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

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

Site Diary
Site Search

{The City of Dream 1888}







I WOKE: the night had fallen—the scene had changed—
And living yet, I wander’d darkly on.

Alone within a Valley lone as death,
Alone thro’ all around me shapes like men                                          [l.iv]
Pass’d wailing, and their crying in mine ears
Was as the waves of ocean when they wash
On sunless arctic shores of rock and ice,
I wander’d, and at every step I took
The shadows of the night grew balefuller;
Yet dimly I discern’d on every side
Black mountains rising up to blacker skies,
And hither and thither forkèd lights that flash’d
O’er gulfs of dread new-riven; and methought
The path I trode was strewn on every side
With tombs of stone and marble sepulchres,
Out of whose darkness look’d the sheeted dead,
Moaning; and oft I paused in act to fall                                               223
Into some open grave, and looking down
Saw skulls and bleaching bones and snakelike ghosts
That crawl’d among them. Then in soul’s despair
I call’d aloud on God, and all around
Thunder like hideous laughter answer’d me,
And from the throat of every open grave
Came shrieks and ululation.
                                             Blacker yet
The Valley grew, until in soul’s despair
I paused, and, looking upward, saw the heights
Alive with pallid meteors, that like snakes
Crawl’d on the ground, or rose like wan-eyed ghosts
In glimmering shrouds, or plunged into the abyss
And vanish’d; and the wailing all around
Grew thick as clangour of waves that smite each other,
Clash back, and smite again; and suddenly
I saw a blood-red star aloft in heaven
Shoot from its sphere, and fall, and after that
Another and another, till all the air
Was luminous and dreadful, sown with drops
Of flame, like blood! Then, as I upward gazed,
There came a shape in pilgrim’s weeds like mine,
Who touch’d my arm and mumbled in mine ear
With voice that seemèd faint and far away:
‘They fall! they fall! as thick as leaves they fall,                                   224
Unpeopling all the starry thrones of heaven.
Rejoice! rejoice!’ And when I question’d him
Of that strange Valley where I walk’d in dread,
He answer’d, laughing feebly in his throat,
‘The Valley of the shadows of dead gods!
Rejoice! rejoice! the gods are fallen, are fallen!’

Phantom he seem’d where all was phantom-like,
Yet human. As he spoke, those open graves
Echo’d his cheerless laugh, and the white stones
Chatter’d like teeth, and from the heights a voice
Answer’d, ‘Rejoice—the gods are fallen, are fallen!’
Then, pointing with his hand at that red rain
Which ever fell from heaven, ‘Behold!’ he cried,
‘Another and another and another!                                                      [l.xv]
Eternity has closed its gates upon them,
Homeless they haunt the void, and fall, and fall!’

Then horror closed upon me like a hand
Clutching mine entrails, while I wander’d on
In darkness visible; and at my back
That greybeard follow’d, wailing, ‘Fallen, fallen!’
And presently I saw a sheeted form,
Who sat upon a sepulchre, and struck
A harp of gold and sang: golden his hair,
Above a thin face wasted into bone,                                                    225
And large regretful eyes; and lo! his limbs
Within the open shroud were wasted not
But beautiful as marble, and his arms
As marble too; and round about him danced
Wild ghosts of naked witches in a ring,
Who sang, ‘Apollo! hail, all hail Apollo!’
Then tore their hair and fell upon the ground
And shriek’d aloud; and overhead the clouds
Were riven and sullen peals of thunder shook
The empty thrones of heaven. Shuddering I pass’d,
And came unto a fiery space wherein
Two forms were struggling in a fierce embrace—
One bright and beautiful, one black as night
And wingèd like an eagle; and around
Monsters, like hideous idols wrought in stone,
Yet living, hover’d, uttering shrieks and cries.
And lo! the first, who wore a golden crown
And robes of white and crimson like a king,
O’ercame and would have slain the night-black foe
But that he spread his great wings monster-wise
And shrieking fled!—Pallid with victory,
Yet ring’d around by frantic shapes of fear,
The bright god stood a moment’s space and held
A dagger like the sacrificial knife
Up skyward; from the wold wild voices wail’d
His name, the Buddha, while a lightning-flash                                      226
Illumed him head to foot in blinding flame,
And underneath his feet the earth was riven,
And lo! he bared his bosom white as snow,
Sheathing the knife therein, and with a moan
Fell prone upon his face,—while those fierce forms
Crept nearer, hovering o’er him where he lay
Like vultures hovering round a bleeding lamb!

O night of wonder! Thro’ that vale accurst
I wander’d, struggling thro’ strange seas of souls
That thicken’d on my path like ocean-waves;
And all the place was troubled and alive
With dreadful simulacra of the gods
And ghosts of men; and wheresoe’er I trode
The earth was still torn open into graves.

