New York Nocturnes and Other Poems

by Charles G.D. Roberts


Beyond the Tops of Time


How long it was I did not know,
   That I had waited, watched, and feared.
It seemed a thousand years ago
   The last pale lights had disappeared.
I knew the place was a narrow room
Up, up beyond the reach of doom.

Then came a light more red than flame;—
   No sun-dawn, but the soul laid bare
Of earth and sky and sea became
   A presence burning everywhere;

And I was glad my narrow room
Was high above the reach of doom.

Windows there were in either wall,
   Deep cleft, and set with radiant glass,
Wherethrough I watched the mountains fall,

   The ages wither up and pass.
I knew their doom could never climb
My tower beyond the tops of Time.

A sea of faces then I saw,
   Of men who had been, men long dead.

Figured with dreams of joy and awe
   The heavens unrolled in lambent red;
While far below the faces cried—
"Give us the dream for which we died!"

Ever the woven shapes rolled by

   Above the faces hungering.
With quiet and incurious eye
   I noted many a wondrous thing,—
Seas of clear glass, and singing streams,
In that high pageantry of dreams;

Cities of sard and chrysoprase
   Where choired Hosannas never cease;
Valhallas of celestial frays,
   And lotus-pools of endless peace;
But still the faces gaped and cried—
"Give us the dream for which we died!"

At length my quiet heart was stirred,
   Hearing them cry so long in vain.
But while I listened for a word
That should translate them from their pain,

I saw that here and there a face
Shone, and was lifted from its place,

And flashed into the moving dome
   An ecstasy of prismed fire.
And then said I, "A soul has come

   To the deep zenith of desire!"
But still I wondered if it knew
The dream for which it died was true.

I wondered—who shall say how long?
   (One heart-beat?—Thrice ten thousand years?)

Till suddenly there was no throng
   Of faces to arraign the spheres,—
No more white faces there to cry
To those great pageants of the sky.

Then quietly I grew aware

   Of one who came with eyes of bliss
And brow of calm and lips of prayer.
  Said I—"How wonderful is this!
Where are the faces once that cried—
‘Give us the dream for which we died’?"

The answer fell as soft as sleep,—
   "I am of those who, having cried
So long in that tumultuous deep,
   Have won the dream for which we died."
And then said I—"Which dream was true?
For many were revealed to you!"

He answered— "To the soul made wise
   All true, all beautiful they seem.
But the white peace that fills our eyes
   Outdoes desire, outreaches dream.

For we are come unto the place
Where always we behold God’s face!"