Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IN A VISION OF THE NIGHT, by ANNA HEMPSTEAD BRANCH



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IN A VISION OF THE NIGHT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: My chamber is so hot, I cannot rest
Last Line: Let me go! I too did dream.
Subject(s): Night; Bedtime


SCENE: A garden lit with moonlight. Enter THE LADY, followed by NANON.

THE LADY
My chamber is so hot, I cannot rest.
And when I wake, I needs must think. Nanon,
I'll lie here in the cool and sleep awhile,
If sleep may come. Nanon!
NANON
Dear Lady, yes.
THE LADY
Go get your lute and charm my slumber, lest
It bring me dreams that should not visit me.[Exit NANON]
In visions of the night -- !
Oh if my thoughts
Strayed from my lord and master, unto him
I must not touch -- not even in a dream --
And lingered with him! I am afraid! For thoughts
Do presage acts. I dare not think of him!
For thinking -- I must see! And if I see --
Oh Heaven, be merciful to me! I say
That women are as helpless, soft and strange,
As the frail water clinging upon stone --
A comfort in the noonday and at night
A very gentle solace. They abide
In sweet and delicate ways, and one shall smile,
Saying, "She is with me always." Yet in sooth,
Even while she tarries and makes him sweet and blest,
Her thoughts are from him, woven in a cloud;
For so the wind obtains her dreams and she
Is passing always, not to be detained.
(She seats herself on the garden bench. NANON enters with
lute, singing)
NANON
The way that leads to heart's delight --
It is not very long,
As brief as tears, as quick as smiles,
And ended like a song.
The road that lies to heart's desire
Travels not very far,
There 's never a stone, there's never a brier --
THE LADY
I do not like your song.
NANON
It is of love!
THE LADY
Have you no ditty that is soft and cool,
As cool as snow, as soft and still as sleep?
NANON (Singing)
My thoughts are gathered of thee as the wind
Gathers the mist of the water and so
"I could dream of thee, an thou hadst the mind,"
Quoth he in the dark --
THE LADY
Oh peace, Nanon! Have you not any song
Would quiet love as death would quiet woe?
NANON
Oh Lady dear, that song was never sung.
THE LADY
Be quiet, then. I'll sleep. And the good angels
Must guard my dreams. (She lies down on the bench)
NANON (Singing)
My thoughts are gathered of thee as the wind
Gathers the mist from the water --
(THE LADY sleeps, and NANON, hushing her song, looks over the garden)
This great night
Wherein all things do sleep, is terrible.
Is there anything happening?
(She walls away from the sleeping LADY, among the trees)
The air seems full
Of presences that meet and mingle! Oh --
Where are the stars! Peace -- peace! Unstable me!
(Strikes her lute and sings)
I would have fled -- but yet the heavenly powers
Brought back the road to you.
That God that made all love, made this of ours
But we that share it, oh what shall we do?
(She thinks she hears a movement and starts hack to the garden bench)
Oh Lady dear -- and have you waked so soon?
(She sees that THE LADY slumbers)
I thought I heard my Lady leave her couch!
What did I see that flitted through the garden?
Shadows, I think, or else perhaps two lovers
That seek a lonely world of green delight.
Ah -- I have sighed and sipped like all the rest,
Feasted and sorrowed, and would do so again!
Ah me -- what bliss has taken the midnight air,
What strange old sorrow and what vast despair!
THE LADY (starting up)
I dreamed that in a garden I did sit
Where I had sat for centuries, and sang.
I heard his echoing steps sound far away.
He sought for me amid the thick green leaves
And found my hands but could not see my face.
I could not break from him nor did I try,
But crossing the moonlight looked into his eyes,
And looking, read that thing that had to be.
And we passed on and came together where
The night lay softly singing in the green --
And then -- Nanon! (As if in terror.)
NANON
Oh Lady dear -- what now?
THE LADY
Have I been lying quiet all this while?
NANON
Dear Lady, yes.
THE LADY
What happens in the night?
NANON
All still. Nothing abroad save two black shadows
That through the purple darkness I saw flit.
THE LADY
Then go, Nanon, and leave me here alone.
(NANON goes out and THE LADY'S lover enters)
THE LADY
What are you doing here? This time of night!
HER LOVER
I was roused from sleep. I had so strange a dream.
THE LADY
What? Had you then? I pray you -- tell your dream.
HER LOVER
I dreamed that through a garden at dusk I came.
THE LADY
Not that!
HER LOVER
I heard you sing.
THE LADY
I am afraid
And what came then?
HER LOVER
When I that singing heard
I sought for you amid the thick green leaves.
THE LADY
Oh peace, you babbler of a foolish dream!
HER LOVER
And found your hands but could not see your face.
THE LADY
Oh go! My heart will break. I bid you go!
HER LOVER
And then I saw your face and in your eyes
I read what was to be.
THE LADY
In my eyes? No
You have forgot! I read that end in yours.
HER LOVER
And we two rose and went together where
We heard the twilight singing in the green.
THE LADY
Wonderful twilight singing in the green!
HER LOVER
And then --
THE LADY
And then, oh sweet! I know it well --
HER LOVER
You know it? --
THE LADY
Let me go! I too did dream.






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