Tom McInnes

(29 October 1867 — 11 February 1951 / Ontario)

Illumined - Poem by Tom McInnes

I WOKE in the Land of Night,
With a dream of Day at my heart;
Its golden outlines vanished,
But its charm would not depart;


Like music still remaining,
But its meaning–no man can say
In the Land of Night where they know not
Of Day, nor the things of Day.

I dwelt in the chiefest city
Of all the Land of Night;
Where the fires burn ever brighter
That give the people light;
Where the sky above is darkened,
And never a star is seen,
And they think it but children's fancy
That ever a star hath been.

But out from that city early
I fled by a doubtful way;
And faltering oft and lonely
I sought my dream of Day;
Till I came at last to a Mountain
That rose exceeding high,
And I thought I saw on its summit
A glint as of dawn from the sky.

'Twas midway on that Mountain
That I found an altar-stone,
Deep-cut with runes forgotten,
And symbols little known;
And scarce could I read the meaning
Of the legends carven there,
But I lay me out on that altar,
Breathing an ancient prayer:

'By the God of the timeless Sky,
O Saint of the Altar, say
What gift hast thou for me?
For I have dreamed of Day:
But I seek nor gift nor power,
I pray for naught but light;
And only for light to lead me
Out of the Land of Night!'

Long I lay on that altar,
Up-gazing fearfully
Through the awful cold and darkness
That now encompassed me;
Till it seemed as I were lying drowned
Under a lifeless sea.

There shone as a pale blue Star,
Intangible–serene–
And I saw a spark from it fall
As it were a crystal keen;
And it flashed as it fell and pierced
My temples white and cold;
Then round that altar-stone once more
The awful darkness rolled.

But there was light on my brow,
And a calm that steeled me through,
And I was strong with a strength
That never before I knew;
With a strength for the trackless heights,
And scorn of the world below–
But I rose not up from that altar-stone,
I would not leave it so.

'O Saint of the Altar, say
How may this light redeem?
For though on my brow like a jewel
Its Star hath left a gleam,
O Saint, 'tis a light too cold and cruel
To be the light of my dream!'

Anon 'twas a crimson Star
That over the Altar shone,
And there sank as a rose of flame
To my heart ere the Star was gone;
And out from the flames thereof
A subtle fragrance then
Went stealing down the mountain-side
O'er the lowly ways of men.


The Star was gone, but it brought
To light in its crimson glow
The lovely things forgotten
I dreamed of long ago;
And gladly then I had given
My life to all below;
Yet I rose not up from the altar-stone,
I would not leave it so.

And at last was a golden Star;
But I scarce know how nor where;
For it melted all around me,
And the other Stars were there;
And all in one blissful moment
The light of Day had come;
Then I reeled away from that altar-stone,
Old, and blind, and dumb.

I dwell again in the city,
I seek no more for light;
But I go on a mission of silence
To those who would leave the Night;
And for this–and this thing only,
Through the evil streets I stray;
I who am free to the timeless Sky
Illumined forever with Day.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 7, 2012

Poem Edited: Monday, May 7, 2012


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