RETURN TO Carry On Tuesday

Saturday 20 November 2010

Carry On Tuesday Plus # 80

A Book Of Dreams: Part II

George MacDonald


A gloomy and a windy day!

No sunny spot is bare;

Dull vapours, in uncomely play,

Go weltering through the air:

If through the windows of my mind

I let them come and go,

My thoughts will also in the wind

Sweep restless to and fro.

I drop my curtains for a dream.—

What comes? A mighty swan,

With plumage like a sunny gleam,

And folded airy van!

She comes, from sea-plains dreaming, sent

By sea-maids to my shore,

With stately head proud-humbly bent,

And slackening swarthy oar.

Lone in a vaulted rock I lie,

A water-hollowed cell,

Where echoes of old storms go by,

Like murmurs in a shell.

The waters half the gloomy way

Beneath its arches come;

Throbbing to outside billowy play,

The green gulfs waver dumb.

Undawning twilights through the cave

In moony glimmers go,

Half from the swan above the wave,

Half from the swan below,

As to my feet she gently drifts

Through dim, wet-shiny things,

And, with neck low-curved backward, lifts

The shoulders of her wings.

Old earth is rich with many a nest

Of softness ever new,

Deep, delicate, and full of rest—

But loveliest there are two:

I may not tell them save to minds

That are as white as they;

But none will hear, of other kinds—

They all are turned away.

On foamy mounds between the wings

Of a white sailing swan,

A flaky bed of shelterings,

There you will find the one.

The other—well, it will not out,

Nor need I tell it you;

I’ve told you one, and can you doubt,

When there are only two?

Fill full my dream, O splendid bird!

Me o’er the waters bear:

Never was tranquil ocean stirred

By ship so shapely fair!

Nor ever whiteness found a dress

In which on earth to go,

So true, profound, and rich, unless

It was the falling snow!

Her wings, with flutter half-aloft,

Impatient fan her crown;

I cannot choose but nestle soft

Into the depth of down.

With oary-pulsing webs unseen,

Out the white frigate sweeps;

In middle space we hang, between

The air- and ocean-deeps.

Up the wave’s mounting, flowing side,

With stroke on stroke we rack;

As down the sinking slope we slide,

She cleaves a talking track—

Like heather-bells on lonely steep,

Like soft rain on the glass,

Like children murmuring in their sleep,

Like winds in reedy grass.

Her white breast heaving like a wave,

She beats the solemn time;

With slow strong sweep, intent and grave,

Hearkens the ripples rime.

All round, from flat gloom upward drawn,

I catch the gleam, vague, wide,

With which the waves, from dark to dawn,

Heave up the polished side.

The night is blue; the stars aglow

Crowd the still, vaulted steep,

Sad o’er the hopeless, restless flow

Of the self-murmurous deep—

A thicker night, with gathered moan!

A dull dethroned sky!

The shadows of its stars alone

Left in to know it by!

What faints across yon lifted loop

Where the west gleams its last?

With sea-veiled limbs, a sleeping group

Of Nereids dreaming past.

Row on, fair swan;—who knows but I,

Ere night hath sought her cave,

May see in splendour pale float by

The Venus of the wave!


A rainbow-wave o’erflowed her,

A glory that deepened and grew,

A song of colour and odour

That thrilled her through and through:

’Twas a dream of too much gladness

Ever to see the light;

They are only dreams of sadness

That weary out the night.

Slow darkness began to rifle

The nest of the sunset fair;

Dank vapour began to stifle

The scents that enriched the air;

The flowers paled fast and faster,

They crumbled, leaf and crown,

Till they looked like the stained plaster

Of a cornice fallen down.

And the change crept nigh and nigher,

Inward and closer stole,

Till the flameless, blasting fire

Entered and withered her soul.—

But the fiends had only flouted

Her vision of the night;

Up came the morn and routed

The darksome things with light.

Wide awake I have often been in it—

The dream that all is none;

It will come in the gladdest minute

And wither the very sun.

Two moments of sad commotion,

One more of doubt’s palsied rule—

And the great wave-pulsing ocean

Is only a gathered pool;

A flower is a spot of painting,

A lifeless, loveless hue;

Though your heart be sick to fainting

It says not a word to you;

A bird knows nothing of gladness,

Is only a song-machine;

A man is a reasoning madness,

A woman a pictured queen!

Then fiercely we dig the fountain:

Oh! whence do the waters rise?

Then panting we climb the mountain:

Oh! are there indeed blue skies?

We dig till the soul is weary,

Nor find the water-nest out;

We climb to the stone-crest dreary,

And still the sky is a doubt!

Let alone the roots of the fountain;

Drink of the water bright;

Leave the sky at rest on the mountain,

Walk in its torrent of light;

Although thou seest no beauty,

Though widowed thy heart yet cries,

With thy hands go and do thy duty,

And thy work will clear thine eyes.


A great church in an empty square,

A haunt of echoing tones!

Feet pass not oft enough to wear

The grass between the stones.

The jarring hinges of its gates

A stifled thunder boom;

The boding heart slow-listening waits,

As for a coming doom.

The door stands wide. With hideous grin,

Like dumb laugh, evil, frore,

A gulf of death, all dark within,

Hath swallowed half the floor.

