The Quiet City [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in The Earthen Floor (1902).]


The Quiet City.

We came to the Quiet City, where the Quiet People be,
By the shore of a Shoreless river that turns to a Tideless Sea.
We came to this Silent City, where the Silent People stay,
In the year of Ever-never, in the time of Night-and-Day.

But lest, in that town enchanted, there worked o’er my Love its spell,
She wore in her hair a garland of the woven immortelle;
The Pearl on her Bosom glowing was not more rare than she,
The Rose at her heart that quivered might not so lovely be.

But there burst no band of music, and no organ swelled sedate
As we crossed the archéd entrance of that City’s outward gate;
The sound of our steps but echoed thro’ its quaint and narrow street,
The sound of our words which faltered, the sound of our hearts that beat.

They dwelt on the Quiet Highway, yea, an hundred thousand strong;
But they rose not up in welcome, and they came not forth in song,
And there cursed no Man at our coming, and there asked no Maid of our quest,
Though the flower at her heart had withered, and a Hand to my heart seemed pressed.

We cried to the Quiet Townsfolk; we called unto some by name,
But none to our call responded, and none from his dwelling came.
We knocked, but they made no answer; we wept, but they heeded naught —
I said to my Love, “A MARVEL, but one with a meaning fraught!

“They are mute in this Quiet City — mayhap they are all away
In the Land of the Ever-Never, in the time of Night-and-Day,
Or they speak in the Silent Language that maybe the quick cannot hear;” —
Then trembled my Soul as she whispered, “Haste, Love, ere the night shall appear!”

Pale too were her lips as we hurried, but paler her cheeks as she spake:
“Dear Love, will they sleep so for ever? Dear Love, will they never awake?
Shall WE in the Time that is coming, the Time of the Long Ever-more,
So rest as these Others are sleeping, so sleep with the close-fastened door?”

I said to my Love as we hurried, “’Twas written, sweet-heart, and ’t will be;
The River rolls backward not ever, but onward at last to the Sea.”
“Ah, Love,” cried my Love in sore sorrow “’t were well had two streams never met,
To mingle mad mirth and sad music — to know and to be — and forget!

* * * * * *

We passed through the Streets together where the Quiet People lie
Under the Rain and the Sunshine, under the cloud and the sky;
Out where the Day springeth never, out where the Moon never glows,
Out where each man for his neighbor hath builded strange houses in rows.

We came from that Quiet City where those Quiet People be;
I turned to my Love and trembled; her great eyes turned to me.
Then poured we red wine together, then filled we our glasses high,
And drank to the Quiet People — in silence, my Love and I.

E. J. Brady, The Earthen Floor, Grafton (N.S.W.): Grip Newspaper Co., 1902

Editor’s notes:
ere = before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)

immortelle = (French) the feminine of “immortel” (immortal); may also refer to a plant that retains its colour when dried (known as an everlasting flower), particularly of the family Asteraceae

mayhap = perhaps; perchance; possibly

o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

yea = yes; indeed; truly; an affirmation (especially an affirmative vote), an indication of assent

Old spelling in the original text:
builded (built)
hath (has)
spake (spoke)
springeth (springs)
’twas (it was)
’t were (it were)
’t will (it will)

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
thro’ (through)

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