Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BAN, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY

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THE BAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Strange dreams of what I used
Last Line: Who either pity or despise.
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Death; Dreams; Future; Memory; Dead, The; Nightmares


STRANGE dreams of what I used to be,
And what I dreamed I would be, swim
Before my vision, faint and dim
As misty distances we see
In pictured scenes of fairy lands;
And ever on, with empty hands,
And eyes that ever lie to me,
And smiles that no one understands,
I grope adown my destiny.


Some say I waver as I walk
Along the crowded thoroughfares;
And some leer in my eyes, and talk
Of dulness, while I see in theirs --
Like fishes' eyes, alive or dead --
But surfaces of vacancy --
Blank disks that never seem to see,
But glint and glow and glare instead.


The ragged shawl I wear is wet
With driving, dripping rains, and yet
It seems a royal raiment, where,
Through twisted torrents of my hair,
I see rare gems that gleam and shine
Like jewels in a stream of wine;
The gaping shoes that clothe my feet
Are golden sandals, and the shrine
Where courtiers grovel and repeat
Vain prayers, and where, in joy thereat,
A fair Prince doffs his plumed hat,
And kneels, and names me all things sweet.


Sometimes the sun shines, and the lull
Of winter noon is like a tune
The stars might twinkle to the moon
If night were white and beautiful --
For when the clangor of the town
And strife of traffic softens down,
The wakeful hunger that I nurse,
In listening, forgets to curse,
Until -- ah, joy! with drooping head
I drowse, and dream that I am dead
And buried safe beyond their eyes
Who either pity or despise.

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