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{The City of Dream 1888}







STILL listening to that stately Eremite,
And gently gazing on the snowy Maid
Who glided on before us golden-hair’d,
We pass’d into a mighty forest grove,
When on mine eager ears there swept a sound
Of birds innumerable on leafy boughs
Singing aloud!—and as we softly trod
The mossy carpet of the broad bright glade,
With trees of ancient growth on either side,
We suddenly beheld a group of forms,
That, clustering before us on the sward,
With large, brown, lustrous eyes fix’d full on ours,
Stood like a startled flock of fallow-deer
Prepared to spring away; yet shaped like men
Were these, though hairy were their limbs, their feet
Cloven like feet of swine, and all their ears,
That large and hairy twinkled in the sun,
Prick’d up to listen. Golden shone the light
Upon them, and their shadows on the sward
Were softly strewn, as thither with quick cry                                      175
Hasten’d the Maid; but, ere into their midst
Her feet could spring, they ev’n as startled deer
Leapt, flitted, vanish’d, with a faint, wild cry
Like human laughter on a hill-top heard,
Forlorn and indistinct; but as their shapes
Vanish’d afar, deep down the emerald glade
A thousand sylvan echoes answer’d them,
And from the leaves on either side the way
Innumerable faces flash’d, as fair
As ever wood-nymph wore. Then did I know
Those glades were haunted by the flocks of Faun;
The Satyr dwelt there, and the Sylvan throng,
And in the wood’s hot heart the Naïad fill’d
The hollow of her white outstretchèd hand
With drops of summer dew.

                                               And as I went
I gladden’d more; for never groves of earth
Were half so fair as those wherein I trod.
Statues of marble, mystically wrought,
Gleam’d in the open spaces cool and white
As shapes of snow; and here and there were strewn
The ruin’d steps of marble white and red,
Or broken marble columns moss-bestain’d,
That show’d where once a Temple had been raised
To Pan or Faunus, or some lesser god                                               176
Of wood or stream; and though those temples fair
Were overthrown, the Spirits unto whom
They had been raised were there, and merry amid
The ruins of the shrine.

                                     ‘I know them well,’
I murmur’d, smiling, ‘these enchanted groves,
Where Faunus leads his legions ruminant;
And where Selene, with soft silvern feet,
Walks every summer night; and well I know
They are but conjurations of the sense
Which sees them—shadows, neither less nor more,
Of Nature’s primal joy.’

                                         The Shepherd smiled,
And said: ‘The substance, not the shadow. These,
And all such joyous images as these,
Are elemental—weary were the world
Whence they were wholly flown. Once on a time
They peopled the wide earth, and man might mark
At every roadside, and by every door,
Flower-crown’d Priapus, the fair child of Pan,
Close kin to Love and Death; but now they haunt
Only the places of the solitude
Where mortals seldom creep. Seen or unseen,
Known or unknown, they are immortal, part
Of that eternal youth and happiness                                                    177
Which first created them, and whence they draw
Their brightness and their being.’

We wander’d on, and now our footsteps fell
In scented shade. From every nook i’ the leaves
A Spirit peep’d; o’erhead from every bough
A Spirit sang!—and ever and anon,
Out of the flower-enwoven and emerald gloom,
White arms were waved, while voices soft as sleep
Did whisper, ‘Come!’ Calm through the thronging flowers
Whose honey’d sweets were crushed against his lips,
The Shepherd trod. The bright light fell subdued
Upon the snow of his divine grey hair,
And every woodland Spirit that upsprang
To clasp him in her warm and naked arms,
Gazed for a moment in his solemn eyes,
Then like a fountain falling sank in shame
To kiss his feet. The marble Maiden moved
Untouch’d by any of the glittering beams,
Pure as a dewdrop the light gleams upon
Yet cannot drink, while lost in light my soul
Sprang from its sheath of sorrow, and in the sun
Hover’d like any golden butterfly!
I leapt i’ the joyful air, I laugh’d aloud,                                                178
I stretch’d mine arms to every flashing form,
I kiss’d fair faces fading into flowers,
I drank the sunshine down like golden wine;
And, lastly, sinking on a rainbow’d bank,
O’er-canopied by faces, forms, and eyes,
That changed and changed to radiant fruit and flowers
With every breathing of the summer wind,
I cried, ‘Farewell! Leave me to linger here.
My quest was vain, but oh, these bowers are blest!
I’ll roam no further!’

                                   ‘Rise!’ the old man said;
‘Who linger in these vales of vain delight
Perish betimes; it is thy privilege
To share as doth a master, not a slave,
Fair Nature’s primal joy! On every side
See scatter’d those who lie too wholly lost
Ever to rise again.’ And all around,
Across the tangled paths on every side,
I saw indeed that many mortal shapes
Were fallen like o’er-ripe fruit; and many of these
Were clad as if for heavenly pilgrimage,
Yea, arm’d with staff and scrip; but o’er them bent
Women so lustrous and so sweetly pale
They seem’d of marble and moonlight interblent,
And yet so bright and warm in nakedness                                            179
They seem’d of living flesh. Ah, God, to see
Their syren faces, dead-eyed like the Sphynx,
Yet lustrous-cheek’d, with bright vermilion lips
Like poppy-flowers! Yet sadder still than theirs
The faces that below them on the grass
Flash’d amorous of the very breath they drew!
Pale youths and students Time had snow’d upon;
Gaunt poets, clasping to their cold breast-bones
Their harps of gold; and hunters, clad in green,
Gross-mouth’d and lewd; and kings, that proffer’d crowns
For one cold kiss; and senile agéd men,
Who shook like palsied leaves upon the tree
With every thrill of sylvan melody
That breathed beneath the overhanging boughs.
These things beholding, to my feet I sprang
With piteous cry, and as I gazed around
Low voices from the scented darkness sang,
In slumbrous human tones:—


Kiss, dream, and die!—love, let thy lips divine
In one long heavenly kiss be seal’d to mine,
     While singing low the flower-crown’d Hours steal by—
Thy beauty warms my blood like wondrous wine—
While yet the sun hangs still in yonder sky,
                   Kiss, dream, and die!

