Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ON A DREAM, by WILLIAM BROWNE (1591-1643)



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ON A DREAM, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Vain dreams, forbear, ye but deceivers be
Last Line: And both connex, as souls in innocence.
Alternate Author Name(s): Browne, William Of Tavistock
Subject(s): Dreams; Nightmares


VAIN dreams, forbear, ye but deceivers be;
For as, in flatt'ring glasses, women see
More beauty than possess, so I in you
Have all I can desire, but nothing true.
Who would be rich, to be so but an hour,
Eats a sweet fruit to relish more the sour;
If, but to lose again, we things possess,
Ne'er to be happy is a happiness.
Men walking in the pitchy shades of night
Can keep their certain way, but if a light
O'ertake and leave them, they are blinded more,
And doubtful go that went secure before:
For this, though hardly, I have oft forborne
To see her face fair as the rosy morn;
Yet mine own thoughts in night such traitors be,
That they betray me to that misery.
Then think no more of her! as soon I may
Command the sun to rob us of a day;
Or with a sieve repel a liquid stream,
As lose such thoughts or hinder but a dream.
The lightsome air as eas'ly hinder can
A glass to take the form of any man
That stands before it, as or time or place
Can draw a veil between me and her face;
Yet by such thoughts my torments hourly strive;
For, as a prisoner by his prospective,
By them I am inform'd of what I want:
I envy none now but the ignorant.
He that ne'er saw of whom I dream'd last night,
Is one born blind, that knows no want of light;
He that ne'er kiss'd those lips, yet saw her eyes,
Is Adam living still in Paradise.
But if he taste those sweets, as hapless I,
He knows his want and meets his misery.
An Indian rude that never heard one sing
A heavenly sonnet to a silver string,
Nor other sounds, but what confused herds
In pathless deserts make, or brooks, or birds,
Should he hear Syms the sweet pandora touch
And lose his hearing, straight he would as much
Lament his knowledge, as do I my chance,
And wish he still had liv'd in ignorance.
I am that Indian, and my soothing dreams
In thirst have brought me but to painted streams,
Which not allay, but more increase desire.
A man, near frozen with December's ire,
Hath from a heap of glowworms as much ease
As I can ever have by such as these.
O leave me then! and strongest memory
Keep still with those that promise-breakers be:
Go! bid the debtor mind his payment-day,
Or help the ignorant-devout to say
Prayers they understand not. Lead the blind,
And bid ingrateful wretches call to mind
Their benefactors! And if Virtue be,
As still she is, trod down with misery,
Show her the rich, that they may free her want,
And leave to nurse the fawning sycophant:
Or if thou seest fair Honour careless lie
Without a tomb, for after memory,
Dwell by the grave, and teach all those that pass
To imitate, by showing who it was.
This way, Remembrance, thou may'st do some good,
And have due thanks; but he that understood
What throes thou bring'st on me, would say I miss
The sleep of him that did the pale moon kiss,
And that it were a blessing thrown on me,
Sometimes to have the hated lethargy.
Then, dark Forgetfulness, that only art
The friend of lunatics, seize on that part
Of memory which nightly shows her me,
Or suffer still her waking fantasy,
Even at the instant that I dream of her,
To dream the like of me, that we may err
In pleasure's endless maze without offence;
And both connex, as souls in innocence.





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