by Archibald Lampman





By a void and soundless river
    On the outer edge of space,
Where the body comes not ever,
    But the absent dream hath place,
Stands a city, tall and quiet,                                                              5
    And its air is sweet and dim;
Never sound of grief or riot
    Makes it mad, or makes it grim.

And the tender skies thereover
    Neither sun, not star, behold—                                                  10
Only dusk it hath for cover,—
    But a glamour soft with gold,
Through a mist of dreamier essence
    Than the dew of twilight, smiles
On strange shafts and domes and crescents,                            15
    Lifting into eerie piles.

In its courts and hallowed places
    Dreams of distant worlds arise,
Shadows of transfigured faces,
    Glimpses of immortal eyes                                                      20
Echoes of serenest pleasure,
    Notes of perfect speech that fall,
Through an air of endless leisure,
    Marvellously musical.

And I wander there at even,                                                        25
    Sometimes when my heart is clear,
When a wider round of heaven
    And a vaster world are near,
When from many a shadow steeple
    Sounds of dreamy bells begin,                                              30
And I love the gentle people
    That my spirit finds therein.

Men of a diviner making
    Than the sons of pride and strife,
Quick with love and pity, breaking                                             35
    From a knowledge old as life;
Women of a spiritual rareness,
    Whom old passion and old woe
Moulded to a slenderer fairness
    Than the dearest shapes we know.                                       40

In its domed and towered centre
    Lies a garden wide and fair,
Open for the soul to enter,
    And the watchful townsmen there
Greet the stranger gloomed and fretting                                   45
    From this world of stormy hands,
With a look that deals forgetting
    And a touch that understands.

For they see with power, not borrowed
    From a record taught or told,                                                 50
But they loved and laughed and sorrowed
    In a thousand worlds of old;
Now they rest and dream for ever,
    And with hearts serene and whole
See the struggle, the old fever,                                                 55
    Clear as on a painted scroll.

Wandering by that grey and solemn
    Water, with its ghostly quays—
Vistas of vast arch and column,
    Shadowed by unearthly trees—                                           60
Biddings of sweet power compel me,
    And I go with bated breath,
Listening to the tales they tell me,
    Parables of Life and Death.

In a tongue that once was spoken,                                          65
    Ere the world was cooled by Time,
When the spirit flowed unbroken
    Through the flesh, and the Sublime
Made the eyes of men far-seeing,
    And their souls as pure as rain,                                           70
They declare the ends of being,
    And the sacred need of pain.

For they know the sweetest reasons
    For the products most malign—
They can tell the paths and seasons                                       75
    Of the farthest suns that shine.
How the moth-wing’s iridescence
    By an inward plan was wrought,
And they read me curious lessons
    In the secret ways of thought.                                               80

When day turns, and over heaven
    To the balmy western verge
Sail the victor fleets of even,
    And the pilot stars emerge,
Then my city rounds and rises,                                                85
    Like a vapour formed afar,
And its sudden girth surprises,
    And its shadowy gates unbar.

Dreamy crowds are moving yonder
    In a faint and phantom blue;                                                 90
Through the dusk I lean, and wonder
    If their winsome shapes are true;
But in veiling indecision
    Come my questions back again—
Which is real? The fleeting vision?                                         95
    Or the fleeting world of men?