Dream,—while I kiss!—Dream, in these happy bowers,                     180
Thy naked limbs and body strewn with flowers,
     Thy being scented thro’ with balmy bliss—
Dream, love, of heavenly light and golden showers,
Melting to touch of lips, like this—and this—
                   Dream, while I kiss!

Kiss, while I dream!—Kiss with thy clinging lips,
With clasp of hands and thrill of finger-tips,
     With breasts that heave and fall, with eyes that beam—
Long, lingering, as the wild-bee clings and sips,
Deep, as the rose-branch trail’d in the hot stream,—
                   Kiss, while I dream!

Kiss, dream, and die!—Love, after life comes Death,
No spirit to rapture reawakeneth
     When once Love’s sun hath sunk in yonder sky—
Cling closer, drink my being, drain my breath,—
Soul answering soul, in one last rapturous sigh,
                   Kiss, dream, and die!


                                   As the voice ceased,
There flash’d across the haunted forest-path
A flock so strange that even the happy Maid
Stood still, and gazed. A Spirit led the way
Like Bacchus crown’d with grapes and leaves of vine,
And wingéd too like Love; but underneath
The falling tresses of his golden hair
A death’s head smiled; on a white steed he rode                                181
Caparison’d with gold; and at his back
The tumult follow’d—Satyrs, Nymphs, and Fauns,
Pale Queens with crowns; dishevell’d naked maids;
Priapus next, the laughing garden-god,
Raining ripe fruit around and leaves of gold;
Then Ethiop dancers, clashing cymbals bright;
And after them, supreme among the rest,
A livid Conqueror like Cæsar’s self
With wild beasts chainéd to his chariot-wheels;
Behind him drunken legions blood-bestain’d,
With captives wailing in their midst. These pass’d;
Then, mounted on a jet-black stallion’s back,
Herodias, bearing in her naked lap
A hoary, bleeding head; and after her
A troop commingled from all times and climes—
Pale knights in armour, on whose shoulders sat
Nixes or elves; goths, mighty-limb’d and grim;
Pale monks, with hollow cheeks and lean long hands;
Nuns from the cloister, whose wild, hectic cheeks
Burn’d red as blood between their ghastly bands;
And bringing up the rear a hideous flock
Of idiot children, twisted with disease,
And laughing in a mad and mindless mirth.

And gazing after them with gentle eyes                                                 182
The old man sigh’d: ‘They follow Death, not Love!—
From every corner of the populous earth
They come to mar that primal happiness
Which is the root of being!’

                                         But I cried,
Raising my hands: ‘Is it not pitiful?
Is it not hateful and most pitiful?
Lo, out of every innocent bower of flowers,
And out of every bed where Love may sleep,
The Shape with “Thanatos” upon its brow
Dreadfully peeps! Why may not Man be glad,
Forgetting death and darkness for an hour?
Is it so evil to be happy? Nay!
Yet the one cup God proffers to his seed
Is wormwood, wormwood!’

                                             As I spake the Maid,
Coming upon a little mossy well,
That fill’d up softly as a dewy eye
And ever look’d at heaven through azure tears,
Stood white as any lamb upon the brink,
And on her dim sweet double down below
Dropt leaves and flowers, and smiled for joy to see
Her image broken into flakes of snow                                                 183
But ever mingling beautiful again
Whene’er the soft shower ceased. While on her face,
Serene yet masterful in innocence,
I gazed in awe, the old man answer’d me:
‘Ev’n as the Gorgon mother ate her young,
Nature for ever feeds on and consumes
Those creatures who, too frail to quit her breast,
Miss the full height and privilege of Man!
I say again that Man was made supreme,
Radiant and strong, to conquer with a smile
The transports that he shares;
And he by wisdom or by innocence
May conquer if he will;
And surely he who learns to conquer Love
Hath learnt to conquer Death! Behold my child!
See where she stands like marble ’mid the beam
That beats so brightly on her sinless brows.
As she is, must thy soul be—if thy soul
Would read our creed aright.’

                                                 But I return’d,
Bitterly smiling, ‘She? thine icicle!
Cold to the kiss of Man, what knoweth she
Of love or joy?’
                             Still as a star her face                                            184
Turn’d full upon me, with a beam so sad,
So strange in sorrow and divine despair,
My heart within me shook; and though she had heard
She spake not, but moved onward silently;
And sinking low his voice, and following her,
Her foster-father cried:
                                       ‘Is there no joy
But riot? Is there no immortal love
To make eternal hunger sweeter far
Than lustful feasts? O blind and wayward one,
Hadst thou but seen what these sad eyes have seen,
The passionate eternal purity
Walking these shadowy woods with silvern feet!
I bear the lifelong glory in my heart,
And with the splendour of its own despair
My soul is glad!’

                         I answer’d him again,
Still mocking, ‘Keep thy vision!—she, perchance,
Some night may look on hers!’

                                               ‘By night and day,’
Return’d the Shepherd very solemnly,
‘By night and day my child beholdeth him,
And quencheth all the fiery flame o’ the sense                                     185
Against his image, and is sadly glad.
Perchance ere long thine eyes may see him too,
And kiss his holy feet as she hath done.
But now,’ he added, looking sadly down
On the bright bowers around him, ‘stay not here;
For if thou dost, we twain must part, and thou
Fade back to flower, or dwindle back to beast,
As these thou seest are doing momently.
Come!’ And he held me gently with his hand,
And drew me softly on. Like one that sleeps,
And sleeping seems to totter heavy-eyed
Through woods of poppy and rank hellebore,
Feebly I moved; my head swam; on my lips
Linger’d sour savours as of dregs of wine,
And all my soul with sick and shameful thirst
Woke, as a drunkard after deep debauch
Wakes to the shiver of a glimmering dawn.
In vain ripe fruits were crush’d against my lips,
In vain the branches with their blossom’d arms
Entwined around me; vainly in my face
The naked dryad and the wood-nymph laugh’d.
Past these I drave as fiercely as a ship
Before the beating of a bitter wind,
And crushing fruit and blossom under foot,
Tearing the tangled tracery apart,
I wander’d on for hours. Nor did I pause                                           186
Till from that wondrous Grove my feet had pass’d,
And once again in open glades we stood
Under the azure canopy of heaven.

