A Dream Of Being - Poem by Thomas MacDonagh
I walked in dream within a convent close,
And met there lonely a familiar nun;
Then in my mind arose
A vehement memory strife
With doubt of being, arose and was fought and was won.
Trembling I said: 'O mother of my life!'
And she in tears: 'At last my fond heart knows--
Surely I am the mother of my son!'
And greeted me in dear maternal wise,
And asked me all the story of my days,
Silently garnering my quick replies,
Shamefastly holding breath upon my praise
Of him to whom she plighted the world's vows
(So ran the tale), my father, her loved spouse.
It did not then seem strange that this should be
(A long time there we stayed in company)
Until she pondering said:
'And yet I chose the better part, my child,
When from that world's love and from thee I fled,
Leaving the wild
That I could never till aright and dreaded,
And sought this marriage garden undefiled,
The virgin of the Lover whom I wedded.
'Twenty years old I hither came,
Twenty years ago:
My child, if thy life were the same
As in this tale thou dreamest now to know,
These twenty years had been thine age to-day.'
I answered her: 'It is my age to-day.'
And then a while she mused, nor marked the call
Of one monotonous bell, nor heard, within the hall
Hard by, the lonesome-sounding late foot-fall
Of one nun passing after the rest were gone:
Within they filled their places one by one,
And a few wondered doubtless with vague surmise,
Less on response devout,
Why still she tarried at that hour without.
I heard their voices rise and fall and rise
In their long prayer like quiet faded sighs
Calling from hearts that lost
Their passion long ago,
That are not toss'd
On waves that make them crying go
Ever at all or make them happily go.
She, quiet thus also,
And something sad,
Spoke on: 'My child, what if I had
Chosen the other part, sought that world's love
Of him thou tell'st me of,
And thus had stayed with thee?--
It had not then been better and not worse
(I pray that thus it be),
No blessing and no curse,
Making the only difference of thee,
No difference at all (that is) or false or true,
To welcome or to rue
No difference, whether thou came to be
A man for men to see
Or all a dream, my dreaming soul to fill
With fancy thus an hour so waywardly.
I turn back to the plot of life I till
To fruit of such due virginal gifts
As my soul lifts
Within this heaven's house
For twenty years unto my Lover and Spouse:
I here return, and leave the dreamèd plot
Which I have laboured not,--
Leave thee, my child, who never has been born.
Alas! Alas! that so thou art forlorn,
Since I must lose thee so once more
As I have lost thee (thus my dream) before,--
Since I must lose thee...' 'Ah, dream of life!' said I,
'What if the dream be life, and the waking dream?'
Her eyes did wistful seem,
A moment wistful, then with patient sigh,
'If thou dream so,' she said, 'thou art indeed my dream.
Strange that a dream like thee can dream again,
And dreaming yearn for being!
And, vision-seen, can yearn for seeing!
My child, thou standest always in God's ken,
In ken of me an hour, never of men;
And thou wilt now from mine depart,
And wilt return
Seldom to mind of me, never to heart:
Nor shall I wonder or mourn,
For it is but the difference of thee
Who art now, art not in eternity;
Nor wonder ever thus of him whose praise
Thou didst rear so in story of thy days:
He may be vain as thy vain days that burn,
Small hour by hour, in other than life's fire,
Though with my life coëval they expire:
Life thou dost run, and he,
Only in dream of me,--
Who is the dreamer?' she faltered. I, poor ghost,
Left here there pondering as the vespers ceased;
And sisters hurrying forth met me almost
Where I passed slowly out, from the dream released.
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