The Tower of the Dream: Part 2 [poem by Charles Harpur]

[Editor: This is part 2 of The Tower of the Dream (1865), by Charles Harpur.]

Part II.

Within a circular balcony, whose roof
Was fluted silver, ledging at the eaves
Outward, and resting upon shafts of jet,
Whose polished pencils, in a curving row
Descending to an ivory balustrade
Glistened in contrast with a covert gleam;
And which, high up the tower, emporched a huge
And brazen door — behold a Lady, all
Of light immaculate! Yea, face and form
All of a Hesper radiancy composed,
And lovelier than lustrous, stood alone,
Yet, as it seemed, expectant; for as still
She witched me tow’rds her, she kept beckoning still
With tiny hand more splendid than a star:
Beckoning and smiling — not as mortals smile,
With visible throes, to the more face confined,
But with her whole bright influence all at once
In gracious act — as the immortals smile,
God-happy; or as smiles the morning, when
Its subtle lips in rosy glory part
And redden lengthwise, under and above
Full many a pearly cloud, and breathe the while
A golden prevalence of power abroad,
That takes them all into his own delight —
Transfiguring all! and with a voice intense
And intimately tender as the first
Fine feeling of a love-born bliss — and oh!
More silvery in its sweetness to the soul’s
Oracular ear, than seemeth to the eye
The wild white radiance of the maiden moon,
When from some cape’s dark beak her rising mass
Looks o’er the ocean — even with such a voice,
So keen, so silvery, did she ask me then,
“Where hast thou stayed so long? Oh, tell me where!”

With thrilling ears and heart, I heard — but felt
Pass from me forth a cry of sudden fear,
As swooning through the wildness of my joy,
Methought I drifted: — whither? All was now
One wide cold blank — the Lady and the Tower —
The gleaming lake, with all around it — one
Wide dreary blank, — the drearier for that still
A dizzy, clinging, ghostly consciousness
Kept flickering from mine inmost pulse of life,
Like a fair meteor in some dismal marsh:
How long I dreamt not — but the thrilling warmth
That like the new birth of a passionate bliss,
Erewhile had searched me to the quick, again
Shuddered within me, — more and more, — until
Mine eyes had opened under two that made
All else like darkness; and upon my cheek
A breath that seemed the final spirit of health
And floral sweetness, harbingered once more
The fond enquiry of that silver voice
Which once to have heard was never to forget —
“Where hast thou stayed so long? Oh, tell me where!”

And when she thus in her so wondrous way
Had spoken, there came, warbled as it seemed
In mystical respondence to her voice,
Still music, such as Eolus gives forth,
But purer, deeper; — warbled as from some
Unsearchable recess of soul supreme —
Some depth of the Eternal! echoing thence
Through the sweet meanings of its spirit speech,
The fond enquiry that awoke me now:
“Where hast thou stayed so long? Oh, tell me where!”

I answered not, but followed in mute love
The beamy glances of her eyes with mine,
As in that balcony which up that tower
Emporched the brazen door, methought I now
Close at her side reclined upon a couch
Of purple, blazoned all with stars of gold,
Tremblingly rayed with spiculated gems,
And argent moons, — and bearing on cushions, rough
(Save where they met the flexure of the arm)
With sheaves of flowers in glowing tissue wrought.
Thus set we, looking forth; nor did I marvel,
As her’s now led my vision, to remark
How the broad lake, with its green shelving shores,
Swarming with honey-yielding flowers, or hung
With vines in masses, bunched with fruit; and thence
The prospect all — hills, skies, and winding vales,
And bloomy forests of unspeakable beauty,
Were basking in the blessedness of a day
Be goldenly serene, that never yet
The perfect power of life-essential light
Might so enrobe, since Paradise was lost,
The common world inhabited by man.

I saw this rare surpassing beauty — but,
I saw it thus through her superior life,
As orbing mine in love — yea, saw it through
Her mystic moon-like sphere of being, that seemed
(Transpicuously) the inexhaustible source
Of holiest motives, and truth-breathing thoughts —
Breathing abroad like odours from a flower ;
And orient idealities; and more
Of rosy passion, and affectionate joy,
And earnest tenderness, than many souls
Of earth’s most fervent and ecstatic daughters
United might possess; all interflowing
Through the fine issues of a love at once
Wilful and nice, but sanctioned none the less
By its so brilliant purity. Nor might
The glassy lake below more quickly give
Nimble impressions of the coming wind’s
Invisible footsteps, dimpling swift along,
Than instant tokens of communion sweet
With outward beauty’s subtle spirit, passed
Forth from her eyes, and thence in lambent waves
Suffused and lightened o’er the splendid whole
Of her bright visage, or about her head
In spheres ran raying like a glory of bliss!

But as upon the wonder of her beauty
My soul new feasted, even till it seemed
Instinct with kindred lustre, — lo, her eyes
Suddenly saddened; then abstractedly
Outfixing them as on some far wild thought
That darkened up like a portentous cloud,
Over the morning of our peace, she flung
Her silver voice into a mystic song
Of many measures, which as forth they went,
Slid all into a sweet abundant flood
Of metric melody! And with this, as still
She poured it out, invisible singers mixed
A choral burden that prolonged the strain’s
Rich concords, till the echoes of the hills
Came challengingly forth, and backward then
Subsiding like a refluent wave, afar,
Blent all into one mystery of sound —
One manifold cadence — dying down. The Song
(Which strangely seemed through all its mystic drift
Addressed to the so stubborn fact, that I
Was sleeping, and its utterer but a Dream)
Is traced upon the tablet of my soul
In shining lines that intonate themselves —
Not sounding to the ear, but to the thought,
Out of the vague east of the wonderful!
And might when hardened into mortal speech,
And narrowed from its wide and various sweep
Into such flows as make our waking rhymes
Most wildly musical, be written thus:—

The Song.

Wide apart — wide apart,
In old Time’s dim heart
One terrible fiend doth his stern watch keep
Over the mystery
Lovely and deep,
Locked in thy history,
Beautiful Sleep!

Could we disarm him —
Could we but charm him,
The soul of the sleeper might happily leap
Through the darkness so dreadful — so deathly and deep
That shroudeth the triple divinity
Composing thy mystical trinity:
Liberty, Gratitude,
Boundless Beatitude,
Beautiful Spirit of Sleep!

Beautiful Spirit of Sleep!
Could we confound him
Who darkens thy throne —
Could we surround him
With spells like thy own;
For the divinity
Then of thy Trinity,
Oh, what a blesseder reign were begun!
For then were it evermore one
With all that soul, freed from the body’s strait scheme,
Inherits of seer-light and mystical dream.

And to sleep were to die,
Into life in the Infinite,
Holy and high,
Spotless and bright,
And so peacefully deep;
And thence unto Liberty, thence unto Gratitude,
With the third in thy trinity — Boundless Beatitude:
Beautiful Spirit of Sleep!

Charles Harpur, The Tower of the Dream, Sydney: Clarson, Shallard, and Co., 1865, pages 8-13

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