Now I beheld we stood upon the bank
Of a broad river flowing along between
Deep banks of flowering ferns and daffodils—
A gentle river winding far away
Under green trees that hung their laden boughs
And shed their fruits upon it lavishly;
Yet cool the water seem’d, and silvern bright
As any star, and on the boughs above it
Sat doves as white as snow, brooding for joy,—
And by its brim one crane of glittering gold
With bright shade lengthening from the pensive light
Stood, knee-deep in the mosses of the marge.
Slowly my sense grew clear. ‘What place is this?’
I murmur’d; ‘Say, what place divine is this—
God’s home, or Love’s, or Death’s!’ but in mine ear
The gentle voice replied, ‘Question no more,
But at the brink stoop down, and bathe thy brows;
And if thou thirstest, drink!’ So on the marge
I stoop’d, and in my hollow’d hand did lift
The waters, scattering them upon my face,                                          187
And tasting; and the fever from my frame
Fell like an unclean robe, and stretching arms
I, like a man rejoicing in his strength,
Stood calm and new-baptized. Tall by the lake
The old man tower’d, and I beheld his face
Was shining as an angel’s, with new light
Of rapture in his eyes; and by his side
The Maid, with lips apart and eager eyes,
Stood bathed in glory of her golden hair
And the great sunlight that encircled her!

Scarce had I drunk, when I was ’ware of One
Who through the green glades by the river’s brim
Walk’d, like a slow star sailing through the clouds
Of twilight; yea, the face of him afar
Shone starlike, and around his coming feet
The moon-dew shone. As white and still he seem’d
As some fair form of marble brought to life
And gliding in the glory of a dream;
But from his frame, at every step he took,
Shot light which never yet from marble gleam’d,
And splendour that was never seen in stone.
For raiment, backward from his shoulders blown,
He wore a scarf diaphanous; round his form
A chlamys of the whitest woof of lambs;
But all uncover’d was his golden hair,                                                 188
His feet unsandall’d. ‘Who is this that comes?’
Trembling I cried. But suddenly on his knees
The old man fell, with head submissive bent
In gentle adoration. Then, methought:
‘The City of my Dream is close at hand,
And this is He who comes to lead me thither!’
And wonder’d much that while the old man knelt,
The Maid leapt forward with outstretching arms,
And with less fear than hath a yeanling lamb
Feeling its mother on a mead in May,
Thrust out her hand and took his hand who came
And brightening in his brightness led him on
With bird-like cries. Then I perceived her face
Now smiling glorified, and straight I knew
That she was gazing on the lonely love
Of her young soul; that all her maiden dream
Was shining there in substance, fairer far
Than star or flower; that on his face she fed
In palpitating awe, so strange, so deep,
She did not even kiss the holy hand
She held within her own.

                       ‘Who comes? who comes?’
I murmured to the old man once again;
‘A god—the messenger of gods—his name?
He smileth; mine eyes dazzle in the light                                              189
Of his bright smiling!’ And the other cried,
Not rising, ‘To thy knees! and veil thine eyes,
Lest the ecstatic ray his presence sheds
Blind thee apace! He hath a thousand names,
All sweet; but in these glades his holiest name
Is Eros!’ ‘Eros!’ rapturously I sighed;
And tottering as one drunken in the sun,
Fell at his feet who came; and the pale Maid,
Upleaping in the brightness, fountain-like,
Cried, ‘Eros! Eros!’ leading Eros on,
While the birds sang and every echo rang.

There was a pause, as when in golden June
The heavens, the glassy waters, and the hills
Throb wrapt in mists of heat as in a dream,
So that the humming of the tiniest gnat
Is heard while in the moted ray it swings,—
There was a pause and silence for a space,
But soon the Shepherd, rising reverently,
Cried: ‘Master of these golden groves of Faun,
All hail! Unto thy sacred place I bring
A Pilgrim from the dusty tracts of Time,
A seeker of the secret Beautiful
No ear hath heard; and from the summer bowers,
The gardens, and the glades of vain delight,
Latest he comes, still fever’d from the flush                                        190
Of those bright bowers. Him to thy feet I bring,
And if his soul be worthy, thou perchance
Mayst heal his pain!’ He ceased; and on the air
There rose the thrill of the divinest voice
That ever on a starry midnight charm’d
The swooning sense of lovers unto dream,—
A voice divine, and in a tongue divine
It spake,—such Greek, such honey’d liquid Greek
As Psyche heard that night beneath the stars
She threw her rose-hung casement open wide
And stood with lamp uplifted, welcoming
Her love, storm-beaten in his saffron veil.
‘What seeks he?’ ask’d the voice; and lo! I cried,
Uplifting not mine eyes: ‘O gentle God,
Surely I seek that City Beautiful,
From whence thou comest! Dead I fancied thee,
Fallen with that glorious umbrage of dead gods
Which doth bestrew the forest paths of Greece;
And since thou livest, I can seek no guide
More beautiful than thou!’ Whereon again,
Burning like amber in the golden beam,
That nightingale of deities replied,
‘O child of man, can the Immortal die?
To love, is to endure; and lo, I am;
But from that City Beautiful thou namest
I come not, and I cannot guide thy steps                                             191
Thither, nor further than mine own fair realm.’
Smiling I answer’d, rising to my feet:
‘If this thy realm is, Spirit Paramount,
Let me abide within it close to thee!
Peace dwelleth here, and Light; and here at last,
As in a crystal mirror, I perceive
The clouds and forms of being stream subdued
Through azure voids of immortality.’

