Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DREAMING MAN, by ANNA HEMPSTEAD BRANCH



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE DREAMING MAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: O dreaming man, why dost thou go
Last Line: I hold the little earth -- and dream.
Subject(s): Dreams; God; Nightmares


"O Dreaming Man, why dost thou go
Serene as stars through clouds at night,
As safe as cold is among snow,
Constant as laughter to delight?
What comforts thee and what high charm
Has robed thee in Imperial calm?"
"O dreaming Man, across the west
The darkening shades of night draw nigh."
Brother, who seeks the eternal guest
His sun sinks not in any sky,
Time is ashamed and stars unsure
And seasons pass, but I endure.
"O Dreaming Man where are thy tears?"
Brother, they have no need to fall.
"You drink not of the bitter years?
Brother, I am more strong than all.
I dreamed beyond the moon and sun
I was a great and god-like one.
He sat beneath the radiant trees
That sing like birds, in Paradise.
Since space and time were not of these,
Eternal peace had made him wise.
Upon God's breast, a darling child,
He leaned his happy cheek and smiled.
As the sea spheres its golden hands
About the beauty of the moon,
He held the round earth, the old lands,
The night, the sunrise, and the noon,
The wind, the tide, the shine, the sound,
And time that circled round and round.
And it was built out of his thought,
And it was globed to his desire;
Out of his heart of love he brought
The little lovely ball of fire,
A sphered flame, a shape of bliss,
Assured and safe he fashioned this.
In that bright place, remote, afar,
He flamed with God upon his throne,
There was not any time nor star
But he could have it for his own.
Seasons and dooms about him crept,
Superb he held the earth and slept.
He dreamed that in a garden place
He knew not anything at all.
Only at dusk he saw God's face,
And Eve shined through the interval.
A little apple pleased his eye --
"The forbidden fruit I eat -- and die."
Exquisite with the day and night,
And globular as music is,
And roseate with his delight
The child of love, it all was his.
The sunset through his fingers streamed
Near to God's heart he slept and dreamed.
He dreamed he was the angry Cain,
Confused and sullen from his birth.
He hid the white face of his slain,
And cursed with it the barren earth.
With solemn rituals of the dead --
"I hate -- and serve thee, Lord," he said.
He was as beautiful as Love,
God's hand had fashioned him so fair.
As innocent as is the Dove
He poised and shone in that great air!
Like a white cloud that takes its rest
He slept and dreamed upon God's breast.
He thought that with a mouth of shame
He broke his Master with a kiss,
And oh -- the everlasting flame
That shall consume his soul for this.
He swerved like fire from side to side --
"God -- I have slain my God! " he cried.
He was as clean as oceans are,
And like the day-spring he was fair,
And he could dance like any star
Over the highways of broad air.
A splendor from his body streamed,
He held the little earth and dreamed.
He dreamed that as pale foliage dead
His ashen body glimmered white.
Among old bones he broke his bread
Lamenting in the tombs at night.
A piteous outcast barren and lean
He beat his breast and cried "unclean."
God's laws were as the trembling strings
Wherefrom he plucked sweet mellow tones,
And causes, strongest of all things,
Were for his golden paving-stones,
Wild forces, exquisite as birds,
Were tamed by him, and knew his words.
He dreamed he was so frail, so poor,
He could be held by stone and fire,
Yet melting rock could not endure
Before the rod of his desire.
He shut himself into a tomb;
"What hand can raise me from my doom?
He thought he ran from pole to pole,
And that he delved into the sun,
Unraveled the bright web from a soul,,
And found it was not any one.
He ate the grass and bit the sod.
"Ye beasts," he cried, "there is no God."
Yet sometimes, stirring in his sleep,
God's fertile breath upon his eyes,
The splendor makes his dream less deep,
And half he sees his Paradise.
O then, stretched vast beyond the sky,
The sleeper dreams that he is I.
Bright as the silver waters are
That girdle this dark earth around,
As sure as light is to the star,
Or as the silence to the sound --
Wrought fair within and breathed without,
I feel the sleeper all about.
And well I know that I am he --
For I am mightier than I seem.
I am not the shape I look to be;
But I am greater than my dream.
Amid the cloudy dust there shine
High citadels that all are mine.
The caravansary of the days
A moment pitch their tents of light;
Then shadowed take their destined ways
Over the deserts of dark night,
And what black sand down which they went
Remembers how they stretched their tent?
This solid earth is not so stout.
It has a vague and shifting look.
It runs like water all about,
And trembles like the singing brook.
Brightly it slips from out my hand,
The little hour's worth of sand.
When in a vault I once must lie
And rock put on the heavy look,
I saw sweet shapes through substance fly
As sound is woven in a brook.
Bright wandering faces breathed and shone,
And smiling eyes blew through the stone.
When terror takes me by the hair,
I say "'T is but the drift of sleep."
And when distrust shall lay me bare,
I laugh outside, while my eyes weep.
For this which takes my heart to-day,
While happening seems so far away.
When from the dust I seek release,
And my heart cries "I must be free,"
I plunge in that abyss of peace,
That is the greater self of me.
I swing submerged in that great tide,
Whose oceans in my soul abide.
"O Dreaming Man, how dost thou know?"
The dawn has touched this sleep of mine.
The vapor wavers to and fro,
And in my plumed wits there shine
Strange eyes as out of peacock's wings
And they behold great gorgeous things.
Clothed in the scarlet of the skies
At the high feast I sit elate.
The flaming lights of Paradise
Are for my ministers of state.
White powers from my body stream --
I hold the little earth -- and dream.






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