Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
A Vision
By Thomas Wells
A DEEP sleep came, and on my senses fell:—
In solitude, upon a rock, whose brow
Recumbent frown’d upon a mirror flood,
Methought I stood:—In emerald array,
A still immeasureable glassy tide        5
In gentle beauty slept—while day-light stain’d,
With parting hue, its bosom’s quietude.—
The worn-out winds had long ago expired,
And with their lullaby, the weary waves
Had cradled to their rest:—The weeping heavens        10
Refreshing distillations shed, and hung
Their jewelry upon the rosy skirts
Of branch, and bank, and many an airy peak.
Powder’d with gems, the distant valley seem’d
With living constellations paved, and burnt        15
Like molten diamonds. Such landscape once,
The enraptured eye of Moses held enthrall’d,
When near the borders of the promised land,
From Pisgah’s towering steep, the blissful shore
Of Canaan he beheld.—Before my dream,        20
A dismal, strange, and shadowy change now pass’d;
In blood-red garments veil’d, solemn and slow,
Climbing her height, uprose the dim, cold Moon;—
As up she bent her never-sounding march,
She seem’d to bode of skulls and sepulchres,        25
Of sights unholy, and forbidden things;—
Of death, and judgment, and the latter doom.—
As on her course she kept, she seem’d to shed
A mildew in the stagnant breeze.—A fog
Now from the unwholesome earth arose, and fill’d        30
With suffocating steams the burden’d air.—
A sudden spirit seem’d the winds to move:
The tide, which erst in waveless slumber lay,
In strange commotion groan’d and hiss’d, and shook
From the foundation of its boiling deep.        35
The dews in heavy drops fell fast, and turn’d
To clotted gore, mixing with blood, the marl;—
The sobbing winds unearthly voices bore,
Of lamentations deep, and speechless wail;—
While, ever anon between, arose        40
Commingled sounds, as from unquiet souls,
Or unlaid spirits, issuing; strange and wild
The noises grew, and seem’d like funeral dirge
Of maniac harpers on the midnight wave;
Then ceased each sound, and all a while was hush’d,        45
Save the deep chiming of the distant knell
That heavily along the waters roll’d,
And from her den the hungry she-wolf woke,
Who with a famish’d howl re-echoed back
The solemn vesper bell:—Now suddenly        50
From trumpet’s throat unseen, a stirring peal
The alarming summons rung, which on the ear
Of fix’d astonishment awoke a pang
Insufferably keen:—The forests bent
Their giant limbs, and shook their tenants forth;—        55
Whilst dove and vulture, in promiscuous fright,
With staggering wing confusedly outpour’d,
And dash’d them in the flood: fierce from her steep
On sinewy pinions borne, the Eagle rush’d,—
In noble wrath, she stretch’d her meteor flight        60
To untried regions, thence, to gaze upon
The idol of her scorching eye:—still up,
With glance electric, and with iron beak,
She bent her bosom ’gainst the thunder cloud;
Fearless the tempest in his fury met,        65
And scream’d her requiem to departed day.
The ancient column, and the battlement,
From their firm bases reeling, to the ground
In thundering ruin fell:—Convulsed, methought
I heard the world’s expiring groan,—old earth        70
From her remotest recess, back return’d
The final cry, and render’d up herself.—
And now, emerging from their dreams profound
Awoke the relics, which, for ages had
In their dark chambers slept:—With hurried pace,        75
The sheeted figures, with inquietude
Hover’d about the confines of their home;—
Long, long, in darkness and oblivion quench’d,
Their eyes with marble stupefaction roll’d,
And glared in monumental mockery.        80
A blighting dew, cadaverous and chill,
Crept o’er my mouldering limbs:—I felt Decay
With rotten fingers touch my very heart!—
An apparition to my soul he seem’d,
Too horrible for thought, unutterable,        85
Ghastly!—while on his carrion visage stood
The crusted mildew of the charnel-house;
And from his worm-gnawn body dropp’d away
The flesh, corruption long had fed upon:—
Fast to my breast the ugly spectre clung;—        90
Within my vitals fix’d his mouldy grasp,
And with abominable transport wood
My captive soul, that, struggling, tugg’d in vain,
To free the spirit from her dungeon clay.—
“Be mine!” exulting cried the fiend, “Be mine!”        95
While through the portals of my hearing, rung
The long and horrid laugh, the laugh of hell!—
An overwhelming flame before my eyes
With fury flash’d, that all around appear’d,
A wilderness of intermittent fires.—        100
A sudden, burning pang,—no more,—’t was gone.
Methought, to my astonish’d vision now,
Outnumbering cherubim and seraphim
Freckled with stars, their wings of light reveal’d,
And through the crystal chambers of the sky,        105
Celestial odors fann’d; while radiant hung
Their alabaster harps, self-tuned—methought
Intuitive the wires in concert play’d,
And to the winds in conscious numbers sung.—
At intervals responsive voices stole,        110
And breathed around such heavenly harmony,
That things inanimate became all ear;—
E’en death itself put old oblivion off,
And, reinstated, felt young life again.—
Such sights, for ever shut from mortal eyes,        115
Such sounds, prohibited the mortal ear,
I trembling woke; and, for a while, intent,
Listen’d, and look’d, and thought the VISION real.

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