Its uncouth sides of earth and clay

O’erhang the void below;

Ah, some one force my feet away,

Or down I needs must go!

See, see the horrid, crumbling slope!

It breathes up damp and fust!

What man would for his lost loves grope

Amid the charnel dust!

Down, down! The coffined mould glooms high!

Methinks, with anguish dull,

I enter by the empty eye

Into a monstrous skull!

Stumbling on what I dare not guess,

Blind-wading through the gloom,

Still down, still on, I sink, I press,

To meet some awful doom.

My searching hands have caught a door

With iron clenched and barred:

Here, the gaunt spider’s castle-core,

Grim Death keeps watch and ward!

Its two leaves shake, its bars are bowed,

As if a ghastly wind,

That never bore a leaf or cloud,

Were pressing hard behind.

They shake, they groan, they outward strain:

What thing of dire dismay

Will freeze its form upon my brain,

And fright my soul away?

They groan, they shake, they bend, they crack;

The bars, the doors divide;

A flood of glory at their back

Hath burst the portals wide!

In flows a summer afternoon;

I know the very breeze!

It used to blow the silvery moon

About the summer trees.

The gulf is filled with flashing tides;

Blue sky through boughs looks in;

Mosses and ferns o’er floor and sides

A mazy arras spin.

The empty church, the yawning cleft,

The earthy, dead despair

Are gone, and I alive am left

In sunshine and in air!


Some dreams, in slumber’s twilight, sly

Through the ivory wicket creep;

Then suddenly the inward eye

Sees them outside the sleep.

Once, wandering in the border gray,

I spied one past me swim;

I caught it on its truant way

To nowhere in the dim.

All o’er a steep of grassy ground,

Lay ruined statues old,

Such forms as never more are found

Save deep in ancient mould,

A host of marble Anakim

Shattered in deadly fight!

Oh, what a wealth one broken limb

Had been to waking sight!

But sudden, the weak mind to mock

That could not keep its own,

Without a shiver or a shock,

Behold, the dream was gone!

For each dim form of marble rare

Stood broken rush or reed;

So bends on autumn field, long bare,

Some tall rain-battered weed.

The shapeless night hung empty, drear,

O’er my scarce slumbering head;

There is no good in staying here,

My spirit moaned, and fled.


The simplest joys that daily pass

Grow ecstasies in sleep;

A wind on heights of waving grass

In a dream has made me weep.

No wonder then my heart one night

Was joy-full to the brim:

I was with one whose love and might

Had drawn me close to him!

But from a church into the street

Came pouring, crowding on,

A troubled throng with hurrying feet,

And Lo, my friend was gone!

Alone upon a miry road

I walked a wretched plain;

Onward without a goal I strode

Through mist and drizzling rain.

Low mounds of ruin, ugly pits,

And brick-fields scarred the globe;

Those wastes where desolation sits

Without her ancient robe.

The dreariness, the nothingness

Grew worse almost than fear;

If ever hope was needful bliss,

Hope sure was needful here!

Did potent wish work joyous change

Like wizard’s glamour-spell?

Wishes not always fruitless range,

And sometimes it is well!

I know not. Sudden sank the way,

Burst in the ocean-waves;

Behold a bright, blue-billowed bay,

Red rocks and sounding caves!

Dreaming, I wept. Awake, I ask—

Shall earthly dreams, forsooth,

Set the old Heavens too hard a task

To match them with the truth?


Once more I build a dream, awake,

Which sleeping I would dream;

Once more an unborn fancy take

And try to make it seem!

Some strange delight shall fill my breast,

Enticed from sleep’s abyss,

With sense of motion, yet of rest,

Of sleep, yet waking bliss!

It comes!—I lie on something warm

That lifts me from below;

It rounds me like a mighty arm

Though soft as drifted snow.

A dream, indeed!—Oh, happy me

Whom Titan woman bears

Afloat upon a gentle sea

Of wandering midnight airs!

A breeze, just cool enough to lave

With sense each conscious limb,

Glides round and under, like a wave

Of twilight growing dim!

She bears me over sleeping towns,

O’er murmuring ears of corn;

O’er tops of trees, o’er billowy downs,

O’er moorland wastes forlorn.

The harebells in the mountain-pass

Flutter their blue about;

The myriad blades of meadow grass

Float scarce-heard music out.

Over the lake!—ah! nearer float,

Nearer the water’s breast;

Let me look deeper—let me doat

Upon that lily-nest.

Old homes we brush—in wood, on road;

Their windows do not shine;

Their dwellers must be all abroad

In lovely dreams like mine!

Hark—drifting syllables that break

Like foam-bells on fleet ships!

The little airs are all awake

With softly kissing lips.

Light laughter ripples down the wind,

Sweet sighs float everywhere;

But when I look I nothing find,

For every star is there.

O lady lovely, lady strong,

Ungiven thy best gift lies!

Thou bear’st me in thine arms along,

Dost not reveal thine eyes!

Pale doubt lifts up a snaky crest,

In darts a pang of loss:

My outstretched hand, for hills of rest,

Finds only mounds of moss!

Faint and far off the stars appear;

The wind begins to weep;

’Tis night indeed, chilly and drear,

And all but me asleep!