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The Dream

by Lord Byron


    Our life is twofold: Sleep hath its own world,
    A boundary between the things misnamed
    Death and existence: Sleep hath its own world,
    And a wide realm of wild reality,
    And dreams in their developement have breath,
    And tears, and tortures, and the touch of Joy;
    They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts,
    They take a weight from off our waking toils,
    They do divide our being;they become
    A portion of ourselves as of our time,     
    And look like heralds of Eternity;
    They pass like spirits of the past,–they speak
    Like Sibyls of the future; they have power–
    The tyranny of pleasure and of pain;
    They make us what we were not–what they will,
    And shake us with the vision that’s gone by,
    The dread of vanished shadows–Are they so?
    Is not the past all shadow?–What are they?
    Creations of the mind?–The mind can make
    Substance, and people planets of its own     
    With beings brighter than have been, and give
    A breath to forms which can outlive all flesh.
    I would recall a vision which I dreamed
    Perchance in sleep–for in itself a thought,
    A slumbering thought, is capable of years,
    And curdles a long life into one hour.


    I saw two beings in the hues of youth
    Standing upon a hill, a gentle hill,
    Green and of mild declivity, the last
    As ’twere the cape of a long ridge of such, 
    Save that there was no sea to lave its base,
    But a most living landscape, and the wave
    Of woods and cornfields, and the abodes of men
    Scattered at intervals, and wreathing smoke
    Arising from such rustic roofs;–the hill
    Was crowned with a peculiar diadem
    Of trees, in circular array, so fixed,
    Not by the sport of nature, but of man:
    These two, a maiden and a youth, were there
    Gazing–the one on all that was beneath 
    Fair as herself–but the Boy gazed on her;
    And both were young, and one was beautiful:
    And both were young–yet not alike in youth.
    As the sweet moon on the horizon’s verge,
    The Maid was on the eve of Womanhood;
    The Boy had fewer summers, but his heart
    Had far outgrown his years, and to his eye
    There was but one beloved face on earth,
    And that was shining on him: he had looked
    Upon it till it could not pass away;   
    He had no breath, no being, but in hers;
    She was his voice; he did not speak to her,
    But trembled on her words; she was his sight,     
    For his eye followed hers, and saw with hers,
    Which coloured all his objects:–he had ceased
    To live within himself; she was his life,
    The ocean to the river of his thoughts,
    Which terminated all: upon a tone,
    A touch of hers, his blood would ebb and flow,
    And his cheek change tempestuously–his heart 
    Unknowing of its cause of agony.
    But she in these fond feelings had no share:
    Her sighs were not for him; to her he was
    Even as a brother–but no more; ’twas much,
    For brotherless she was, save in the name
    Her infant friendship had bestowed on him;
    Herself the solitary scion left
    Of a time-honoured race.–It was a name
    Which pleased him, and yet pleased him not–and why?
    Time taught him a deep answer–when she loved 
    Another: even _now_ she loved another,
    And on the summit of that hill she stood
    Looking afar if yet her lover’s steed
    Kept pace with her expectancy, and flew.


    A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.
    There was an ancient mansion, and before
    Its walls there was a steed caparisoned:
    Within an antique Oratory stood
    The Boy of whom I spake;–he was alone,
    And pale, and pacing to and fro: anon          
    He sate him down, and seized a pen, and traced
    Words which I could not guess of; then he leaned
    His bowed head on his hands, and shook as ’twere
    With a convulsion–then arose again,
    And with his teeth and quivering hands did tear
    What he had written, but he shed no tears.
    And he did calm himself, and fix his brow
    Into a kind of quiet: as he paused,
    The Lady of his love re-entered there;
    She was serene and smiling then, and yet 
    She knew she was by him beloved–she knew,
    For quickly comes such knowledge, that his heart
    Was darkened with her shadow, and she saw
    That he was wretched, but she saw not all.
    He rose, and with a cold and gentle grasp
    He took her hand; a moment o’er his face
    A tablet of unutterable thoughts
    Was traced, and then it faded, as it came;
    He dropped the hand he held, and with slow steps
    Retired, but not as bidding her adieu, 
    For they did part with mutual smiles; he passed
    From out the massy gate of that old Hall,
    And mounting on his steed he went his way;
    And ne’er repassed that hoary threshold more.


