittest here?



I could not choose. She from whose womb I came,
More mighty than my yet unwoven will,
Would have it so!—and thus on golden streets
I ran, and under golden fanes I played,
And in the splendour of Christopolis
I fed and throve, till, weary of so much light,
While yet a fleet-heel’d boy I fled away.



Fled? From thy birthplace? from thy happiness?
O fool, to quit the paths and ways of peace!



I was not peaceful in those peaceful ways,
I did not love my birthplace. So I fled.



Was it not fair?



                           Most fair.



                                               And holy?



                                                             In sooth,
My nurses said so much.



                                     Yet thou art here!



I loved my freedom better far than fanes:
Within those scented shrines I could not breathe.
Besides, the people were idolaters,—                                                 24
Fools of the fig-leaf, blind inheritors
Of that sad symbol of a slaughter’d God.
I left them, and I came to warn the world
Against the follies I had left behind,
Or haply now and then with this weak arm
To aid some miserable human thing
Their citizens have hunted even hither!’

He added, with a strange and inward smile:
‘Go thither, if thou wilt—seek out its gates—
Remember that I warn’d thee ’twas in vain.’

More might his lips have spoken garrulously,
But swiftly down the silent heights I ran,
Thrusting the Book into my breast; and now
Methought my soul was wroth against the man,
Iconoclast. Most fleet of foot I fled,
Until I reach’d the shadowy vale below,
Through whose green heart there wound a dusty way
Where many men and women came and went.
But as I leapt a brook to gain the road,
Suddenly on mine ears there swept a sound,
A tumult, then a tramp of horses’ feet,
Sharp yelp of hounds, and all the cries o’ the chase.

Wondering I stood, and lo! across the meads,                                     25
There came a naked man who shriek’d for dread,
Speeding as swift as any dappled deer;
And close behind him silent blood-hounds ran,
Swiftly, with crimson nostrils to the ground;
And after these came a great company,
Priests in red robes, and hoary crownčd Kings,
And pallid Queens with grey and golden hair,
With countless savage slaves that ran afoot,
And huntsmen, shrieking, ‘In the name of God!’
And much I fear’d the hounds behind the man,
Lolling their crimson tongues to drink his life;
And lo! they would have caught and rent the man,
But, suddenly, he sprang with one swift bound
Over the threshold of a house of stone,
A lowly place white-visaged like a shrine,
That at the corner of a little wood
Stood with a spire that pointed up to heaven.
Therein he leapt and vanish’d through a door
That stands for ever open; and the train
Were following when there rose beneath the porch
A figure like an angel with one hand
Outreaching; and they dare not enter in,
But with a sullen roar, clashing like waves,
Broke at the threshold, foam’d, and were repell’d.
Then, gazing past the Spirit, I beheld                                                   26
A chancel and an altar, and the man,
With panting mouth and wild eyes backward gazing,
Cast prone before the altar, faint with fear;
And further, full of wonder, raising eyes,
I read these words written above the porch—
‘Iconoclast hath built this church to God!’

Then did I pray and weep, crying aloud:
‘Lord, let me judge not, since Thou art my Judge,
For I perceive an angel bright doth guard
The Temple of the Scoffer, and the same
May be Thy servant, though his place be set
Outside Thy City, in a rocky place.’
Then turning, I gazed upward, and behold!
On the cold eminence above my head,
I saw Iconoclast in milk-white robes
Walking with sunlight on his reverent hair;                                            [l.xvii]
And as he walk’d upon the golden sward
He scatter’d seeds and call’d, and many doves,
That rear’d their young beneath his lonely eaves,
Came fluttering down in answer to his call,
Making a snow around him, and were fed.


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Page x, l. ii: Fiends, and the Pit of Hell;
Page 26, l. xvii: Walking with sunlight on his reverend hair; ]



The City of Dream continued

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The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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