Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A VISION OF VIRGINS, by EDWARD ROBERT BULWER-LYTTON



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A VISION OF VIRGINS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I had a vision of the night
Last Line: The darkness took them. * * * * *
Alternate Author Name(s): Meredith, Owen; Lytton, 1st Earl Of; Lytton, Robert
Subject(s): Virginity; Vestals


I HAD a vision of the night.

It seemed
There was a long red tract of barren land,
Blockt in by black hills, where a half-moon dreamed
Of morn, and whitened.
Drifts of dry brown sand,
This way and that, were heapt below: and flats
Of water: -- glaring shallows, where strange bats
Came and went, and moths flickered.
To the right,
A dusty road that crept along the waste
Like a white snake: and, farther up, I traced
The shadow of a great house, far in sight:
A hundred casements all ablaze with light:
And forms that flit athwart them as in haste:
And a slow music, such as sometimes kings
Command at mighty revels, softly sent
From viol, and flute, and tabor, and the strings
Of many a sweet and slumbrous instrument
That wound into the mute heart of the night
Out of that distance.
Then I could perceive
A glory pouring through an open door,
And in the light five women. I believe
They wore white vestments, all of them. They were
Quite calm; and each still face unearthly fair,
Unearthly quiet. So like statues all,
Waiting they stood without that lighted hall;
And in their hands, like a blue star, they held
Each one a silver lamp.
Then I beheld
A shadow in the doorway. And One came
Crowned for a feast. I could not see the Face.
The Form was not all human. As the flame
Streamed over it, a presence took the place
With awe.
He, turning, took them by the hand,
And led them each up the white stairway, and
The door closed.

At that moment the moon dipped
Behind a rag of purple vapor, ript
Off a great cloud, some dead wind, ere it spent
Its last breath, had blown open, and so rent
You saw behind blue pools of light, and there
A wild star swimming in the lurid air.
The dream was darkened. And a sense of loss
Fell like a nightmare on the land: because
The moon yet lingered in her cloud-eclipse.
Then, in the dark, swelled sullenly across
The waste a wail of women.
Her blue lips
The moon drew up out of the cloud.
Again
I had a vision on that midnight plain.

Five women: and the beauty of despair
Upon their faces: locks of wild wet hair,
Clammy with anguish, wandered low and loose
O'er their bare breasts, that seemed too filled with trouble
To feel the damp crawl of the midnight dews
That trickled down them. One was bent half double,
A dismayed heap, that hung o'er the last spark
Of a lamp slowly dying. As she blew
The dull light redder, and the dry wick flew
In crumbling sparkles all about the dark,
I saw a light of horror in her eyes;
A wild light on her flusht cheek; a wild white
On her dry lips; an agony of surprise
Fearfully fair.
The lamp dropped. From my sight
She fell into the dark.
Beside her, sat
One without motion: and her stern face flat
Against the dark sky.
One, as still as death,
Hollowed her hands about her lamp, for fear
Some motion of the midnight, or her breath,
Should fan out the last flicker. Rosyclear
The light oozed, through her fingers, o'er her face.
There was a ruined beauty hovering there
Over deep pain, and, dasht with lurid grace
A waning bloom.
The light grew dim and blear:
And she, too, slowly darkened in her place.
Another, with her white hands hotly lockt
About her damp knees, muttering madness, rocked
Forward and backward. But at last she stopped,
And her dark head upon her bosom dropped
Motionless.
Then one rose up with a cry
To the great moon; and stretched a wrathful arm
Of wild expostulation to the sky,
Murmuring, "These earth-lamps fail us! and what harm?
Does not the moon shine? Let us rise and haste
To meet the Bridegroom yonder o'er the waste!
For now I seem to catch once more the tone
Of viols on the night. 'T were better done,
At worst, to perish near the golden gate,
And fall in sight of glory one by one,
Than here all night upon the wild, to wait
Uncertain ills. Away! the hour is late!"

Again the moon dipped.
I could see no more.
Not the least gleam of light did heaven afford.

At last, I heard a knocking on a door,
And some one crying, "Open to us, Lord!"
There was an awful pause.
I heard my heart
Beat.
Then a Voice -- "I know you not. Depart."
I caught, within, a glimpse of glory. And
The door closed.
Still in darkness dreamed the land.
I could not see those women. Not a breath!
Darkness, and awe: a darkness more than death.
The darkness took them. * * * * *





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