Verse > Anthologies > Robert Bridges, ed. > The Spirit of Man: An Anthology

Robert Bridges, ed. (1844–1930).  The Spirit of Man: An Anthology.  1916.
From An Escape

Lascelles Abercrombie (1881–1938)
A SWIFT 1 dark dream from the outer lands,
From the folk whose talk none understands,
Along my smooth sleep travelling,
Yet tampering not with my ken’s rest,
Pass’d as undisturbingly        5
As a nightjar o’er the quietude
Of the clear’d middle of a pine-wood
Seemeth to haunt the evening,
And leave the blue air yet more whist.
  And yesternight it haunted me;        10
Again, suddenly, quietly,
Shadowy wings above my clear sleep.
But swift, so swift it might scarce be seen;
Not as with me it had to do,
But eagerly, as though it flew        15
From mystery to mystery,
And my sleep lay in between;—
Once before, and yesternight.
  So twice I have felt its noiseless flight;
Twice has my sleep been the road        20
The dark message took in journeying
From the one to the other secret reign;—
Out of the dark lying behind,
Into that lying before, man’s mind,
My sleep was the only bridge for the thing        25
Whereon to cross Reality.
  But the third time, if it come again,
A stranger, unkindly from the abode
Of Beginnings sent to the place of Dooms,
Shewing me thus so easily        30
Way thro’ the skirts of time to the glooms
That march both sides our bodily place,—
My soul will up and give it chase;
Out of my sleep my soul will slip
And ere that duty vanisheth        35
I’ll o’ertake its moth-wing’d speed.
And be it a bird softlier fledge
Than white owl or brown nightjar,
Be softer the down on the wing’s edge
Than combing crests of a snowdrift are        40
Which the smooth wind holloweth,
Of its shadowing I will be more aware
Than a mirror is of a swoon’d man’s breath,
To find the guidance that I need …
Note 1. Lascelles Abercrombie. From ‘An Escape’ in ‘Interludes and Poems’. Lane. 1908. [back]

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