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Two Visions

The curtains of the Night were folded
Over suspended sense;
So that the things I saw were moulded
I know not how nor whence.

Straight I beheld a marble city,
Built upon wayward slopes,
Along whose paths, as if for pity,
Ran tight-drawn golden ropes.

Withal, of many who ascended,
No one appeared to use
This help, allowed in days since mended,
When folks had frailer thews.

The men, all animal in vigour,
Strode stalwart and erect;
But on their brows, in placid rigour,
Watched sovereign Intellect.

Women brave-limbed, sound-lunged, full-breasted,
Walked at a rhythmic pace;
Yet not for that the less invested
With every female grace.

Unveiled and wholly unattended,
Strolled maidens to and fro:
Youths looked respect, but never bended
Obsequiously low.

And each with other, sans condition,
Held parley brief or long,
Without provoking rash suspicion
Of marriage or of wrong.

Distinction none of wooed or winning,
And no one made remark,
Till came they where the old were spinning,
As it was growing dark,

And saying-hushed untimely laughter-
`Henceforward we are one,'
Went homewards. Nor could ever after
Such Sanction be undone.

All were well clad, but none were better,
And gems beheld I none,
Save where there hung a jewelled fetter,
Symbolic, in the sun.

I found Cathedral none nor steeple,
Nor loud defiant choirs;
No martyr worshipped by the people,
On half-extinguished pyres.

But oft exclaimed they one to other,
Or as they passed or stood,
`Let us coöperate, my brother;
For God is very good.'

I saw a noble-looking maiden
Close Dante's solemn book,
Go, and return with linen laden,
And wash it in the brook.

Anon, a broad-browed poet dragging
Logs for his hearth along,
Without one single moment flagging
In shaping of his song.

Each one some handicraft attempted,
Or holp the willing soil:
None but the agëd were exempted
From communistic toil.

Yet 'twas nor long nor unremitting,
Since shared in by the whole;
But left to each one, as is fitting,
Full leisure for the Soul.

Was many a group in allocution
On problems that delight,
And lift, when e'en beyond solution,
Man to a nobler height.

And oftentimes was brave contention,
Such as beseems the wise;
But always courteous abstention
From over-swift replies.

And-I remarked-though whilst debating,
'Twas settled what they sought,
There was completest vindicating
Of unrestricted thought.

Age lorded not, nor rose the hectic
Up to the cheek of Youth;
But reigned throughout their dialectic
Sobriety of truth.

And if a long-held contest tended
To ill-defined result,
It was by calm consent suspended
As over-difficult:

And verse or music was demanded;
Then solitude of night:
By which all-potent Three expanded
Waxeth the Inner Sight.

So far the city. All around it
Olive or vine or corn;
Those having pressed or trod or ground it,
By these 'twas townwards borne,

And placed in halls unbarred and splendid,
With none to overlook,
But whither each at leisure wended,
And what he wanted took.

I saw no crippled forms nor meagre,
None smitten by disease:
Only the old, nor loth nor eager,
Dying by sweet degrees.

And when, without or pain or trouble,
These sank as sinks the sun,
`This is the sole Inevitable,'
All said; `His will be done!'

And went, with music ever swelling,
Where slopes o'erlook the sea,
Piled up the corse with herbs sweet-smelling,
Consumed, and so set free.

O'er ocean wave and mountain daisy
As curled the perfumed smoke,
The notes grew faint, the vision hazy-
Straining my sense, I woke.

Swift I arose. Soft winds were stirring
The curtains of the Morn,
Auguring day, by signs unerring,
Lovely as e'er was born.

No bluer, calmer sky surmounted
The city of my dream,
And what few trees could then be counted
Did full as gracious seem.

But here the pleasant likeness ended
Between the cities twain:
Level and straight these streets extended
Over an easy plain.

Withal, the people who thus early
Began the ways to throng,
With curving back and visage surly,
Toiled painfully along.

Groups of them met at yet closed portals,
And huddled round the gate,
Patient, as smit by the Immortals,
And helots as by Fate.

Right many a cross-crowned front and steeple
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:32 min read
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Alfred Austin

Alfred Austin DL was an English poet who was appointed Poet Laureate in 1896 upon the death of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. more…

All Alfred Austin poems | Alfred Austin Books

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