    A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.
    The Boy was sprung to manhood: in the wilds
    Of fiery climes he made himself a home,
    And his Soul drank their sunbeams: he was girt
    With strange and dusky aspects; he was not
    Himself like what he had been; on the sea   
    And on the shore he was a wanderer;
    There was a mass of many images
    Crowded like waves upon me, but he was
    A part of all; and in the last he lay
    Reposing from the noontide sultriness,
    Couched among fallen columns, in the shade
    Of ruined walls that had survived the names
    Of those who reared them; by his sleeping side
    Stood camels grazing, and some goodly steeds
    Were fastened near a fountain; and a man      
    Clad in a flowing garb did watch the while,
    While many of his tribe slumbered around:
    And they were canopied by the blue sky,
    So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful,
    That God alone was to be seen in Heaven.


    A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.
    The Lady of his love was wed with One
    Who did not love her better:–in her home,
    A thousand leagues from his,–her native home,
    She dwelt, begirt with growing Infancy,        
    Daughters and sons of Beauty,–but behold!
    Upon her face there was the tint of grief,
    The settled shadow of an inward strife,
    And an unquiet drooping of the eye,
    As if its lid were charged with unshed tears.
    What could her grief be?–she had all she loved,
    And he who had so loved her was not there
    To trouble with bad hopes, or evil wish,
    Or ill-repressed affliction, her pure thoughts.
    What could her grief be?–she had loved him not,  
    Nor given him cause to deem himself beloved,
    Nor could he be a part of that which preyed
    Upon her mind–a spectre of the past.


    A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.
    The Wanderer was returned.–I saw him stand
    Before an Altar–with a gentle bride;
    Her face was fair, but was not that which made
    The Starlight of his Boyhood;–as he stood
    Even at the altar, o’er his brow there came
    The self-same aspect, and the quivering shock
    That in the antique Oratory shook
    His bosom in its solitude; and then–
    As in that hour–a moment o’er his face
    The tablet of unutterable thoughts
    Was traced,–and then it faded as it came,
    And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke
    The fitting vows, but heard not his own words,
    And all things reeled around him; he could see
    Not that which was, nor that which should have been–
    But the old mansion, and the accustomed hall,     
    And the remembered chambers, and the place,
    The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade,
    All things pertaining to that place and hour
    And her who was his destiny, came back
    And thrust themselves between him and the light:
    What business had they there at such a time?


    A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.
    The Lady of his love;–Oh! she was changed
    As by the sickness of the soul; her mind
    Had wandered from its dwelling, and her eyes
    They had not their own lustre, but the look
    Which is not of the earth; she was become
    The Queen of a fantastic realm; her thoughts
    Were combinations of disjointed things;
    And forms, impalpable and unperceived
    Of others’ sight, familiar were to hers.
    And this the world calls frenzy; but the wise
    Have a far deeper madness–and the glance
    Of melancholy is a fearful gift;
    What is it but the telescope of truth?    
    Which strips the distance of its fantasies,
    And brings life near in utter nakedness,
    Making the cold reality too real!


    A change came o’er the spirit of my dream.
    The Wanderer was alone as heretofore,
    The beings which surrounded him were gone,
    Or were at war with him; he was a mark
    For blight and desolation, compassed round
    With Hatred and Contention; Pain was mixed
    In all which was served up to him, until, 
    Like to the Pontic monarch of old days,
    He fed on poisons, and they had no power,
    But were a kind of nutriment; he lived
    Through that which had been death to many men,
    And made him friends of mountains: with the stars
    And the quick Spirit of the Universe
    He held his dialogues; and they did teach
    To him the magic of their mysteries;
    To him the book of Night was opened wide,
    And voices from the deep abyss revealed
    A marvel and a secret–Be it so.


    My dream was past; it had no further change.
    It was of a strange order, that the doom
    Of these two creatures should be thus traced out
    Almost like a reality–the one
    To end in madness–both in misery.

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