‘Come, then,’ said Eros, smiling beautiful;
‘And for a season I will lead thy feet,
That thou mayst know my secret realm and me!’
And as he spake he waved his shining hand,
And lo, the cluster’d lilies of the stream
Again were parted by invisible airs,
And through the waters came a shallop slight,
Drawn by white swans that cleft the crystal mere
With webbèd feet as soft as oilèd leaves,
And in the shallop’s brow a blood-red star
Burnt wondrous, with its image in the mere
Broken ’mid ripples into rubied lines.
Slow to the bank it came, and there it paused,
So slight, so small, it seem’d no mortal shape
Might float upon the crystal mere therein;
And Eros pointed, silent, to the boat,
But I, half turning to my greyhair’d guide,                                            192
Question’d with outstretch’d hands and glance of eyes,
‘And thou?
                   The Shepherd smiled, with gentle hand
Restraining now the Maid, who, stretching arms,
Would fain have follow’d that diviner Form
On whom her eyes were fasten’d, ring in ring
Enlarging, like the iris-eyes of doves.
‘Farewell!’ he said; ‘further I fare not friend!
For whosoever sails that crystal stream
Must with the golden godhead sail alone.
My path winds homeward, back to the sunny glades
Where first we met. Farewell! a long farewell!
If ever backward through these groves of Faun
Thou comest, seek that Valley where I dwell,
And tell me of thy quest!’
                                           Methought I raised
The Maid, and set upon her brow the seal
Of one long kiss; but me she heeded not,
Gazing in fascination deep as Death
On that calm god; then, stooping low, I kiss’d
The Shepherd’s hand, and enter’d the bright boat
That on the shallow margin of the river
Did droop the glory of its rubied star
Like some bright water-flower. Beneath my weight
The shallop trembled, but it bare me up;                                             193
And slowly through the shallows lily-sown
It moved, pulsating on the throbbing stream
As white and warm as bosoms of the swans
That drew it. In its wake the godhead swam,
Gold crown’d; and from beneath the mere his limbs
Gleam’d, like the flashing of a salmon’s sides.

Slowly it seem’d to sail, yet swiftly now
The shore receded, till the Man and Maid
Beyond the mists of brightness disappear’d,
And ever till they faded utterly
Moveless the Maiden’s face as any star
Shone tremulous with innocent desire,
And when they vanish’d, from the vanish’d shore
There came a quick and solitary cry
That wither’d on the wind.
                                         Then forth we fared,
Till nought was seen around us or above
But golden glory of the golden Day
Reflected from the bosom of the mere
As from a blinding shield; and, lo! my sense
Grew lost in dizziness and deep delight:
All things I saw as in a dazzling dream,
And drooping o’er them drowsily gazed down
Into the crystal depths whereon I sail’d.
Then was I ’ware that underneath me throbb’d                                   194
Strange vistas, dim and wonderful, wherein
The great ghost of the burning sun did shine
Subdued and dim, amid a heaven as blue,
As blue and deep, as that which burnt o’erhead;
And in the under-void like gold-fish gleam’d
Innumerable Spirits of the lake,
Naked, blown hither and thither light as leaves,
With lilies in their hands, their eyes half closed,
Their hair like drifting weeds; thick as the flowers
Above, they floated; near the surface some,
And others far away as films of cloud
In that deep under-heaven; but all their eyes
Were softly upturn’d, as unto some strange star,                                 [l.xiv]
To him who in the shallop’s glittering wake
Swam ’mid the light of his lone loveliness.

Then all grew dim! I closed my heated eyes,
Like one who on a summer hill lies down
Face upward, blinded by the burning blue,
And in my ears there grew a dreamy hum
Of lark-like song. The heaven above my head,
The heaven below my feet, swam swiftly by,
Till clouds and birds and flowers and water-elves
Were blent to one bright flash of rainbow light
Bewildering the sense. And now I swam
By jewell’d islands smother’d deep in flowers                                    195
Glassily mirror’d in the golden river;
And from the isles blue-plumaged warblers humm’d.
Swinging to boughs of purple, yellow, and green,
Their pendent nests of down; and on the banks,
Dim-shaded by the umbrage and the flowers,
Sat naked fauns who fluted to the swans
On pipes of reeds, while in the purple shallows,
Wading knee-deep, listen’d the golden cranes,
And walking upon floating lotus-leaves
The red jacana scream’d.
                                           Still paramount
Shone Eros, piloting with lily hand
His shallop through the waters wonderful,
And wheresoe’er he went his brightness fell
Celestial, turning all the saffron pools
To crimson and to purple and to gold.
Calm were his eyes and steadfast, with a light
Which in a face of aspect less divine
Would have seem’d sad, and on his brows there lay
A golden shadow of celestial thought.

Thus in my dream I saw him floating on,
While, with dim eyes of rapture downward turn’d,
I feasted on his beauty silently;
And under him the strange abysses swoon’d,
And o’er his head the azure heaven stoop’d down;                             196
And even as a snow-white steed that runs
Pleased with its burthen, merrily hasting on,
The river rambled on from bank to bank,
In curves of splendour winding serpentine.

Betimes it broaden’d into bright lagoons
Sown with innumerable crimson isles;
And merrily on the mossy banks there ran,
Pelting each other with ripe fruits and flowers,
Bright troops of naked nymphs and cupidons
With golden bows; and o’er them in the air
Floated glad butterflies and gleaming doves;
And ever to the rippling of the river
Rose melody of unseen voices, blown
From the serene abysms far beneath;
And other voices answer’d from the isles,
And from the banks, and from the snow-white clouds
That, flowing with the flowing of the stream,
Trembled and changed, like shapes with lilied hands!

Now one green island stretch’d across the stream,
Paven with purple and with emerald,
And walking there, all wondrous in white robes,
Moved troops of virgins singing solemnly
To lutes of amber and to harps of gold.                                              197
Among them, resting on a flowery bank,
Sat one like Bacchus, roses in his hair,
His cheeks most pale with summer melancholy,
Fondling a tigress that with sleepy eyes
Nestled her mottled head into his palm.
O’er head an eagle hover’d with his mate,
And rising slow on great wind-winnowing wings
Faded into the sunset, silently.