I saw, methought, on a dark mountain-side
Legions of ghosts that surged and broke to foam
Of waving banners and of hookèd swords
Around a Sepulchre, wherein there sat
One with black eyeballs and a beard of snow,
Who smote his hands together and cried aloud,
‘Allah il allah!’—and the crowds around
Echoed the name of Allah, and above
The thunders answer’d Allah, while, behold!
The heavens, blown open high above the peaks,                                  227
Reveal’d in bloodiest mirage multitudes
Of phantom armies, struggling, multiplying,
Coming for ever, ever vanishing,
With waving banners and with hookèd swords,
Like those who heard the voice and named the Name
On that dark mountain-side!
                                               Then in my dream
I saw the spirits of departed gods
Sweep by like changing forms within the fires
Of Ætna, when the forkèd tongues of flame
Shoot skyward and the lava boils and foams
Down the bright shuddering slopes; so thick and fast
They came and went and changed; and I beheld
Astarté, with her nude dishevell’d train
Of women-worshippers who smote their breasts
And wept and wail’d; Moloch and Baal, two shapes
Inform and monstrous, follow’d by a throng
Of kings in purple and of slaves in rags
And Ethiops clashing cymbals; black-eyed Thor,
Bearded and strong, stript naked to the waist,
Girt round with eager cyclops while he swung
His hammer near the furnace burning red
In a black mountain cavern,—all his face
Gleaming, his form illumed from head to foot
With subterranean fires; Thammuz pale,
Walking through glades of moonlight like a ghost;                                228
Lucifer, serpent-crested, clad in mail,
Shaking his sword at heaven, and with his foot
Set on a writhing dragon: and all I saw
Vanish’d and came again, and vanishing
Gave place to more,—chaos of gods and ghosts
Confusedly appearing and departing;
Every strange shape that Superstition weaves,
That man or fiend hath fashion’d: Gorgons dire,
Chimæras, kobolds, witches, pixies, elves,
Undines, and vampires,—intermix’d with these,
Saints calendar’d and martyr’d; naked nuns
Embraced by satyrs stoled and shaven-crown’d
Goat-footed; sable-stoled astrologers,
Waited upon by grinning apes and trolds
And wizards waving wands: so that my soul
Was sicken’d and my fever-thicken’d blood
Paused in me and surcharged my fearful heart
Until it ceased to beat: and as I fled
Weeping, all faded like a tempest-cloud,
And lonely in the night before my face
I saw the form of the eternal Sphynx
Dreadfully brooding with cold pitiless eyes
Fix’d upon mine, and round it momently
Sheet-lightning play’d, and ’tween its stony claws
It held a woman’s naked bleeding corpse
From which the shroud had fallen, and from its throat                          229
There came a murmur like the whole world’s moan,
Thunder of doom and uttermost despair!

Frozen to stone, I stood and gazed and gazed,
Dead-eyed as that vast Shape!
                                                   The Vision pass’d
Like vapour from a mirror. Night again,
With one black wing of tempest, blotted out
That portent; and before my face I saw
A pale god with a dove upon his wrist,
Sitting upon a tomb and singing low
Some strange sweet song of summer; then, with tears,
He named the name of his fair brother Christ,
And search’d the gloom with bright blue heavenly eyes,
And listen’d for a coming; and methought
I heard a sound of wailing, and, behold!
Along the valley came three woman-forms
Supporting One who seemèd sick and spent,
A crown of thorns upon his bleeding brow,
Blood-drops upon his piercèd feet and hands,
And in his dexter hand a lanthorn-light
That flicker’d in the wind; and as they came,                                        230
These women wail’d aloud, ‘He hath arisen!’
And joyfully his blue-eyed brother rose
To greet him coming, but shrank back beholding
The thin grey hair, the worn and weary cheeks,
The pale lacklustre orbs of him who came
Unwitting whither,—wearied out and spent
With centuries of sorrow and despair.

But Balder cried, uplooking in his face,
‘O brother, hast thou risen?’ and that other,
Moving his head feebly from side to side,
And groping with his hands, moan’d, ‘Risen! risen!’
Like one who dying murmurs to himself
Some echo from the weepers who surround
His piteous bed of doom; and as he spake,
His eyes grew dimmer, and his bearded chin
Fell forward on his breast, and like a corpse
He swung upheld by those wan women who wail’d
‘Rejoice! for Christ hath risen!’
                                               Then methought,
While Heaven and Hell moan’d answer to each other,
And throngs of gods like wolves around a fire
Gather’d, and earth as far as eye could see
Was one wild sea of open graves, that broke                                      231
To foam of dead shapes shining in their shrouds,
I heard a voice out of the darkness calling
And weary voices answering as it sang:—


Black is the night, but blacker my despair;
The world is dark—I walk I know not where;
     Yet phantoms beckon still, and I pursue—
Phantoms, still phantoms! there they loom—and there!
     Adonai! Lord! art thou a Phantom, too?

One strikes—before the blow I bend full weak;
One beckoning smiles, but fades in act to speak;
     One with a clammy touch doth chill me thro’—
See! they join hands in circle, while I shriek,
     Adonai! Lord! art thou a Phantom, too?

Dark and gigantic, one, with crimson hands
Upstretch’d in protestation, frowning stands,
     While tears like blood his night-black cheeks bedew—
He tears his hair, he sinks in shifting sands—
     Adonai! Lord! art thou a Phantom, too?

The sad, the glad, the hideous, and the bright,
The kings of darkness, and the lords of light,
     The shapes I loved, the forms whose wrath I flew,
Now wail together in eternal night—
     Adonai! Lord! art thou a Phantom, too?

Fall’n from their spheres, subdued and over-thrown,                            232
Yet living yet, they make their ceaseless moan,
     Where never grass waves green or skies are blue—
Theirs is the realm of shades, the sunless zone,
     Where thou, O Master, weeping wanderest too!

O Master, is it thou thy servant sees,
Cast down and conquer’d, smitten to thy knees?
     Ah, woe! for thou wast fair when life was new—
Adonai! Lord! and art thou even as these?
     A shape forlorn and lost, a Phantom too?

Black is the night, but blacker my despair;
The world is dark—I walk I know not where;
     Yet phantoms beckon still, and I pursue!
Phantoms, still phantoms! there they loom—and there!
     Adonai! Lord! art thou a Phantom, too?


