Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A DREAM, by THOMAS CAMPBELL



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A DREAM, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Well may sleep present us fictions
Last Line: "guardian spirit, steer me on!"
Subject(s): Dreams; Immortality; Nightmares


WELL may sleep present us fictions,
Since our waking moments teem
With such fanciful convictions
As make life itself a dream. --
Half our daylight faith's a fable;
Sleep disports with shadows too,
Seeming in their turn as stable
As the world we wake to view
Ne'er by day did Reason's mint
Give my thoughts a clearer print
Of assured reality,
Than was left by Fantasy
Stamped and colored on my sprite,
In a dream of yesternight.

In a bark, methought, lone steering,
I was cast on Ocean's strife;
This, 'twas whispered in my hearing
Meant the sea of life.
Sad regrets from past existence
Came, like gales of chilling breath;
Shadowed in the forward distance
Lay the land of Death.
Now seeming more, now less remote,
On that dim-seen shore, methought,
I beheld two hands a space
Slow unshroud a spectre's face;
And my flesh's hair upstood, --
'Twas mine own similitude. --

But my soul revived at seeing
Ocean, like an emerald spark,
Kindle, while an air-dropped being
Smiling steered my bark.
Heaven-like -- yet he looked as human
As supernal beauty can,
More compassionate than woman,
Lordly more than man.
And as some sweet clarion's breath
Stirs the soldier's scorn of death --
So his accents bade me brook
The spectre's eyes of icy look,
Till it shut them -- turned its head,
Like a beaten foe, and fled.

"Types not this," I said, "fair spirit!
That my death-hour is not come?
Say, what days shall I inherit? --
Tell my soul their sum."
"No," he said, "yon phantom's aspect,
Trust me, would appall thee worse,
Held in clearly measured prospect: --
Ask not for a curse!
Make not, for I overhear
Thine unspoken thoughts as clear
As thy mortal ear could catch
The close brought tickings of a watch --
Make not the untold request
That's now revolving in thy breast.

'Tis to live again, remeasuring
Youth's years, like a scene rehearsed,
In thy second lifetime treasuring
Knowledge from the first.
Hast thou felt, poor self-deceiver!
Life's career so void of pain,
As to wish its fitful fever
New begun again?

Could experience, ten times thine,
Pain from Being disentwine --
Threads by Fate together spun?
Could thy flight Heaven's lightning shun?
No, nor could thy foresight's glance
'Scape the myriad shafts of Chance.

Wouldst thou bear again Love's trouble --
Friendship's death-dissevered ties;
Toil to grasp or miss the bubble
Of Ambition's prize?
Say thy life's new guided action
Flowed from Virtue's fairest springs --
Still would Envy and Detraction
Double not their stings?
Worth itself is but a charter
To be mankind's distinguished martyr"
-- I caught the moral, and cried, "Hail!
Spirit! let us onward sail,
Envying, fearing, hating none --
Guardian Spirit, steer me on!"





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