Night's Phantasies. A Fragment.

A poem by Susanna Moodie

I have dreamed sweet dreams of a summer night,
When the moon was walking in cloudless light,
And my soul to the regions of Fancy sprung,
While the spirits of air their soft anthems sung,
Strains wafted down from those heavenly spheres
Which may not be warbled in waking ears;
More sweet than the voice of waters flowing,
Than the breeze over beds of violets blowing,
When it stirs the pines, and sultry day
Fans himself cool with their tremulous play.
On the sleeper's ear those rich notes stealing,
Speak of purer and holier feeling
Than man in his pilgrimage here below,
In the bondage of sin, can ever know.

I heard in my slumbers the ceaseless roar
Of the sparkling waves, as they met the shore,
Till lulled by the surge of the moon-lit deep,
By the heaving ocean I sank to sleep.
And a magic spell on my spirit was cast,
And forms that had perished in ages past,
Were by Fancy revealed to my wondering view,
As the veil of Oblivion she backward drew,
And showed me a glorious vision, dressed
In the rosy light of the glowing west.
Such colours at parting the day-god throws,
To gild his path, as rejoicing he goes,
Like a victor red with the spoils of fight,
To raise through darkness the banner of light!

Slowly and soothingly stole on my ear
Strains such as spirits in ecstasy hear,
When they tune their harps at the jasper throne
Of eternal light, with its rainbow zone;
And the harmony drawn from those living strings
Gushes forth from the fountain whence music springs;
But those songs divine, of heavenly birth,
Are seldom repeated to sons of earth.
Such sounds as I heard by that summer sea
Were never produced by man's minstrelsy;
Which rose and sank by the billowy motion
Of the breaking wave and the heaving ocean:
Now borne on the night-breeze was wafted high,
Through the glowing depths of the star-lit sky;
Now mournfully wailing, like plaintive dirge,
Rushed to the shore, with the rush of the surge.

And I saw a figure, all radiantly bright,
Float over the waves in the pale moonlight;
She moved to the notes of a magical song,
And the billows scarce murmured that bore her along;
The winds became mute--and the snowy wreath,
That crested the billows, looked dim beneath
Her silvery feet--that as lightly trod
The heaving deep, as the emerald sod.
A garland of coral her temples bound,
And her glittering robes floated lightly round,
Veiling her form in a shadowy shroud,
Like the mist that hangs on the morning cloud,
Ere the sun dispels, with his rising beam,
The vapours exhaled from the marshy stream.
The breeze wafted back from her forehead fair
Her long flowing tresses of shining hair,
Which cast on her features a lambent glow,
Like a halo encircling her brow of snow;
Revealing a face of such faultless mould
As that sea-born goddess possessed of old,
The morning she rose from the purple tide,
The queen of beauty and joy's fair bride--
But her cheek was as pale as the ocean spray
Ere it catches a flush from the rosy day;
And the shade of a deathless grief was there,
Which spake more of ages than years of care;
As though she had borne, since the world began,
Every sorrow and trial that waits upon man.

Such was the shadow that haunted my dream;
Such was the figure that rose from the stream;
And I felt a strange and electric thrill
Of unearthly delight my bosom fill,
As she neared the shore, and I heard the strain
That charmed into silence the listening main.

Child of the earth! behold in me
The desolate spirit of things that were:
I keep Oblivion's iron key,
Far, far below in the pathless sea,
Where never a sound from the upper air
Is heard in those realms where, in darkness hurled,
Lie the shattered domes of the ancient world!

A thousand ages have slowly rolled
O'er temple and tower and fortress strong,
By the giant kings possessed of old,
That buried beneath the waters cold,
Only echo the mermaids' plaintive song,
When they weep o'er the form of some child of clay,
'Mid the wreck of a world that has passed away.

The spirits of earth and air have sighed
To traverse those halls, in vain;
The rolling waters those ruins hide,
And buried beneath the oozy tide,
They sleep in my icy chain;
And if thou canst banish all mortal dread,
Thou shalt view that world of the mighty dead.--

Far over the breast of the waters wide
That song's plaintive cadence in distance died,
And I heard but the tremulous, mournful sweep
Of the night-winds ruffling the azure deep!--

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