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THE WANDERER: 3. IN ENGLAND: THE FOUNT OF TRUTH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: It was the place by legends told
Last Line: Or -- was it never found?
Alternate Author Name(s): Meredith, Owen; Lytton, 1st Earl Of; Lytton, Robert
Subject(s): England; Travel; Truth; English; Journeys; Trips

IT was the place by legends told.
I read the tale when yet a child.
The castle on the mountain hold,
The woodland in the wild.

The wrecks of unremembered days
Were heaped around. It was the hour
When bold men fear, and timorous fays
Grow bold, and know their power.

The month was in the downward year.
The breath of Autumn chilled the sky:
And useless leaves, too early sere,
Muttered and eddied by.

It seemed that I was wending back
Among the ruins of my youth,
Along a wild night-haunted track
To seek the Fount of Truth.

The Fount of Truth, -- that wondrous fount!
Its solemn sound I seemed to hear
Wind-borne adown the clouded mount,
Desolate, cold, and clear.

By clews long lost, and found again
I know not how, my course was led
Through lands remote from living men,
As life is from the dead.

Yet up that wild road, here and there,
Large, awful footprints did I meet:
Footprints of gods perchance they were,
Prints -- not of human feet.

The mandrake underneath my foot
Gave forth a shriek of angry pain.
I heard the roar of some wild brute
Prowling the windy plain.

I reached the gate. I blew with power
A blast upon the darkness wide.
"Who art thou?" from the gloomy tower
The sullen warder cried.

"A Pilgrim to the Fount of Truth."
He laughed a laugh of scornful spleen.
"Art thou not from the Land of Youth?
Report where thou hast been."

"The Land of Youth! an alien race
There, in my old dominions, reign;
And, with them, one in whose false face
I will not gaze again.

"From to and fro the world I come,
Where I have fared as exiles fare,
Mocked by the memories of home
And homeless everywhere.

"The snake that slid through Paradise
Yet on my pathway slides and slips:
The apple plucked in Eden twice
Is yet upon my lips.

"I can report the world is still
Where it hath been since it began:
And Wisdom, with bewildered will,
Is still the same sick man,

"Whom yet the self-same visions fool,
The self-same nightmares haunt and scare.
Folly still breeds the Public Fool,
Knowledge increaseth care:

"Joy hath his tears, and Grief her smile;
And still both tears and smiles deceive.
And in the Valley of the Nile
I hear -- and I believe --

"The Fiend and Michael, as of yore,
Yet wage the ancient war: but how
This strife will end at last, is more
Than our new sages know."

I heard the gate behind me close.
It closed with a reluctant wail.
Roused by the sound from her repose
Started the Porteress pale:

In pity, or in scorn..."Forbear,
Madman," she cried,..."thy search for Truth.
The curl is in thy careless hair.
Return to Love and Youth.

"What lured thee here, through dark, and doubt,
The many-perilled prize to win?" --
"The dearth" ...I said..."of all without,
The thirst of all within.

"Age comes not with the wrinkled brow
But earlier, with the ravaged heart;
Full oft hath fallen the winter snow
Since Love from me did part.

"Long in dry places, void of cheer,
Long have I roamed. These features scan:
If magic lore be thine, look here,
Behold the Talisman!"

I crossed the court. The bloodhound bayed
Behind me from the outer wall.
The drowsy grooms my call obeyed
And lit the haunted hall.

They brought me horse, and lance, and helm,
They bound the buckler on my breast,
Spread the weird chart of that wild realm,
And armed me for the quest.

Uprose the Giant of the Keep.
"Rash fool, ride on!" ...I heard him say,
"The night is late, the heights are steep,
And Truth is far away!"

And..."Far away!" ...the echoes fell
Behind, as from that grisly hold
I turned. No tongue of man may tell
What mine must leave untold.

The Fount of Truth, -- that wondrous fount!
Far off I heard its waters play.
But ere I scaled the solemn mount,
Dawn broke. The trivial day

To its accustomed course flowed back,
And all the glamour faded round.
Is it forever lost, -- that track?
Or -- was it never found?

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