Verse > George William Russell > Collected Poems by A.E.
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
George William (“A. E.”) Russell (1867–1935).  Collected Poems by A.E.  1913.
 
139. The Fountain of Shadowy Beauty
 
 
A DREAM
 
 
    I WOULD I could weave in
      The colour, the wonder,
    The song I conceive in
      My heart while I ponder,
 
    And show how it came like        5
      The magi of old
    Whose chant was a flame like
      The dawn’s voice of gold;
 
    Whose dreams followed near them
      A murmur of birds,        10
    And ear still could hear them
      Unchanted in words.
 
    In words I can only
      Reveal thee my heart,
    Oh, Light of the Lonely,        15
      The shining impart.
 
Between the twilight and the dark
The lights danced up before my eyes:
I found no sleep or peace or rest,
But dreams of stars and burning skies.        20
 
I knew the faces of the day—
Dream faces, pale, with cloudy hair,
I knew you not nor yet your home,
The Fount of Shadowy Beauty, where?
 
I passed a dream of gloomy ways        25
Where ne’er did human feet intrude:
It was the border of a wood,
A dreadful forest solitude.
 
With wondrous red and fairy gold
The clouds were woven o’er the ocean;        30
The stars in fiery æther swung
And danced with gay and glittering motion.
 
A fire leaped up within my heart
When first I saw the old sea shine;
As if a god were there revealed        35
I bowed my head in awe divine;
 
And long beside the dim sea marge
I mused until the gathering haze
Veiled from me where the silver tide
Ran in its thousand shadowy ways.        40
 
The black night dropped upon the sea:
The silent awe came down with it:
I saw fantastic vapours flee
As o’er the darkness of the pit.
 
When lo! from out the furthest night        45
A speck of rose and silver light
Above a boat shaped wondrously
Came floating swiftly o’er the sea.
 
It was no human will that bore
The boat so fleetly to the shore        50
Without a sail spread or an oar.
 
The Pilot stood erect thereon
And lifted up his ancient face,
Ancient with glad eternal youth
Like one who was of starry race.        55
 
His face was rich with dusky bloom;
His eyes a bronze and golden fire;
His hair in streams of silver light
Hung flamelike on his strange attire,
 
Which, starred with many a mystic sign,        60
Fell as o’er sunlit ruby glowing:
His light flew o’er the waves afar
In ruddy ripples on each bar
Along the spiral pathways flowing.
 
It was a crystal boat that chased        65
The light along the watery waste,
Till caught amid the surges hoary
The Pilot stayed its jewelled glory.
 
Oh, never such a glory was:
The pale moon shot it through and through        70
With light of lilac, white and blue:
And there mid many a fairy hue,
Of pearl and pink and amethyst,
Like lightning ran the rainbow gleams
And wove around a wonder-mist.        75
 
The Pilot lifted beckoning hands;
Silent I went with deep amaze
To know why came this Beam of Light
So far along the ocean ways
Out of the vast and shadowy night.        80
 
“Make haste, make haste!” he cried. “Away!
A thousand ages now are gone.
Yet thou and I ere night be sped
Will reck no more of eve or dawn.”
 
Swift as the swallow to its nest        85
I leaped: my body dropt right down:
A silver star I rose and flew.
A flame burned golden at his breast:
I entered at the heart and knew
My Brother-Self who roams the deep,        90
Bird of the wonder-world of sleep.
 
The ruby vesture wrapped us round
As twain in one; we left behind
The league-long murmur of the shore
And fleeted swifter than the wind.        95
 
The distance rushed upon the bark:
We neared unto the mystic isles:
The heavenly city we could mark,
Its mountain light, its jewel dark,
Its pinnacles and starry piles.        100
 
The glory brightened: “Do not fear;
For we are real, though what seems
So proudly built above the waves
Is but one mighty spirit’s dreams.
 
“Our Father’s house hath many fanes;        105
Yet enter not and worship not,
For thought but follows after thought
Till last consuming self it wanes.
 
“The Fount of Shadowy Beauty flings
Its glamour o’er the light of day:        110
A music in the sunlight sings
To call the dreamy hearts away
Their mighty hopes to ease awhile:
We will not go the way of them:
The chant makes drowsy those who seek        115
The sceptre and the diadem.
 
“The Fount of Shadowy Beauty throws
Its magic round us all the night;
What things the heart would be, it sees
And chases them in endless flight.        120
Or coiled in phantom visions there
It builds within the halls of fire;
Its dreams flash like the peacock’s wing
And glow with sun-hues of desire.
We will not follow in their ways        125
Nor heed the lure of fay or elf,
But in the ending of our days
Rest in the high Ancestral Self.”
 
The boat of crystal touched the shore,
Then melted flamelike from our eyes,        130
As in the twilight drops the sun
Withdrawing rays of paradise.
 
We hurried under archéd aisles
That far above in heaven withdrawn
With cloudy pillars stormed the night,        135
Rich as the opal shafts of dawn.
 
I would have lingered then—but he:
“Oh, let us haste: the dream grows dim,
Another night, another day,
A thousand years will part from him,        140
Who is that Ancient One divine
From whom our phantom being born
Rolled with the wonder-light around
Had started in the fairy morn.
 
“A thousand of our years to him        145
Are but the night, are but the day,
Wherein he rests from cyclic toil
Or chants the song of starry sway.
He falls asleep: the Shadowy Fount
Fills all our heart with dreams of light:        150
He wakes to ancient spheres, and we
Through iron ages mourn the night.
We will not wander in the night
But in a darkness more divine
Shall join the Father Light of Lights        155
And rule the long-descended line.”
 
Even then a vasty twilight fell:
Wavered in air the shadowy towers:
The city like a gleaming shell,
Its azures, opals, silvers, blues,        160
Were melting in more dreamy hues.
We feared the falling of the night
And hurried more our headlong flight.
In one long line the towers went by;
The trembling radiance dropt behind,        165
As when some swift and radiant one
Flits by and flings upon the wind
The rainbow tresses of the sun.
 
And then they vanished from our gaze
Faded the magic lights, and all        170
Into a starry radiance fell
As waters in their fountain fall.
 
We knew our time-long journey o’er
And knew the end of all desire,
And saw within the emerald glow        175
Our Father like the white sun-fire.
 
We could not say if age or youth
Were on his face: we only burned
To pass the gateways of the day,
The exiles to the heart returned.        180
 
He rose to greet us and his breath,
The tempest music of the spheres,
Dissolved the memory of earth,
The cyclic labour and our tears.
In him our dream of sorrow passed,        185
The spirit once again was free
And heard the song the morning stars
Chant in eternal revelry.
 
This was the close of human story;
We saw the deep unmeasured shine,        190
And sank within the mystic glory
They called of old the Dark Divine.
 
    Well it is gone now,
      The dream that I chanted:
    On this side the dawn now        195
      I sit fate-implanted.
 
    But though of my dreaming
      The dawn has bereft me,
    It all was not seeming
      For something has left me.        200
 
    I feel in some other
      World far from this cold light
    The Dream Bird, my brother,
      Is rayed with the gold light.
 
    I too in the Father        205
      Would hide me, and so,
    Bright Bird, to foregather
      With thee now I go.
 

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