Now gazing on these wondrous scenes methought:
‘This is enchantment, and these things I see
Only the figures of an antique Joy,
Unreal as shapes in an enchanter’s glass
And hollow as a pleasure snatch’d in sleep.’
Suddenly, strangely, answering my thought,
And smiling with a strange excess of light,
Murmur’d that God my Guide: ‘Fly from thy dream,
And it shall last for ever; cherish it,
And it shall wither in thy cherishing!
These things are phantasies and images
As thou and I are imaged phantasies;
But if the primal joy of Earth is real,
And if thou sharest deep that primal joy,
These phantasies are real—not false, but true.’
Then did I cry, ‘If these fair shapes be true,                                         198
No dream is false.’ And Eros answer’d me:
‘All things are true save Sin and Sin’s despair,
All lovely thoughts abide imperishable,
Though countless generations pass and die!’

The wonder deepen’d. Earth and Heaven seem’d blent
In one still rapture, for their beating hearts
Were prest like breasts of lovers, close together;
And in the love-embrace of Heaven and Earth,
The river, ever-smiling, wound and wound;
And as in beauteous galleries of Art
Picture on picture swooneth past the sense,
Marble with marble mingles mystically,
Till all is one wild rapture of the eyes,
E’en so that pageant on the river’s banks
Went drifting by to sound of shawms and songs.
Bright isles with white nymphs cover’d; promontories
Whereon immortal nakednesses lay
Singing aloud and playing on amber lutes;
Vistas of woodland, on whose shaven lawns
The satyrs danced with swift alternate feet,
Came, faded, changed; and ever far below
In the dim under-heaven floated fair
Those Spirits singing; and ever far above                                            199
Those Spirits slight as flecks of whitest clouds
Still singing floated; and the same still way
The river floated did the heavens move on,
Till all seem’d drawn in a swift drift of dream
To some consummate wonder yet unseen.

And now, the river narrowing once again,
We stole ’neath forest umbrage which o’erhead
Mingled outstretching arms from either bank,
And woven in the green transparent roof
Were glorious creepers like the lian-flower,
And flowers that ran like many-colour’d snakes
Turning and trembling from green bough to bough;
And in the glowing river glass’d with speed
This intertangled golden tracery
Was mirror’d leaf by leaf and flower by flower,
For ever changing and ever flitting past.
Thus gliding, suddenly we floated forth
Upon a broad lagoon as red as blood,
Stainèd with sunset; and no creature stirr’d
Upon or round the water, but on high
A vulture hover’d dwindled to a speck;
And on the shallow marge one silent Shape
Hung like a leafless tree, with hoary head
Dejected o’er the crimson pool beneath;
And no man would have wist that dark Shape lived;—                       200
Till suddenly into the great lagoon
The shallop sail’d, and the white swans that drew it
Were crimson’d, oaring on through crimson pools
And casting purple shadows. Then behold!
That crimson light on him who drave the bark
Fell as the shafts of sunset round a star,
Encircling, touching, but suffusing not
The shining silvern marble of his limbs;
And that dark Shape that brooded o’er the stream
Stirr’d, lifting up a face miraculous
As of some lonely godhead! Cold as stone,
Formlessly fair as some upheaven rock
Behung with weary weeds and mosses dark,
That face was; and the flashing of that face
Was as the breaking of a sad sea-wave,
Desolate, silent, on some lonely shore!

Then Eros as he passed across the pool
Upraised up his shining head, and softly named                                   [l.xix]
Three times the name of ‘Pan;’ and that large Shape,
His face upturning sadly to the light,
Reveal’d the peace of two great awful eyes
Made heavenly by the starlight of a smile;
And as he smiled, the stillness of the place
Was broken, and the notes of nightingales                                            201
Fell soft as spray of roseleaves on the air,
And once again the waters far beneath
Were peopled, and the clouds moved on again
In their slow drift of dream they knew not whither;
But Eros swiftly pass’d and once again
The brooding godhead, sinking in his place,
Hung large and shadowy like a mighty tree
Above the brightness of that still lagoon.

And now methought that far away there rose
Beautiful mountains stain’d with purple shades
And pinnacled with peaks of glittering ice,
And o’er the frosted crystal of the peaks
The trembling splendour of the lover’s star
Shone like a sapphire. Thitherward now crept,
Slowly, in bright and many-colour’d curves,
That river, hastening with a living will,
With happy murmurs like a living thing;
And soon it turn’d its soft and flowery steps
Into the bosom of great woods that lay
Under the mountains. Peaceful on its breast
Shadows now fell, while still gnats humm’d, and flowers
Closed up their leaves i’ the dew; and thro’ the leaves,
With radiance faintly drawn as spiders’ webs,                                      202
Trembled the twilight of the lover’s star.
At last, against a mossy shore, thick strewn
With violets dewy-eyed, the shallop paused,
And Eros, wading to the grassy bank
Under the shadow of the forest trees,
Cried ‘Come!’—and silently I follow’d him
Into the sunless silence of the woods.







AND in my dream, which seem’d no dream at all,
Methought I follow’d my celestial Guide
From path to path, from emerald glade to glade;
And ever as we went, methought the path
Grew with the summer shadows silenter,
While overhead from the great azure folds
Began to stray the peaceful flocks of stars.

Now I perceived before that Spirit’s feet
A light like moonlight running, and I heard,
Far away, mystically, in my dream,
The song of deep-embower’d nightingales.
Along the woodland path on either side
There glimmer’d marble hermæ crown’d with flowers,
And ’mid the boughs hung many-colour’d lamps
Like fruit of amber, crimson, purple, and gold.
Last on mine ears there fell a sudden sound                                        204
Like shepherds piping or like fountains falling,
A sound that gather’d volume, and became
As music of innumerable harps
And lutes and muffled drums, and therewithal
A heavy distant hum as of a crowd
Of living men together gathering.