And while the voices wail’d, I watch’d his face
Who swung in anguish to and fro, upheld
By those wan women; and the face was blank
And bloodless, his eyes sightless, and his jaw
Hung heavy as lead; and still the women cried
‘Rejoice! for He hath risen!’ but when at last
The music of those voices died away,
He slipt from their thin hands and with a spasm
Shot forward on his face and lay as dead,
Still as a stone, while all the mighty vale
Was shaken as by earthquake, and afar                                              233
The solid night-black heavens were riven as rocks,
And thunder answer’d thunder!
                                                   Then the waves
Of darkness breaking on me like a sea
Seem’d to o’erwhelm me, and I sank and sank
Down, down to unknown depths of black despair
Till sense and feeling fail’d me and methought
The end of all was come; but when again
Life flow’d within me, I was wandering still
In that sad valley; and all forms and shapes
Had vanish’d, and the place was sleeping calm
Under a piteous moonlight. Overhead
The ebon peaks touch’d the cold heavens, alive
With stars like feeble specks of silver sand,
And all the heavens and the sad space beneath
Were silent as a sepulchre!
And broken-hearted, then I wander’d on,
With tombs and open graves on either side
Weeping nor wailing, but subdued to calm
Of weariest despair; and no thing stirr’d
Around me, but full tide of silence fill’d
The shoreless earth and heaven; when suddenly
I saw before me, lying on the path,
One like myself in dreary pilgrim’s weeds,
Fall’n prone upon his face; and stooping down,                                   234
I turn’d his wan face upward to the light,
And knew him,—Faith, my townsman, cold and dead!
His blind eyes glazèd with the frosty film,
Cold icicles in his white hair and beard,
His right hand gripping still the empty leash
Which once had held his beauteous snow-white hound,
Now fled for ever to some sunless cave
To wail in desolation. Then my force
Fell from me, and my miserable eyes
Shed tears like blood, and, broken utterly,
I took the poor grey head between my knees,
Making a pillow, and with gentle hand
Smoothing the piteous hair, murmur’d aloud
A sad song sung by women in our town
While weaving long white raiment for the dead,
When the corpse-candles burn and all the night
Time throbs the minutes like a beating heart
To those who weep and wait.
And thus I sang:—


Dead man, clammy cold and white,
With thy twain hands clench’d so tight,
With thy red heart and thy brain
Silent in surcease of pain,
Wherefore still in strange surprise
               Fix thine eyes?

Glass’d to mirror some strange ray                                           235
Gleaming ghostwise in the day,
Staring silent, in amaze,
Dead man, glimmereth thy gaze,
Glazing through thy cold grey hair
               With sick stare.

Not on men, and not on me,
Not on aught the living see,
Gazest thou—but still, alas!
Thou perceivest something pass
I perceive not, tho’ its thrill
               Cometh chill.

Dead man, dead man, take repose!
Since thy twain eyes will not close,
I will shut them softly over
With the waxen lids for cover;
Look no more upon the sun—
               All is done!


And singing thus I knew (within my dream)
That all the gods were dead, and Death was King,
For all the woeful Valley once again
Grew populous with silent ghostly shapes
Tumultuously moving, like a sea;
And gazing thro’ my tears I saw, within
The heart of that black valley, a Form that rose
Gigantic, crag-like, frosted o’er and o’er
With the cold crystals of eternity,                                                        236
Yet naked as a skeleton; and, lo!
I knew the shape and lineaments of Death,
Lord of the gods and chaos, first and last
Of portents and of phantoms: huge he rose,
Swarm’d on by that tumultuous tide of ghosts
Which broke around his feet; and round him stretch’d
The realm of tears and silence, and above him
Heaven open’d,—an abyss of nothingness
Far as Despair could see or hope could wing!







SADDER than night, and sunless as the grave,
Was that strange darkness clouding soul and sense;
But when I saw the living light again,
And felt the blood within me crawling cold
As drops of quicksilver from vein to vein,
I stood alone upon a wan wayside
Watching the crimson eyeballs of the Dawn.

Darnels and nettles gather’d bosom-deep
Around a rain-worn Cross whereon there clung
No shape of flesh or stone, but from beneath
Came a white glimmer as of bleaching bones;
And on the Cross a lonely raven sat
Preening his ragged plumage silently;
And all around were bare and leafless woods
Through which the sunshafts straggled crimson red;
And crouching in the shadow of the Cross
Three spectral Women wrapt in ragged weeds                                   238
Sat moaning; and of these the first was old,
With hair as white as wool blown loose and wild
Around her; and the second woman bare
A lighter load of years, with jet-black hair
Just touch’d with hoarfrost; but the third was young,
With eyes of pallid speedwell-blue, and hair
Pure golden raining round her ripe round arms
And naked breasts. And unto these I spake,
Remembering that beauteous god, my guide,
And question’d them of Eros, if their eyes
Had seen him pass that way along the woods
Quitting the woeful Valley of dead gods?

And one said: ‘He who suckled at my breast
Is dead and cold, and walks the world no more;’
The second said: ‘The vineyard is destroyed;
The Master of the vineyard sleeps for ever;’
And the third said: ‘He whom I loved, whose feet
I wash’d and then anointed, at whose tomb
I have knock’d aloud for countless weary years,
Is dead, and hath not risen;’ and all the three
Lifted their voices wailing piteously.

     Ev’n as I look’d and listen’d woe-begone
I heard a voice behind me murmuring
‘Good morrow;’ and quickly turning I beheld                                      239
A gentle wight, who wore around his form
A pleasant woodland robe of grassy green,
Brown shoon upon his feet, and in his hand
Carried a staff enwound with ferns and flowers;
And when I question’d ‘Who are these who weep?’
Upon those women wailing ’neath the cross
He gazed in pity, not in pain like mine,
And answer’d,—
                 ‘Outcasts from the world. Poor leaves!
Fall’n with the rain that beats upon a grave.’



Methinks I know them. Yesternight I saw
These shadows, ’mong the shadows of dead gods.



Comest thou from thence? Well may thy cheek be pale,
Thy look wayworn and desolate, thy soul
Haunted and woeful. Hast thou wander’d far?



