Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
The Slave’s Dream
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)
 
BESIDE the ungather’d rice he lay,
  His sickle in his hand;
His breast was bare, his matted hair
  Was buried in the sand.
Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep,        5
  He saw his Native Land.
 
Wide through the landscape of his dreams
  The lordly Niger flowed;
Beneath the palm-trees on the plain
  Once more a king he strode;        10
And heard the tinkling caravans
  Descend the mountain-road.
 
He saw once more his dark-eyed queen
  Among her children stand;
They clasp’d his neck, they kiss’d his cheeks,        15
  They held him by the hand!—
A tear burst from the sleeper’s lids
  And fell into the sand.
 
And then at furious speed he rode
  Along the Niger’s bank;        20
His bridle reins were golden chains,
  And, with a martial clank,
At each leap he could feel his scabbard of steel
  Smiting his stallion’s flank.
 
Before him, like a blood-red flag,        25
  The bright flamingoes flew;
From morn till night he follow’d their flight,
  O’er plains where the tamarind grew,
Till he saw the roofs of Caffre huts,
  And the ocean rose to view.        30
 
At night he heard the lion roar,
  And the hyena scream,
And the river-horse, as he crush’d the reeds
  Beside some hidden stream;
And it pass’d, like a glorious roll of drums,        35
  Through the triumph of his dream.
 
The forests, with their myriad tongues,
  Shouted of Liberty;
And the blast of the Desert cried aloud,
  With a voice so wild and free,        40
That he started in his sleep and smiled
  At their tempestuous glee.
 
He did not feel the driver’s whip,
  Nor the burning heat of day;
For Death had illumined the Land of Sleep,        45
  And his lifeless body lay
A worn-out fetter, that the soul
  Had broken and thrown away!
 
 
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