Then did I mark that all the forest way
Was thronging unaware with hooded shapes
Who moved in the direction of that sound;
Shadows they seem’d, yet living; and as they went
They to each other spake in quick low tones
And hurried their dark feet as if in haste.
Tall in their midst shone that fair God my Guide,
To whom I whisper’d as we stole along,
‘What Shapes are these?’ and ‘Pilgrims like thyself,’
The Spirit cried; ‘but hush, for we are nigh
The midmost of the Shrine.’ Ev’n as he spake,
Out of the shadow of the woods we stept,
While on our ears the murmur of the crowd
Grew to low thunder, as of waves that wash
Silent, in darkness, up some ocean strand;
And lo! we saw before us thick as waves
Thousands that gather’d in their pilgrims’ weeds
Within a mighty Amphitheatre                                                             205
Hewn in a hollow of the grassy hills,—
And faces like the foam-fleck’d sides of waves,
Before some wind of wonder blowing there,
Flash’d all one way and multitudinous
Far as the eye could see or ears could hear,
Watching a far-off curtain, on whose folds
Two words in fire were written:



More vast that crowded Amphitheatre
Than any hewn in olden time by man,
And round it, and before it, and beyond
That curtain, gather’d crags and monoliths
All rising up to peaks of glittering snow
And in a starry daylight darkening.

Amid that murmur as of sullen seas
Fair Eros moved, and of the shadowy throng
Not one look’d round to gaze, while I and he
Crept to a place, and finding seats of stone
Rested, with eager crowds on either side;
And then I heard a shadow at my back
Murmur some question in an antique speech,
And unto his another voice replied


—then the murmur of that throng                  [l.xxiii]

Was changed to quick sounds in the same sweet speech
Spoken as music by my guide divine,                                                  206
But as I prick’d mine ears to list for more
There came a solemn silence, and behold,
Suddenly, to a sound of lutes and drums,
The curtain dark descended.
                                               Far away,
Upon a sward as green as emerald,
There sat, with wine-gourd lying at his side,
Wild poppies tangled in his hoary hair,
Silenos,—at whose feet a naked nymph
Lay prone with chin propt in her hollow’d hands
Uplooking in his face and reading there
Deep-wrinkled chronicles as soft as sleep;
And overhead among the wild ravines,
On patches of green emerald, leapt his goats,
While far above the sunshine swept like wind
Across the darkness of the untrodden peaks.
To the low music of an unseen choir
Silenos smiling spake, and as he spake
The white goats leapt, the soft light stirr’d o’erhead,
The white clouds wander’d through the peaceful blue.
For of much peace he told, of golden fields,
Of shepherds in dim dales Arcadian,
Of gods that gather’d the still stars like sheep
Dawn after dawn to shut them in their folds
And every dawn did loose them once again,                                        207
Of vintage and of fruitage, and of Love’s
Ripe kisses stolen in the reaping time.
Sweet was his voice, and sweet that mimic scene—
So sweet I could have look’d and heark’d for ever;
And on that sight the throng was hungering,
When suddenly the choral music ceased,
And wearily up the mountains came a wight
Clad like a pilgrim of an antique land.
Tall was he, yet of human height, but there,
Upon that mighty stage, he seemed as small
As pixies be that play in beds of flowers;
And him Silenos greeted, and those twain
Sat on the grassy carpet flower-bestrewn;
And then the stranger told a seaman’s tale
Of heroes sailing in their wingèd ships
To flash on Troia like a locust-swarm,
And among those he named his own fair name—
                 Not as in the nether world,
Within some bright and lamp-lit theatre,
The drama calmly moves from scene to scene,
And actors speak their measured cadences
And make their exits and their entrances,
Not thus did that colossal spectacle
Flow on; but as a bright kaleidoscope
Is shaken in the hand, and with no will                                                208
Trembles, dissolves, in ever-wondrous change,
The scenes upon that mighty stage did fade,
While the deep voices of the unseen choir
Were rising, falling, all within my dream.
So, even as that grey-hair’d Marinere
Spake with Silenos on the mountain side,
All strangely vanish’d; and before our sight,
To martial music blown through tubes of brass
The Grecian phalanx brighten’d, and afar,
Beyond the Grecian tents as white as snow,
The towers of Ilium crumbling like a cloud
Burnt brazen in the sunset. Suddenly
The shining phalanx and the snow-white tents
Shrunk up like leaves, and in their stead the earth
Was strewn with brightness of a thousand flowers
’Mid which a great pavilion lily-white
Bloom’d,—in its centre, seated like a queen,
Helena! Oh, the wonder of that face,
That miracle of lissome loveliness,
That ripe red rose of womanhood supreme!
More fair she seem’d, seen thus from far away,
Than Cytherea rising from the sea
Or seated naked on the lover’s star
Strewing the seas beneath her silvern feet
With pearls and emeralds all a summer night!
And from her body and from her breath there came                             209
Waft of rich odours that o’erpower’d the sense,
And all around, strewn thick as fallen leaves,
Were kings and warriors with dishevell’d hair
Kissing her naked feet and with mad eyes
Uplooking in her face!
                                     Then did I cry:
‘O happy Earth, where seed like this is sown,
And grows to such a womanhood divine!
Before the glory of that one fair face
Gods die, gods fade, there is no god but Love!’
And turning, I beheld each face that gazed
Was shining as anointed, for the throng
Was drmking all the sight with rapturous eyes;
But like a marble statue in his place
Stood that pale god my guide—as stone to flesh
His beauty that had seem’d so warm before
Was to that woman’s on the mimic stage,
And ever on her face he fix’d his eyes
With hunger of a pity infinite!
There was a silence as of summer seas;
The heart stood still, while brighter and more bright
That glory grew,—till, like a chrysolite,
It dazzled all those upward-looking eyes:
Then slowly, softly, silent as a cloud,
Veiling that miracle of womanhood
The curtain rose.                                                                                210
There was a sultry pause,
Such as there comes on summer days of calm,
When every leaf doth seem to hold its breath
And in the golden mirror of the pool
The lily’s shadow lies like alabaster.
Each creature in that mighty company
Half closing heavy eyelids, brooded o’er
His own thick heart-beats; only Eros stood
Calm, mute as marble, very fair and pale,
Folding his arms, and on the curtain dark
Reading his own sweet name!
                                                 Again there came
Vibrations of low music, strangely blown
From out the very hollows of the earth;
These quicken’d, trembled, till there wildly rose
The shrieking sharp of flutes innumerable,
To which once more, curling black folds to earth,
The curtain fell. And lo! on that great stage
Gleam’d Argos, and the statues of the gods
Looming phantasmic in a blood-red moon,
And Clytemnestra on the palace-roof
Uplifting to dark heavens sown thick with stars
A face fix’d white in one avenging spasm
Of murderous pallor; and her stature seem’d
Gigantic, on the high cothurnus raised;
And not a feature of the woman changed,                                          211
All kept one horror of the mask they were,                                         [l.ii]
Yea not until afar the beal-fire burn’d                                                [l.iii]
On Ida, did she speak, descending slow,
And like low thunder, from the mask’s thick tube,
Her voice was wafted onward to mine ear.
But as she spake that midnight air was cloven
By such a shriek as only once on earth
Was heard by mortal ears.—Cassandra wail’d!