Yea, thither and hither, from Christopolis.



And whither goest thou? From the darkness yonder,
Surely to some new sunshine? Comfort, friend!
The wailing of these wanderers cannot drown
The music of the mountains and the streams,
And scarce a stone’s-throw from this piteous place
The sunshine falls on crystal rivulets
And warms the snowy fleece of leaping lambs!

Clear was his voice, yet dreamy-toned and deep
As is the wood-dove’s cooing when it broods
On its warm heartbeats; and his face, though grave,
Was brown as ripen’d fruit and wore no shade
Of fear or sorrow; and even as he spake
The morning brighten’d, and from far away
The silver clarion of the Spring was blown
To wake the drowsy world. ‘Alas!’ I cried,
‘How shall the sunshine and the dawn avail,
Since the sweet gods that made creation glad
Are flown, and Eros, sweetest and most blest,
Bends weeping o’er his Brethren slain and cold
In yonder Valley of Divine Despair?’



Take comfort. Though the many pass away,
The One abides; God bends o’er these dead gods,
And smiles them into everlasting sleep.



Sleep? But they sleep not! Weary ghosts, they haunt
That Valley, and the ears of weary men
Can hear them wailing from the gates of Death;
And lo, without their open sepulchres,
In every land beneath the sun and stars,
Women like these prolong and echo back
The piteous ululation. Woe is me!
Where shall I find a place on all the earth
That is not haunted and disconsolate?



Walk these green woods with me, and thou shalt hear
The merry music of the waking world!



What is thy name, and wherefore, dwelling here,
So close to that dread Valley, canst thou keep
A mien so peaceful and a voice so calm?



Sylvan they name me, after some brave god
Who found my mother sleeping in the shade,
Naked and warm and drowsy from her bath
In a great slumberous pool, and in his arms
Clasp’d her before she woke and quicken’d in her
A newer life, mine own; and when I lived
And drank the light, she told me with a smile
That she had never seen my father’s face,
Yet knew by many a sign of leaf and flower
Some godhead had embraced her as she slept!



Didst thou not say but now, the gods were dead?



The gods of sorrow, but the gods of joy
Ever abide where’er the woods are green
And sunlight merry. Every flower and tree
Shares light and life with them, and is divine.



A phantasy! With such a phantasy
They sought to cheat me in the groves of Faun.



The many pass away, but Pan abides,
And him we worship in these peaceful woods.

Now, as he spake, those forms beneath the Cross
Grew fainter, and their dreary voices ceased.
Creeping from underneath with scented arms
A honeysuckle and a rose-tree twined
Their tendrils round the Cross, and overspread it
With tender bells and blooms; and as I gazed
Meseem’d they lived and laugh’d to feel the life
Sparkling within them, while their scented breath
Perfumed the air I drew; while all around,
As at the touch of a magician’s wand,
The woodland kindled into emerald flame,
The grass along the sward ran bright and green,
O’erhead the morning skies broke bright and blue,
And the great sun became the golden heart
Of the violet of heaven. And Sylvan said:
‘Yea, verily the many gods are dead,
Yet that which was their life and quicken’d them
Breaks into summer blossom o’er their graves.’
Whereon I answer’d, walking sadly on
Beside him down the gladdening greenwood glade,
‘Christopolis remains, and in its core                                                   244
Death sits, a crimson King; and hitherward,
And yonder far as the wide gates of dawn,
His sceptre rules both gods and thinking things
As well as tree and flower; and high as heaven,
He sets as sign of his sad sovereignty
The empty Cross!’ But Sylvan, smiling, said:
‘Death is the servant of the One we serve,
Whose breathing fills the world with light and life.’



Name me his name, that I may understand.



Nameless and formless is that Life Divine.



Hast thou not known him with thine eyes and ears?



He dwells for evermore but dimly guessed.



A riddle, like the riddle of the Cross!



A certitude, like thine own beating heart!
The Ever-changing yet Unchangeable
Haunts His creation as the breath within
Thy body, and as the blood within thy veins:
Moves in the mountains, fills the surging seas,
Melts in the storm-cloud and becomes the dew
That dims the lover’s eyes.



                                             Meseems I read
Thine easy riddle. He thou worshippest
Is shapeless as the blue ethereal air;
Not God who builds a City for his own,
But that blind force whereby all cities fall?



What He destroys he evermore renews,—
As He renews the flowers and forest-trees.



Can he renew this desolate heart of dust
Failing away within me as the seed
That rots and falls away within the shell?
Can he roll back the sun and summon back                                         246
The boy who gladden’d in the morning time?
Can he bring back the gods whom he has slain,
Sweetest and best the god of flesh and blood
For whom those three wan women weep and wail?



He can do more. With every dawn of day
He recreates—



                           The mirage of a world!
O peace, for he thou fondly worshippest
Is not the God I seek, but him I fly.

