Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A WORLD WITHOUT WATER, by MARY ANN BROWNE



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A WORLD WITHOUT WATER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I had a dream in the dead of night
Last Line: In mercy I awoke.
Alternate Author Name(s): Gray, James, Mrs.; Gray, Mary Anne Browne
Subject(s): Dreams; Nightmares


Yesternight I prayed aloud,
In anguish and in agony;
Upstarting from the fiendish crowd
Of shapes and thoughts that tortured me.
—Coleridge

I had a dream in the dead of night;
A dream of agony;
I thought the world stood in affright,
Beneath the hot and parching light
Of an unclouded sky:
I thought there had fallen no cooling rain
For months upon the feverish plain,
And that all the springs were dry:
And I was standing on a hill,
And looking all around:
I know not how it was; but still
Strength in my limbs was found,
As if with a spell of threefold life,
My destinies were bound.

Beneath me was a far-spread heath,
Where once had risen a spring.
Looking as bright as a silver wreath
In its graceful wandering:
But now the sultry glance of the sun,
And the glare of the dark blue sky,
Had checked its course,—no more to run
In light waves wandering by.

And farther on was a stately wood,
With its tall trees rising high.
But now like autumn wrecks they stood
Beneath a summer sky:
And every leaf, though dead, did keep
Its station in mockery;
For there was not one breath to sweep
The leaves from each perishing tree;
And there they hung dead, motionless;
They hung there day by day,
As though Death were too busy with other things
To sweep their corpses away.

Oh, terrible it was to think
Of human creatures then!
How they did seek in vain to drink
In every vale and glen;
And how the scorched foot did shrink
As it touched the slippery plain:
And some had gathered beneath the trees
In hope of finding shade;
But alas! there was not a single breeze
Astir in any glade!

The cities were forsaken,
For their marble wells were spent;
And their walls gave back the scorching glare
Of that hot firmament:
But the corses of those who died were strewn
In the street, as dead leaves lay,
And dry they withered—and withered alone,
They felt no foul decay!

Night came. The fiery Sun sank down,
And the people's hope grew strong:
It was a night without a moon,
It was a night in the depth of June,
And there swept a wind along;
'Twas almost cool: and then they thought
Some blessed dew it would have brought.

Vain was the hope!—there was no cloud
In the clear dark blue Heaven;
But, bright and beautiful, the crowd
Of stars looked through the even.
And women sat them down to weep
Over their hopeless pain:
And men had visions dark and deep,
Clouding the dizzy brain:
And children sobbed themselves to sleep,
And never woke again.

The morning rose—not as it comes
Softly 'midst rose and dew—
Not with those cool and fresh perfumes
That the weariest heart renew,
—But the Sun sprang up, as if eager to see
What next his power could do!

A mother held her child to her breast
And kissed it tenderly,
And then she saw her infant smile;
What could that soft smile be?
A tear had sprung with a sudden start,
To her hot feverish eye;
It had fallen upon that faint child's lip
That was so parched and dry.

I looked upon the mighty Sea;
Oh, what a sight it was!
All its waves were gone save two or three,
That lay like burning glass,
Within the caves of those deep rocks
Where no human foot could pass.

And in the very midst, a ship
Lay in the slime and sand;
With all its sailors perishing
Even in sight of land;
Oh! water had been a welcome sight
To that pale dying band!

Oh, what a sight was the bed of the Sea!
The bed where he had slept,
Or tossed and tumbled restlessly,
And all his treasures kept
For ages: he was gone; and all
His rocky pillows shewn,
With their clustering shells, and sea-weed pall,
And the rich gems round them thrown.

And the monsters of the deep lay dead,
With many a human form.
That there had found a quiet bed
Away from the raging storm;
And the fishes, sodden in the sun,
Were strewn by thousands round;
And a myriad things, long lost and won,
Were there, unsought for, found.

I turned away from earth and sea,
And looked on the burning sky,
But no drop fell, like an angel's tear—
The founts of Heaven were dry:
The birds had perished every one;
Not a cloud was in the air,
And desolate seemed the very Sun,
He looked so lonely there!

And I began to feel the pang—
The agony of thirst;
I had a scorching swelling pain,
As if my heart would burst.
My tongue seemed parched; I tried to speak—
The spell that instant broke;
And, starting at my own wild shriek,
In mercy I awoke.





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