It seem’d as if in answer to that wail
Chaos had come and all the graves of old
Given up their dead; for suddenly the stage
Was cover’d with gigantic shrouded shapes,
Who stood and raised their hands to heaven and shriek’d!
And in the dim, low light of blood-red stars
Tower’d Agamemnon bleeding from his wounds;
Iphigenia, like a spectre pale,
Half kneeling, hands uplifted, at his feet;
Orestes, with a dagger in his grip,
Clutching the marble woman, while she shrieked:
‘Hold, child! strike not this bosom whence so oft
With toothless gums thy mouth hath drunk the milk;’
Eleokles, with fratricidal knife;
Œdipus groping for his daughter’s hand,                                              212
And white as any lamb that Virgin’s self;
And in the background, glaring with cold eyes,
Dumb as a pack of lean and hungry wolves
Full of blood-hunger, the Eumenides!

A wind of horror o’er that gathering grew,
And lo! I shiver’d like a rain-wash’d leaf,
While from the throats of those pale spectres came
Fierce supplications and anathemas
On Zeus, and that pale skeleton that broods
For ever at his footstool, Anarchy.
‘God! God!’ they shriek’d, and ever as they shriek’d
They gnash’d their teeth and rent their luminous robes
And wept anew. Meseem’d it was a sight
Too much for human vision to endure!
Suddenly, as a black cloud swallowing up
Pale meteors of the midnight, once again
Uprose the curtain.
                                 Then in a low voice,
Still shuddering with that horror past, I spake:
‘Hear’st thou that cry, which from the dark beginning
Pale souls, fate-stricken, have cast up at heaven?
How shall these things have peace?’ and in mine ears
’Twas answer’d: ‘As the innumerable waves                                        213
Sink after tempest to completest calm,
For surcease of the mighty tumult pass’d,
So these wild waifs of being grow subdued
To subtle music of sublime despairs;
For out of wrath comes love, and out of pain
Dumb resignation brooding like a dove
On sunless waters, and of unbelief
Is born a faith more precious and divine
Than e’er blind Ignorance with his mother’s milk
Suck’d smiling down! But, hark!’ and as he spake,
There came a twittering as of birds on boughs,
A music as of rain pattering on leaves;
And to this murmur the great curtain fell,
Revealing slopes of greenest emerald
By shallow rivulets fed with flashing falls,
And far away soft throbb’d the evening star,
And everywhere across those pastures sweet
Moved Lambs as white as snow! Then as I gazed
I heard Apollo singing on the heights
A shepherd’s song divine, and as he sang
Those lambs their faces to the light upturn’d,
And each was human: a sweet woman’s face,
With large still heavenly eyes wherein there swam
Dews of a dark desire; and lo, I knew
The daughter of Colonos, golden-hair’d,                                              214
Electra, still and pensive as a star,
Alcestis pallid from the kiss of Death,
The daughters of Danaos, and the seed
Of Epaphos and Io; and, behold!
Quietly through those mystical green meads
Stole the fair Heifer’s self, as white as snow,
Star-vision’d, woman-faced, miraculous,
Come after many wanderings to such peace
As only Love’s immortals ever know.
Then down the mountain-sides, a tiger-skin
Back from his shoulders blowing, lute in hand,
As brown as any mortal mountaineer,
Apollo, the glad Shepherd, hastening came,
And cried, ‘Rejoice! rejoice! for Zeus is dead!’
And from a thousand throats those lambs did seem
To bleat in human tones, while Io raised
Her moon-like head and utter’d her sad heart
In one rejoicing cry! Then did I turn
My startled eyes on Eros questioning,
And found his face like all those faces round
Was shining as anointed, while his eyes
Were fix’d on that great stage whence thrill’d a voice
Which murmur’d on: ‘Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!
Now shall the sad flocks of Humanity
At last find peace!’                                                                             215
In mine own heart of hearts
I echoed, ‘Peace!’ and that great company
Breathed as a forest’s multitudinous leaves
Breathe balmily after rain; but suddenly
That scene kaleidoscopic changed once more,
Came then a thunder as of gathering clouds,
Flashing of torrents down black mountain-sides,
A storm, a troubled darkness, in whose midst
A voice went crying aloud, ‘Zeus is!—Zeus reigns!’
And then, the darkness vanishing, behold!
The scene show’d mountains to whose snowy peaks
Fierce cataracts frozen in the act to fall
Clung chain’d in ice,—and in the midst thereof
Gigantic, silent in his agony,
With all the still cold heaven above his head,
Prometheus Purkaieus!
                                       Meseem’d he slept:
His eyes were softly closéd, and he smiled
Like one who sleeps yet dreams; and his white hair
Had grown through long eternities of pain
Down to his feet, clothing his limbs like wool,
And the fierce wedge of adamant that pierced
His breast and vitals was with countless years
Rusted blood-red, and hoary all he seem’d
As those ice-ribbèd peaks that hemm’d him round.
Transfixéd were his mighty feet and hands,                                         216
As when by Kratos and dark Bias nail’d
To those hard rocks, and brightly yet he bled,
For silently the fountains of his heart
Distill’d their blood like dew!
                                               Sad was that sight,
And yet I gazed upon it with sweet joy,
For round the head of that great Sufferer,
And on his face, and on his closèd lids,
There brooded peace most absolute and power
Sublimely self-subdued. Afar away
Came voices of the Okeanides,
Singing their sad primæval seabirds’ song;
And listening with quick spiritual ears,
Methought I heard, faint as a sound in sleep,
The murmur of these deep eternal seas
Which wash for ever the weary feet of Earth.