We wander’d on, and all around us grew
Full sweetness of the summer. Green and glad
The prospects brighten’d round us, and I saw
Beyond the emerald reaches of the glade
A leafy valley, meadows, groves, and streams,
With fountains sparkling and upleaping lambs;
And here and there a lonely human form
Flitted across the sunlight and was gone;
Yet for the rest the place was solitary
And full of strange and solitary sounds—
The wood-dove’s brooding call, the whispering rill                             247
Half drown’d in rustling leaves, the lambkin’s cry
Distant and drowsy, and from time to time
A far-off human call. Upon my heart
Fell a warm heaviness and dreamy sense
Of happiness fantastic and unreal,
When, looking back, I saw along the glade
Those three wan Women slowly following
In silence, and the pathway as they came
Was sunless, dark and chill. ‘Alas!’ I said,
‘This valley where you dwell is haunted, too,
By the dim ghosts of goddesses and gods;’
And as I spake we left the woods behind
And came ’mong grassy slopes that wander’d on
To pastoral mountains green and beautiful
Crown’d by the golden noontide. Here I paused
And pointing upward cried, ‘What land lies yonder?’
And Sylvan said, ‘A beauteous mountain land
Of Shepherds; but at every height you climb
The air grows chillier, till beneath your feet
Crumble the stainless crystals of the snow.
Be warn’d and fare no further. Rest content
Here in the lap of summer, laden ever
With roses of the dawn.’
                                         And as he spake
The sunlight brighten’d, and the leaping lambs
Cried faintly, and the cuckoo call’d her name,                                     248
Deep hidden in the sunlight’s golden cage;
And round my feet the warm grass crept like moss,
Warm, green, and living, and the golden glades
Kindled and blossom’d,—yet afar away
Behind me still I saw those three wan Shapes
Outlooking from the greenness of the woods.

‘Stay!’ cried he, as I faced the steep ascent
And hasten’d heavenward; but, mine eager heart
Fill’d with the summer as a cup with wine,
Renew’d and strong, I left him standing there
’Mong those bright pastures; and as sings a lark
For bliss of the glad beating of the wings
That waft it upward, so methought my soul
Ran over gladly, and ’twas thus I sang:—


Hark, I am call’d away!
Fain would my spirit stay,
Here, where the cuckoos call,
Here, where the fountains play
From dawn to evenfall,
Here, where the white flocks stray,
With the blue sky spanning all!
Here, where the world is May,
Fain would I rest, grow grey,—
               But nay, ah nay!

Birds on the greenwood spray                                                   249
Flit through the green and the grey,
Flocks on the green slopes cry,
Softly the streams glance by,
All things are merry and gay
Under the morning sky;
Sweet smiles the world to-day,
Yet must I wander away?
               Ah yea, ah yea!

A motion all things obey,
A breath in the cloud and the clay,
A stir in the fountain that springs,
A sound in the bird that sings,
From dawn to death of day
Quick in the heart of things!
All changes, and naught can stay;
Blown like a breath o’ the spray,
               I must away!

Ah, would that I could stay!
Yet, as those clouds obey
Winds that behind them blow
(See them, how soft, how slow,
Thro’ the still heavens they stray!),
Onward I too must go!
No space to pause, to pray,
But heavenward, even as they,
               I must away!


And now methought I came into that land                                            250
Of pastoral mountains, with green summer cones,
Forests of pine and fir upon their flanks,
And waterfalls that flashing silver feet
Leapt with wild laughter into dark ravines;
A land of sheep and shepherds; o’er the slopes
The snow-white flocks were spilt like broken streams,
While faintly overhead against the blue
Sounded a shepherd’s horn. In sooth, it seem’d
A green, a peaceful, and a pleasant land!

Climbing the shoulder of a sunlit hill,
Oft gazing back on him I had left behind
Dwindled by distance to a pigmy’s size,
I reach’d a solitary cottage door,
And there a mountain maid with gentle eyes
Gave me sweet welcome, placed me in the porch,
And brought me mountain cheer—brown bread and milk.
Around my seat flock’d children flaxen-hair’d,
Brown men, barefooted maids, and wise-eyed dogs;
And when I question’d of that peaceful land,
And of the City throned in solitude
Somewhere amid the silence of the hills,
They look’d at one another wondering
And could not understand. But one, a wight,
Grey-hair’d yet lithe, in goatskin mantle clad,                                      251
Said: ‘Master, I have wander’d, man and boy,
These hills for seventy years, and seen no City,
Save only cities in the sunset clouds
Or in the mirage of the rainbow’d heights:
Be warn’d by me,—turn back, or rest thee here;
The crags are perilous without a guide.’
I answer’d: ‘God my Guide and Shepherd is;
I need no other;’ and I took my staff,
And bidding them farewell, I hasten’d on;
And as I climb’d the hill look’d back once more
And saw them cluster’d—children, men, and maids—
Watching me as I wander’d up the heights.

Then, faring onward towards the mountain-tops,
I saw a herdboy like an antique Faun
Sitting upon a knoll, and piping sweet,
While round about him leapt his yeanling lambs
And gentle mountain echoes answer’d him.
Bare was his neck and brown, his cheek more red
Than are the berries of the mountain ash,
His hair like golden flax, his voice as clear
As cuckoos crying round the lake-lilies
That open’d on the mountain mere close by.
Him for a little space I gazed upon,
Then greeted with a smile, and question’d him,
Singing my question from a merry heart,                                              252
Till, smiling too and singing, he replied:—



Little Herdboy, sitting there,
With the sunshine on thy hair,
And thy flocks so white and still
Spilt around thee on the hill,
Tell me true, in thy sweet speech,
Of the City I would reach.

’Tis a City of God’s Light
Most imperishably bright,
And its gates are golden all,—
And at dawn and evenfall
They grow ruby-bright and blest
To the east and to the west.

Here, among the hills it lies,
Like a lamb with lustrous eyes
Lying at the Shepherd’s feet;
And the breath of it is sweet,
As it rises from the sward
To the nostrils of the Lord!

Little Herdboy, tell me right,
Hast thou seen it from thy height?
For it lieth up this way,
And at dawn or death of day
Thou hast surely seen it shine
With the light that is divine?



Where the buttercups so sweet
Dust with gold my naked feet,
Where the grass grows green and long,
Sit I here and sing my song,
And the brown bird cries ‘Cuckoo’
Under skies for ever blue!

Now and then, while I sing loud,
Flits a little fleecy cloud,
And uplooking I behold
How it turns to rain of gold,
Falling lightly, while around
Comes the stir of its soft sound!

