Lords Of The Visionary Eye

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I came upon a pool that shone,
Clear, emerald-like, among the hills,
That seemed old wizards round a stone
Of magic that a vision thrills.

And as I leaned and looked, it seemed
Vague shadows gathered there and here
A dream, perhaps the water dreamed
Of some wild past, some long-dead year....

A temple of a race unblessed
Rose huge within a hollow land,
Where, on an altar, bare of breast,
One lay, a man, bound foot and hand.

A priest, who served some hideous god,
Stood near him on the altar stair,
Clothed on with gold; and at his nod
A multitude seemed gathered there.

I saw a sword descend; and then
The priest before the altar turned;
He was not formed like mortal man,
But like a beast whose eyeballs burned.

Amorphous, strangely old, he glared
Above the victim he had slain,
Who lay with bleeding bosom bared,
From which dripped slow a crimson rain.

Then turned to me a face of stone
And mocked above the murdered dead,
That fixed its cold eyes on his own
And cursed him with a look of dread.

And then, it seemed, I knew the place,
And how this sacrifice befell:
I knew the god, the priest's wild face,
I knew the dead man knew him well.

And as I stooped again to look,
I heard the dark hills sigh and laugh,
And in the pool the water shook
As if one stirred it with a staff.

And all was still again and clear:
The pool lay crystal as before,
Temple and priest were gone; the mere
Had closed again its magic door.

A face was there; it seemed to shine
As round it died the sunset's flame
The victim's face? or was it mine?
They were to me the very same.

And yet, and yet could this thing be?
And in my soul I seemed to know,
At once, this was a memory
Of some past life, lived long ago.

Recorded by some secret sense,
In forms that we as dreams retain;
Some moment, as experience,
Projects in pictures on the brain.

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