Then up those desolate heights, from ledge to ledge
Of living granite, came a godlike shape,
Gigantic, yet smooth-flesh’d and young of limb,
With eagle-eye that faced the midday sun
And shrunk not, leading slowly (as one leads                                       [l.xxii]
A wounded horse that falters with its pain),
An aged Centaur,—man from brow to breast,
Bearded and mighty-brow’d and venerable,
But bodied like some grey and mighty steed;                                        217
And lo, I knew the first was Herakles,
The second Cheiron; and behold, this last
Was faint thro’ one green wound upon his breast,
Deep, bloody, and he stagger’d as he came,
And ofttimes fell upon his quivering knees
And moan’d aloud, beating the solid rock
With hoofs of iron into sparks of fire.

Thereon, I turn’d to Eros questioning:
‘Why cometh Cheiron, led by Herakles?’
And Eros, on whose face there shone a light
New and ecstatic as the rising moon,
Answer’d: ‘Until another immortal god
Contentedly shall take the cup of death,
Taking his stand in that pale Sufferer’s place,
Prometheus must abide and drink his doom;
But Cheiron, weary from his wound and weak,
Elects to perish in that pale god’s stead,
And hither cometh led by Herakles,
That so the prophecy may be fulfilled.’

And lo, amid the rocks of that ravine,
Face unto face with that pale Sufferer,
Uprose those twain, and slowly at the sound
Prometheus woke, and shaking from his eyes
Eternities of the white blinding hair,                                                     218
Gazed in their faces dumbly, even as one
Who wakes confusedly and mingles still
That which he sees and that which he hath dream’d.
But Herakles cried loud with clarion-voice
‘Prometheus!’ and the Titan stared and smiled,
Remembering; but as his woeful eyes
Fell upon Cheiron’s ghastly lineaments
He trembled, moaning, ‘Who is he that stands
Beside thee, bleeding?’—and the god replied,
‘Cheiron the Centaur, come to take thy place,
To wear thy chains, to suffer, and to die!’

Suddenly, for a moment, that strange scene
Was blotted from the vision, and there rose
A sound as if of many fountains leaping,
Of many wild winds blowing, of many voices
Uplifted in a troublous melody;
And when the darkness melted, and again
That portent gather’d on the straining sight,
The moon was out and stars serenely bright,
And Herakles had freed Prometheus,—
Who, standing awful in the moonlight, gazed
Around him with a sad and stony stare.
And whiter now he seem’d than any snow,
Clothed in the sorrow of his hoary hairs.                                              219
Then, as his chains fell from him with a clang
Of sullen iron, from afar away
There came a cry, ‘Prometheus is free—
Rejoice! Rejoice!’ and through those wild ravines
From crag to crag, the weary echoes moan’d
‘Rejoice!’ but pallid still Prometheus stood
Chattering his teeth, while slowly Herakles
Led Cheiron to the rock of sacrifice,
Lifting the chains.
                             Even then the dark still air
Was pierced by such a shriek as froze the blood,
Shook reason on her throne and palsied will—
A shriek of eldritch laughter; and, behold!
There suddenly swarm’d in upon that stage
Pigmies innumerable, dragging in
A mighty Cross of blackest ebony!
As swift as thought they set it in the chasm,
Where for eternities of misery
The Titan wail’d, and still they laugh’d aloud,
That the deep chasms of the mountain rung.
Then all the stars shrunk up, and the pale moon                                  [l.xxii]
Grew red and shrivell’d, but round Cheiron’s brow
Swam suddenly a luminous aureole!
And, lo, his face seem’d changed, and it grew young,
And, as it changed, his nether limbs of beast
Swoon’d into limbs of white humanity,—                                             220
And lo, I knew him for that Man Divine
Whose wan face gazeth from the cloudy Book
With wistful eyes! Beneath the mighty Cross,
Crouch’d like a lion couchant hoary-hair’d,
Prometheus waited, while invisible hands
Raised up that other to his place of pain.
Then did the laughter cease, as Herakles
Transfix’d him thro’ the shuddering hands and feet,
When dropping chin upon his breast he moan’d,
‘My god, my god, hast thou forsaken me?’

Thrill’d thro’ the core of that great multitude
A moan of deep insufferable woe!
And I, with heavy hand upon my heart,
Turn’d unto Eros; turning, saw him stand
Transfigured—on his hands and on his feet
Stigmata red and bloody—round his head
An aureole such as that other wore;
And on the Crucified he fix’d his eyes,
And still the Crucified gazed down upon him,
And each was as the image of the other!
Two faces, far asunder, yet the same,
Two faces, one upon that mighty stage,
One in the midst of that vast multitude,
Shone silent, and the moon was white on both!

It was a sight too sad for mortal soul                                                   221
To look upon and live. I shriek’d and swoon’d,
And dropt upon the earth as still as stone;
While all that pageant and that multitude
Pass’d into night as if they had not been!


Page 205, from the Greek:
l. viii: ‘EROS. ANANKE.’
l. xxiii: mortal, human.
Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Page 194, l. xiv: Were softly upturn’d, as to some strange star,
Page 200, l. xix: Upraised his shining head, and softly named
Page 211, l. ii: All kept one horror of the mask they wore,
Page 211, l. iii: Yea, not until afar the bale-fire burn’d
Page 216, l. xxii: And shrank not, leading slowly (as one leads
Page 219, l. xxii: Then all the stars shrank up, and the pale moon ]



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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