Bright above and dim below
Is the many-colour’d Bow;
’Tis the only light I mark,
Till the mountain-tops grow dark,
And uplooking I espy
Shining glow-worms in the sky;

Then I hear the runlet’s call,
And the voice o’ the waterfall
Growing louder, and ’tis cold
As I guide my flocks to fold;
But no City, great or small,
Have I ever seen at all!


So, sighing deep, I pass’d upon my way,
Not strengthen’d, but more spiritually calm
Because the little herdboy’s voice was sweet;                                      254
And now my pathway by a streamlet ran,
And in the midst upon a mossy stone
Sat the white-breasted ouzel of the brook,
Plunging with soft chirp ever and anon
Into the crystal pool beneath her feet,
And rising dripping dewily to her throne
In the mid stream; and at the streamlet’s brink
A lamb stood drinking, and I saw beneath
The stainless shadow broken tremulously
’Mid troubled shallows into flakes of snow.

Then, journeying ever upward, I beheld
The crags and rocks and air-hung precipices
Redden in sunset, and above the peaks,
Upon a bed of crimson duskly gleam’d
The argent sickle of the beamless morn;                                              [l.xvi]
And lo, the winds had fallen and curl’d themselves
Like tired-out hounds in hollows of the hills,
Restlessly sleeping but from time to time
Audibly breathing; and deep stillness lay
Upon the mountains and the darkening slopes
Beneath their snows, and the low far-off moan
Of torrents deepening that stillness came
From the untrodden heights.
                                               Hung like a shield
Midway between the valley and the peaks                                          255
There lay a lone and melancholy mere;
And in its glass the hills beheld themselves
Misting the image with their vaporous breath.
Hither, while yet the sunset lit the crags,
Mirror’d below tho’ it had faded long
From the dark hollows and the mere itself,
I came, and sitting on its margin watch’d
The faint light fade below me, softly changing
From pink to crimson, and from crimson dark
To darker purple, while one quiet star
Crawl’d like a shining insect of the depths
Upon the azure bottom of the mere.
Ev’n as I sat and mused I heard a voice
Behind me. Quickly turning I perceived
A gray grave mortal like a mountaineer
With crook and leathern shoon, his stature tall,
His shoulders stooping, and his eyes cast down
As if to read a book upon the ground;
Who gently greeted me, and courteously,
Like one mild-vestured in authority,
Welcomed me to that solitary place.

‘What man art thou?’ I ask’d. ‘A friend,’ he said,
‘To all who cross this way on pilgrimage.
My name is Peaceful, call’d by simple folk
The Hermit of the Mere.’                                                                   256
‘A lonely place,’
I answer’d; ‘lonely, yet most beautiful!
Its calm and loveliness are on thy brow,
Its music in thy voice which sounds to me
Soft as a fountain falling. Hast thou found
Here, up among the hills, the Gate wherein
The pearl which passeth understanding lies,
And which for evermore with restless feet
We world-worn pilgrims seek?’
                                                     Upon my face
Fixing the untroubled splendour of his eyes,
‘Be comforted,’ he said, ‘for thou hast reach’d
Those heights where the Seraphic Shepherd guides
The world’s sad flocks to their eternal fold;
Thou seekest God. His stainless Temple stands
Among these mountains!’



                                           Dwelling here alone,
Hast thou beheld Him with thy living eyes?



I have beheld the flowers o’ the earth and sky,
The stately clouds that march and countermarch,
The shining spheres; these evermore fulfil
His ministrations; radiant is the Light                                                    257
That covers up his face as with a veil;
Soft is the shadow He in stooping casts
Nightly to bless the still and sleeping world!



The God I seek is not so solitary;
He hath built a City for His worshippers!



Nay, friend; for he who seeks the living God
Must seek Him in the gentle solitude.
Here doth His presence brood in peace for ever
Still as the silence on the mountain-tops;
And he who findeth it, as I have found,
Must leave the flocks of men, and dwell alone.

Ev’n as he spake, and hush’d in awe I shrank
As one that shrinks and dreads the sudden birth
Of some miraculous divine event,
There pass’d across the scene we gazed upon
A mist like sudden breath: cloud follow’d cloud,
And underneath the mountains and the mere
Blacken’d, till utter darkness of the night
Enwrapt us fold on fold; when, suddenly,
Out of the vapour rolling down the peaks                                           258
Red lightning came, before whose glaring spear
The Thunder, like a wounded monster, crouch’d
And shook with echoing groans!
                                           And with that change
My spirit changed within me, from deep dread
Back to familiar trouble and unrest;
But as I stood and wonder’d, hesitating,
Methought that grave and gentle mountaineer
Did lead me to the shelter of his hut
Built by the lonely mere; and there we sat
Together, while the tempest crash’d without
And rain made leaden music on the roof;
A flickering lamp of oil our only light,
Which served to show the peace upon his face,
The unrest on mine; when, marvelling much to mark
His mien of gentleness and happiness,
I brake the silence, thus:—
                                             ‘Aye me! methinks
There is no resting-place or succour here
Among these mountains! Needless ’twere to climb
So high to find the calm and storm of God.
But ’tis the promised City that I seek—
A City of clear sunlight and sweet air,
Not darkness, and a mystery, and a change,                                       259
Fretting the spirit with primæval fear.’

‘O friend,’ he answer’d, ‘I who speak have found
Peace passing understanding in my home
In this great solitude. What seek’st thou more?
Is’t not enough to feel for evermore
The presence of the fair Artificer
Who made the holy heavens and the earth
And all within them? Can His living breath
Not still thee, but thou criest for a sign?’

