Verse > Lord Byron > Poems
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Lord Byron (1788–1824).  Poetry of Byron.  1881.
 
I. Personal, Lyric, and Elegiac
The Dream
 
I SAW two beings in the hues of youth
Standing upon a hill, a gentle hill,
Green and of mild declivity, the last
As ’twere the cape of a long ridge of such,
Save that there was no sea to lave its base,        5
But a most living landscape, and the wave
Of woods and cornfields, and the abodes of men
Scatter’d at intervals, and wreathing smoke
Arising from such rustic roofs; the hill
Was crown’d with a peculiar diadem        10
Of trees, i circular array, so fix’d,
Not by the sport of nature, but of man:
These two, a maiden and a youth, were there
Gazing—the one on all that was beneath
Fair as herself—but the boy gazed on her;        15
And both were young, and one was beautiful:
And both were young—yet not alike in youth.
As the sweet moon on the horizon’s verge,
The maid was on the eve of womanhood;
The boy had fewer summers, but his heart        20
Had far outgrown his years, and to his eye
There was but one beloved face on earth,
And that was shining on him; he had look’d
Upon it till it could not pass away;
He had no breath, no being, but in hers;        25
She was his voice; he did not speak to her,
But trembled on her words; she was his sight,
For his eye follow’d hers, and saw with hers,
Which colour’d all his objects:—he had ceased
To live within himself; she was his life,        30
The ocean to the river of his thoughts,
Which terminated all: upon a tone,
A touch of hers, his blood would ebb and flow,
And his cheek change tempestuously—his heart
Unknowing of its cause of agony.        35
But she in these fond feelings had no share:
Her sighs were not for him; to her he was
Even as a brother—but no more; ’twas much,
For brotherless she was, save in the name
Her infant friendship had bestow’d on him;        40
Herself the solitary scion left
Of a time-honour’d race.—It was a name
Which pleased him, and yet pleased him not—and why?
Time taught him a deep answer—when she loved
Another; even now she loved another,        45
And on the summit of that hill she stood
Looking afar if yet her lover’s steed
Kept pace with her expectancy and flew.
 
A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.
There was an ancient mansion, and before        50
Its walls there was a steed caparison’d:
Within an antique Oratory stood
The Boy of whom I spake;—he was alone,
And pale, and pacing to and fro: anon
He sate him down, and seized a pen, and traced        55
Words which I could not guess of; then he lean’d
His bow’d head on his hands, and shook as ’twere
With a convulsion—then arose again,
And with his teeth and quivering hands did tear
What he had written, but he shed no tears.        60
And he did calm himself, and fix his brow
Into a kind of quiet: as he paused,
The Lady of his love re-enter’d there;
She was serene and smiling then, and yet
She knew she was by him beloved,—she knew,        65
For quickly comes such knowledge, that his heart
Was darken’d with her shadow, and she saw
That he was wretched, but she saw not all.
He rose, and with a cold and gentle grasp
He took her hand; a moment o’er his face        70
A tablet of unutterable thoughts
Was traced, and then it faded, as it came;
He dropp’d the hand he held, and with slow steps
Retired, but not as bidding her adieu,
For they did part with mutual smiles; he pass’d        75
From out the massy gate of that old Hall,
And mounting on his steed he went his way;
And ne’er repass’d that hoary threshold more.
 
A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.
The Boy was sprung to manhood: in the wilds        80
Of fiery climes he made himself a home,
And his Soul drank their sunbeams: he was girt
With strange and dusky aspects; he was not
Himself like what he had been; on the sea
And on the shore he was a wanderer;        85
There was a mass of many images
Crowded like waves upon me, but he was
A part of all; and in the last he lay
Reposing from the noontide sultriness,
Couch’d among fallen columns, in the shade        90
Of ruin’d walls that had survived the names
Of those who rear’d them; by his sleeping side
Stood camels grazing, and some goodly steeds
Were fasten’d near a fountain; and a man
Clad in a flowing garb did watch the while,        95
While many of his tribe slumber’d around:
And they were canopied by the blue sky,
So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful,
That God alone was to be seen in Heaven.
 
A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.        100
The Lady of his love was wed with One
Who did not love her better:—in her home,
A thousand leagues from his,—her native home,
She dwelt, begirt with growing Infancy,
Daughters and sons of Beauty,—but behold!        105
Upon her face there was the tint of grief,
The settled shadow of an inward strife,
And an unquiet drooping of the eye
As if its lid were charged with unshed tears.
What could her grief be?—she had all she loved,        110
And he who had so loved her was not there
To trouble with bad hopes, or evil wish,
Or ill-repress’d affliction, her pure thoughts.
What could her grief be?—she had loved him not,
Nor given him cause to deem himself beloved,        115
Nor could he be a part of that which prey’d
Upon her mind—a spectre of the past.
 
A change came o’er the spirit of my dream,
The Wanderer was return’d.—I saw him stand
Before an Altar—with a gentle bride;        120
Her face was fair, but was not that which made
The Starlight of his Boyhood;—as he stood
Even at the altar, o’er his brow there came
The self-same aspect, and the quivering shock
That in the antique Oratory shook        125
His bosom in its solitude; and then—
As in that hour—a moment o’er his face
The tablet of unutterable thoughts
Was traced,—and then it faded as it came,
And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke        130
The fitting vows, but heard not his own words,
And all things reel’d around him; he could see
Not that which was, nor that which should have been—
But the old mansion, and the accustom’d hall,
And the remember’d chambers, and the place,        135
The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade,
All things pertaining to that place and hour,
And her who was his destiny, came back
And thrust themselves between him and the light:
What business had they there at such a time?        140
 
A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love;—Oh! she was changed
As by the sickness of the soul; her mind
Had wander’d from its dwelling, and her eyes
They had not their own lustre, but the look        145
Which is not of the earth; she was become
The queen of a fantastic realm; her thoughts
Were combinations of disjointed things;
And forms impalpable and unperceived
Of others’ sight, familiar were to hers.        150
And this the world calls frenzy; but the wise
Have a far deeper madness, and the glance
Of melancholy is a fearful gift;
What is it but the telescope of truth?
Which strips the distance of its fantasies,        155
And brings life near in utter nakedness,
Making the cold reality too real!
 
A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was alone as heretofore,
The beings which surrounded him were gone,        160
Or were at war with him; he was a mark
For blight and desolation, compass’d round
With Hatred and Contention; Pain was mix’d
In all which was served up to him, until,
Like to the Pontic monarch of old days,        165
He fed on poisons, and they had no power,
But were a kind of nutriment; he lived
Through that which had been death to many men,
And made him friends of mountains: with the stars
And the quick Spirit of the Universe        170
He held his dialogues; and they did teach
To him the magic of their mysteries;
To him the book of Night was open’d wide,
And voices from the deep abyss reveal’d
A marvel and a secret—Be it so.        175
 
My dream was past; it had no further change.
It was of a strange order, that the doom
Of these two creatures should be thus traced out
Almost like a reality—the one
To end in madness—both in misery.        180
 
 
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