John Boyle O'Reilly

(28 June 1844 - 10 August 1890 / Dowth Castle, County Meath)

The Wonderful Country - Poem by John Boyle O'Reilly

THERE once was a time when, as old songs prove it,
The earth was not round, but an endless plain;
The sea was as wide as the heavens above it—
Just millions of miles, and begin again.
And that was the time—ay, and more's the pity
It ever should end!—when the world could play,
When singers told tales of a crystal city
In a wonderful country far away!

But the schools must come, with their scales and measures,
To limit the visions and weigh the spells;
They scoffed at the dreams and the rainbow treasures,
And circled the world in their parallels;
They charted the vales and the sunny meadows,
Where a poet might ride for a year and a day;
They sounded the depths and they pierced the shadows,
Of that wonderful country far away.

For fancies they gave us their microscopics;
For knowledge, a rubble of fact and doubt;
Wing-broken and caged, like a bird from the tropics,
Romance at the wandering stars looked out.
Cold Reason, they said, is the earthly Eden;
Go, study its springs, and its ores assay;
But fairer the flowers and fields forbidden
Of that wonderful country far away.

They questioned the slumbering baby's laughter,
And cautioned its elders to dream by rule;
All mysteries past and to come hereafter
Were settled and solved in their common school.
But sweeter the streams and the wild birds singing,
The friendships and loves that were true alway;
The gladness unseen, like a far bell ringing,
In that wonderful country far away.

Nay, not in their Reason our dear illusion,
But truer than truths that are measured and weighed-
O land of the spirit! where no intrusion
From bookmen or doubters shall aye be made!
There still breaks the murmuring sea to greet us
On shadowy valley and peaceful bay;
And souls that were truest still wait to meet us
In that wonderful country far away!

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, May 20, 2012

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