Thereon I rose, and striding to the door,
Look’d forth into the night; and, lo, the storm
Had pass’d away, leaving that mountain air
The calmer for its coming—the blue void
Was sown with stars like snowdrops; on the mere,
Filmy with mist and moonlight, luminously
Like living things their bright reflections stirr’d;
And all the pathos and the peace of heaven
Was pour’d upon the world in pensive beams.

Then rising too the hermit join’d me there,
And, looking upward with me, gently said:
‘Still is the night and peaceful once again,
Have patience—so shalt thou, too, lie and bask
Under the beams of God. Come in and rest;                                        260
To-morrow, if thou wilt, fare forth again,
But be my guest this night!’
                                             He led me in,
And on the hearth he strew’d a simple bed
Of rushes dry and sweetly-scented fern,
Whereon I sighing threw my wearied limbs,
And for a time I toss’d in dark unrest,
But slept at last; and when I open’d eyes
The merry light was flooding all the place,
And mountain, mere, and torrent were rejoicing
In the new dawn of day.
                                         Then in the hut
We twain broke bread together and join’d hands
In fellowship of love; but when he sought
To urge me to remain in that still land,
A hermit like himself, I seized my staff
And pointed to the mountain-tops that flash’d
Their kindled peaks above us.
                                                 ‘Yonder lies
The path that I must follow, though it lead
To utter darkness and to death,’ I cried.
‘Nor deem my soul ungrateful for this help
Wherewith, most gentle and benign of friends,
Thou hast sought to cheer my spectre-troubled way.
But what thou dreamest I can never dream
By these still waters; what thou dost behold                                         261
I, haunted out of patience, out of peace,
By that wild mirage of a heavenly City,
I, faint from a dark Valley of dead gods,
Behold not; what thou findest mirror’d brightly
Within thee as within that gentle mere,
Alas, I cannot find, being darken’d ever
And clouded with a fear: wherefore our ways
Part gently, and my lips must say farewell.’

‘So be it,’ he answer’d. ‘As the bow was bent
The dart must speed; pray Heaven thy soul at last
May hit its lonely mark! But since thy path
Is upward, I will guide thee for a space
Through yonder desolate and dark ravines.
High up among them, under shadowy crags,
One who once wander’d in the sun with me,
Nightshade by name, a lonely mountaineer,
Hath of a rocky cavern made his home.
He knows the loneliest summits and the heights
Familiar with the morning, and perchance
May help thy footsteps onward, where the peaks
Grow steep and perilous!’
                                           So side by side
We wander’d on together till we past
From sunlight to the shadow of the hills;
And as we went he spake in stately speech                                          262
Of pleasures that made glad his hermitage—
Of moonrise and the wonders of the mere,
Of flowers and stars, white lambs, and lamb-like men;
So that I linger’d listening to his words,
And oftentimes glanced back with doubting eyes
On the bright waters and his happy home.

But now the clarion of the winds was blown
From height to height, and far above our heads
A sunbeam, springing godlike on a crag,
Stood tremulous, pausing between earth and heaven;
And my feet hasten’d, and I felt once more
The motion of the life within my veins
Drifting with wind and light and mist and cloud.
Dark was the way, my path a torrent’s bed
Dried up to spots of dusty quicksilver
And strewn with fallen rocks; but eagerly
I hasten’d, till at last my gentle guide
Paused, pointing, and I saw beneath a rock
One Nightshade sitting with lacklustre eyes
Gazing upon the ground and counting thoughts
Like one who telleth beads.
                                             And for a space
He saw us not, though standing near his seat
We watched him; but at last, like one that wakes
Out of a heavy sleep, he turn’d his head,                                            263
Saw us, and welcomed with a dreamful smile.
Him Peaceful greeted, and deliver’d forth
My name and errand,—when that other rose,
Grasping my outstretch’d hand in both of his,
And peer’d into my face like one that reads
A dark and mystic book.
                                         ‘Pilgrim of God,’
He murmur’d, ‘welcome to these lonely crags,
Wherein, with mystic sounds of death and birth,
The chaos of the Elemental stirs
To Thought ineffable!’
                                     Even as he spake
He seem’d to fall again into a trance,
Whereon the other gently smiling said,
‘Go with him! even as the swift izzard,
Which safely walks the sword-edge of the cliffs,
Or as some angel-led somnambulist
Who falters not where waking men would fall,
He knows the paths of peril.’
                                               Then once more
We two wrung hands and blessing one another
Parted. And lightly downward Peaceful ran
Until he left the shade of the ravine
And stood in golden sunlight far away
Uplooking, waved his hand, and from my sight
Vanish’d for ever.                                                                               264
Then to the other turning,
I told him of my quest and soul’s desire
For certainty and peace; ‘But surely now,’
I added, ‘surely now the end is near,
And I shall share the heavenly sight which fills
Thy face with rapture of mysterious dream!’
He answer’d not, but, muttering to himself,
Walk’d upward, choosing a dark path which seem’d
To wander right into the stony heart
Of those wild mountains: soon the riven rocks
Rose o’er us, leaving only one blue space,
A hand’s breadth wide, to show the open heaven;                              [l.xiii]
And as one lying in an empty well
May, though full daylight burns beyond it, see
Stars circling in their orbits, I beheld
On that blue patch of space above my head
The gleam of constellations. Darker yet
The pathway grew, and now on every side
Gulfs yawn’d, abysses blacken’d, caverns deep
Open’d into the hollow of the crags,
And down the abysses cataracts leapt with hair
Foam-white that flash’d behind them, and there came
A sound and motion as of wings of birds
Beating the darkness; so that unaware
My head swam, and methought I should have fallen
Into the precipices under us,                                                              265
But even as I totter’d Nightshade’s hand
Grasp’d and upheld me.
                                         ‘Courage!’ he exclaim’d,
‘And fear not; what thou dreadest is the abyss
Of thought within thee! Follow fearlessly,
And look not downward!’
                                           Crag was piled on crag
Above us, precipice on precipice
Swam dizzily beneath us; but as one
Who clings to a magician’s robe, I gript
My Guide, and walk’d in safety till we gain’d
A place of caverns where like living ghosts
Wild shadows came and went; and in the void
Above those caverns lay an open space
Night-black and scrawl’d with starry zodiac signs;
And faint lights of the far-off universe
Came, went, and came again, and in the void
The tremulous pulses of the eternal Light
Were visibly throbbing!
                                       Shuddering and afraid,
I cried, ‘What realm is this? and who are these
That are as living things and come and go?’
And Nightshade answer’d: ‘’Tis the peaceful realm
Where with her crying children darkly dwells
The midnight mother, Meditation;
And what thou now dost see, or seem to see,                                      266
Is the dim conflict of unconscious shapes
In act to be!’ And as he spake he pass’d
Into the shadow of a cave wherein
There sat a creature shapen like a man
But wan as any moonbeam; and methought
Its face was misted with a vaporous veil
Through which its eyes shone dimly, while its lips
Moved to wild music, and ’twas thus it sang:—


I am lifted on the wind
     Of a thought as fleet as fire,
No foothold can I find,
     But the wings of my desire
Beat the troubled air and gleam
With the dripping dews of dream!

I can hear the deep low thunder
     Of the strong wheels of the sun,
I can see the green earth under,
     As a golden ball is spun,
Rolling softly round and round
To a sweet and showery sound.

Life and Death unto my seeing
     Are as vapours roll’d afar,
Through their folds the sea of Being,
     With God’s secret like a star
Shining o’er it, dark doth beat
’Neath the winds below my feet.

I am trancèd into fear                                                                 267
     Of mine own swift-striking wings,
For I hover darkly here,
     And the mystic cloud of things
Swims around me, and my brain
Trembles drenchèd with their rain.

And I cannot pause to think,
     But my wings must beat and beat;
If I pause for breath I sink
     To the Ocean at my feet—
With the wings of my desire,
On a wind as swift as fire,

I must struggle; and my thought
     Gathers naught from my soul’s sight—
Only shadows star-enwrought,
     Death and Birth and Dawn and Night,
And the soft ecstatic motion
Of the Star above the Ocean.

Could I pause a little space,
     Could I pause a space and listening,
With that starlight on my face,
     See it glistening and glistening,
I could comprehend full plain
All the spirit seeks in vain.

But the wind whereon I sail
     Is as terrible as fire,
And I walk the winds, but fail
     With the wings of my desire,
And I swoon and seem to sink                                                   268
On the mighty Ocean’s brink.

And the cold breath of that Ocean
     Lingers wildly in my hair,
And that strange Star’s rhythmic motion
     Soothes my passionate despair,
And on that one Star I call,
As I fall and fall and fall!


The wild strain ceasing, from the caves and crags
There came the cries of other piteous voices
Blent in one murmur like the clangour cold
Of numerous ocean waves; and as I paused
In terror, watching those phantasmic shapes,
One like a naked man pass’d by me shrieking
And plunged to some black gulf that yawn’d beneath;
And standing on the verge of the abyss
Another, like the spirit of the torrent,
Paused gazing upward with great sightless eyes,
And pointed at the lights of heaven, and moan’d:—


The Woof that I weave not
     Thou wearest and weavest,
The Thought I conceive not
     Thou darkly conceivest;
The wind and the rain,
     The night and the morrow,
The rapture of pain
     Fading slowly to sorrow,

The dream and the deed,                                                          269
     The calm and the storm,
The flower and the seed,
     Are thy Thought and thy Form.
I die, yet depart not,
     I am bound, yet soar free,
Thou art and thou art not,
     And ever shalt be!


Ev’n as he spake there flash’d across the peaks
A Spectre such as timid cragsmen see
Flashing upon the Brocken overhead:
So near, it lit the chasms and the peaks,
So far, it seem’d a comet far away!
Clear yet transparent, pale though phosphorescent,
It stream’d across the darkness terribly,
Fading and changing; now a formless thing,
Trembling and meteoric, then, a space,
Bright as a wingèd beast of burning gold;
Then kindling into human lineaments,
Wild locks, outstretching hands; and then again
Melting to fiery vapour and departing
Swift as a shooting star; and as it changed
Those spirits from their caves peer’d out and wail’d,
And splendour as of sunrise lit the crags
And show’d the continents and seas beneath,
The silver’d map of the dark sleeping world;
And thunders from the heavens and earth beneath                                270
Clash’d loud together, and the face of night
Was hidden, and from out the depths of life
There came the moans of countless weary men.

‘Behold,’ cried Nightshade, lit from head to feet
By that strange miracle of light, ‘Behold
The Spectre of the Inconceivable!
The Light that flaming on the shuddering sense
Within us fades, but flash’d from soul to soul
Illumes that infinite ocean of sad thought
We sail and sail for ever and find no shore!
The Dream, the Dream! The Light that is the Life
Within us and without us, yet eludes
Our guessing—fades and changes, and is gone!’

     Ev’n as he spake the light illumining
His form grew dimmer, and his face shone pale,
The shadows deepen’d, and the stars again
Lifted their silvern lids to gaze upon us,
While like a meteor that strange Portent fled
And darkness dwelt upon the lonely peaks.


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Page 222, l. iv: Alone tho’ all around me shapes like men
Page 224, l. xv: ‘Another and another and another;
Page 254, l. xvi: The argent sickle of the beamless moon;
Page 264, l. xiii: A hand’s breadth wide, to show the open heaven! ]



The City of Dream continued

or back to The City of Dream - Contents








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


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


Site Diary
Site Search